The Note: March From Madness

Context matters, and Obama would still rather not have been forced into giving this speech under these conditions. "It was a great speech," Lynn Sweet writes in the Chicago Sun-Times. "And it would have been greater if it were not delivered because Obama was in a jam."

It was a distinctly Obama production. "The result was not only the most extensive discussion of race to date by Obama, who generally has played down racial issues while seeking to become the first African-American nominated for the presidency by a major party," USA Today's Susan Page and Kathy Kiely write. "Tuesday's speech, historian Roger Wilkins says, was also the most extensive discussion of race ever by a presidential candidate."

"Not in decades has a prominent candidate so bluntly tackled the issue of prejudice," Mike Dorning and Christi Parsons write in the Chicago Tribune. "The address invited comparisons to John F. Kennedy's speech on his Catholic faith almost a half-century ago."

If this was his goal, he seems to have succeeded: "You could see race bubbling up in a way that was distracting from the issues that I think are so important to America right now," Obama told ABC's Terry Moran, in an interview broadcast on "Nightline" and "Good Morning America." "So what I wanted to do was to, rather than try to tamp it down, lift it up and see if maybe that would help clarify where we are as a nation right now on the issues."

How's this for an interesting racial divide? "Michelle and most of my black friends I think were much more confident and calm about me giving this speech," Obama told Moran. "My white friends and advisers were much more nervous."

He also said that he did not find Geraldine Ferraro's comments to be racist. And in that other critical national question involving race in American society, we learn in the interview that he thinks O.J. did it.

The speech may have brought Obama to earth -- in a good way. "For some voters, the speech might serve to remove the glow of optimism surrounding Obama's candidacy; but for many others, it could make him a more realistic president," Peter Canellos writes in The Boston Globe. "This wasn't the gauzy vision of diversity draped in tapestry metaphors and colored in rainbow hues: It was a nation confronting its sins and overcoming its deeply held fears and prejudices."

Maureen Dowd was impressed, and yet: "His naïve and willful refusal to come to terms earlier with the Rev. Wright's anti-American, anti-white and pro-Farrakhan sentiments-- echoing his naïve and willful refusal to come to terms earlier with the ramifications of his friendship with sleazy fund-raiser Tony Rezko -- will not be forgotten because of one unforgettable speech," she writes.

Among the great many raving: Andrew Sullivan, Charles Murray, Mike Lupica, John Dickerson, Dick Polman, David Brody, Eugene Robinson, and Richard Norton Smith.

Rush Limbaugh was somewhat less impressed, per The Atlantic's Marc Ambinder.

Wright's words linger -- for endless playing and re-playing -- but here's one reason this controversy may fade. "Privately, Clinton supporters say the Wright controversy was flaring without their help, and to have Clinton campaign fingerprints on the controversy could enrage black Democrats, many of whom already fault the campaign's tactics toward Sen. Obama," Jackie Calmes and Nick Timiraos write in The Wall Street Journal.

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