March 18, 2008

Obama: A Mustard and Relish Sandwich of a Speech

bologna.jpgWhen I hear a politician say,

"Two hundred and twenty one years ago, in a hall that still stands across the street, a group of men gathered and, with these simple words, launched America's improbable experiment in democracy."
am I entirely alone when what I hear echoing in the background is
"Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal?"

Now I don't know about you, but I much prefer the beginning of Lincoln's speech to the dissembling appropriation of his tone adopted by Obama. Not that it is wrong to echo great men, but it is dubious when you do so for the ends of personal ambition. It becomes more dubious when Lincoln could get his task of binding up the nation's wounds done in about 270 words while Obama's "guilty but with an explanation" plea is pushing 5,000.

It is even less appealing when, to make your case, you have to go on and on about the original sin of America -- still not paid off, dammit! And then haul in your grandmother muttering racial epithets, and close with a poignant anecdote about a beleaguered young girl struggling with a mother who has our time's favorite poignant disease -- cancer. No speech it seems is complete without the appearance of a cancer sufferer, unless it is a cancer survivor.

But helping a destitute mother stricken with cancer is not enough for the final move in the Obama speech. What you need is a more telling, human anecdote. And we get it -- both barrels.

"Ashley said that when she was nine years old, her mother got cancer. And because she had to miss days of work, she was let go and lost her health care. They had to file for bankruptcy, and that's when Ashley decided that she had to do something to help her mom. She knew that food was one of their most expensive costs, and so Ashley convinced her mother that what she really liked and really wanted to eat more than anything else was mustard and relish sandwiches. Because that was the cheapest way to eat."

Did you get misty at that moment? Or was it when the "quiet" "elderly" black man rose up and said, ""I am here because of Ashley." You were supposed to. In the end, the speech is all about -- again -- bringing out the crying towels right down to the last, heart-wringing menu item of "mustard and relish sandwiches. Because that was the cheapest way to eat."

I don't know about you, but it seems to me that if you cut out either the mustard or the relish you could eat cheaper still.

It also seems to me that you have to be born bone ignorant in a pea patch to think that in this country at this time you have to subsist on such fare. In all fairness, the speech gives us enough "telling" details to determine that Ashley claimed to be making these sandwiches somewhere around 1994. But that still doesn't put this saga in the dark ages of social welfare in the United States.

Looking back, I seem to recall massive public programs on the federal, state, and local level that work against this sort of diet. In the more recent past, I seem to recall a move last month in the congress to increase school lunch programs beyond lunch and breakfast to a third meal as well. For decades I seem to recall food stamps. For even more decades I seem to recall armies of social workers for the state and the federal government raging about the land. And looking at my entire lifetime, I also seem to recall endless private charitable programs that work against this sort of diet.

I can't speak for the distant past, but from what I've seen living in New York City, Southern California, South Carolina, and Seattle over the last few years is you have to work hard, very hard, to go hungry in this country. I've helped out from time to time in a program that feeds the homeless up on Queen Anne. From conversations with the people who show up and those who serve, I've learned enough to know I could eat for free in Seattle at various venues from now until "the last ding-dong of doom."

I could be wrong. There could be swathes of famine sweeping over the land that the media is keeping from us. Bad sandwiches could be a new and undiscovered indictment of America that cries out for a new Federal program to slap some government bologna in them. Perhaps I am just being my churlish self. As I have been repeating to friends over the last week, "I try to become more cynical every day, but lately I just can't keep up."

I have real trouble keeping up when I listen, as I did again today, to yet another anecdote in which we are required by the speaker to reach for the better angels of our nature, our votes, and our wallets. Still, I sure wish there was a video of that moving moment in the early days of the Obama campaign. I wish there was a video in which I could see this now mythical Ashley rise up and testify. I'd watch it over and over. Oh well, I suppose in the next few days the campaign and/or the media will whip up and interview or two with Ashley. It'll pluck at your heart strings now that she's been fully briefed.

Lincoln would end his speech by resolving that "that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."

Obama today ended his vague vamp on Lincoln with the resolve that we all vote him into office so Ashley can slap some bologna in her mustard and relish sandwich.

