Finally, Barack Obama has begun drawing contrasts between himself and Hillary Clinton. But it’s still not good enough. He’s not demonstrating to his audiences why they should vote for him — he’s just telling them to do so. And, his rhetoric rarely soars.
The following fake, it-never-happened speech — offered to the junior senator from Illinois, on the house — isn’t perfect by a long shot. But it illustrates the kinds of things Obama needs to do if he is to have any realistic hope of challenging Mrs. Clinton.
STUMPLAND, USA — When I was growing up, Martin Luther King was a hero of mine, as I’m sure he was a hero to many of you. And what has always struck me more than anything else about Dr. King was the way he never allowed adversity to shake his basic belief that this was, essentially, a good and decent country that was capable of great and redemptive change.
There must have been many days — when the children of Birmingham were hosed in the streets by the police, led by Bull Connor; when four innocent little girls in a church were killed by a racist’s bomb; when Medgar Evers and Viola Liuzzo and the Freedom Workers were murdered — there were surely many days when his impulse must have been to strike back, to get even, to equal the score.
But Dr. King didn’t strike back and he didn’t get angry and, by doing that, I think he demonstrated something fundamentally American. What he did instead was to extend the hand of friendship, and even love, to his domestic adversaries. And in the end, that’s what enabled him, and us, to overcome. He understood, as I think we all do, that together, as Americans, we can always accomplish more than we can accomplish alone.
Reach into your pocket and pull out a quarter and see what it says on the back: “E Pluribus Unum” — “out of many, one.” That’s a recognition that our strength is in our different-ness — men and women, the young and the old, and, yes, liberal and conservative, Republican and Democrat. That slogan is our affirmation that, when we are united, we truly stand tall — or, as a great American from my state, Abraham Lincoln, once put it, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.”
Like all of you, there have been many times in recent years when I’ve been angry at the direction of our country: angry that our troops don’t have a president who’s given them a clear mission they can execute; angry that, in the richest nation on earth, we still have children who cry themselves to sleep because they don’t have enough to eat. Angry at a government that ignores the immigration laws on the books because it’s too difficult to face up to a crisis and enforce them. The easy thing to do would be to ask you to support me in an effort to sweep it all aside, to reverse the tide in yet another exercise of partisan payback time.