After talking with various people and looking over several reactions to Barack Obama’s realization of the Democratic presidential nomination (as well as Mrs. Clinton’s shamelessly arrogant speech), I have decided to post a few of the ones I agree with or find interesting, along with some older statements that I think might be appropriate to the feeling of the occasion (one of which is clearly from the view of his supporters; the other is more ambiguous, and could come from his, Mrs. Clinton’s or John McCain’s supporters.)
Hillary also has bully characteristics. But most of all she is a whiner. The fact is that she rose to the top on her husband’s heels, and that is one of the reasons that the young in her party, the blacks in her party, the idealistic in her party rejected her. They had not risen to the top ever. So, she figured, she had survived these two decades of indignity and, lo and behold, come these upstarts and demean her labors. I suppose there are lots of folk who like her: there are, after all, all those men and women who have willingly been tricked into pretending that there is something more she can do to seize the nomination when all of her options were closed weeks ago. And if not that: coerce Obama into making Mrs. Clinton his vice presidential partner. I don’t even know if there are polls suggesting this.
Marty Peretz, “The Spine” blog.
It’s a fundamentally bold, hopeful brand of politics. And I think it’s no coincidence that that theme’s been at the center of his campaign. Relative to Clinton, you see two people with similar policy agendas. But Clinton comes from a school of politics that says liberalism can’t really win on the questions of war and peace, identity and authenticity, crime and punishment. It says that we live in a fundamentally conservative nation, and that the savvy progressive politician kind of burrows in and tries to make the best of a bad situation. It’s an attitude very much borne of the brutally difficult experience of organizing for McGovern in Texas and running for governor in Arkansas at the height of Reaganism. Relative to McCain, Obama thinks it’s possible to accomplish things in the world. He thinks the United States faces a lot of serious international challenges, but doesn’t see them as primarily driven by menacing and implacable foes. Obama thinks that a combination of visionary leadership and shrewd bargaining can greatly improve our ability to tackle key priorities without any great expenditure of our resources.
Matthew Yglesias, “The Audacity of Hope”
Il est vrai qu’il arrive à point nommé. La classe dirigeante est largement discréditée. La société américaine est de plus en plus multiraciale : la moitié des 7millions d’Américains qui se déclarent métis ont moins de 18ans (selon le recensement de 2000). Et comme le rappelle parfois Barack Obama, les Etats-Unis ne seront plus en 2050 un pays majoritairement blanc.
Barack Obama arrive au bon moment, et avec un profil différent : même s’il ne parle pas de langues étrangères (sauf l’indonésien), il est le premier candidat “global”. Sur les chemins de campagne, il a parfois été rejoint par les membres de sa famille recomposée à l’échelle planétaire. On a vu Auma Obama, sa demi-sœur, qui fait du travail social à Nairobi, au Kenya. Elle est la fille qu’eut Barack Obama Senior, le père du candidat, avec sa première femme. Ou Maya Soetoro-Ng, son autre demi-sœur, née du remariage de sa mère avec un homme d’affaires indonésien. Maya est professeur à Hawaï, où Barack a été élevé par ses grands parents, et où 21% des habitants se déclarent “Hapa” –“moitié moitié”– c’est-à-dire issus de mariages mixtes.
[. . .]
Contrairement à Hillary Clinton, qui a souvent évoqué la “dimension historique” des primaires 2008 –une femme et un africain-américain prétendant à la nomination du parti–, Barack Obama met rarement cette dimension en avant. En remportant la nomination du parti, il n’est pas moins entré dans l’Histoire. De son vivant, la génération qui a dû conquérir le droit de partager avec les Blancs les salles de café ou les sièges d’autobus, aura vu un Noir choisi par des millions de Blancs pour les représenter dans la compétition pour la Maison Blanche.
Quand Barack est né, en 1961 à Honolulu, les mariages mixtes étaient interdits dans 16Etats. Le voilà aux portes de la Maison Blanche. “Notre pays ne sera plus jamais le même, écrit le blogueur Oakland Kid sur le site Daily Kos. C’est au monde entier que nous parlons maintenant avec une voix nouvelle. Quelque part au paradis, Martin Luther King, Thomas Jefferson et Walt Whitman doivent sourire.” Inconnu il y a quatre ans, candidat à la présidentielle à 46ans, Barack Obama arbore une absence complète de fébrilité. Sa biographie est déjà écrite, rédigée à l’âge de 33ans, alors qu’il sortait de la faculté de droit de Harvard où il avait été élu à la présidence de la prestigieuse Law Review. Derrière son ascension et son apparente facilité, se cache une organisation disciplinée, fondée sur un premier cercle, celui des amis de Chicago, Juifs et Noirs progressistes, typique de la ville. A son état-major, le candidat n’a donné qu’une consigne : pas de drames.
Corine Lesnes, “Barack Obama, un destin américain,” Le Monde.
“The spirit of the times is for Obama — even if less so in Asia, Africa and Latin America than in western Europe. But an optical illusion may be influencing our mood — notably the comforting picture that it is not America but George W. Bush that is the problem. Out goes the ‘cowboy,’ in comes Change and Hope, and we can love America again.”
