Ezra Klein is right. The power of that Obama speech -- the power of the candidate himself -- is traceable to a characteristic so rarely seen in politics: honesty.
As I listened, I was reminded that, for all of the left-generated criticism of Obama as "not progressive enough" (do you remember how common that was back in the Fall?) -- there is simply no way a Dennis Kucinich or a Ralph Nader (both of whom I admire greatly) could put the issue of race on the table so deftly, respectfully, and forcefully.
Whether you think race is our crucible issue as a nation is up to you, of course. I happen to think it is.
Klein also rightly points out that the speech was pretty measured and formal -- not the dramatic stump oratory that Obama is well-known for. But can you imagine the mindset it must take to be able to execute a delivery like that under such intense political pressure? I don't think I heard him trip over his language once (though, since we were getting Thandie ready for school, I probably didn't hear every single word). How many of us would even be able to think clearly in those circumstances?
The man is unflappable -- and not the "idiot's haze" unflappable of a George Bush. No, this is the good unflappable -- the kind that says "I'm patient enough to work things out with you in an open and respectful way. Let's not be deterred by the bullshit."
Ironically, one measure of the speech's success is the fact that the right wing critique of Obama is spinning out of control in response to it. You know the subtext by now: these folks reeeeaaaaally want to run against Clinton in the Fall. I suspect that they thought they had finally found Obama's fatal flaw -- and until now much of the mainstream response to the Wright controversy may have supported that conclusion. To watch that slipping away... well, it must be pretty goddamned frustrating.
But I hope you'll forgive me if I say I don't care.