I am pathetically grateful to Ann Coulter for saying what’s been bugging me for some time: Obama may have charm (although it eludes me), but he is not a gifted orator. He is banal and pedantic, like most lawyers, included Harvard educated lawyers:
Only white guilt could explain the insanely hyperbolic descriptions of Obama’s “eloquence.” His speeches are a run-on string of embarrassing, sophomoric Hallmark bromides.
In announcing his candidacy last week, Obama confirmed that he believes in “the basic decency of the American people.” And let the chips fall where they may!
Obama forthrightly decried “a smallness of our politics” – deftly slipping a sword into the sides of the smallness-in-politics advocates. (To his credit, he somehow avoided saying, “My fellow Americans, size does matter.”)
He took a strong stand against the anti-hope crowd, saying: “There are those who don’t believe in talking about hope.” Take that, Hillary!
Most weirdly, he said: “I recognize there is a certain presumptuousness in this – a certain audacity – to this announcement.”
What is so audacious about announcing that you’re running for president? Any idiot can run for president. Dennis Kucinich is running for president. Until he was imprisoned, Lyndon LaRouche used to run for president constantly. John Kerry ran for president. Today, all you have to do is suggest a date by which U.S. forces in Iraq should surrender, and you’re officially a Democratic candidate for president.
Coulter ascribes the fawning over Obama’s mediocre speaking to “white guilt.” I differ. I ascribe it to low expectations.
Just the other day, after having listened first to George Bush struggle through a speech (and, while I like him both as a man and a President, he is no orator) and then to Mitt Romney throw his hat in the ring, I complained to DQ about the complaint lack of wit and talent in modern political oratory. God knows, I’m no Kennedy fan, but the man had wit, and he hired writers who had eloquence. My father adored the unelectable Adlai Stevenson, not so much for his political position, as for his verbal sparkle. Lincoln’s quips are, of course, still quoted to this day. And I don’t know about you, but I get a frisson of excitement just reading a Churchill speech.
With regard to Lincoln and Churchill, the thrill of their words is made stronger by the fact that they wrote them themselves. While my intellect understands that there is no connection between statesmanship and verbal dexterity, I still can’t escape the visceral feeling that someone who is witty and eloquent is giving an audible demonstration of his intellect, in much the same way a racer, by running faster than the others, shows his greater athletic abilities.
Read Obama’s speeches, not with an eye to politics, but with an eye to language. Then read something by Churchill or Lincoln. The difference between the paint by numbers political speech of the one, and the intelligence, style and beauty of the others, may shock you. Also, ask yourself when was the last time any politician let go with a quick-witted quip, that managed to cut to the core of an issue. If you’re answer regarding that latter question is Reagan (who, while charming, was no Churchill or Lincoln) that will tell you (a) how pathetic political speech is nowadays and (b) why a windbag like Obama is lauded as an example of eloquence.