The Corner

The Tragedy of Obama’s Speech

The tragedy of Obama’s speech and the mindless endorsement of it was the rejection of any constant moral standard–an absolute sense of wrong and right that transcends situational ethics, context, and individual particulars. And once one jettisons such absolutes, they won’t be there when one wishes to seek refuge in them in a future hour of need.

When he failed to “disown” Rev. Wright, and then brought in parallels of things purportedly as bad, or offered excuses that Wright had done good things to balance the bad, or that there were certain mitigating circumstances that explain his hatred, then the universal wrong of Wright’s racism and lying disappears and with it any ethical standard by which we have moral authority to condemn such vitriol.

That this self-serving relativism was used to address a self-induced political disaster is especially unfortunate for a self-appointed moralist. I think the liberal blanket endorsement of the Obama speech will later come back to haunt its enthusiasts, once they see the creepy freak show that emerges from the woodwork, immune in public discourse now from absolute standards of rebuke.

In that regard, the grandmother metaphor, the radio talk show simile, the evocation of Ferraro, the context of the black church, etc. were meaningless without any unequivocal rejection of Rev. Wright and what he stands for.

This was a transformational speech–but in ways its endorsers can hardly believe but will surely regret. The voters of Pennsylvania will be the first indication of Obama’s folly, followed by the moral paralysis that meets the next outbreak of racism and hatred in the public forum.

Victor Davis Hanson — NRO contributor Victor Davis Hanson is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and the author, most recently, of The Second World Wars: How the First Global Conflict Was Fought and Won.

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