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Obama at Notre Dame – The Review

I have often compared President Obama's speeches to the old cliché about Chinese food: delicious and enjoyable when delivered, but so devoid of real nutrients that an hour later one is hungry again. In Obama's case, the missing nutrients are substance and honesty, and his commencement address in South Bend on Sunday was no exception.

As always, the President's rhetoric soared. His mellifluous voice and impeccable timing, his wry, seemingly self-deprecating sense of humor, and the talents of his outstanding team of speech writers were very much in evidence at the Joyce Center; his audience of graduating students and their families, faculty and the ever-present press were enthralled.

And as always, all that that high-flying rhetoric, all the bons mots, the personal anecdotes, and the appeals to “fair-mindedness” and other virtues sounded inspirational, but what did Obama really give us Sunday afternoon at Notre Dame?

Well, not much in the way of substance. Responding to all the controversy surrounding Fr. John Jenkins' invitation to speak at the commencement, the President reversed his earlier avowal not to discuss abortion in his speech. In fact, at least a third of the 30 minute talk was devoted to that controversy, but except for a plea for all sides to work together to seek ways to reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies, he offered no real solutions, admitting,

Now, understand — understand, Class of 2009, I do not suggest that the debate surrounding abortion can or should go away. Because no matter how much we may want to fudge it — indeed, while we know that the views of most Americans on the subject are complex and even contradictory — the fact is that at some level, the views of the two camps are irreconcilable. Each side will continue to make its case to the public with passion and conviction. But surely we can do so without reducing those with differing views to caricature.

Maybe he should have stuck to his original plan and not mentioned abortion at all.

The President's speeches are often as interesting for what he doesn't say as they are for what he does say, and the Notre Dame speech was no exception. Speaking about his early experiences working with Chicago's Catholic-sponsored Developing Communities Project and the inspiration he received from the work and from his co-workers, he told us, “Perhaps because I witnessed all of the good works their faith inspired them to perform, I found myself drawn not just to the work with the church; I was drawn to be in the church. It was through this service that I was brought to Christ.” Unmentioned were the name of the anti-white, anti-American church he actually joined, and its vicious, hate-mongering pastor, the infamous Jeremiah “God Damn America” Wright. One might argue that this was unnecessary, that we all know which church and what pastor he was referring to, and that is true, but a more honest individual, not wanting to reopen the controversy surrounding his church affiliation, would simply have not brought it up. However, Obama was speaking at a religious university, and wanted – needed – in his own mind at least, to show his Catholic audience that he too, is a God-fearing, church-going man; never mind the vast gulf between the Catholic Church and Jeremiah Wright's Trinity United Church of Christ.

One audience member, blogger Kaitlynn Riely, one of the graduating seniors, felt that Notre Dame president Father John Jenkins' speech introducing Obama actually upstaged the President's speech, and she may have a point. Said Ms. Reily:

Obama's message of dialogue and working together was well-delivered and well-received, but University President Father John Jenkins stole the show…In my time at Notre Dame, I've listened to quite a few of his speeches, but none of them were particularly memorable. In his introductory remarks Sunday, however, Jenkins was articulate, passionate and forceful in his defense of Notre Dame's invitation of Obama. It was the best speech I've ever heard Jenkins make.

It was, in the final analysis, a quintessential Obama speech. And I'm already hungry again.

About Clavos

Raised in Mexico by American parents, Clavos is proudly bi-cultural, and considers both Spanish and English as his native languages. A lifelong boating enthusiast, Clavos lives aboard his ancient trawler, Second Act, in Coconut Grove, Florida and enjoys cruising the Bahamas and Florida Keys from that base. When not dealing with the never-ending maintenance issues inherent in ancient trawlers, Clavos sells yachts to finance his boat habit, but his real love (after boating, of course) is writing and editing; a craft he has practiced at Blogcritics since 2006.
  • zingzing

    obama could poop gold and you’d say he didn’t put forth enough effort. you know, i know it, we all know it. even when you agree with him, you’ll figure out an angle. of course, you usually miss the toilet that way. dunno what that means.

  • zingzing

    “Maybe he should have stuck to his original plan and not mentioned abortion at all.”

    seriously? you would have bashed him if he had. the controversy surrounding the invitation was centered on abortion. he HAD to speak about it, and he did.

    the easiest criticism of your article is the same criticism you had for obama’s speech. but i’m not going to be that lazy…

  • http://www.republicofdave.com Dave Nalle

    The entire ebortion issue is trivial. It distracts from real issues. Obama is secretly gloating because by appearing at Note Dame he created this little fake controversy which distracts from the real issues like his newfound love of secrecy, torture and massive troop deployments.

    Dave

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/jordan-richardson/ Jordan Richardson

    I partially agree with Dave, here. I don’t know that Obama created the controversy, but it does damn sure distract from the real issues plaguing his presidency. His lack of transparency, torture fumbling, and troop deployments ought to be examined more closely and thoroughly than these redundant social issue distinctions.