Posted by Vanderleun at March 18, 2008 6:47 PM
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"It is impossible to speak in such a way that you cannot be misunderstood." -- Karl Popper N.B.: Comments are moderated and may not appear immediately. Comments that exceed the obscenity or stupidity limits will be either edited or expunged.

Tossing grandma under the bus irked me.

Posted by: Fat Man at March 18, 2008 9:38 PM

Gerard, you might like to check out Karl over here.

Yesterday I was convinced that Hillary would be bailing right after Pennsylvania; she might knuckle her way to the nomination at the convention, but then she'd be C.O.D. for the Black vote for the Dems... and go on to lose to McCain, anyway.

After what the media delivered up for Mr. HopeyChange today, I don't know what to think.

Hillary can make a case that he's unelectable... because he's a stone racist. I think.

Or, she can gracefully step aside, watch Obama splatter and be able to say "Hey, it wasn't ME! It was all those RACIST REPUBLICANS!", and then run out her string as the corrupt junior senator from New York. Business ought to be good under a McCain administration, and she'll still have a nice nest egg when she retires.

Posted by: TmjUtah at March 18, 2008 10:56 PM

The mustard-and-relish sandwich story was, in a way, a metaphor for the whole Obama campaign: all condiment, no meat.

Posted by: Rhoda at March 18, 2008 10:58 PM

Mustard and relish sandwiches? R-i-i-i-i-g-h-t. Not unless someone has odd tastes. Government assistance programs are specifically designed to enable the poor to buy nutritious foods. Maybe not cuisine listed in the Michelin Guide, but with enough RDAs to sustain a healthy life. Sounds like BHO left out the main ingredient of that sandwich: baloney.

Posted by: waltj at March 19, 2008 8:49 AM

Sorry, BHO. The Blues brothers beat you to it:

"Did you ever hear of a wish sandwich? Well it's the kind of sandwich where you're supposed to take two pieces of bread and wish you had some

Posted by: Carl H at March 19, 2008 9:39 AM

To chastise a grandmother who took you in a time of need speaks volumes on the character of this man. God Bless America.

Posted by: Jeffersonranch at March 19, 2008 10:08 AM

Unbelievable. All you got out of the speech was relish and mustard sandwiches? I expected more from you, perhaps you really didn't want to hear him make a speech in the first place.

Typical american. If Obama can't say it in 8 words or less, it's not worth listening to.

It was a candid and honest talk about today's racial divide. that all of us have a loved one who speaks in racist terms, and that even tho they do, we still love them. that was the point of bringing his grandmother into the speech.

And he spoke of how whites shouldn't disregard the bitterness some blacks feel, and blacks shouldn't disregard the resentment some whites feel.

What major political candidate has ever spoken like that before?

That's why it's compared to the great speeches of our country. If you focused on only the mustard and relish sandwiches, then you missed the entire point. Something tells me, you didn't want to see the entire point - That racial progress has been made, but it's not done yet. That's sorta why he said the 'past' is not yet 'past'.

Stick to comedy. Political analysis ain't your forte.

Posted by: timpundit at March 19, 2008 10:08 AM

And one more thing...he didn't "chastise" his grandmother.

Jesus P Ackerman, did you people even listen to the speech or did you have some idiot at Faux news "describe" it for you?

he didn't chastise his grandmother. He was trying to point out the unconditional love he felt for her, like we all probably have for an inperfect relative. Get real people.

Posted by: timender at March 19, 2008 10:11 AM

Isn't the fact that there is such a strong divide in people's opinions of the speech itself prove the man's point. What the hell is wrong with everyone? Let's talk about the success of the metaphor rather than converse over what was actually trying to be communicated? Let's focus in on selling out grandma rather than actually discuss the point he was trying to articulate? Are you serious?...I mean really? Are there people really that scared? I guess so...hope that works out for you.

Dusty Mendes. 25 year old. Systems Engineer.

Posted by: dusty at March 19, 2008 12:16 PM

Personally, when people start making speeches with some dubious details added for effect, I begin to suspect maybe the actual content of the speech is dubious as well, not just the metaphors.

