Thursday, January 28, 2010

President Obama or Steve Jobs: Whose Speech Was Bigger?

We'll leave aside the obscene modern media atmosphere in which this blog post's title would even be taken seriously. Of course the president's State of the Union speech was the bigger and more important speech given yesterday.

But from a fun angle, can we ask which will have a bigger impact on American life? Don't rush to say Obama's; we know his work will have a big impact on our lives -- that comes with his job. But was his speech something that itself will cause a change or was it a one-off bit of political theater that won't have much effect on the actions of the government or its citizens in the coming year?

Ah, but don't rush to say that Steve Jobs' was necessarily more ground-breaking. After all, he was just announcing a new computer from his company. The iPad is basically a souped-up iPod Touch made bigger and flatter and updated with the latest Apple geegaws. It might be true that in our world today where successful business people are worshipped like emperors or gods that Jobs will get more mileage out of his hyped-up presentation. But Apple's competitors (from Google to Nokia) are decreasing the distance between the Mac-maker and the rest of the pack.

The New York Times' live blogger of the Apple leader's speech couldn't restrain himself from sending up the famously self-promoting Jobs for all of his hyperbole. That's nothing new; I remember the same thing from past speeches of his, including the one I attended as a member of the press many years ago. What's more irritating is that many members of the "news" media in attendance react as if they were Charlie Bucket being handed the keys to Willy Wonka's factory.

Meanwhile, much of the breathless love-affair with Barack Obama from leftwing writers has died away, replaced by a stunned disbelief that the Chosen One would have to actually compromise in the world of politics. Personally, I would like to see him be a bit tougher in dealing with the political opposition, which has given him less than nothing in return for all of his olive-branch proffering. His speech last night was a believable merging of feistiness and intellectual adherence to higher standards of political conduct. More of this, please; and I think we'll see more of this, so in the end, I have to say Obama wins.

I want to own an iPad. I want to have my political life impacted by Barack Obama. Big difference.

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