Friday, February 15, 2008

Barack Obama's Extraordinary Detail

Andrew Sullivan argues for right-wing ignorance in the conservative punditocracy's discussions of Barack Obama's policy proposals (via Memeorandum):

The notion that Obama has not released details and specifics on economic policy is a fantasy. It's a product of pundit laziness. The cocoon right seems to believe that because they haven't done their homework, Obama hasn't....

And because Obama actually inspires with oratory, they also assume he doesn't have substance. The premise is that you cannot be inspiring and detailed at the same time. Two words: Why not?

What people fail to understand is that in politics, words are also substance. The ability to inspire people is not inherently a dangerous phenomenon. It is sometimes critical to effective governance. Conservatives used to understand this. Perhaps Churchill's greatest actual weapon was the English language. It did things no bureaucrat, soldier, armament, or policy could do. The core of Ronald Reagan's success was his rhetorical ability to reach over the heads of the Washington process to the people who can force Washington to change: the American people. And I don't recall conservatives decrying the rhetoric of hope reacting to George W. Bush's inspired speeches after 9/11.

His remarks are in response to this piece by Victor Davis Hanson, which suggests:

Under pressure to produce some facts and specifics, the Obama team is beginning to release a little on the economy, taxes, and new entitlements. But the problem is that Obama himself seems not familiar with the details, and still prefers talking only about hope and change. Wonks releasing details doesn't solve the problem. And it won't, until he, the candidate, can talk in serious fashion ex tempore about the specifics he wants to achieve.
Hanson's probably the last conservative pundit one wants to call lazy. Not only that, one might say Sullivan's lackadaisical in his manner of quotation.

Hanson's talking context. I haven't had the chance to sit through hours of Obama stump speeches. I have read his
foreign policy proposals and I don't forget his past declarations of failure in Iraq; and Obama's recent campaign victory speeches, it's hard to deny, have been more uplift than bureaucratic detail (or at least the one's I've seen).

Sullivan's got a crush on Obama, in any case.

It's understandable. Take a look at
Elizabeth Wurtzel's description of the Obama phenomenon:

If candidates were reading material, Barack Obama would be pornography -- he's got everybody aroused, fired up and ready to go. He's turned on the body politic as no one else has in my lifetime. And it's great fun. It's good for politics, it's good for democracy, it's good for America, it's good for messianism. Young people are excited, old people are nostalgic, middle-aged people are invigorated. People are so enthralled with Mr. Obama just because it's so easy to be enthralled with him.

Which is to say, there's no accounting for charisma. Some people are simply gifted, and the only way to respond is to clear the way and let them do their magic. But this collective cathexis that created Obamamania is obviously a deep desire for authenticity, and he is the natural repository of our hidden hopes.

Mr. Obama is what the future looks like: a biracial child of divorce, schlepped halfway around the world by a conscientious but confounded single mother, abandoned by a wayward but winning Kenyan father, international but somehow still all-American, a party-hardy Harvard Law graduate. That is, an ordinary extraordinary guy, the dreamiest of all our dreams. If only every kid from a broken home could turn out to be such a fine gentleman! How can we not love him? With a million other things he could be doing, Mr. Obama actually wants to lead us. Us? What did we do to deserve him?

That's how lucky Barack Obama makes us feel.

I'm not manic about Obama's language of class warfare and international retreat.

The truth is the Illinois Senator's language is achingly detailed on the key issues of the day. The more he waxes extraordinaire, the less ignorant I get.