Posted by: Aaron at March 19, 2008 9:04 PM

he didn't chastise his grandmother. He was trying to point out the unconditional love he felt for her, like we all probably have for an inperfect relative.

No, timender, he threw his sweet kind, mostly perfect, presently very ill grandmother under the bus. What must it have been like for her to raise a black child even in Hawaii? Do you think that she had an easy time of it? I saw a gorgeous picture online of a happy young privileged Barry on a beautiful tricycle. How lovely she made his young life. Obama, what an ingrate, distorted the story, (see the passage in his book about this particular instance where she was accosted by a black panhandler - he changed it for the speech to make her look more racist, mind you) to make her instance of understandable fear (see Jesse Jackson, 1996, US News and World Report..."There is nothing more painful to me than to walk down the street and hear footsteps and start thinking about robbery, then look around and see somebody white and feel relieved.") morally EQUIVALENT to the sustained hatemongering of his racist mentor, Jeremiah Wright.

Any grandson of mine who did this would break my heart, as I am sure he did hers. What a poor excuse for a grandson, a man, much less a president. What a bunch of baloney.

Gerard, you made my day, again. You're brilliant.

Posted by: marbleson at March 19, 2008 9:21 PM

I had a mustard and relish sandwich for breakfast this morning...washed it down with a glass of "OJ" and a dab of toothpaste. You nailed Obama to the wall of Habitat Homes for Humanity. It's too bad Bush couldn't wield a hammer the way you do with words. On the mark with every one. Thanks, its already made my day.

Posted by: Bill at March 20, 2008 6:03 AM

I had a mustard and relish sandwich for breakfast this morning...washed it down with a glass of "OJ" and a dab of toothpaste. You nailed Obama to the wall of Habitat Homes for Humanity. It's too bad Bush couldn't wield a hammer the way you do with words. On the mark with every one. Thanks, its already made my day.

Posted by: Bill at March 20, 2008 6:08 AM

No Marbleson,

He didn't throw her under the bus. I am suspicious of people who claim to know what the relationship is in other families, like you, but we should mind our own business, shouldn't we? I dare say Obama knows his Grandmother better than you know his Grandmother. Right? Of course, right.

It was a great speech. It was the first political speech on racism by an Adult. Not a panderer, not blaming, no excuses...just saying that sometimes when people get together they say things they wouldn't normally say. Whether they are black, white or brown.

My Dad used to use racial slurs. I told him he couldn't do it around me anymore, and he doesn't. but, back when he was doing it, there's no way any of you could get me to throw Dad under the bus. You know why?

Because as a Christian I hate the sin, but love the sinner. I understand Obama is Chrisitan too. What would you have him do? Throw Christianity under the bus, too?

Posted by: Timender at March 20, 2008 1:36 PM

I have a funny feeling those of you wanting Obama to not act like a Christian, weren't ever consider voting for him anyway.

Faux News Poll today, has overwhelming majority saying they do not beleive Obama shares the views of his Preacher. Only 25% do.

That's 25%. Roughly the same number "adults" that still "approve" of President Failure's job performance. And a little more than the number of people who claim to have seen Elvis alive.

So, I don't think Obama has to worry much. Those people weren't voting for him anyways.

Posted by: timender at March 20, 2008 1:43 PM

"It was the first political speech on racism by an Adult."

Maybe if you were born last week. Otherwise you are just plain wrong.

Posted by: vanderleun at March 20, 2008 2:08 PM

It was the political screech on racism by an adult in modern times.

It was certainly one of the best, most poignent screeches and it didn't pander or use buzz words or lay blame. It said we all know racists and black and white both have legitimate feelings that should not be waved away by the other side. And that our feelings on race are often begun in our ealry years. And that times have changed and to say, like Wright did, that things haven't changed is the biggest crime of his screech.

Yes. One of the best screeches ever and certainly the best of election and probably the best in modern American politics.

He spoke like an adult to adults. maybe that's why I didn't get it.

Posted by: timpundit at March 25, 2008 12:13 PM