Thursday, August 28, 2008


I've never noticed before how truly, utterly bad political speeches are. Really, really awful. Horrible. Horrendous. Horrific. Whorish. Hortatory. Horton Hears a Who. Hormel hotdogs. Such a collection of hack phraseology. The sort of thing that would use a word like phraseology. Awful. Awful.

No, I can't be bothered to give examples. I noticed it with Michelle, then with Biden, then with Hillary. Or maybe Hillary came before Biden. I wasn't really paying attention. And it was hard to hear, with all that bleeding in my ears. It's the formulaic repetition. The shabby scaffolding from which they hang -- what? Ideas? Not even emotion. Just ribbons blowing in the wind.

Yes, repetition can create a dramatic effect. It's a very old trick indeed. Do they know any others? Well of course they do. Please sir, may we have another?

I forget what cheap and obvious words Michelle was pounding like a tin drum. Don't ask for examples. It would be too painful. "...let us devote ourselves to finishing their work; let us work together to fulfill their hopes; and let us stand together to elect Barack Obama President of the United States of America." Um, something about lettuce? I like lettuce. I'm vegetarian, you know. I did notice that she threw in as an afterthought some verbiage about jingoism and bitter religionists. "Thank you, God bless you, and God bless America." How she can get away with cursing America like that is beyond me. Must be a black theology thing.

Hillary's was all that proud proud proud stuff, so carelessly omitting pride in bill, as is much commented upon -- so artfully proud of America, where Michelle has not been, until earlier this year in her lifetime. Peggy Noonan makes a really good point. If she can't be president, Hillary will be the next Teddy Kennedy -- the grand old lady of the Senate. Yeah.

I caught the tail end of some frothing Biden was doing -- ah, here it is, like acid reflux:

Our greatest presidents -- from Abraham Lincoln to Franklin Roosevelt to John Kennedy -- they all challenged us to embrace change. Now, it's our responsibility to meet that challenge.

Millions of Americans have been knocked down. And this is the time as Americans, together, we get back up. Our people are too good, our debt to our parents and grandparents too great, our obligation to our children is too sacred.

These are extraordinary times. This is an extraordinary election. The American people are ready. I'm ready. Barack Obama is ready. This is his time. This is our time. This is America's time.
Yeah, Kennedy was really one of our greatest presidents, for those less-than-three years. Right up there with four-term FDR, who also happens to be a Democrat, coincidentally ... oh, and Lincoln too, somehow, I guess cuz he also died in office? Is that the link? I'm not really finding any other. I don't see how Lincoln fits in there with that change theme ... something about slavery, that Lincoln actually didn't want to abolish instantly? Kennedy doesn't quite qualify as a revolutionary either, really. Maybe I'm reading too much into it? But change is good.

That second "paragraph" is just boilerplate spacefiller. And then the poetry. Ready ready time time. Extraordinary.



Are we going to have to hear this for four years? Truly, truly less than mediocre. Noonan says it perfectly: "speeches are delicate; they're words in the air..." She means good speeches. These are words through slobber. George Will says it perfectly too. Quoting Pascal, continuous eloquence wearies, he says that this is so "because it is not really eloquent. If it is continuous, it is necessarily formulaic and abstract, vague enough for any time and place, hence truly apposite for none." Now I'm feeling insecure: I came up with that too, you know -- before I read Will's piece. You believe me, right?

A thing is eloquent not because of an elaborate sentence structure or a precious word choice. It is eloquent because of the clarity and simplicity with which it states a truth.

Proud. Time. This is. Change. Now. We. Children. Lettuce. Yeah, there's a verb in there -- the very simplest -- state of being. I just know that if I can arrange those words in the right order, I'll have a terrific speech! Absolutely horrific!


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