I caught about half of Obama's acceptance speech last night, which was held in a football stadium in Denver. Like many things in politics, where the stakes are so high, things are planned and planned and planned.
Spontaneity isn't permitted because a politician could find themselves in a George Allen moment spewing out obscure invectives on a Indian-American ("macaca") and having it taped and YouTubed. Being a politician where the media follows you 24-7 is like being in Big Brother. At some point, you let your guard down, you forget the camera is on you, and you say things you'd normally say, but which would be far too offensive for the delicate ears of Americans.
We're always looking for the one negative thing to hang out hats on, to give us some reason to dislike someone.
On the flip side, with preparation, one needs to hit a laundry list of points. Obama had to show he was tough ("kill bin Laden"), that he'd go after terrorists, that he was worried about the economic future. These were the substance points. He then wanted a classy way to go after McCain, who accused Obama of being less than patriotic, which compelled Obama to wear a, sigh, flag pin (why not a Uncle Sam tophat).
The outdoor venue was made to feel like indoors, with a near presidential setup, as if he were addressing the nation from, if not the White House, then at least some place of stature. The only evidence that this was outdoors, other than the frequent pannings to the throngs of people scattered throughout, looking at Obama, the gladiator, was the wind, that cooperatively blew the flag from time to time.
The Daily Show filmed hours before the speech made fun of this in a prescient way by saying "Obama brought out the sun", which itself was a joke about when the segment was taped, but also the kind of magic Obama was expected to elicit.
A few days ago, I heard a woman exclaim on radio, that she had not been a support of Obama until she heard Michelle Obama, and that her speech felt genuine to her. Let's face it, speechmakers have had a long time to practice their talking. This isn't to say it isn't genuine, only that public figures going to sound a lot better than the average Joe, Jose, or Josephina.
It's why you watch a movie with good actors. They're so good, you forget they are acting, but you realize they are acting, because if you put a camera in front of regular people living their lives, you'd be bored senseless, and wonder why these folks "couldn't act". Actors give an amped up version of reality, pushing the emotion buttons to 11 or more.
Politicians do the same. Obama, in this respect, is old school. Once upon a time, our best orators inspired us with elevated rhetoric. We knew they knew more words than we did. After a while, we ceded (did we ever have it?) the mantle to the Brits who have always been much more polished at extemporaneous speaking than us poor schlubs.
Speakers like McCain and Dole and even Shrub prefer a more folksy style fraught with verbal gaffes that make them seem like one of us, despite the immense wealth each of these guys (Dole possibly excepting) have.
We get the politics we deserve because most of us, frankly, don't understand the complexity of politics, nor care. This is the kind of populace China wants--docile, unaware, only there to serve the greater glory of the main government. Were the public more knowledgeable, the debates might be more substantive. But realize that even the more intelligent amongst us prefer watching movies that move us, rather than those that merely tickle the intellect, but leave us feeling empty.
Americans look at politicians and try to imagine them as people. They don't look at them like they might a doctor. A doctor with bad bedside manners might be perfectly acceptable if he can save your life. A president with bad manners, well, he'd never be president in the first place, at least, not now, because the public watches his every move.
People harken back to days of Lincoln and Douglas when both ran for the Senate (Douglas won, by the way) and criss-crossed the Illinois landscape, giving half hour speeches on many a different topic, speeches thought out in length. Was the average American more knowledgeable then? Or perhaps the politicians didn't care, their level of discourse was high enough to satisfy themselves, public be d*mned.
Ultimately, though, the proof is in the pudding. The actions of a leader matter, rather than the speech making. Yet, this is why Clinton was so popular. Great speech writers combined with humor, a bit of anger, enough to show this guy wasn't going to put up with Republican shenanigans even as he was involved in his own.
To that end, Obama gave a speech that tried to be noble, above board, respectful, and hopefully, the sound of that, the weight of that, will offset the typical Republican playbook who would find reasons to slander Jesus if He were anti-American.
Perhaps the Republicans will sound trite and petty, and people will heed the words of Dennis Kucinich, relegated to a mid-afternoon speech, when he urged attendees to "Wake Up, America".
Obama's speech that looked forward drew inspiration by looking back, by taking the sentiment of Kennedy and Martin Luther King, and showing us the words and people that influenced Obama.
Understated, elegant, authoritative.
corrections - - Chick Corea (note the spelling) was a member of Miles Davis' band. - Graham Chapman, the only Graham in the group, is the only deceased mem...
1 month ago