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The Return of Oratory:

As (I think) the only vocal and publicly-enthusiastic Obama supporter here on the VC, I more than share my colleagues' excitement over the events of last night. (I think it's telling -- and a very hopeful sign for an Obama presidency -- that even people (like many of my co-bloggers here) who disagree so strongly with Obama on so many important substantive issues found much to be proud of, and much to be excited about, last night. It was hard -- almost impossible, I would think -- not to be moved as the night wore on; even McCain, in what I thought was a deeply-felt and gracious concession speech, far and away his best moment of the last several months, seemed genuinely and profoundly moved by the significance of the moment, and put that across without cant or rancor; a great moment for him, I thought - I suspect I was not alone in thinking "jeez, where has that John McCain been over the last few months?"

Among other things, I'm hopeful that Obama's victory signals a return to serious political oratory. We haven't had a "great communicator" in the White House for a long, long time -- since Reagan. We haven't even really had a "pretty good communicator," and the last eight years were probably the nadir. It's not the guns at his command that, ultimately, gives a US president power, it's how he leads, and how he uses words to communicate with us is a critical component of that. There were two pieces of political oratory last night -- McCain's concession speech and Obama's victory speech -- and they were both home runs; I can't remember that ever happening before. I also thought it remarkable that both men found the same meaning in the events -- both drew from Obama's victory the idea that people can accomplish incredible things here, in the US, if they put their mind to it and work hard for it. I'm really looking forward to Obama's Inauguration Address - we need inspiration, and the guy is pretty damned inspiring.

And the most interesting little observation I heard last night from commentators: Feb. 2009 marks the 200th birthday of Abraham Lincoln, and we will have a black man from Illinois leading the celebrations. It's like Adams and Jefferson dying on the same day, 50 years after the signing of the Declaration of Independence -- you couldn't make this stuff up.

therut (mail):
I see the good that you speak of but I thought his speech was a little creepy. I do not like collectivism and I am espically weary of a Politician who can make it sound soooooooooooooo good. That I can not buy into unless forced by law or bayonet. Sorry. I have never felt the tingle others feel. I still do not thing he is a good speaker cause the themes he speaks are frightening to anyone who belives in freedom. Maybe he can control himself. We will see.
11.5.2008 10:39am
mporcius (mail):
Oratory? Is that really something libertarians should admire? Being good at making speeches is like being good at sneaking up on people; sure its a skill, but somebody with the skill is more likely to use it to rob me than to help me.

As for the Bible Code-level observation, well, I am a week shy of being exactly 100 years younger than Proust; whoop dee do.
11.5.2008 10:44am
Suzy (mail):
I agree and I was so impressed with both men last night. I shared your feeling: where has that John McCain been? That one might have won this election! He showed tremendous dignity and humility to give such a speech. I hope that Obama shows the same respect in return by truly working with him in a bipartisan way. He should be a fixture in the White House as a voice for the GOP in the Senate, and I have faith that we will see this happen.

I also agree that we need some inspiring. Turnout where I live was very high for both sides, so it isn't just that Obama is inspiring his own supporters. Rather, people seem motivated about the political process because they are realizing that they can affect their world, that they have a duty to do this. Let's hope that keeps going. As a moderate I don't want to see the Republican party fall apart in this defeat. I really hope they regroup and move back towards the center to be that voice for states' rights and small government and prudence that they used to be.
11.5.2008 10:46am
David Warner:
Prof. Post,

"'jeez, where has that John McCain been over the last few months?'"

Right in front of your face? Amazing the difficulty people have supporting one side without either ignoring or actively demeaning the other.
11.5.2008 10:53am
Ex parte McCardle:
February of 2009 is also the 100th anniversary of the NAACP, which was formed in large part in response to the 1908 race riots in Springfield, Illinois, Lincoln's hometown and the place where Barack Obama declared his candidacy.
11.5.2008 10:53am
bornyesterday (mail) (www):
I still think the connections between Kennedy and Lincoln are sure signs of a conspiracy controlled by the Illuminati.

That said, I think libertarians shouldn't have a problem with someone who is a good speaker, because by itself it has no reflection upon their opinions or capabilities as a leader other than their ability to inspire. Heck, I think libertarians should be looking for a fantastic orator because if they ever want to get serious representation on a national scale, they need to find a person who can capture the hearts and minds of Americans who have been trapped in the two party system for over 100 years.
11.5.2008 10:54am
Pon Raul (mail):
THAT McCain has been there the entire time, but you had your partisan blinders on. You know, the blinders that make you think that Obama is such as great communicator. I guess that anything is good compared to Bush, but Obama is nothing compared to Ronald.
11.5.2008 10:57am
David Warner:
"idea that people can accomplish incredible things here, in the US, if they put their mind to it and work hard for it."

