Obama's speech impediments tonight.

    Clinton's speech last night was so pitch perfect and masterful that, in my opinion, it is going to be difficult for Obama to follow him---even given the separation of twenty four hours. I thought that Clinton's speech was going to be more hellfire and brimstone than it was. The speech did have a bible belt flavor to it and could have been delivered from a pulpit with an "Amen" at the end. In fact Clinton did give Ryan a public spanking and if Ryan didn't smile just a little bit, it only proves he has no more conscience than a tennis shoe.

    Obama's predicament and impediments seem obvious. How does he attempt to add anything to what Clinton has already said better, if not in concept, in technique? For months Obama has been addressing the "Class Warfare" charge with, "...it's not about "class", it's about "math". I never liked that line. First off, I had to ask myself, "did he say "math" or "mat", or whatever. Maybe my hearing is bad, but like watching Masterpiece Theater, I hate it when I have to work to catch the actual dialog. Clinton's beautiful lead-up to the word "arithmetic", shows how easy it can be if you have the right word to begin with---not to mention that the folk language meter of this country is iambic--a rith' me tic'.

    By the way, I re-read Truman's 1948 speech about which I have been intent on finding comparisons with Clinton and Obama ever since last Saturday when I invested $5 for a used book on the Democrats' 1948 convention in Philadelphia. (Both conventions were held in Philadelphia because of that new fangled thing called T.V. and the location of the coaxial cable at the time.) This Truman quote is much akin to Clinton's didactic style last night. "The Republican platform cries about cruelly high prices. I have been trying to get them to do something about high prices ever since they met the first time. Now, listen to this one: This one is equally bad, and as cynical."  Why Truman and Clinton could nail a line such as that, and Obama can't, is a matter for conjecture.

    As we discussed in these pages a while back, the difference between Clinton and Obama is not so much in policy but in leadership style, and as a subset, speaking mannerisms. Where Clinton can explain things in a Southern bible belt style without appearing "preachy", Obama, well, just sounds preachy. I'm not sure why. And I think more than anything else, Obama's speaking style may be wearing thin and becoming a disservice to his actual achievements. I wonder if part of the motivation for moving his speech indoors isn't to develop a contrast with his stadium speeches of yore.

    So if Obama can just explain things in a no nonsense way and drop the oratory, I think he will be more effective tonight than if he tries to re-kindle his speeches of 2008. One of my instincts about Clinton's speech was that demographics were not uppermost in his mind but simple truth telling was. So, Mr. President, forget about demographics and trying to find every last female vote on planet Earth, and just focus on truth telling, in the meter of our heritage.  

    Because Obama is not Clinton or Truman, re-inventing Truman's "do-nothing Congress" attack seems problematic. Some time ago I suggested an Eastwood-esque approach to the Tea Party Congress of 2010. "Now two years ago, some strangers came to town intent on tearing the place down. Masquerading as fiscal conservatives these obstructionists tried to bring this town to its knees. Instead of working to solve the job crisis, they were hell bent on a regressive and narrow social agenda. Their ideological center is Paul Ryan and their ring leader is Mitt Romney."

    Mr. President, stick to story telling, not just recitation.

    It seems that Obama must recognize the enormous contribution and big brother steps in against the bullies reality of the speeches which have gone before. A segue which includes Hillary's enormous contributions would be one of the best ways to recognize and thank Bill Clinton. The President has been hitting the notion of asking for help is no stigma with respect to veterans and their post traumatic stress and other wounds. He should take his own advice. It's not a sign of weakness to ask for help. Here's Truman in 1948:

    "The battle cry is just the same now as it was in 1932, and I paraphrase the words of Franklin D. Roosevelt and say as he issued the challenge in accepting the nomination in Chicago, 'This is more than a political call to arms. Give me your help, not to win votes alone, but to win in this new crusade and keep America secure and safe for its own people.'

    "Now my friends, with the help of God, and the wholehearted push which you can put behind this campaign, we can save this country from a continuation of the 80th Congress and from misrule from now on."

    "I must have you help, you must get in and push and win this election. The country can't afford another Republican Congress."

