Obama: Where’s the Passion?

There were two moments in Tuesday night’s debate where Senator Obama almost made the debate memorable. Almost. 

One was the question on national service and sacrifice, where Obama came right to the edge of saying that Americans were going to have to tighten their belts when it came to energy use. But he balked and parsed and slowed down:

You know, a lot of you remember the tragedy of 9/11 and where you were on that day and, you know, how all of the country was ready to come together and make enormous changes to make us not only safer, but to make us a better country and a more unified country.

And President Bush did some smart things at the outset, but one of the opportunities that was missed was, when he spoke to the American people, he said, “Go out and shop.”

That wasn’t the kind of call to service that I think the American people were looking for.

And so it’s important to understand that the — I think the American people are hungry for the kind of leadership that is going to tackle these problems not just in government, but outside of government.

And let’s take the example of energy, which we already spoke about. There is going to be the need for each and every one of us to start thinking about how we use energy.

I believe in the need for increased oil production. We’re going to have to explore new ways to get more oil, and that includes offshore drilling. It includes telling the oil companies, that currently have 68 million acres that they’re not using, that either you use them or you lose them.

We’re going to have to develop clean coal technology and safe ways to store nuclear energy.

But each and every one of us can start thinking about how can we save energy in our homes, in our buildings. And one of the things I want to do is make sure that we’re providing incentives so that you can buy a fuel efficient car that’s made right here in the United States of America, not in Japan or South Korea, making sure that you are able to weatherize your home or make your business more fuel efficient.

And that’s going to require effort from each and every one of us.

And the last point I just want to make. I think the young people of America are especially interested in how they can serve, and that’s one of the reasons why I’m interested in doubling the Peace Corps, making sure that we are creating a volunteer corps all across this country that can be involved in their community, involved in military service, so that military families and our troops are not the only ones bearing the burden of renewing America.

That’s something that all of us have to be involved with and that requires some leadership from Washington.

 

The other was something he actually said on healthcare, the words were stirring but the passion was lacking:

Brokaw: Privilege, right or responsibility. Let’s start with that.

Obama: Well, I think it should be a right for every American. In a country as wealthy as ours, for us to have people who are going bankrupt because they can’t pay their medical bills — for my mother to die of cancer at the age of 53 and have to spend the last months of her life in the hospital room arguing with insurance companies because they’re saying that this may be a pre-existing condition and they don’t have to pay her treatment, there’s something fundamentally wrong about that….

He then went on to the standard talking points on healthcare. Do you remember that moment in the debate? It took me a long time too. Because Obama strolled the stage reciting these lines with none of the oratorical vigor or emotional connection necessary to make his point memorable. The story of his mother could be the crucible in which his healthcare policy was born, instead its just another bland talking point. 

The Obama campaign is looking to stay steady in the last few weeks. I admire that. But he needs to be allowed to get some emotion going. He needs to bring humanity to his positions. I happen to agree with many of them, but if I didn’t there was nothing in that debate performance that would have convinced me. 

I know they’re talking points, but would a little passion kill ya?

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