  • http://ruvysroost.blogspot.com Ruvy

    I see buyer’s remorse from Mr. Richardson, an attempt to get away from hot button issues by Mr. Nalle, and the usual knee-jerk defense of the Blessed of Hussein by zing.

    But Clavos has got it spot-on. Obama can deliver pretty words that say nothing, and which leave you hungry for more in an hour or so. He can’t deliver policy, he can’t deliver promises.

    He just can’t deliver.

    I hope he is better in bed with Michelle, for his sake, if nothing else. She looks like the kind of woman who’d chop his schlong off with a butcher knife. No buyer’s remorse for that broad! If she can’t have it, nobody’ll get it!

    Wandering back above the belt here, I did predict this outcome for you folks a while ago. It’s not that I told you all to vote for McCain.

    I didn’t.

    And it appears that the Blessed of Hussein wants peace with Iran. His sacrifice to the gods to obtain it? Israel. But hey, let’s not let little details get in the way of soaring (if unsatisfying) rhetoric and fantastic performances by the new boy at the bully pulpit.

    I just want to see what happens when you all realize that the only thing the Blessed of Hussein can deliver to you is pretty words.

    It should be interesting….

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/jordan-richardson/ Jordan Richardson

    Buyer’s remorse? I never supported Obama. I preferred him to McCain, however, and right-wing policies in general, but he always had his flaws in my eyes and was never “left” enough for me. Nevermind that, it’s not like I had a say anyway.

    Plus, my wife threw her vote away and ticked the box for the Greens.

  • zingzing

    ruvy: “I see buyer’s remorse from Mr. Richardson, an attempt to get away from hot button issues by Mr. Nalle, and the usual knee-jerk defense of the Blessed of Hussein by zing.”

    and clavos’ knee-jerk put down of obama? the fact is that if he hadn’t spoken about the controversy, clavos would have bashed him for that. but he did, so clavos bashed him for that. in fact, that’s basically all clavos talks about, and clavos also wrote an entire other article on the subject as well. so clavos can talk about it, but obama can’t?

    and if dave could be just a little more hypocritical, the world might actually implode around austin.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Regarding your last line, is that possible?
    And how do you mean that?
    a) abortion is the real issue except that Dave denies it it so’
    2) Obama is not just gloating but laughing his ass off.

  • zingzing

    regarding my last line?

    and no, i’m not saying “abortion is the real issue,” as in, there is no other… but i am saying that what dave likes in some people, he’ll turn around and use as a criticism in others.

    i think that obama noted the controversy and approached it with a sense of civility and a call for open dialogue that has been missing from the abortion “debate.” he acknowledged the huge ideological chasm between the right and the left on the subject, but suggested ways that we actually can come together a little bit.

    but really, my point is that clavos, ruvy, dave, et al, will always find some way to bash obama, for whatever he does. and they will do so with much hot air and no substance, and their criticism of this speech could be turned right back on them.

  • zingzing

    and i hope it’s not possible… ever since the end of the election, when he proclaimed that mccain would win every battleground state, then watched as obama swamped yet another republican white old man, dave’s been getting increasingly hypocritical and nonsensical. not to say that it hasn’t been fun to watch, but it’s also just a wee bit scary. so, if hypocritical thought can actually cause the end of the earth, look for it in austin, texas. but it’ll probably come in ruvy’s neck of the woods, either due to hypocrisy or just good old hate.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    I don’t think you realize at times how humorous you are, but then again, we’ve got such ripe subjects.

  • Clavos

    the fact is that if he hadn’t spoken about the controversy, clavos would have bashed him for that…

    So now you read minds. Your mommy help you with that, too?

    i would have bashed him, you’re right, but not on that point. But, I definitely would have found something on which to bash him. Hmm — maybe his smug, supercilious attitude? Whatever, there’s plenty of bashing material there.

  • Clavos

    …and their criticism of this speech could be turned right back on them.

    take another look at the byline, dude, it’s not “their” criticism, it’s mine.

    If “they” want to criticize, “they” are perfectly capable of writing their own articles.

  • zingzing

    jesus, clavos. take a look at what i wrote. then take a look at what you wrote. then think for a minute like a reasoning adult.

  • zingzing

    as for the rest of your shit, stop with the “mommy” thing. it’s you who comes out looking childish. (i do it all the time, so it’s expected.)

    as for “smug, supercilious attitude,” what kind of attitude did you get off of bush?

  • http://www.republicofdave.com Dave Nalle

    Zing, as usual, living in a delusional world of his own.

    but really, my point is that clavos, ruvy, dave, et al, will always find some way to bash obama, for whatever he does. and they will do so with much hot air and no substance, and their criticism of this speech could be turned right back on them.

    Zing, I haven’t even started bashing Obama yet, and I had no criticism of this speech. Try to keep events and people straight. I know it’s hard.

    and i hope it’s not possible… ever since the end of the election, when he proclaimed that mccain would win every battleground state, then watched as obama swamped yet another republican white old man, dave’s been getting increasingly hypocritical and nonsensical. not to say that it hasn’t been fun to watch, but it’s also just a wee bit scary.