Yes. Note to leftist academics: American exceptionalism is cool again. Talk amongst yourselves.

"And the most interesting little observation I heard last night from commentators: Feb. 2009 marks the 200th birthday of Abraham Lincoln, and we will have a black man from Illinois leading the celebrations. It's like Adams and Jefferson dying on the same day, 50 years after the signing of the Declaration of Independence -- you couldn't make this stuff up."

Great point. Like that one much better than the Grant Park Radicals 40-year reunion one.
11.5.2008 10:59am
Daryl Herbert (www):
Oratory? What a joke. We don't remember any of his stupid speeches. Just a few Axelrod sound bites.
11.5.2008 11:00am
Suzy (mail):
Oratory is only as good or bad as the truthfulness of what is communicated. There's nothing wrong with oratory that inspires people to do good things, provided that the claims made are true and the things it inspires really are good. Obviously that's a matter of judgment, but it's no reason to suspect all oratory.

If you believe that we really do have significant problems as a nation right now, and a little more inspirational message from our leaders can get people motivated and working harder to solve them, this is not a bad thing.
11.5.2008 11:00am
Ken Arromdee:
Feb. 2009 marks the 200th birthday of Abraham Lincoln, and we will have a black man from Illinois leading the celebrations

Hey, what did Lincoln ever do for Obama's ancestors, anyway?
11.5.2008 11:02am
hawkins:
That was clearly McCain's best speech, at least the first half of it. He is much less pleasing to watch when he gets excited. He might have been better off giving serious/somber speeches throughout the campaign.
11.5.2008 11:03am
hawkins:

Hey, what did Lincoln ever do for Obama's ancestors, anyway?


How is that relevant?
11.5.2008 11:05am
Dave Hardy (mail) (www):
He is a good speaker, at a time when politics is dominated by terrible ones. (I give Reagan a B+, not an A, and the average politico is D).

On the other hand it may have always been that way. I once listened to a Tom Edison-made recording of William Jennings Bryan's famous Cross of Gold speech, which reads brilliantly.

His delivery was actually terrible. I suspect it mattered less back then, since without radio or TV 99.99% of people would read rather than hear it.
11.5.2008 11:06am
Give it a rest:
As always, the ridiculous partisanship in the VC comments is pathetic. I've simply got to stop reading.

You really can't admit that McCain was not as relaxed or likable in the last couple months of the campaign as he was at his concession speech? After all his pained, fake smiles? After his awkward inability to connect at the semi-town-hall debate? After months (frankly, years) of wooing the Republican base at the expense of his instincts and his moderate credentials?

You really can't admit that Obama is a strong and inspiring speaker? Only people with "partisan blinders" can acknowledge talent in a person? Funny, given your leveling of the partisan-gun, that you can only name a Republican. I think there's no question who the partisan hack here is.

And therut, with your condemnation of collectivism... the only collectivist kind of statement I recall hearing in the acceptance speech was his usual about "we are not a red America and a blue America, we are the United States of America." Is it collectivist to be a proud member of a nation, even when that proud membership doesn't suggest agreement?

Why is it that so many commenters here seem incapable of standing by a principle, even if it occasionally means praising the other side or criticizing their own?
11.5.2008 11:07am
JoshD:
This isn't the West Wing. Obama is great in front of the camera with a teleprompter but is un-inspirational and sometimes incoherent without one. He's certainly far better than Bush, but that's not saying much.

I'm not sure how relevant it is to the quality of his Presidency, I'm hopeful Obama will surprise me but I can't escape the fact that this campaign is so superficial. This whole thing seems like a made for TV event with all the focus on the spectacle and none on what this will do for the country in the next four years.

Obama ran a very effective campaign and this race was truly won with middle America Independents voting for the non-incumbant party in response to an economic downturn. But I can't help but feel by the way this race is covered in the media that this is more like American Idol than a decision about the future of our nation - and in American Idol people only care about the competition, no one really seems to pay attention to what the winner does next.
11.5.2008 11:09am
liberty (mail) (www):
Wow. I couldn't agree less.

The frightening thing about Obama is his oratory, combined with his statist policies. Combining oratory with expansionist, increasingly more powerful government is the short road to dictatorship.

