Perhaps eight years of Bush have warped my standards for presidential speeches. But, my God, this man is smart! First Obama gives a ridiculously insightful speech on race in America, now a speech on religion and politics at the Call to Renewal Conference. Really, go read. Obama is more eloquent and clear on the separation--and confluence--of church and state than any summary I could make.
I am just astounded at Obama's ability to make ideas I believe are true--even hard truths, ideas that aren't supposed to be acceptable arguments outside a college classroom--pronounceable in the political sphere. Normally these sorts of ideas would be cut to pieces in the soundbite news cycle. To some extent, they still are, but the parts the media picks out are usually representative enough that right-wing attacks come off as petty. Obama makes the speech of the decade on race: commentators rant about him "throwing his grandmother under the bus." Now, Obama talks about the separation of church and state: Dobson whines (with no apparent sense of irony) that Obama is distorting the Bible for political purposes and that by mentioning Dobson in the same sentence as Al Sharpton, Obama is calling him racist. Really? Is that the best you can do?
To those who argue that Obama is nothing but pretty speeches, I would argue that there is more meaningful content in these than in any of Bush's State of the Union addresses. Blabbering about "freedom" and "turrists" in order to excite neocon "clash of civilisations" fantasies does not qualify as an interesting or productive idea for the country.
Obama's speeches are elevating the political discourse in this country, especially at those times that the media airs the whole thing, not just snippets. Mud-slinging will always be a presence in politics, but I do think the era of its postmodern, simulated dominance is coming to an end. However much I tend to agree with them, Obama's arguments are not infallible--there are well-reasoned, well-phrased debates to be had. I'm just waiting for conservatives to rise to his standard and make them.