Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Obama’s Speech Good PR, But Doesn’t Answer Questions

Obama’s Speech Good PR, But Doesn’t Answer Questions
I thought Barack Obama’s speech on race last month in the original aftermath of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright controversy was intelligent, honest, and dignified. Helped by the fact that he is both white and black, Obama spoke more frankly and eloquently on race relations in the United States that any mainstream politician in U.S. could, and deservedly received high praise. In addition to being a great speech on race, it was also a masterstroke of public relations. The speech distracted the media and voters from the viciously anti-American lies spewed by the most powerful spiritual influence in Obama’s life and re-focused the campaign on the “chill up my leg” (thank you for that image Chris Matthews) inducing public rhetoric skills of Obama. However, this brilliant PR move will only create a temporary honeymoon from the Rev. Wright issue.
While Obama’s speech may please Obama’s left wing base and overwhelming support amongst the national media, it failed to answer the questions about Rev. Wright and his influence. For many, particularly swing voters and blue-collar Democrats in battleground states, the Wright controversy is not about race at all but rather how much the Reverend’s blatant disdain for the U.S. government has shaped the ideology of Obama. Should we trust a man with the most powerful job in the world if he calls Wright a trusted advisor and tremendous influence? Should the American people trust Barack Obama if the man who has taught him Christianity and married him to his wife believes that 9/11 was essentially America’s own doing? Should Obama be President if such a good friend and profound influence believes the U.S. created the AIDS virus to eliminate blacks from its population? Those are the questions that have not been answered and will haunt Obama in the general election if he continues to not fully address them. This issue will make it difficult for Obama to win back many of Hillary Clinton’s voters and prevent them from for voting for McCain, particularly her more moderate, pro-defense, and patriotic blue-collar supporters (the so-called “Reagan Democrats”).
Clearly, Barack Obama’s March 18th speech on race relations was a tremendous short-term PR move because it distracted Democratic primary voters from the real issues raised by the Rev. Wright controversy. While right-wing evangelists such as Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson have said similarly disdainful things, they do not have the relationship with President Bush and Senator McCain that Wright has with Obama. Certainly, it is going to take an even more clever use of public relations to if Senator Obama is going to ultimately answer the true issues behind the Rev. Wright controversy and win the Presidency.

-Gregg Tobin

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