Great orators with the promise to make government stronger and do more for the people include many names but none that we remember fondly.
11.5.2008 11:09am
MisterBigTop (mail):
Sorry, no libertarian should be so caught up in this "inspiring" BS. Enjoy the next eight years, fools.
11.5.2008 11:13am
DiverDan (mail):
So Obama is a great orator - so what. As I recall, Germany in the 1930s had a mesmerizing orator as chancellor. How did that work out for Germany?
11.5.2008 11:14am
MartyA:
Oratory has nothing to do with it! And, how would you tell. You are struck by what Biden called a "clean and articulate" black. He reads what is on the telepromtper and does it well. He was not allowed to engage in "oratory," because, if left to his own words, he would say things that would have been used against him.
11.5.2008 11:16am
Give it a rest:
And we've now dived right into the dictator/Hitler analogies. Way to raise the bar.
11.5.2008 11:19am
Ben P:

on; even McCain, in what I thought was a deeply-felt and gracious concession speech, far and away his best moment of the last several months, seemed genuinely and profoundly moved by the significance of the moment, and put that across without cant or rancor; a great moment for him, I thought - I suspect I was not alone in thinking "jeez, where has that John McCain been over the last few months?"


I almost want to say McCain seemed relieved that the contest is over. Now that the pressure to seek votes and win the election is gone, the McCain of 2000 can creep back in, that's something that was distinctly missing from most of his campaign rhetoric.


As for Obama, the tone of his speech was somewhat odd, very different than the typical victory speech. The death of his grandmother probably played a part into the mood, but there was something more too.

Also, I admit I don't recall any acceptance speeches in detail prior to 2004, but I just don't recall another president making an explicit call to "those who's support I haven't won yet" in their acceptance speech.
11.5.2008 11:20am
Randy R. (mail):
"Obama is great in front of the camera with a teleprompter but is un-inspirational and sometimes incoherent without one. "

You mean like Ronald Reagan? Wasn't he dubbed The Great Communicator?

Oh that's right -- it's great when the oratory comes from the repubs, but if a Dem is a good at it, he's compared to HItler.

I for one am glad I won't have to hear Bush talk any more about anything.
11.5.2008 11:20am
Suzy (mail):
Wow, it's not like I expected the commentors here to be bursting the joy, but at least I expected a brief suspension of the gutter-level stuff that we've been seeing for weeks now.
11.5.2008 11:21am
John Burgess (mail) (www):
Last week, Obama spoke at a rally just a long block from my home. Since I was not supporting him, I did not attend the rally.

I was close enough to hear his speech, though not close enough to hear all the words. What came through clearly, though, was the cadence of his speech. I found that interesting. Unfortunately, it was a cadence that I find off-putting.

It was the sort of thing you hear in church, with a reasonably good preacher, telling us what sinners we be. It sounded like something that should be considered a 'good speech', but in reading a transcript, I found it read weakly. Not much 'there, there'.

There is certainly a difference between public speaking and public writing. I vastly prefer to put weight into the written word as the spoken word allows the unstated to go unnoted. It permits the speaker to avoid accountability. The tugs at emotion over rationality are great for motivating crowds; not so great for conveying complexity and honesty.

Public speaking ability is clearly a valuable skill for a politician. If you can't move people, you can't expect their votes, after all. But hortatory speech, particularly when it slips into the subjunctive--as it does when Obama declaims--immediately causes my skepticism to rise.
11.5.2008 11:23am
DiverDan (mail):

And we've now dived right into the dictator/Hitler analogies. Way to raise the bar.


Give it a rest: My whole point was that a leader must be judged on substance alone, not style. I did not call Obama either a Hitler or a dictator. Although, if you care to review your history, you might learn that Hitler initially came to power through democratic elections during the Wiemar Republic during dire economic times, when Hitler inspired large crowds through his firey oratory blaming the economic hardships of the German people on the evil and greedy Jewish bankers and financiers. Does any of this sound familiar?
11.5.2008 11:34am
Redman:
I refuse to be one of those republicans who this morning are rolling onto their backs, putting their paws in the air, and congratulating Obama for “a race well run”. Rubbish. Obama ran a campaign of intimidation (see “Joe the Plumber” and the use of state and federal records to dig up dirt on a man who had the temerity to ask Obama a rope line question), a campaign of dirty fundraising (millions raised illegally from foreign sources and more millions raised through fraudulent credit card transactions [stolen credit card numbers?], a campaign of massive voter registration fraud (ACORN), and a campaign bolstered at every step by a fawning press that utterly failed in its job to call Obama to task for his record, his qualifications, or his connections to people like Jeremiah Wright and Bill Ayres.
11.5.2008 11:36am
bornyesterday (mail) (www):
Not particularly, no.
11.5.2008 11:37am
bornyesterday (mail) (www):
Oh, another fun random numerical connection. Estimated voter turnout is 64-65%. The highest percentage since exactly 100 years ago. Spooky.
11.5.2008 11:39am
Connecticut Lawyer (mail):
I keep hearing people talk about what a great orator Obama is.

Can anyone tell me one memorable line from any of his speeches (no cheating with Google, now)? How can he be a great orator if you can't remember what he said five minutes after he said it?
11.5.2008 11:40am
Lighten up Kansas:
Diver, your empty analogy would apply to many inspiring orators, Churchill, FDR, Lincoln, Regan, blah blah blah. But you went for the Hitler analogy. Real classy dude.

