You all know that I’ve been singularly unimpressed with Barack Obama’s rhetorical gifts. To me, he is just throws out platitudes — and he does that in an increasingly condescending manner. John Derbyshire is as unimpressed as I am, and has taken some time to dissect Obama’s language (h/t Paragraph Farmer):
I dunno, I must be missing a gene or two. Everybody, including even some conservatives, is telling me what a fine uplifting orator Barack Obama is. All I see is great gusts of hot air. When he says something that actually has any semantic content, either it is just false, or else it is naked socialism.
I was just looking through Obama’s latest oratorical masterpiece. It strikes me as obnoxious, where it is not just flatulent.
… we’ve got young people all across this country who have never had a reason to participate until now.
The “reason to participate,” for people of any age, is the sense of citizenly duty. This sense didn’t exist before Obama showed up?
We’re up against the belief that it’s all right for lobbyists to dominate our government, that they are just part of the system in Washington.
But lobbyists are part of the system in Washington. It says so in the First Amendment: “… to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” Obama wants to repeal the First Amendment?
We’re up against the conventional thinking that says your ability to lead as president comes from longevity in Washington or proximity to the White House.
That’s the conventional thinking? So how did Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush get elected President? None of them had any “longevity in Washington” — not even as much as you, Senator. Sure, I understand, this is throwing some of Hillary’s stuff back at her, but it’s still nonsense.
… real leadership is about … the ability to rally Americans from all walks of life around a common purpose, a higher purpose.
Not just cant, but Leninist cant. We are a republic of free people, not the tools of some “leader” pursuing a historical “purpose.” What is your “higher purpose,” Senator? And what happens to those of us who decline to rally around it?
You should read the rest of Derbyshire’s dissection here.
Interestingly, DQ and I were just talking about Obama’s speech making the other day, and it tracked somewhat along what Derbyshire was saying. DQ harked back to a childhood in the Southeast when people believed that it was okay to be proud to be an American. That viewpoint has vanished from much American discourse, especially on the Left. He thinks that Obama is telling people that they can feel good about themselves. DQ thinks that this means that they can feel good about being Americans.
I think DQ is being altogether too generous. Obama is spouting the same Leftist stuff as always: Capitalism (the American system) = bad. The War in Iraq (America’s active line of defense against Islamic terrorism) = bad. Lobbyists (the American medium of free speech in Washington) = bad. And so on. Dig into what Obama is really saying, and you’ll realize that he wants to change everything and model us on some semi-failed European system. So, when he voices vague phrases about feeling good, he doesn’t sound to me like a patriot; he sounds to me like a cross between Dr. Phil and Oprah. It’s all about meaningless self-esteem cant, with no substance to support it.
The whole thing reminds me strongly of the self-esteem movement in American education, a movement so silly that even Gary Trudeau lampooned it in his comic strip. If I remember the details correctly, California started the whole thing off when it decided to spend lots of money at schools to encourage kids to feel good about themselves. Understand that this did not mean actually teaching students skills that would justify their feeling good about themselves. Instead, it was a fortune in tax payer money to teach kids the Stuart Smalley mantra: “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough and, doggone it, people like me!” Other school systems quickly followed suit, and now these affirmatives are a constant diet for American students. If you doubt me, just visit any American school and read the posters on the walls.
I’m sure you won’t be surprised to discover that, when someone actually looked at the hard benefits of this approach, there were none. The students raised on this constant diet of meaningless affirmations thought extremely well of themselves, functioned badly, and could not deal with adversity. Frankly, it seems like a bad political model to me, but it’s about the only thing Obama has to offer that sets him about from Hillary (aside from his race, as compared to her sex). But don’t worry. When we’re all completely dysfunctional — but feeling really good about ourselves — the government will be there to help.