I was watching CNN for Obama's speech. Moments after it concluded Wolf Blitzer was asked to tell us what he heard in it. Wolf's ear is the big ear for the Best Political Team on Television, according to CNN. So he went first. And according to Blitzer, Obama's speech boils down to a "pre-emptive strike" against various attacks on the way: videos, ads, and news controversies that are sure to keep Reverend Jeremiah Wright and "race" in play as issues in the campaign. (I don't have his exact words; if someone out there does, ping me.)
Wasn't the speech about that very pattern?
This is the style of analysis--and the level of thought--we have become miserably utterly used to, especially from Blitzer, but also many others on TV: everything is a move in the game of getting elected, and it's our job in political television to explain to you, the slightly clueless viewer at home, what the special tactics in this case are, then to estimate whether they will work.
That Blitzer, offered the first word on that speech, did the savvier-than-thou, horse race thing tells you about his priorities (mistakenly "static," as Obama said about Wright) and his imaginative range as an interpreter of politics (pretty close to zero.)
For as Greg Sargent at TPM said, "Obama's speech, throughout, asks its listeners to transcend themselves -- it asks them to choose nuance over cartoonish political controversy; it asks them to acknowledge stuff about race they don't want to acknowledge; it asks them to think big instead of small."
And as Charles Murray--yes, that Charles Murray--at The Corner said "It is so far above the standard we're used to from our pols... rhetorically, but also in capturing a lot of nuance about race in America."
Obama had moments earlier told Blitzer. "You've scoured every exit poll for the latest evidence of racial polarization, not just in terms of white and black, but black and brown as well." And so he had-- him as much as anyone on television.
Obama had just said to Blitzer, look: "If all that I knew of Reverend Wright were the snippets of those sermons that have run in an endless loop on the television and You Tube, or if Trinity United Church of Christ conformed to the caricatures being peddled by some commentators, there is no doubt that I would react in much the same way..." And so if the reactions you report on are reactions to your reporting and video looping how are you, the talent in political television, not an actor with me in this cycle?
Wolf, Obama had just said, "We have a choice in this country." And your team at CNN has to make a choice, too. You should be asking yourselves, what's our choice, as broadcasters and journalists...
... We can accept a politics that breeds division, and conflict, and cynicism. We can tackle race only as spectacle - as we did in the OJ trial - or in the wake of tragedy, as we did in the aftermath of Katrina - or as fodder for the nightly news. We can play Reverend Wright's sermons on every channel, every day and talk about them from now until the election, and make the only question in this campaign whether or not the American people think that I somehow believe or sympathize with his most offensive words. We can pounce on some gaffe by a Hillary supporter as evidence that she's playing the race card, or we can speculate on whether white men will all flock to John McCain in the general election regardless of his policies.
You can do that. That's one option. But I'm told you are the best political team on television. Surely you can think of something better to do between now and April 22.
Think they were listening to that part of the speech?
Follow Jay Rosen on Twitter: www.twitter.com/jayrosen_nyu