Obama: Infuriating, Inspiring

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THE PLANK JANUARY 21, 2008

Obama: Infuriating, Inspiring

Jon,

You've got a good point about lowering our standards. One thing I do like about this debate is that its freewheeling, hot emotion better reveals the candidates' various poles, rather than allowing them to stay relentlessly on message and project uncomplicated selves. Take Obama -- the last hour and a half has captured for me both why I find him frustrating and why I admire him.

Early in the debate, he sounded like it was Hillary's world and he just lives in it. Too many of his responses began with "Hillary, that's not what I said," which is both huffy in style and bereft in substance, since it turns the argument to semantics and quibbles over quotations that can't be fact-checked up on the stage, rather than what everybody actually meant.

But Obama's answer to a stupid question about whether he agrees with Toni Morrison that Bill Clinton was the "first black president" captured just about everything that's brought him so far so fast: It was humorous, spontaneously thoughtful, genuinely generous. Here's the answer, slightly paraphrased:

Well, something that's wonderful about John [Edwards], and people who grew up the South,
when there was still segregation, when some of the progress we've made
-- it's not finished now, but before any of the progress had even started. Is to see that
transformation within their own selves on these issues. That is powerful, and it's hopeful.
That all said, I would have to investigate Bill's dancing abilities, and some of that other stuff, more before I could accurately judge
whether or not he's a brother.

--Eve Fairbanks

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