The fact that your brain works in such a way is proof enough that you are not much of a student of history.
11.5.2008 11:44am
trad and anon (mail):
Can anyone tell me one memorable line from any of his speeches (no cheating with Google, now)? How can he be a great orator if you can't remember what he said five minutes after he said it?
The ones that have best stuck with me:

"We worship an awesome God in the blue states, and, yes, we've got some gay friends in the red states." (from his 2004 convention speech)

"We are not blue America and red America, we are and always will be the United States of America." (from his acceptance speech last night)

I've probably gotten these slightly wrong precisely because I'm working from memory.
11.5.2008 11:46am
wfjag:

We haven't had a "great communicator" in the White House for a long, long time -- since Reagan.

Still don't. Nice sounding but essentially empty phrases, buzz-words and clichés don't convey ideas, so no communication takes places. Rather, that allows each listener to paint their own thoughts onto a blank sheet. And, I don't recall any instances in which Reagan allowed his staff to vilify a citizen who asked a question that resulted in an unscripted answer. Permitting that type of behavior is a type of communication -- however, I don't believe I'd classify it as "great".
11.5.2008 11:48am
AKD:
Not an Orator. A Preacher.
11.5.2008 11:49am
Bored Lawyer:
The point is that oratory is a morally neutral skill -- like being well organized. It can be pressed into the service of great good or great evil. And, while it can inspire it can also lead people to turn off their rational faculties and critical thinking.

The Talmudic sages noted that God picked Moses as his messenger precisely because he was a stammerer and had difficulty speaking so that no one should think he used his oratorical skills to convince the people of the truth of his message.
11.5.2008 11:50am
hawkins:

Can anyone tell me one memorable line from any of his speeches


Really? This is pretty easy: 1) Yes we can, 2) Change we can believe in, 3) Not a red America or a blue America, but the United State of America....
11.5.2008 11:50am
Ben P:

I keep hearing people talk about what a great orator Obama is.

Can anyone tell me one memorable line from any of his speeches (no cheating with Google, now)? How can he be a great orator if you can't remember what he said five minutes after he said it?


Name any given "great historical orator."

How many "gems" did they have? Most never have but one or two.

But how many speeches did they give over the course of their lifetime to acquire the reputation of a great orator?

An orator that could produce, at command, a history book worthy verbal gem at command in a given speech would be truly fantastic, probably beyond any orator in history.

Obama's not that good, few, if any, have ever been that good.

I don't think having had a "gem" is necessary to be a good orator, it's certainly a measurement, but not the only one. Most people who've seen Obama speak come to the conclusion he's a skilled public speaker. I don't think one can negate that by asserting that he hasn't had a "we will fight them on the beaches" or a "all we have to fear is fear itself," or a "ask not what your country can do for you" moment.
11.5.2008 11:50am
MarkField (mail):

Oratory? Is that really something libertarians should admire?


I know that I personally am SO over that whole John Galt thing.


Hey, what did Lincoln ever do for Obama's ancestors, anyway?


Freed us all from a great moral crime.


Can anyone tell me one memorable line from any of his speeches (no cheating with Google, now)?


Yes I can.
11.5.2008 11:51am
Volokh Groupie:
I don't know-Clinton was a damn good communicator.
11.5.2008 11:52am
steve lubet (mail):
In 2000, Gore's best speech was his concession. I remember thinking, "where was that guy during the campaign?" I do think concession brings out the best in political figures.

(Yes, there will now follow the obligatory snarky comments about Gore. It would be more interesting, however, if people discuss the nature of concession speeches.)
11.5.2008 11:53am
MarkField (mail):

We haven't had a "great communicator" in the White House for a long, long time -- since Reagan.


JMHO, but I thought Clinton was much better than Reagan.
11.5.2008 11:55am
Bored Lawyer:

Name any given "great historical orator."

How many "gems" did they have? Most never have but one or two.



1. we shall fight on the beaches,
we shall fight on the landing grounds,
we shall fight in the fields and in the streets,
we shall fight in the hills;
we shall never surrender

2. Never has so much been owed by so many to so few.

3. From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic an iron curtain has descended across the Continent.

4. I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat.

5. Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves that if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, 'This was their Finest Hour.'


11.5.2008 12:00pm
Mahan Atma (mail):
Did anyone else here see his speech in Manassas the other night? That was pretty damned memorable.

