Obama in Cairo

I caught the speech on the gym this morning and wanted to jot down some thoughts before exposing myself to too much RSS and listserves that contaminate me with other people’s ideas. For one thing, the underlying idea of this speech seems a bit odd. It’s hard to know how to even characterize what it was.

But the execution first and foremost reminded me of why Obama has always been the writers’ candidate in American politics. This is a guy who’s not afraid to try to express complicated or difficult ideas. He wasn’t afraid to do it in Dreams From My Father and now that he’s long past writing his own material as a solo act, his whole team is clearly imbued with the same spirit and that same mandate to try to really explain the complicated and difficult ideas rather than sweep them under the rug.

This seems connected to me to the remarkable way in which this speech is being pushed out in multiple media — on television, but also on Twitter and on Facebook and via SMS and all in multiple languages — to a global audience. Part of the rise of Obama is the rise of a post-television, post-sound bite technological paradigm. You can deliver a speech at 7 AM Eastern Time and know that even though relatively few Americans will be up to see it, anyone who’s interested will be able to Google up a transcript. And if people like the speech, it’ll become a YouTube classic. It creates a whole new world from one in which the point of a speech is just to field test a couple of zingers in hopes that one or two of them gets picked up for the evening news.