    Tomorrow is September 7th, the beginning of the campaign fund raising season. I want the President to win and will chip in some real cash. Sometimes I worry about my priorities---I am skimping on books, $5 a piece, and throwing money at Obama. Instead I could be buying a collector first edition of a real book, something published in 1948---for example, The Naked and the Dead by Mailer; the Space Cadet by Heinlein, or even the Sexual Behavior in the Human Male by Alfred Kinsey. Perhaps I should look for writing inspiration among those books rather than in this old dog-eared copy of the Democrats' convention in 1948.











    Yes, arithmetic although much the longer of the two words, is folksy and unscary.  Think "readin', writin' and 'rithmetic.  Whereas math...well, we've worked hard at talking ourselves into math phobia in this country, where it's common to hear prominent people tell us (reassure us?) that they were never good at math, as though they're almost proud of it.  So don't talk to people who are in many cases terrified of math, or are convinced they should be and maybe even need to be, about "simple math" unless you're prepared to have a chunk of your audience suddenly tense up and find themselves suddenly unable to hear whatever it is you're saying after that.  Big Dog gets that. 

    As a friend of mind is fond of saying, Big Dog "got after it" last night. I really am nervous about Obama's speech,---please make it brief and try not to cover ground Clinton has already done better.

    I realize that there are much headier themes among the potential comparisons along the lines of this post. One would be, has Obama, all the while, labored in the shadow of Clinton's success---as Truman labored under the legacy of FDR. And is what we are talking about a transition from that predicament, how has Clinton helped and possibly hurt, and how's it all likely to turn out?

    Thanks for your comments, Dreamer.

    When Clinton talks, he's selling.  He accepts that his job is to win you over, to convince and ultimately, to close the deal.  Right now, when people are hurting and skeptical, they need to be convinced.  Clinton dealt with a big problem for Obama.  He dealt with: "I know you're not feeling the recovery yet, but here's why you should believe that you will."  I think of Clinton less as a preacher than as an excellent salesperson who really believes in his product.  But, maybe those two roles are more similar than not.

    Obama doesn't sell.  He doesn't like it.  He's a professor and he's a manager and an organizer not just of people or communities but of complex systems.  Clinton says, "let me tell you why you need high speed rail between Tampa and Miami and how I'm going to give it to you."  Obama says, "Plans to build the train were drawn up years ago, we're doing this, see you tomorrow at 6 and we'll get to work."

    I think this is why Obama has a hard time bargaining.  He tries to circumvent the whole process by giving the other side some of what they have, in the past, demanded, right away.

    The thing is, neither approach works well with Republicans because they are always out to undermine the Democrat.  Everything else secondary.  They can't be charmed and they can't be directed.

    But voters aren't like that.  They can be charmed and persuaded.  With Obama, they want to be charmed and persuaded.  Obama still has a lot of personal good will with the country.  People still feel good for voting for him.  They like his story.  They believe in his best intentions.  So now it's all a matter of tone.

    Is he Al Gore, the scholar or Bill Clinton the salesman?  Hopefully, tonight he shows us something else.

    What great comments. Thanks, Destor.

    I can't wait to read what lil' destor has to say tonight..

    I think the speech will be great, I hope and I hope I get home in time to see it!

    Clinton is not Obama.  Obama is not Clinton.  The mistake is to believe there is only one way for a politician to resonate with a voter.  Clinton is a good-ole-boy, and has in some twist of brilliance turned it into an ability to touch the voter.  Obama touches in a different way.  He is a cool intellectual - which is not a death knell for most politicians.  But if Obama embraces as he has since his 2004 DNC speech he will be fine. In spite of the American anti-intellectualism, there is for most people a gravitation to those who are wise and humane.  The humane facet so important.

    For the record, Flavius' comment on the DNC open thread exactly expresses my own reaction to Obama's speech. He did what he had to do.

    In terms of my rank speculations above, Obama did in fact ask for help, as FDR and Truman had, and I thought it was very effective. And Obama must have used the word "you" twenty times or more. One line in the speech did move me, the quote from Lincoln---humility, burden of the office, the final decision maker, doing what's right takes time.

    As to whether the speech will move the polls, I'm not expecting much immediate effect. 

    More than moving the polls in the immediate aftermath, I think the speeches and the convention writ large were all geared to setting up the "values" arguments in the debates. Romney has locked himself into a rich person's world view. "Values inform policy" will become an underpinning of the debates.

    The jobs report comes out shortly. In my opinion anything over 125 K will be neutral in the polls. Over 150 K will move the polls. Something near 200 K will guarantee Obama's re-election.    

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