The public is left simply to applaud the speaker on oratorical skills. Those wishing to discuss the ideas within a speech are left playing games such as imagining the same speech given by a different speaker.
Imagine for a moment that Barack Obama were a Republican. If he were a Republican; then there would be ample parts of his Notre Dame speech that could exposed as hypocrisy.
Notably, a central theme of the speech was the claim that we should engage in civil dialog about important issues such as stem cell research.
If Obama were authentic in his appeal for civil debate that respects all sides of an issue; then he would have called for a re-examination of the Bush policy and not simply issued a summary reversal of the policy with due consideration for the central conflict of the controversy.
The area of controversy is embryonic stem cell research versus adult stem cell research. Embryonic stem cell research involves cloning human embryos in great numbers to see how they react to different stimuli. Experiments can require thousands of cloned human embryos replicated thousands of times. Doing the multiplication we find that the process will involve millions of cloned human embryos. If commercial products were developed from embryonic research, then human embryos would be cloned by the hundreds of millions.
I am not overstating this issue. The fertility industry provides a case in point. Our society failed to have a debate about the fertility industry. The fertility industry on this overcrowded planet quickly built up a freezer chest with some half million human embryos.
The issue is not about sacrificing one human embryo to stop the plague, but about millions of human embryos being created and destroyed to fuel a industrial machine.
Please remember the issue at hand is the difference between the Bush and Obama policy. In the commencement address, Obama spoke of research that was permissible under both policies. The speech glibly sailed over the real controversy.
Were a Obama a Republican, he could be accused of hypocrisy for claiming to value debate while issuing summary judgments that casually dismissed the arguments of his opponents.
Obama claimed to desire a fair-minded debate concerning stem cell research. Yet the speech was filled from top to bottom with misrepresentations of his opponents' view. The mainstream opposition is not opposed to adult stem cell research, but to embryonic stem cell research. A totipotent embryonic stem cell is a cell that can become any cell in a human body. Notably, they can potentially become a unique, walking talking, taxpaying human.
These cells disappear early in the development stage. More importantly, this is not the area of research where one is likely to find the cure to diseases.
If not for the impenetrable shield one gains by adhering to foundational dialectic, Obama could be called a hypocrite. In old fashioned commonsense style discourse, massive misrepresentation of the opposition's view is not considered fair minded debate.
Other strange things appeared in the speech. For some odd reason, Obama spoke about how he had the wording on his web site changed during the election in an effort to draw more votes. This was somehow supposed to be an example of a politician authentically involved in discourse. Changing the wording of a sales pitch is little more than a calculated marketing strategy.
Imagine a used car salesman changing the wording of a pitch in an effort to improve sales. We would not call this quality discourse.
Doubt should cause us to be wary of self-righteousness.
Another really odd thing about the debate was that Obama spent several minutes addressing the role of doubt in intellectual inquiry. The role of doubt was a primary theme of Catholic thinkers including the likes of Augustine and Descartes.
The speech seemed aimed at those who are uncomfortable with widespread experimentation on human embryos. The mainstream press has skillfully associated the term "self-righteous" with 'right wing ideologues'. Those opposed to embryonic research are systematically portrayed as ideologues clinging to their archaic view that human embryos are humans with absolute certainty.
In actuality, many of the people who are opposed to embryonic stem cell research are driven to their position from self doubt.
It takes greater certainty to destroy a beaker full of cloned embryos than it does to put it on ice.
The reason that the fertility industry created such a large inventory of human embryos on ice is that the people who produced the embryos are hesitant to expose the embryos. If they were certain that the embryos weren't human, they wouldn't be forking out the cash for the freezer bill.
The self doubt argument cuts both ways. It will always take a greater amount of certainty to intentionally expose an embryo than to freeze it and fret.
I admit, my primary worry about embryonic research is the issue will be used to construct ideological litmus tests in our university. Progressive professors will give students beakers of human embryos to clone. Anyone feeling queasy about the experiments could see their career destroyed.
Do you really want a medical and research community that systematically drives out any one who feels queasy about experimenting on human embryos?
A final quote from the speech:
Do not reduce those of differing views to caricature.
This is an odd set of words to appear in a speech that shows either a clear lack of understanding of the position of the opposition, or that shows an intentional effort to misrepresent the position of the opposition.
It is impossible to know the intentions of others. Was this statement simply projection, or an authentic belief that the Christian Right is the source of the radical material dialectical reasoning that is ripping the world apart. I do not know. The context of the speech seems to indicate projection.