Josef Joffe of Die Zeit, quoted in “Foreign Reaction to Obama’s Claim is Favorable,” New York Times.
But his insistence that he can bridge the nation’s ideological chasms without resort to partisan warfare leaves some with the nagging sense that he makes it sound too easy, and that his full measure as a politician has yet to be taken.
He has stumbled and fumbled more than once. Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton confounded him, pushing him back on his heels, his irritation too apparent. He falls in love with his words and perhaps his celebrity, acknowledging after Texas that he had become too dependent on arena politics and too aloof in smaller settings.
“Barack Obama: Calm in the Swirl of History,” The New York Times.
Perhaps it is unfair to suggest that Senator Obama opposed IRGC designation before he supported it. In the context, however, of the candidate’s flip-flopping on personal negotiations with terrorist state leaders, however, the audience at AIPAC might ask why Senator Obama has pivoted from opposition to “Lieberman-Kyl” to support for the IRGC designation his audience demands. Is this really change they can believe in?
Danielle Pletka, “Obama’s Pander Pivot,” The Weekly Standard.
And yet, Mr Obama will not want to make the offer if there is a chance that she will actually accept. Expect a complicated dance between the two in coming days. She probably would not bring to his ticket what it needs. He campaigned on “change”, whereas she lived in the White House for eight years in the 1990s. He rose to prominence partly for his early and clear opposition to the war in Iraq, which she voted for. And there is the delicate but unavoidable fact that Americans may be skittish about breaking both the colour and sex barrier at the same time.
“Obama’s victory,” The Economist.
I have to wonder, what exactly is Obama referring to when he suggests that McCain is denying Obama’s accomplishments? My sense is that McCain generally offers a pretty generous assessments of Obama’s many impressive qualities. As to Obama’s accomplishments, are there any in particular that McCain ought to highlight? I realize that this sounds like I’m poking fun, but I’m genuinely curious.
Reihan Salam, The American Scene.
For Senator Obama the risk is dog-whistle politics that attempt to highlight his exotic heritage. The debate about why he does not wear a flag pin or rumours that he took the oath of office on the Koran when he was sworn into the US Senate are cases in point.
In his victory speech he vowed that he would not demonise his political rivals or “use religion as a wedge, and patriotism as a bludgeon”.
The second half of the presidential campaign is going to be much more robust, and it will be instructive to see if Senator Obama can stick by his principles of rising above bitter and divisive partisan politics.
“Hail the great black hope: now for the white votes,” The Sydney Morning Herald (I should say that this title is very Australian sounding to me for some reason).
“I’ve always been a person of possibilities,” said Sweet Fairley, a former president of the Jackson branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. “For me, the first thing I thought about is, ‘From slavery to the presidency.'”
[. . .]
“We are in such distress that we’re already in the hole,” said Hampton, 77, of Jackson. “Problems in the country are larger than a single nominee.”
“Leaders savor Obama victory,” Jackson Citizen Patriot.
In winning the nomination, Obama has left many African Americans elated but at the same time fearful that their own preoccupations might derail the candidate in a general election, said William Jelani Cobb, author of books about contemporary black culture.
“Black Americans are treading on thin ice, moving very delicately. This (Obama’s) opportunity is frail and fragile (and many say) let’s make sure that nothing happens to ruin it,” said Cobb, a professor of history at Atlanta’s Spelman College.
“Blacks savor Obama win, fear disappointment,” Reuters.
Comparate nunc, Quirites, cum illorum superbia me hominem novum. Quae illi audire et legere solent, eorum partem vidi, alia egomet gessi; quae illi litteris, ea ego militando didici. Nunc vos existumate facta an dicta pluris sint. Contemnunt novitatem meam, ego illorum ignaviam; mihi fortuna, illis probra obiectantur. Quamquam ego naturam unam et communem omnium existumo, sed fortissumum quemque generosissumum. Ac si iam ex patribus Albini aut Bestiae quaeri posset, mene an illos ex se gigni maluerint, quid responsuros creditis, nisi sese liberos quam optumos voluisse? [They despise me as an upstart; I them as do-nothings. They taunt me with my humble birth; I them with their disgraceful behavior. I consider all men equal in birth and noble only in relation to their bravery. If the ancestors of Albinus or Bestia could be asked whom they would prefer for a descendant, myself or them [the nobility], what would they say that they wished for their sons to be the best men possible? ]
Quod si iure me despiciunt, faciant item maioribus suis, quibus, uti mihi, ex virtute nobilitas coepit. Invident honori meo; ergo invideant labori, innocentiae, periculis etiam meis, quoniam per haec illum cepi. Verum homines corrupti superbia ita aetatem agunt, quasi vostros honores contemnant; ita hos petunt, quasi honeste vixerint. Ne illi falsi sunt, qui divorsissumas res pariter expectant, ignaviae voluptatem et praemia virtutis. Atque etiam, cum apud vos aut in senatu verba faciunt, pleraque oratione maiores suos extollunt, eorum fortia facta memorando clariores sese putant. Quod contra est. Nam quanto vita illorum praeclarior, tanto horum socordia flagitiosior. Et profecto ita se res habet: maiorum gloria posteris quasi lumen est, neque bona neque mala eorum in occulto patitur. Huiusce rei ego inopiam fateor, Quirites, verum, id quod multo praeclarius est, meamet facta mihi dicere licet. Nunc videte quam iniqui sint. Quod ex aliena virtute sibi arrogant, id mihi ex mea non concedunt, scilicet quia imagines non habeo et quia mihi nova nobilitas est, quam certe peperisse melius est quam acceptam corrupisse.
