Friday, January 4, 2008

Barack Obama is a Good Public Speaker

He lilts nearly effortlessly between a sort of charismatic preacher pitter-patter to a hard-edged, "presidential" tone. He's damn good.

Now if we can get the Kuciniches and Ron Pauls and Bill Richardsons and Huckabees, Romneys, Giulianis, McCains, etc, out of the race, we'll have some real fun.


Remi said...

Huckabee has better tone control than Obama. I was really surprised how cogent and relaxing he sounded during his victory speech. (I haven't seen video, but his voice, man).

Not that I like him, but he's not a clown. Or, at least, he's a well-spoken clown.

Erick said...

You bring up an interesting point in mentioning skill in rhetoric. As the immortal Catullus says, when speaking of rhetoric, "odi et amo" (actually, he was talking about his mistress, but maybe it was a metaphor?).

I hate rhetoric because it's really easy to throw around bullshit marketed as truth. I love it only because the people who are good at it have convinced me that it is appealing.

Uniting people around a certain cause, bringing an end to corporate control, "to end the political strategy that's about division". It all sounds great, and Obama does a perfect job at delivering an intonation that fits the mood and expectations of that particular audience--the key quality of an orator.

But, while I appreciate that skill, the same quality irritates me beyond recognition. Looking at the words underneath the layer of rhetoric in his speech, Obama has essentially strung together a long list of emphatic statements that can be just political bullshit.

He appeals to oi polloi, or rather, the plebs, with "change" and "trust"--the real question, to me, is looking past his speech entirely, and questioning what he is hiding behind the words. Are his words a microscope or a kaleidoscope to look at his campaign?

What I hate most about rhetoric (and Plato agrees)--well, I'll make a distinction: what I hate most about oratory--is that eloquence can mislead the audience. But what I love is that it can also lead them. The question is: which is Obama doing?

If it makes you feel any better, I'm asking myself the same question of Huckabee.