Let's start with the easiest and most obvious, though more than a tad depressing: "intellectuals," professors, academicians in the audience. Ferenc Mádl, law professor, former president of the republic, was simply swept off his feet. He loved it. It was most impressive. Orbán's alleged programs were heartening. Programs? What programs? Perhaps heard a different speech. Szilveszter Vizi, former president of the Hungarian Academy, was also impressed. Starting with the world economic crisis Orbán moved to the "Hungarian reality." And with such ease! Vizi also loved Orbán's metaphors which were simple and therefore easily understable. Miklós Kun, historian, grandson of Béla Kun who in spite of his family heritage is nowadays a fierce right-winger, was taken with the brilliant structure of the speech. Zsuzsa Hegedűs, a sociologist who lived in France for a long time, was a bit more sophisticated. She discovered the influence of Barack Obama and Nicholas Sarkozy but added, "we are in the forefront" in thinking about politics and economics.
Then came two economists' views. László Csaba, whom I call Don Quixote the Knight of the Sad Face because he looks the way I envisage Don Quixote, saw "a new economic policy" articulated by Viktor Orbán, adding that this time Hungarian society might be ready to embrace it. He didn't elaborate what he considered this new economic policy to be. László Békesi, one of those in the peculiar little group of reform economists, obviously had a different opinion. He rejected the notion of an entirely new economic model that breaks away from capitalism. Békesi criticized Orbán's ideas about the nation state's supervision of the country's money markets. Such an arrangement would create an economic situation that Hungary abandoned twenty years ago because it would limit the free flow of capital and savings. He added while the criticism of the current government is legitimate it would be nice to know at last how Fidesz would handle the crisis.
Then there were the political scientists (politológusok) who are not really political scientists but political commentators. Their reactions of course reflected their political loyalties. András Giró-Szász (Századvég) is very close to Fidesz. In fact, he was one of the lucky ones invited to listen to Orbán's speech. According to him: "Viktor Orbán drew a sharp line between past and future. He called attention to the fundamental problems and outlined a rethinking of the role of the state. He called attention to a new kind of understanding between politics and business. A speech assessing the current situation doesn't have to go into details beyond this vision." Maybe I'm slow but I didn't hear anything about a new understanding between politics and business. Zoltán Somogyi of Political Capital simply pointed out Orbán's reluctance to commit himself or to say anything specific. Instead he talked about the past at length, said a lot about the future, but avoided any reference to the present. Ágoston Sámuel Mráz (Nézőpont, close to Fidesz, also present at the speech) naturally liked it. According to him Orbán paid a lot of attention to all segments of Hungarian society. According to Mráz "it is hard to assail this speech. It was thoughful and uplifting." Zoltán Kiszelly, who appears a lot on television, discovered significant cross-generational references. True, he did mention in a sentence or two "our grandparents" who built this country after the war and after 1956 and he did ask the youngsters not to leave the country but to stay and help build his brave new world. Attila Juhász (also of Political Capital) missed these references; he just thought that Orbán spent a considerable amount of time on the analysis of the crisis but avoided offering any specific suggestions. Some of the political commentators found the speech a bit dull, not at all uplifting, not as good as some of his others. Others thought that it was a campaign speech that will mobilize the Fidesz voters. Take your pick!
Then there was a long discussion of the speech at József Orosz's Kontra (KlubRádió) among three political commentators. Two of these, Kornélia Magyar (Progressziv Intézet) and Zsolt Pétervári (Méltányosság), are old hands at Kontra. This time they were joined by Márk Szabó (Nézőpont). It was Kornélia Magyar who first called attention to the "change" and "hope" theme borrowed from the campaign of Barack Obama. However, Magyar noted that aside from the use of the same words there was practically nothing in Orbán's speech that reflected Obama's political mindset. Obama keeps trying, despite initial failures, to create a common ground with his political opponents. Orbán refuses to exchange a word with the current prime minister of Hungary. Zsolt Pétervári called attention to some borrowings from Tony Blair, especially from a famous speech of 1997. Márk Szabó believed that the speech was not good enough to recruit new supporters or to inspire the flock. But, he continued, it was good enough to show that Fidesz has some ideas concerning the role of the state.
And finally, let's look deeper into Orbán's borrowings. Here I am beholden to the research done by József Orosz, the anchorman of Kontra. According to him, Orbán's call to put an end to the past, to open a new chapter, to retake the country harks back to Obama's acceptance speech in Denver. See http://www.nytimes.com/2008/08/28/us/politics/28text-obama.html?_r=1 Orosz also discovered a striking resemblance between Orbán's words about punishing those who are responsible for the crisis– the bankers and the brokers–and Nicholas Sarkozy's speeches at the meeting of the G20 in Washington and before the United Nations. http://www.ambafrance-au.org/france_australie/spip.php?article2552 "We must rethink the financial system from scratch, as at Bretton Woods." Or "… to found the new world order of the twenty-first century on the basis of the potent idea that mankind's public good must be made the responsibility of the whole mankind." But at the same time Sarkozy defended the basic concepts of the free market economy: "… defended free-market principles in a speech in New York on Thursday and said further summits would be needed to overcome the crisis." http://www.nowpublic.com/world/world-leaders-start-gathering-g20-summit
And then there was the "borrowing" from Tony Blair, excerpted from his first speech in parliament as prime minister in 1997. Were the speechwriters such thorough researchers, Orosz asked. Most unlikely; rather, they got the line from a 2006 film entitled The Queen. "To make privilege something for the many, not the few." In Blair's speech before parliament he was more expansive: "I want to set an ambitious course to modernise this country. To breathe new life into our institutions. To make privilege something for the many, not the few."
There is the old saw that imitation (or in some versions, plagiarism) is the sincerest form of flattery. Somehow I don't think that Orbán aligns himself with these politicians. But I do think that he imagines himself as an equal on the world stage–Obama, Sarkozy, Blair (or his successor), and Orbán. Now that would set Hungary on a new trajectory.