The reliably boring Bob Herbert is utterly predictable with his reaction to the Obama speech (he liked it!) but poses a puzzle lat in his column. Sorry, the boring bit:
The speech, which has gotten wonderful reviews, should be required reading in classrooms across the country — and in as many other venues as possible. With a worldview that embraces both justice and healing, Senator Obama is better on these issues than any American leader since King.
"[C]lassrooms across the country" - right. Bob Herbert would leap from a tall building if a Reagan speech decrying Communism or a Bush speech explaining our presence in Iraq were presented as part of American history/current events.
Racial prejudice, ignorance, hostility — whatever — has caused millions of Americans to vote against their own economic interests, and for policies that have damaged the country.
“It’s hard to address big issues,” Mr. Obama told me, “if we’re easily diverted or distracted by racial antagonism.”
Wow, working class whites ought to unite with working class blacks and rise up against their rich oppressors. One hopes that Herbert realizes this is not exactly a new insight and that race is not the only force of division. In fact, let's flash back to Howard Dean's "Guns, God, and Gays" speech to see how Democrats use race to divide themselves, and show awareness of other cultural issues that divide them from voters.
OK, enough of the boring but stupid bits. Let's get to the Herbert headscratcher:
Listening to Senator Obama’s speech, it wasn’t Dr. King who first came to mind but Bobby Kennedy, standing on a flatbed truck in Indianapolis on a cold, windy night in April 1968. Kennedy had to tell a crowd that had gathered to hear him speak that King had been murdered.
A gasp of horror and grief rose into the cold night air. Most of those in the crowd were black.
“In this difficult time for the United Sates,” said Kennedy, “it is perhaps well to ask what kind of a nation we are and what direction we want to move in. For those of you who are black ... you can be filled with bitterness, with hatred and a desire for revenge. We can move in that direction as a country, in great polarization — black people amongst black, white people amongst white, filled with hatred toward one another.
“Or we can make an effort, as Martin Luther King did, to understand and to comprehend, and to replace that violence, that stain of bloodshed that has spread across our land, with an effort to understand with compassion and love.”
Wow, that Herbert sure knows his history, remembering a Bobby Kennedy speech like that. But wait! Obama himself paraphrased just that passage in an earlier attempt to quell the Wright controversy, as reported in Mark Halperin's widely read "The Page" at ABC News:
Let me just close my initial remarks by talking about bringing this country together. You know, Bobby Kennedy gave one of his most — gave one of his most famous speeches on a dark night in Indianapolis. Right after Dr. King was shot. Some of you remember reading about this speech. Some of you were alive when this speech was given. He stood on top of a car. He was in a crowd mostly of African Americans. And he delivered the news that Dr. King had been shot and killed. And he said, at that moment of anguish, he said, we’ve got a choice. He said, we’ve got a choice in taking the rage and bitterness and disappointment and letting it fester and dividing us further so that we no longer see each other as Americans but we see each other as separate and apart and at odds with each other. Or we can take a different path that says we have different stories, but we have common dreams and common hopes. And we can decide to walk down this road together. And remake America once again. And, you know, I think about those words often, especially in the last several weeks - because this campaign started on the basis that we are one America.
Looks like Bob Herbert actually looked up the text of the speech, but honestly - Obama cites Bobby Kennedy on March 15, and a week later Herbert claims that Obama's next speech really reminded him of Bobby Kennedy. Is this laughably phony, laughably ignorant, or both?
WHY DO THEY HATE AMERICA? Right now the Times website quotes Kennedy with a typo:
“In this difficult time for the United Sates,” said Kennedy...