Top Scoops

Book Reviews | Gordon Campbell | Scoop News | Wellington Scoop | Community Scoop | Search


Flotsam & Jetsam: Obama's 2004 Speech Revisited

Flotsam & Jetsam: Obama's 2004 Speech Revisited

By Editor Sam Smith

Since the establishment media is trying to get us to elect a man as president on the basis of one speech he gave, I thought it might be useful to go back and look at Barack Obama's 2004 talk.

Before preceding further, it should be noted that electing anyone on the basis of a speech is a dangerous way of going about politics because, in the first place, you're not necessarily voting for the person who wrote it. I have long argued that speech writers ought to be listed on the ballot alongside their candidates and if any writer gets fired or leaves, then a special election needs to be called to select a new speechwriter-enhanced politician.

But that reform is a long way off so we'll just go along with the dominant principle that anyone who gives a good speech is entitled to be president.

Unfortunately, Obama's 2004 speech wasn't all that good. One can't read it without a sense that it wasn't the all too familiar cliches that appealed to the media and voters as much as the fact that they were being delivered by a black man. What Obama did was to say absolutely nothing that a centrist white voter would find offensive or nerve troubling. Not a hint of Jackson, Sharpton, Farrakhan or King.

The speech consisted of 2341 words (including the applause credits listed in the transcript). These broke down into the following:

15% - A description of Obama's family
7% - Standard cliches about the U.S.
10% - Standard warm and fuzzy anecdotes
16% - Words in praise of the candidate, John Kerry
8% - Cliches about hope
15% - We're all in this together, there's nothing much to argue about

The last theme can be summed up as why can't the pro-war, anti-abortion, evolution-despising Christian evangelical and the secular, pacifist, pro-gun control gay just be friends? It is a theme that seems to be central to Obama's current plans. Yet what does Obama have to offer to resolve such conflicts? Nothing but mushy, goo-good imprecations of the sort we used to hear from our fourth grade teacher. It's actually a lot harder than that.

There was one other theme in the speech - taking 8% of the words - that was startling to rediscover: Obama was subtlety but distinctly anti-government. A sample:

"Now, don't get me wrong, the people I meet in small towns and big cities and diners and office parks, they don't expect government to solves all of their problems. They know they have to work hard to get a head. And they want to. Go into the collar counties around Chicago, and people will tell you: They don't want their tax money wasted by a welfare agency or by the Pentagon.

"Go into any inner-city neighborhood, and folks will tell you that government alone can't teach kids to learn. They know that parents have to teach, that children can't achieve unless we raise their expectations and turn off the television sets and eradicate the slander that says a black youth with a book is acting white. They know those things.

"People don't expect -- people don't expect government to solve all their problems. But they sense, deep in their bones, that with just a slight change in priorities, we can make sure that every child in America has a decent shot at life and that the doors of opportunity remain open to all. They know we can do better. And they want that choice.

So now we're going waste months in the search for a candidate who will provide "just a slight change in priorities." And that, in his own words, is precisely what Obama promises.

What Obama was doing was sending a signal to the establishment that he wouldn't cause any trouble, that he was willing to join the extremist center, that most dangerous faction of American politics - the one that starts wars, destroys the environment, and celebrates economic equality all the time bragging about how moderate it is. Besides, as Harry Truman said, "Whenever a fellow tells me he is bipartisan, I know he is going to vote against me."



Since 1964, Washington's most unofficial source
1312 18th St. NW #502 Washington DC 20036
202-835-0770 Fax: 835-0779

© Scoop Media

Top Scoops Headlines


Gordon Campbell: On The Use Of Existing Drugs To Reduce The Effects Of Coronavirus

So now, we’re all getting up to speed with the travel bans, the rigorous handwashing and drying, the social distancing, and the avoidance of public transport wherever possible. Right. At a wider level…so far, the public health system has ... More>>

Gordon Campbell: On Oil Market And Regulation Crusades

Safe to say, Vladimir Putin did not expect the response he has received amidships from the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia. Earlier, Russia chose to walk away from the OPEC talks in Vienna that were aimed at reaching an agreement on how to reduce world oil production (and protect oil prices) in the light of the fall in demand being caused by the coronavirus. No doubt, Russia and its allies in the US shale industry probably glimpsed an opportunity to undercut OPEC and seize some of its customers. Bad move. In reply, Saudi Arabia has smashed the oil market by hugely ramping up production, signing up customers and drastically cutting the oil price in a fashion designed to knock Russia and other oil suppliers right out of contention. More>>

Gordon Campbell: On 22 Short Takes About Super Tuesday

With obvious apologies to the Simpsons….Here’s my 22 short takes on the 14 Super Tuesday primaries that combined yesterday to produce a common narrative –Bernie Sanders NOT running away with the nomination, Joe Biden coming back from the dead, and the really, really rich guy proving to be really, really bad at politics. In the months ahead, it will be fascinating to see if the real Joe Biden can live up to the idea of Joe Biden that people voted for yesterday – namely, the wise old guy who can save the country from the political extremism of the right and the left... More>>

Gordon Campbell On Shane Jones: A Liability No-One Needs To Bear

New Zealand First has needed a diversion after weeks of bad coverage over its dodgy handling of donations, but it really, really doesn’t need what Shane Jones has chosen to provide. According to Jones, New Zealand has ... More>>

Binoy Kampmark: Strong Man Legacies: Burying Mubarak

Reviled strongmen of one era are often the celebrated ones of others. Citizens otherwise tormented find that replacements are poor, in some cases even crueller, than the original artefact. Such strongmen also serve as ideal alibis for rehabilitation ... More>>

Caitlin Johnstone: Humanity Is Making A Very Important Choice When It Comes To Assange

The propagandists have all gone dead silent on the WikiLeaks founder they previously were smearing with relentless viciousness, because they no longer have an argument. The facts are all in, and yes, it turns out the US government is certainly and undeniably working to exploit legal loopholes to imprison a journalist for exposing its war crimes. That is happening, and there is no justifying it... More>>

Gail Duncan: Reframing Welfare Report

Michael Joseph Savage, the architect of the 1938 Social Security Act, wouldn’t recognise today’s Social Security Act as having anything to do with the kind, cooperative, caring society he envisioned 80 years ago. Instead society in 2020 has been reduced ... More>>

Gordon Campbell: On The Addiction To Chinese Student Fees

Last week, Australian PM Scott Morrison extended its ban on foreign visitors from or passing through from mainland China – including Chinese students - for a third week. New Zealand has dutifully followed suit, with our travel ban ... More>>

Gordon Campbell: On Coronavirus, And The Iowa Debacle

As Bloomberg says, the coronavirus shutdown is creating the world’s biggest work-from-home experiment. On the upside, the mortality rate with the current outbreak is lower than with SARS in 2003, but (for a number of reasons) the economic impact this time ... More>>

Gordon Campbell: On Dodging A Bullet Over The Transport Cost Over-Runs

As New Zealand gears up to begin its $6.8 billion programme of large scale roading projects all around the country, we should be aware of this morning’s sobering headlines from New South Wales, where the cost overruns on major transport projects ... More>>


  • PublicAddress
  • Pundit
  • Kiwiblog