The setup couldn't have been any better: Edwards races Hillary to the podium to claim second place, and therefore becomes the spirited but forgettable opening act. Yawn. Hillary arrives fashionably late and gives a nauseatingly smug, condescending speech that amounts to a "Thanks for playing, boys, but we'll take it from here." Then comes Huckabee, flanked by BFF Chuck Norris, offering his usual blithely scripted robots-for-Christ homilies. Romney, an idiot to the last, goes on in the background and never makes live TV, sparing us a gag-inducing Olympics analogy. (At least he's stopped pretending his dad marched with Martin Luther King.) Those of us who'd been dumb enough to play the swig-when-anyone-says-"Change!" drinking game were already thoroughly shitfaced. But through the haze of yet another caucus bender, it occured to us, as it may have occured to you, that the junior senator from Illinois was about annihilate the competition.
So fuck you, Joan Venochhi: Barack Obama IS TOO the black JFK. Now if we could just get him to put down the Mr. Potato Head.
After watching Gergen and Matthews and the rest of those clowns blow B.O. for a solid two postgame hours, we feel no particular need to add ours to the voice-chorus of fellating bobbleheads. After all, we've been telling you he was gonna pull this thing off since March. But for shit's sake -- oh, hell, we can't help ourselves -- what a fucking speech. Line one: "They said this day would never come" -- evoking King's day/King's dream, but also King's eminently statesmanlike elocution, with those high, quivvering, glissando-like preacher's vowels. You knew right away the white lady was going down. Obama's ostensible topic may have been that now-hoary subject of uniting red and blue, but there was never any question that he was talking about black and white: he preached reconciliation without mentioning race, returning again and again to the sacred language and righteous intonations of the civil rights era. The psychology of the moment was not clean, not wholly righteous (Chris Rock to an audience of progressives last month: "You'd be reeeeeeal embarassed if he won and you wasn't down with it"), but it was powerfully spoken and powerfully felt. Last night, Barack Obama didn't come out and say, "Vote for me, and we can put that whole slavery thing behind us." It was not immediately clear, however, that that wasn't what white America heard. We threw up in our mouths a little bit when Chris Matthews used Obama's Kenyan heritage as a segue into a pronouncement that Barack would surely capture the vote of everyone who'd been in the Peace Corps "in the 1960s, 70s, 80s, or 90s." The surge of Obamamania, he opined in only marginally less embarassing terms, is "emblematic of America's attempt to rejoin the world."
DOWNLOAD: Extra Golden, "Obama" (mp3)
Somehow, none of that got in the way of the speech for us: there was too much poetry and too much civic theater for us to remain unmoved. No, politics doesn't stop being politics even when it produces a human moment, a legitimately historic moment -- an honest-to-goodness 16-and-0 type moment. But oratory doesn't cede its humanity, either, merely for its being political. We loved the emphatic stump-speech part about hope, because it was hopeful and also because it was just shit-hot good writing. But we loved the theater of it, too, the part that the Republicans are always kicking the Democrats' asses at: the "USA! USA!" chant, stolen back from redneck shitheads, in a visceral reclamation of Democratic patriotism; the blatant backdrop-gerrymandering that left a bunch of white college kids yahooing over Barack's right shoulder; the ingeniously-disseminated talking points strewn with campaign-provided color. (Fave anecdote dropped by some anchor or another: young Obama foot soldiers wearing beaded necklaces in order to keep track, abacus-like, of second-round floor votes.) Even if, as our colleague David Bernstein mentions in his caucus wrapup today, that nine-point margin was basically Ricahrdson/Biden supporters aiming for Edwards and accidentally shooting Hillary in the head, the vote, when all is said and done, would not have hurt Mrs. Clinton so much. The victory speech, however, is another story. If the black-JFK thing is too much for you, could we maybe interest you in a Tom-Brady-of-Politics analogy?
What transpired during Obama's speech was so radically unlike what happened at any other podium last night that we immediately resolved to Do Something. Since we couldn't think of anything else to Do, we decided to take on all comers in Presidential Pong, but our Obama was quickly trounced by a merciless Rudy Giuliani. We asked for a rematch, but drew Ron Paul and declined the invitation. No matter: we're on to New Hampshire. History, perhaps, awaits.