He needed to speak directly, but he obfuscated with cleverly concealed contradictions and evasions. He said his campaign presents a powerful message of unity, but his words stoked racial unease and divisiveness. While paying lip service to our national motto, "Out of Many, One," he couldn't quit talking about people in terms of their color and ethnicity.
He scolded us for our racism, but he
-- encouraged us to keep race-consciousness at the very forefront of our national psyche,
-- sloppily conflated Pastor Wright's manifest racism and anti-Americanism with his white grandmother's stereotypical remarks and Democrat Geraldine Ferraro's political observation about the effect of Obama's race on his electability, and
-- didn't point his accusing finger at the race-hustlers of our time, who fan the flames of racial resentment and hostility.
Rather, he fed into feelings of racial distrust by playing to his leftist base and wrongly castigating Reaganism and conservative commentators for their alleged racism. He legitimized the noxious notion that conservative opposition to welfare and affirmative action are born of racism by saying we must "realize that your dreams do not have to come at the expense of my dreams." He implied that conservative resistance to throwing endless money at public education is rooted in a "cynicism that tells us that these kids can't learn, that those kids who don't look like us are somebody else's problem." These are misguided and damaging words.
Conservatives promote school choice precisely because they want to deliver disadvantaged children from their confinement in inner-city schools. Conservative opposition to affirmative action and unbridled welfare is not based on greed, selfishness or racism but on a philosophical difference over how best to solve problems while preserving the dignity of all individual human beings.
It is certainly Obama's prerogative to make his campaign about race while saying it transcends it. It is his right to duck the question of his intimate connection to Wright, and he may take the offensive by deftly turning the charges of racism back on conservatives.
But it is up to the voters to evaluate his cultural analysis, his evasiveness and the wisdom of his proposed big-government solutions for our problems. I am unconvinced that his eloquence has successfully masked the deep problems that have begun to haunt his driving presidential ambitions.