Gideon Rachman has posted a response to my post on his column about Obama’s speeches. I’ll offer a last brief word, and then leave the verdict on Obama’s speeches to history. First of all, though, on a personal note, let me say how stunned I am to be accused of (in my previous life at The Economist) “remorseless logic, fierce invective, and a total lack of sentimentality”. Gideon, you wound me, I bleed. Surely not. I was universally regarded as a complete softy–or so it seemed to me, at least. Don’t tell me that wasn’t so.
Though he still stops short of saying it outright, in his response Gideon relies more explicitly than before on the “Obama’s fans are all idiots” explanation of the candidate’s appeal. Obama, he suggests, is the Barbara Cartland of American politics. (I have to wonder how many people have been inspired by Barbara Cartland, but let that pass.) Gideon’s tastes are more refined than that–as are mine, needless to say. But Obama’s speeches impress a surprisingly wide demographic, if this point is correct. In fact, Obama seems especially liked by the kind of metropolitan intellectuals who share Gideon’s and my disdain for brainless romantic fiction. Something about him, whatever it is, clicks with poor urban blacks and with Harvard academics. As I pointed out, many of his political enemies–smart ones and stupid ones alike–think he gives a great speech.
If somebody is unmoved by a speech, there is nothing anyone can say to change his mind. It is a personal thing, no doubt. But the “Obama’s fans are all idiots” theory that underlies Gideon’s view seems to me just a case of poor observation. It simply isn’t true.