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July 20, 2008



First, there is the obvious symbolism - which is important and entirely justified - of an articulate black American vying for the leadership of the free world.

Articulate as well? Blimey, Oliver.

Nick Good

It sounds like you think Obama's going to win in Novemeber.

Oliver Kamm

Indeed, Benjamin: the allusion, which you miss, is to contrast Obama with Jesse Jackson, whose habit of uttering nonsense in fatuous rhymes was at one time mistaken for eloquence by commentators who ought to have known better. Much of what Obama has said in this campaign is also nonsense, but it's encouraging that he's prepared to jettison everything he believes in at the first sign of electoral trouble. I trust that process has a lot further to go.

Benji's uncle

You're such a prat, Benji. Given that a number of white US presidents have been famously inarticulate, Oliver's description of Obama could hardly be interpreted as patronising towards blacks.


I thought you might mention Jesse Jackson, Oliver, the standard bête noire. He is inarticulate, according to you, that is your contrast. However, perhaps Jackson is actually articulate; it's just that you don't agree with what he says.

Curiously, at the same you compare the earlier Obama with Jackson, saying that he was also talking "nonsense". However, that does not make him inarticulate, and nor does it make Jackson inarticulate - it's just that you don't agree with him.

It's noted that you now think Obama is an "articulate black American", and Jackson is an inarticulate one.

Oliver Kamm

Yes, Benjamin. I'm not sure how this counts as a "gotcha", but I do indeed consider Jackson much worse than inarticulate, whereas Obama is at least a serious politician and also - I hope - a malleable one.


Rentoul might be too gloomy about the need for betrayals, whether of Obama's supporters or the Iraqi people. The Iraqi prime minister has said he essentially agrees with Obama's position on US troop withdrawals which opens the possibility of a win-win conclusion.



Mmmmm. Okay, so Jackson is "much worse than inarticulate". Which presumably means he is actually articulate but you disagree strongly with his views. So where does that leave the Obama comparison? Obama is articulate too, but you agree with him (or at least are a bit more favourable to him).

So, the meaning of an "articulate black American" for Oliver will be left hanging in the air!

Oliver Kamm

No, Benjamin. Jackson is inarticulate; he is also vulgar (consider his recent comments about Obama), partial to fraternising with political leaders whose relationship with democratic principles is very remote indeed, and prone to xenophobic outburst (recall "Hymietown"). Ergo, he is much worse than inarticulate. I do not take kindly to the insinuation I believe you're making, and I recommend that you put a stop to it rather than post here again.



You make posit no evidence to support the idea that Jackson is inarticulate; rather that you do not support his views. Of course, vulgar comments are made all the time in politics - only a few are picked up on microphones and broadcast.

Oliver Kamm

Benjamin, I pointed out that Jackson's trademark is to talk in silly rhymes: "If my mind can conceive it and my heart can believe it then I can achieve it."

Some people are susceptible to this type of thing. I'm not, and I don't consider anyone who talks this way should be counted articulate - any more than Enoch Powell's painful pedantry should be counted precision.

I've given you latitude to make an insinuation that you cannot defend and that I take strong exception to. Given that you've been banned for repeated trolling on my comrades' blogs, I'd ask you to reflect carefully before persisting with this.


Oliver -

According to this transcript, you made an appearance on CNN a few weeks ago in which you said "There is tremendous sympathy within Europe for the notion of Obama as president for the very good and understandable reason of the powerful symbolism of an articulate black American vying as a mainstream candidate, not like Jesse Jackson, for the American presidency." So, clearly, you do view Jackson as an articulate black American, and contrast him with Obama only on the basis that he was not "a mainstream candidate".


Oliver Kamm and John Rentoul both seem to agree that Obama will be forced to apply his eloquence 'to make the case for what is left of the coalition to see its responsibilities to the Iraqis through'.
This makes a pretty big assumption about the Iraqis-namely that they wish for the 'coalition' to continue to shoulder these 'responsibilities'.The recent comments of Maliki aide Sadiq al Rikabi about the domestic pressure for a withdrawal of foreign troops suggests that such an assumption is seriously flawed.

Oliver Kamm

I apologise for the ambiguity introduced by my unrehearsed oral answer to a question in a television discussion. For avoidance of doubt, I stress that I do not think Jesse Jackson is an articulate mainstream candidate: I think he is a fringe candidate whose style of speaking seriously detracts from the quality of American public life. The civil rights leaders whom Jackson affects to emulate spoke in cadences, not silly rhymes.


Given that you've been banned for repeated trolling on my comrades' blogs, I'd ask you to reflect carefully before persisting with this.

Benjamin might also wish to consider his choice of the phrase "bête noire" to describe a black politician. You know, what with him being so hypersensitive towards others' use of language and all.

Michael Brazier

Returning to Rentoul's thought: I doubt that those who dream of a painless alternative to politics would be awakened by a President Obama's acting in office as a politician. They would conclude merely that Obama is a fraud, and look for another prophet to lead them to the promised land; the idea that the promised land does not exist is too painful for them to contemplate.

Moreover, I believe Obama is himself one of the dreamers in question, and the damage he could do in office before he woke up (if he ever did) is something the world would do well to avoid. Better to have a President who begins free of delusions, than one who has to be torn from them on the job ...


Nevermind, Oliver: It counts as a private gotcha for Benjamin, which he keeps in a pile next to his pile of missed points and websites he's been banned from for being a silly and tedious prat.


"Given that you've been banned for repeated trolling on my comrades' blogs, I'd ask you to reflect carefully before persisting with this."


You are a "near absolutist on freedom of speech", no? You believe it is always okay to hurt feelings with accusations, etc?

So, does this not presuppose an equal platform for both sides? For those who attack you too?

Oliver Kamm

Putzi, you haven't been paying attention. I defend Benjamin's right to call me a racist. I am not obliged by that principle to extend to him the means of doing so. It should not take more than a moment's thought for you to realise the absurdity of supposing that a right to free speech requires an "equal platform", whatever that is.

Incidentally, my objection to Benjamin's remarks is not that my feelings are hurt by them.


Rev. Jackson appears to be articulate enough to write a regular column for one of the local papers. And he didn't even have an uncle in the business!


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