His ideas boom with the passion to make those in the audience tremble with emotion. His voice traverses the air of any venue with ease. His posture bears the semblance of a regal prince. But for his intention; his intention is buried deep beneath a tongue of deception. Though a wonderful public speaker at face value, Barack Obama leaves much to be desired in the eyes of the politically informed critical viewer. During “Hardball” last Wednesday, Senator and presidential hopeful Barack Obama responded to the all but weak questions of Chris Matthews, arbiter of the arguably most liberal cable TV news network. While doing this, he outlined his future plan for America, which admittedly, did not sound too bad. It sounded as if he had a plan for everything – from the housing crisis to college tuition costs to our problems abroad. He spoke with relevancy and did not just say what he is planning to do, he also elaborated on how.
“We’ll invest in you, you invest in America” was his message to the American youth, stating that he plans give away $4,000 dollar tuition credits if they partake in community service – an idealistic idea that makes sense. But what is the difference between doing that and getting a job and earning that amount on your own? The difference is where the money comes from. Whereas the $4,000 from working comes from the business where you worked, the Pell-grant comes from the tax-payer. It essentially is the money that the government takes from your and your parents’ wallets that you do not even see because it is taken from you before you can even cash that paycheck at the end of the week. Maybe we would not need the Pell-grants if 33 percent of our income was not taken. But of course if that happened, there would not be much need for the government would there, aside from trivial things like protecting our nation from foreign threats. Perhaps that is why the senator hinted at taking some of the money from Iraq and putting it into scholarships.or maybe he just wanted to win the crowd.
Speaking of the ‘War in Iraq,’ ponder for a minute about the power of words and their connotations. If one were to ask a person with any real knowledge in military history, they could easily tell you that wars and occupations are two definitely different things. Obama said that this war has lasted longer than World War II. He failed to mention that WWII was a declared war and that occupations are traditionally longer. For example, the United States was in Japan for seven years after WWII ended, and occupational troops did not fully leave West Germany for ten years. Clearly, Senator Obama is a very intelligent man, and he knows this and he knows better, but he knows that the general population does not know that occupations are incomparable to wars in the matter of duration, so he said it anyway. Why? Rhetoric: the power of the spoken word.
So Obama and Matthews played “Hardball.” Matthews asked a question, Obama responded. The questions were not necessarily bad; they were even illuminating at times. The senator got the opportunity to state his plans on increased financial oversight in the markets, transferring some of the responsibility of Iraq unto its neighbors, and working to thwart housing foreclosures. Obama also stated that he was against gay marriage. As for civil unions, they were not necessarily bad, but they were not really worthy of the title “Hardball” either. Maybe if there was a sport that involved a softer ball.
Weighing in the favor of Matthew’s questions, however, were the two pertaining to Obama’s pastor and his inflammatory words. When asked about the Clinton campaign’s use of that against him, his response was more of a red herring than an informative reply. He began speaking about “keeping things in perspective,” such as the “fifth anniversary of a war that has now lasted longer than WWI, WWII and the Civil War,” as well as the importance of reminding ourselves how many people that have died, that people are losing their homes, that our economy is slipping and that global warming is going on. These things are the red herrings that divert our attentions away from what should be the true reply, and they are wrapped up in a neat box called ‘keeping things in perspective.’
Matthews redeems the title of his show by asking “Why, when you heard what you call ‘controversial language,’ did you go back and donate $27,000 to his church?” Barack immediately responded by describing that the video of his pastor was just a loop of things he had said over a period of thirty years. He ended by saying that “three weeks from now, everyone will have forgotten” that his pastor wishes God to “damn America.”
It has been said that the generation gap has left our generation without the ability to think critically, and I pray that that is not true. If we lack the ability to look deeper, to see things at their face value and ask “what is underneath?” then we are doomed to be at the mercy of those that speak with two tongues – one that we hear and one that we have to scrutinize in order to find its true meaning. An honest president will speak with just one – the one that speaks for the people.
Luigino Petrone is a first-year student majoring in political science. He can be reached at LP652083@wcupa.edu.