Twenty years ago I was driving a plumbing truck around Manassas, so I remember what it was like. The idea that a black liberal named "Barack Hussein Obama" would attract a crowd of a hundred thousand people cheering him on to the Presidency would have been absolutely inconceivable.
11.5.2008 12:01pm
Ben P:
And how many speeches did Churchill give over the course of his career to come up with 5 truly notable remarks?
11.5.2008 12:03pm
Gramarye:
I've seen several posters in this thread thus far say things along the lines of "a leader must be judged on substance alone, not style" (DiverDan) and "[o]ratory is only as good or bad as the truthfulness of what is communicated" (Suzy). My question to you is this: Do you think that Reagan would have been an equally effective advocate for the cause that I assume you support (lower taxes on the highest earners, etc.) if he had been an orator of the caliber of GWB?

I would go as far as to say that solid oratorical skills are necessary (but not sufficient) to rank among our greatest presidents. I say that completely without reference to any ideological commitments that hypothetical president may possess or any political constraints he/she might face.

If McCain were as good an orator as Obama (or Reagan), this race might well have been a lot closer. If Bush were as well, his popularity might well not have been such a millstone, and it might well have been enough to swing the outcome.

Those knocking the utility of rhetoric reek strongly of sour grapes, and are dramatically de-emphasizing something that they ought to be making a top priority for any challenger to Obama in 2012 (assuming he's vulnerable) or for the vacant Oval Office in 2016. (Biden will be even older in 2016 than McCain is now, so it's unlikely that he'll be running for the office then; Obama will either switch VP's in 2012 or the White House will again have neither a sitting president nor vice president contending for it.)
11.5.2008 12:05pm
Ben P:
Damn there being no edit.

I'll add, if you want me to concede that Obama is not as good of an Orator as Churchill was? Fine, I'll readily concede that. Churchill probably tops almost anyone's list of great political orators of the 20th century, and probably in modern history. There were certainly great orators from before that, but lack of record and language barriers tend to make comparisons difficult.
11.5.2008 12:06pm
Michael Drake (mail) (www):
"I know that I personally am SO over that whole John Galt thing."

Yes, that's well-played. I was going to say Howard Roark. Or maybe Cirroc.
11.5.2008 12:09pm
hawkins:
I dont remember exact lines without googling ("this is the American story"), but I think Obama's Philadelphia speech on race is one of the better speeches I've ever seen.
11.5.2008 12:10pm
mporcius (mail):
Bored Lawyer,

Oratory is not as morally neutral as "being well organized" because the only use of oratory is to manipulate others to do as you want. Now maybe you can manipulate them for their own good, warn them of some impending danger or give them heart to handle some terrible challenge, but its still manipulative.
11.5.2008 12:11pm
Smokey:
Can anyone tell me one memorable line from any of his speeches?
"...John McCain has not talked about my Muslim faith."


One of Reagan's many outstanding lines: "Republicans believe every day is the Fourth of July, but the Democrats believe every day is April 15th."
11.5.2008 12:12pm
Baseballhead (mail):
...It would be more interesting, however, if people discuss the nature of concession speeches.
I work under the assumption that everyone who runs for the presidency does so in large part because he loves this country (your mileage may vary, depending on how bitter you are at this moment), and I think the electoral losers recognize that they have a duty to (1) publicly recognize their opponent's win as legitimate, (2) publicly recognize that their opponent's sense of duty to the country is as great as their own, and (3) extend an olive branch in hopes that the victor really will be what the country needs for the next four years.
11.5.2008 12:13pm
Houston Lawyer:
We'll have ample opportunity to see whether Obama has any true speaking skills. To date, he has been followed around by a fawning press primed to ejaculate if he even glanced in their direction. One of these days, bad things are going to happen on his watch, since that is inevitable. People will then get an opportunity to hear him directly in a crisis and will judge him accordingly.
11.5.2008 12:15pm
David Drake:
Agree with Gramarye. Necessary but not sufficient. President Clinton was a very good communicator, imho, but. . .

President George W. Bush was not good and, toward the end, did not even try to communicate or, if he did, panicked people. In my opinion, his biggest failing as President.

If being POTUS was like being the Queen of England, there would not be a better President conceivable to me than Senator Obama. However, it is not. It remains to be seen whether he has the rest of the qualities necessary to be a successful President.
11.5.2008 12:17pm
Baseballhead (mail):
Oops, cut myself off.

I thought McCain did his duty with great aplomb, and kudos to him for that. Unlike the above poster, I don't remember anything particularly memorable in Gore's (or Dole's, or Bush I's) concessions speeches, but perhaps time just treats concession speeches poorly.

I thought Kerry's concession speech was the best one he gave his entire race. Born to lose, baby!
11.5.2008 12:18pm
Hoosier:
(Can we say "articulate" now? Or is that still out?)