    Zing, I’ve moved on from the election and the Bush era. I wish some of you folks on the left could drop the gloating and do the same. If I’m scaring you, that’s good, because you and your ilk have a lot to worry about. There will be a reckoning for what you’re doing to the nation.

    Dave

  • zingzing

    dave, we all live in delusional worlds of our own, especially you. i’m not worried about my “ilk,” i’m worried about yours. last time your “ilk” got into office, we went on a crusade and nearly bankrupted the world, so i’m fairly confident we can do better.

    as for reckonings, we’re lucky to have averted the world’s reckoning for what you did to the nation. by all rights, we became the most dangerous, irresponsible nation of any consequence in the world.

    as for you not even starting to bash obama yet (who you called a secretive, torturing warmonger–like obama is even a tenth as bad as bush in those regards), or his speech (which you called trivial)… well, i think i’ve kept people straight. it’s right up there on this same page. you read the same language i do? do you have the same sense of space? does “up” mean “up?”

  • zingzing

    the bush era is still having huge repercussions today, so if you’ve “moved on” from it, you’re ignoring a huge chunk of the reasons for the way things are. and that’s part of your problem.

  • http://ruvysroost.blogspot.com Ruvy

    Dave, zing,

    I hate to let you to in on a great big secret, but the ilk of Bush, and the ilk of Obama ain’t that much different when you file away all the cosmetics. Obama is an incompetent fascist – Bush was an incompetent fascist. Actually, if you scratch off fascist and just leave incompetent there, you have the basic description. The big difference between the two piles of shit, the former prez and the prezent prez, is that Obama tries to stink nice and sound pure. Bush just stank.

  • http://www.republicofdave.com Dave Nalle

    dave, we all live in delusional worlds of our own, especially you. i’m not worried about my “ilk,” i’m worried about yours. last time your “ilk” got into office, we went on a crusade and nearly bankrupted the world, so i’m fairly confident we can do better.

    The last time anything like my “ilk” in the sense of someone who shared a reasonable percentage of my core beliefs, was when Teddy Roosevelt was in the White House. And as I recall the only crusade was against the monopolies.

    as for reckonings, we’re lucky to have averted the world’s reckoning for what you did to the nation. by all rights, we became the most dangerous, irresponsible nation of any consequence in the world.

    You seem to have missed the fact that Obama is perpetuating all of the mistakes Bush made and kicking them up to a higher level. I still don’t buy your generic, knee-jerk antiamericanism, but certainly there’s reason to be concerned.

    as for you not even starting to bash obama yet (who you called a secretive, torturing warmonger–like obama is even a tenth as bad as bush in those regards)

    That’s not bashing, it’s just telling it like it is. Bashing involves malice rather than simple statements of fact.

    , or his speech (which you called trivial)…

    Actually, that was Clavos.

    well, i think i’ve kept people straight.

    Apparently not. You’ve confused me with Clavos and apparently mistaken me for some sort of Bush supporter. Typical of the failed bullshit the left is pushing now. It’s still all about attacking Bush even though he’s out of office. Yhat’s not going to fly for much longer.

    Dave

  • http://skate.bkknowledge.com askater11

    abortion is a heavy issue and his opinion is the opinion of half of the world

  • zingzing

    dave: “Actually, that was Clavos.”

    go back and read your comment. it’s a quote.

    and if you’re not a bush supported, you’re at least a bush defender.

    “It’s still all about attacking Bush even though he’s out of office. Yhat’s not going to fly for much longer.”

    clinton?

  • zingzing

    supporter.

  • http://theugliestamerican.blogspot.com Andy Marsh

    I find it amusing how the “progressives” here at BC will point the finger and say that those with a more conservative bent will always find fault with Obama…

    Maybe, if you “progressives” stopped long enough to remove your heads from Obamas ass, you might see that he ain’t the ball of sunshine you thought he was!

    Just one of you tell me one thing he’s done differently than the last guy that was there screwing things up!

    He’s broken just about every promise he made to those of you that voted for him. Especially the biggest one…Change!

  • zingzing

    andy, there’s something called the “truth-o-meter” over at politifact.com. it tracks obama’s promises, which ones he kept, which ones he’s broken, etc. so you can see for yourself.

    if you want to know one thing he’s done differently, that would be confronting our enemies with diplomacy instead of just going on gung ho bombing sprees. fair enough?

  • zingzing

    and really, if he wasn’t doing anything differently, then what the fuck would you right wingers have to bitch about?

    apparently, he’s running the country into the ground and bringing on fascism. so how’s that the same, if bush was so grand? (of course, bush WAS doing that, but you guys liked him for it…)

  • http://drdreadful.blogspot.com Dr Dreadful

    Politifact is a good resource. I particularly like their ‘Pants on Fire’ rating, complete with deliciously zany animated graphic.