Obama, A Lousy Speech Maker?

In his blog today, Gideon Rachman, the Financial Times’ chief foreign affairs columnist, argues that Barack Obama is just not such a good speech maker as others insist.[1] Rachman states:

Exhortation can make for thrilling rhetoric. But the difference between Mr Obama and some of the great speakers he is sometimes compared with is that Churchill, Kennedy and Martin Luther King were genuinely challenging their audiences. Surrendering might have seemed rational in Britain in 1940. King’s “I have a dream” speech was made at a time when racial segregation was still a reality in the southern US. When King coined the phrase the “fierce urgency of now” (borrowed with acknowledgement by Mr Obama), he was explaining why he had come out against the Vietnam war. Even JFK’s “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country” demanded something from the audience.”

I agree with Mister Rachman. I’ve often scratched my head after listening to Obama and thought, “what’s so special about this guy?”

I’ve come to the conclusion much of it is down to age.

Rachman references Churchill, JFK, and Martin Luther King as great orators, but to the majority of Obama’s supporters they are simply names plucked from the history books.

Rachman was born in 1963. I’m just about old enough to be his father. The young people flocking to Obama’s gatherings weren’t born until years after JFK was inaugurated in 1961, or after 1967 when Martin Luther King stirred souls with his speech to end the Vietnam war. Even I wasn’t around when Churchill was telling the British people they would fight the Germans on the beaches.

To many Obama supporters, adult life has meant George W Bush, and possibly a bit of Bill Clinton. Their memories of politics revolve largely around Monica Lewinski and Iraq.

It’s little wonder they won’t pledge allegiance to Hillary Clinton, and prefer to throw their support, with vigor, behind Obama. Compared to their previous political memories, he must seem like the best thing since the invention of MP3 players.

And, who knows, it’s just possible he may be?

[1] “Obama and the art of empty rhetoric”, Gideon Rachman blog.

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8 Replies to “Obama, A Lousy Speech Maker?”

  1. Yes, I agree, RJA, he appeals to those who weren’t around back then when we heard the ringing tones of MLK and JFK for the first time and find him very stale.
    Let’s hope there is a fresh start….

  2. Hillary was bitching that he had no international experience because he was willing to talk to our enemies. Made me like him more and dislike her more, if that was possible.

  3. It’s simple. Clinton et al speak in terms of “I will”, “my” this & that, and TELL us what they will do FOR us. It’s all about them.

    Obama speaks more in “we will”, “our”, and asks us “what do WE want to do”. He doesn’t talk “at” us.

    Sure, when push comes to shove he’ll make the final decisions but a real leader always enlists the support AND participation of those he would lead. Giving up the trappings of power to preserve the essence of it so to speak. The man already knows and is confident of his own power and has no need or desire to pound us all over the head with it.

  4. I must keep an open mind with Obama, as he is truly untried. I do think he offers more hope than Hillary Clinton, if only because I have no faith whatever in the Washington establishment elite and their corrupt practices. I agree with all three commentators; like WWW I find Obama’s speeches somewhat stale compared to JFK or MLK; as Flimsy observed, I find Clinton’s belligerent attitude unacceptable. NYM‘s comparison of Obama ‘talking to’, and Clinton ‘talking at’ us is equally correct, in my humble opinion.

    In this instance, if I were a voter, I’d have to ignore the old adage and go for the devil I didn’t know, rather than the one I did.

  5. Looks like I’m in the minority here.

    I think either of the Senators would make a decent president – not world shatteringly good, but decent.

    Senator Obama is not nearly as sprklingly charismatic in debate as he is when speaking to rallies. He;’s a showman as well as a politician. Nothing wrong with that, but it’s not actually a requirement.

    He IS a politician first and foremost and he will have as many negatives as Senator Clinton – they just are not yet revealed.

    Of the two I prefer Senator Clinton. Yes, she can be aggressive – that’s necessary in the fights the new president must take up. I see Sen Obama ass too passive. Yes, she’s from what some consider the “old guard”, but she has the advantage of knowing how to manipulate the system – this may not be admirable but in today’s world, with nasty opposition both at home and abroad it’s very necessary in my opinion.

    I’m a newcomer to the US, but with a following wind am likely to be voting in November (got my interview date for 11 April). I’ll vote with confidence for either of these two, but I’d vote with far more confidence for Senator Clinton. Gut feeling mainly.

  6. Twilight – I think George Bush has been the most ‘earth-shattering’ president to date 😉

    Seriously, you may be in the minority here, but there are still hordes of Clinton supporters out there, so you’re certainly not alone. As I’ve said many times on this blog, compared to the belligerent idiot of the last eight years, almost anyone would be an improvement; certainly, if that someone hails from the Democrats. Fortunately for me, if George’s successor turns out to be as bad as he was, I can smugly respond, “Well, I didn’t vote for them.”

  7. Hey guys:
    Give the guy credit. Obama, at least memoriz all of his speeches. This alone should earn him an “A” in my book. Bush could not read very well, much less memorize a speech. I was so tired of seeing him glance at his notes after every two or three words. This was so unpresidential. Know wonder we are in the mess we are in. Bush, Sr. was very SMART. But, son, face it…he was just not sharp enough to be president, and he knew it. And his dad got a little bit to old to continue to run the country from behind the scene.

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