We need your guidance, professor.
11.5.2008 12:27pm
Fub:
Volokh Groupie wrote at 11.5.2008 11:52am:
I don't know-Clinton was a damn good communicator.
Don't forget Typhoid Mary. She was a great communicator too.
11.5.2008 12:28pm
Hoosier:
To date, he has been followed around by a fawning press primed to ejaculate if he even glanced in their direction.

Bukake Obama?
11.5.2008 12:29pm
Gramarye:
Also, does anyone remember any lines from when Abraham Lincoln was on the campaign trail? Or Ronald Reagan, for that matter, aside from at a party convention (where Obama also hit a home run in 2004)? I remember a throwaway quip about Jimmy Carter's motorcade being easily identifiable because it turned left at every corner.
11.5.2008 12:31pm
Hoosier:
Gramarye:
Also, does anyone remember any lines from when Abraham Lincoln was on the campaign trail? Or Ronald Reagan, for that matter,

Well, I don't remember Lincoln's speeches. But, yes, I know some of what he said. And I do have memories of Reagan.

E.g., "Recession is when your neighbor loses his job. Depression is when you lose yours. And recovery is when Jimmy Carter loses his." (Does this count?)
11.5.2008 12:34pm
Suzy (mail):
My point was that the rhetoric or oratory itself is not bad; it's bad when it's deployed in service of bad ideas or dishonesty. So obviously I think a better rhetorician, communicating the same content as a worse one, is going to be more effective and that's not a bad thing, unless the message is bad.
11.5.2008 12:48pm
Hoosier:
11.5.2008 12:49pm
wfjag:
Pres.-elect Obama promised 3 criteria in choosing Cabinet and top White House advisors: no re-treads from other administrations, bi-partisanship, and diversity.

ABC News is reporting that he has made his first offer for a top W.H. position: Rep. Rahm Emanuel, D-IL, as W.H. Chief of Staff. In something of an understatement, ABC News describes Emanuel as "sharp-tongued, sharp-elbowed, keenly intelligent veteran of the Clinton White House". So, Pres.-elect Obama's first pick is to have a partisan attack dog who earned his rep. at the Clinton W.H. as his W.H. CoS. That's change we can all believe in. It's something guaranteed to unite.
11.5.2008 12:49pm
LN (mail):
Will the whiny Joe the Plumber babies give it up already? He asked a question and Obama answered him. Nobody on earth would have cared but four days later McCain mentioned him repeatedly during the final debate and Obama directed debate comments to him as well. Then Joe the Plumber was interviewed by Katie Couric, gave a press conference at his house, showed up on Fox News, and appeared on Good Morning America.

Waa waa waa all he did was ask Obama a question and then Obama put him in an internment camp. God you're a bunch of crybabies. "I'm a victim!"
11.5.2008 12:59pm
MarkField (mail):
wfjag, the Emanuel choice (assuming it's accurate) is something you and I can actually agree on. If it does nothing else, it gets Emanuel out of the House. That's a great thing indeed. Better yet, as CoS, he's unlikely to have any real policy role (though that depends on the President); assuming that to be the case, it's win-win for liberals and conservatives alike.
11.5.2008 12:59pm
LN (mail):
That comment directed to Redman of course.
11.5.2008 1:00pm
Fub:
Hoosier wrote at 11.5.2008 12:29pm:
Bukake Obama?
Hope you sold a Credit Default Swap to pay for bailing out the coffee from a million keyboards.
11.5.2008 1:01pm
DiverDan (mail):
Since it is apparent that I've managed to offend several here with my posts on the oratorical skills of Hitler and how beneficial that was to Germany, perhaps those who were so deeply offended would be kind enough to provide me (and others) with an exhaustive list of all historical references or analogies that are strictly off limits. I can now assume that Hitler is strictly off limits (at least for any Democrat; Hitler references aimed at George W. Bush seem to be permissable for many liberals); I also assume that Stalin and Mussolini are out of bounds (again, only for Republicans). Would you please advise me of the status of Julius Ceasar, Napoleon Bonaparte, Alcibiades, Ghengis Khan, and all other historical figure, famous and obscure? Of course, since I fully understand the predeliction of liberals for applying a double standard, please fee free to provide two lists of unacceptable historical references, one applicable only to Democrats, and another (presumably much shorter) list applicable to Republicans? Then I will be glad to bathe in the light of your obviously superior wisdom.

[HINT: For the sarcasm impaired, that was it]
11.5.2008 1:04pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
I think what is lost on many in this crowd is why political oratory is important. BTW, I am too young to remember Reagan's speeches. Clinton was certainly a great speaker, but I am not sure I would call him a good orator. I will even give Bush credit for one or two great orations, and in fact I think he is probably good at oratory, but only rarely indulged because of an anti-intellectual support base (people voting for Bush because he pretends not to be smart). In particular, the speech in support of the surge in Iraq should go down as a great speech, though it was certainly overshadowed by policy changes and a movement, however subtle, away from the open-ended commitment to Iraq.