Equidem ego non ignoro, si iam mihi respondere velint, abunde illis facundam et compositam orationem fore. Sed in vostro maxumo benificio cum omnibus locis me Nam me quidem ex animi mei sententia nulla oratio laedere potest. Quippe vera necesse est bene praedicent, falsa vita moresque mei superant. Sed quoniam vostra consilia accusantur, qui mihi summum honorem et maxumum negotium imposuistis, etiam atque etiam reputat num eorum paenitendum sit. Non possum fidei causa imagines neque triumphos aut consulatus maiorum meorum ostentare, at, si res postulet, hastas, vexillum, phaleras, alia militaria dona, praeterea cicatrices advorso corpore. Hae sunt meae imagines, haec nobilitas, non hereditate relicta, ut illa illis, sed quae ego meis plurumis laboribus et periculis quaesivi. vosque maledictis lacerent, non placuit reticere, ne quis modestiam in conscientiam duceret.
Non sunt composita verba mea; parvi id facio. Ipsa se virtus satis ostendit. Illis artificio opus est, ut turpia facta oratione tegant. Neque litteras Graecas didici; parum placebat eas discere, quippe quae ad virtutem doctoribus nihil profuerant. At illa multo optuma rei publicae doctus sum: hostem ferire, praesidia agitare, nihil metuere nisi turpem famam, hiemem et aestatem iuxta pati, humi requiescere, eodem tempore inopiam et laborem tolerare. His ego praeceptis milites hortabor, neque illos arte colam, me opulenter, neque gloriam meam laborem illorum faciam. Hoc est utile, hoc civile imperium. Namque cum tute per mollitiem agas, exercitum supplicio cogere, id est dominum, non imperatorem esse. Haec atque talia maiores vostri faciundo seque remque publicam celebravere. Quis nobilitas freta, ipsa dissimilis moribus, nos illorum aemulos contemnit, et omnis honores non ex merito, sed quasi debitos a vobis repetit.
Ceterum homines superbissumi procul errant. Maiores eorum omnia quae licebat illis reliquere: divitias, imagines, memoriam sui praeclaram; virtutem non reliquere, neque poterant; ea sola neque datur dono neque accipitur. Sordidum me et incultis moribus aiunt, quia parum scite convivium exorno neque histrionem ullum neque pluris preti cocum quam vilicum habeo. Quae mihi lubet confiteri, Quirites. Nam ex parente meo et ex aliis sanctis viris ita accepi: munditias mulieribus, laborem viris convenire, omnibusque bonis oportere plus gloriae quam divitiarum esse; arma, non supellectilem decori esse.
Quin ergo, quod iuvat, quod carum aestumant, id semper faciant: ament, potent; ubi adulescentiam habuere ibi senectutem agant, in conviviis, dediti ventri et turpissumae parti corporis. Sudorem, pulverem et alia talia relinquant nobis, quibus illa epulis iucundiora sunt. Verum non ita est. Nam ubi se flagitiis dedecoravere turpissumi viri, bonorum praemia ereptum eunt. Ita iniustissume luxuria et ignavia pessumae artes, illis qui coluere eas nihil officiunt, rei publicae innoxiae cladi sunt.
From Bellum Iugurthinum (The Jugurthine War), Sallust (see here for a less than ideal translation; this speech by Marius is also called “On being accused of a low origin“). There are elements of Obama, McCain, and Mrs. Clinton in Marius’s speech.
“God willing, I would like Mr. Obama to be the first black African to be president of the United States,” said William Ochieng, who was among a crowd in Kisumu toasting Obama with a brew called Senator Keg — nicknamed “Obama” beer since the U.S. senator’s presidential campaign took off.
At the Uncle Sam barbershop in Nairobi, Kamau Gichamba said he has high hopes for Obama.
“I’m very happy about his win. He is a Kenyan!” said Gichamba, 37, as he cropped a customer’s hair. “If Obama becomes president, the world will become a safer place. He will not stoke wars like (President) Bush.”
The world’s great age begins anew,
The golden years return,
The earth doth like a snake renew
Her winter weeds outworn;
Heaven smiles, and faiths and empires gleam,
Like wrecks of a dissolving dream.
[. . .]
O cease! must hate and death return? Cease! must men kill and die? Cease! drain not its dregs the urn Of bitter prophecy! The world is weary of the past– O might it die or rest at last!
From “Hellas,” by Percy Bysshe Shelley.