Good political speaking unites our country and helps us move together despite our differences. It helps inspire people and bring them to a common ground. After the last 8 years, this is something we need.

However, beyond this, oratory is even more important. Oratory allows a speaker to put forth a detailed discussion on an issue as a starting point for further discussion. The President can start such a discussion but in the end, it is Congress who must finish it. It is my hope that this shift will mean a movement back towards actually thinking about politics rather than simple fanboyism.
11.5.2008 1:07pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):

Since it is apparent that I've managed to offend several here with my posts on the oratorical skills of Hitler and how beneficial that was to Germany, perhaps those who were so deeply offended would be kind enough to provide me (and others) with an exhaustive list of all historical references or analogies that are strictly off limits


Has been for some time. Look up "Godwin's Law."
11.5.2008 1:08pm
MarkField (mail):

Also, does anyone remember any lines from when Abraham Lincoln was on the campaign trail?


In those days, candidates didn't campaign for President. Even the Lincoln-Douglas debates for Senate were unusual. There are no lines to remember from the campaign in 1860, because Lincoln gave no campaign speeches (unless you count Cooper Union, which was before he was nominated).
11.5.2008 1:17pm
Perseus (mail):
we need inspiration, and the guy is pretty damned inspiring.

I don't need or expect inspiration from presidential oratory--just as the Framers intended.
11.5.2008 1:19pm
wfjag:

wfjag, the Emanuel choice (assuming it's accurate) is something you and I can actually agree on.

Something else we can agree on Mark: Michael Crichton has passed away. He was 66. This is very sad. He was one of the few authors who could blend science into an interesting novel.
11.5.2008 1:26pm
eyesay:
Memorable oratory from a speech delivered on January 20, 1960 (and this really is from memory!)

... man holds in his mortal hand the power to abolish all forms of human poverty, and all forms of human life.

... the belief that rights come not from the generosity of the state but from the hand of God.

Let every nation know that we will pay any price, bear any burden, endure any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, to ensure the survival and success of liberty.

To those peoples in the huts and villages of half the globe, struggling to break the bonds of mass misery, we pledge our best efforts to help themselves, not because the communists may be doing it, not because we seek their votes, but because it is right. If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich.

Let us seek to uncover the wonders of science instead of its terrors.

Let us never negotiate out of fear, but let us never fear to negotiate.

And so, my fellow Americans, ask not what your country will do for you, but what you will do for your country.

My fellow citizens of the world, ask not what American will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man(kind?).

Let us go forth to lead the land we love, asking His help and His blessing, but remembering that here on earth, God's work must truly be our own.
11.5.2008 1:28pm
Baseballhead (mail):
I don't need or expect inspiration from presidential oratory--just as the Framers intended.
Disagree. Oratory is ideas in spoken word form, and the way that that idea is framed contributes to the power of it and how that idea is received by its audience. Mock all you want the power of oratory, but the unknown black guy with the funky name who brought the goods to the podium is President-elect today.
11.5.2008 1:45pm
MarkField (mail):

Something else we can agree on Mark: Michael Crichton has passed away. He was 66. This is very sad. He was one of the few authors who could blend science into an interesting novel.


That is sad. While I wasn't a big fan of some of his recent novels, his earlier ones were terrific to read.
11.5.2008 1:48pm
Gramarye:
DiverDan:
Since it is apparent that I've managed to offend several here with my posts on the oratorical skills of Hitler and how beneficial that was to Germany, perhaps those who were so deeply offended would be kind enough to provide me (and others) with an exhaustive list of all historical references or analogies that are strictly off limits. I can now assume that Hitler is strictly off limits (at least for any Democrat; Hitler references aimed at George W. Bush seem to be permissable for many liberals); I also assume that Stalin and Mussolini are out of bounds (again, only for Republicans).

I have never in my life made a Bush = Hitler comparison and I have called out those who have tried to make such parallels. Nor would you be correct in assuming that I'm some kind of raging leftist; I was a member of the Federalist Society in law school and voted for McCain. Nor would you be correct in assuming that I'm "offended" by your reference; I found it trite, pointless, baseless, hysterical, and cringeworthy, but it takes a fair amount to offend me. That said, it's possible to hold disagreements with someone and remain civilized. McCain did that last night in his concession speech. Your esteemed hosts in this corner of cyberspace have made a point of doing that. Emulating them and showing a touch of class should not be too much for ask, and even if it is too much to ask, I'm going to ask for it anyway.
11.5.2008 1:52pm
Randy R. (mail):
"Oratory is not as morally neutral as "being well organized" because the only use of oratory is to manipulate others to do as you want. Now maybe you can manipulate them for their own good, warn them of some impending danger or give them heart to handle some terrible challenge, but its still manipulative."

Perseus: "I don't need or expect inspiration from presidential oratory--just as the Framers intended."

Strange. Throughout the past few months, quite a few conservatives were hailing Sarah Palin for her 'folksy' way of speaking, hailing it as a breath of fresh air, it's earthiness and earnestness, her charming naivete and so on.

And of course, 20 years ago, conservatives were rhapsodic about Reagan's communication skills. So I guess when a Democrat is eloquent, he is being manipulative and you don't want oratory, but when a Republican speaks well, it is to be praised by all.

Got it.
11.5.2008 1:53pm
David Warner:
Give it a rest,

"After months (frankly, years) of wooing the Republican base at the expense of his instincts and his moderate credentials?"

Because it's a bullshit take that I've never heard from anyone who wasn't already supporting Obama anyway? Note: I'm an independent Obama voter and know several who went both ways. They agree that the claim you echo is a media-driven wedge take that served primarily as cover for those who didn't want to admit, often to themselves, why they were going Obama.

Far as I can tell, that was either race (big factor for me, along with age), not wanting to admit to their cynical friends that Obama inspired them, or feeling kind of stupid to be voting against someone because of his bonehead talk radio supporters.

McCain was not the problem. He did well considering.
11.5.2008 1:56pm
Nunzio:
Obama gave a very good speech, so did McCain. If the people he's inspired to a higher calling take action, that will be good. My guess is that not much will change.

We have a short attention span and will want short term results. Obama's campaign has relied on that quality in people, so it's fair to hold him to it. If in 2 years, unemployment is above what it is today, GDP is stagnant, and we haven't won in Afghanistan (whatever that means), then Obama will be a failure just like W.

Words are plentiful, but deeds are precious. I remember that line.
11.5.2008 2:01pm
David Warner:
Perseus,

"we need inspiration, and the guy is pretty damned inspiring.

I don't need or expect inspiration from presidential oratory--just as the Framers intended."

So... they intended to dictate the appropriate level of inspiration the citizenry might draw from Presidential oratory for all time? Interesting theory.

Here's one from Washington:


"There is no power on earth that can neutralize the influence of a high, simple and useful life."

- Booker T. Washington
11.5.2008 2:05pm
David Warner:
MF,

"If it does nothing else, it gets Emanuel out of the House."

Whoa, what gives? Too many bluedoggies for your taste? He's long been one of my favorite D's.
11.5.2008 2:18pm
Bob from Ohio (mail):

Hey, what did Lincoln ever do for Obama's ancestors, anyway?


Was Lincoln ever in Kenya?
11.5.2008 2:23pm
hawkins:
David Warner,

McCain did abandon many of his moderate credentials in order to pander to the GOP base. For example, making nice with this "Agent of Intolerance".
11.5.2008 2:25pm
Perseus (mail):
So... they intended to dictate the appropriate level of inspiration the citizenry might draw from Presidential oratory for all time? Interesting theory.

They certainly tried their best to severely restrict any use of popular oratory by the president. See Tulis, The Rhetorical Presidency.

So I guess when a Democrat is eloquent, he is being manipulative and you don't want oratory, but when a Republican speaks well, it is to be praised by all. Got it.

Could you point out a single comment that I have made indicating that I expect and/or praise regular popular oratory by presidents, or are you merely indulging in your own bit of demagoguery trying to portray me as a party hack?
11.5.2008 2:49pm
Chimaxx (mail):
David Warner:
I'm an independent Obama voter and know several who went both ways.


I hope you'll be reporting those voters who "went both ways" for voter fraud. We can't have people voting twice in an election just because they're indecisive.
11.5.2008 2:58pm
Ken Arromdee:
Freed us all from a great moral crime.

I guess Lincoln did prevent Obama's ancestors from owning slaves, and that that freed them from being morally criminal, but somehow I don't think that was the original intention.
11.5.2008 3:45pm
Hoosier:
And so, my fellow Americans, ask not what your country will do for you, but what you will do for your country.

They asked.

The country answered "Kill VC."

(Not a bad idea, really.)
11.5.2008 4:00pm
Hoosier:
Fub:

Being as witty as I am is a heavy cross to bear. Thank you for your words of support, my brother.
11.5.2008 4:34pm
Chimaxx (mail):
The country answered "Kill VC."


Why would the country want us to kill the Volokh Conspiracy?
11.5.2008 4:41pm
MarkField (mail):

Whoa, what gives? Too many bluedoggies for your taste?


Yep. Especially in the leadership ranks.


I guess Lincoln did prevent Obama's ancestors from owning slaves, and that that freed them from being morally criminal, but somehow I don't think that was the original intention.


If they were slaveholders (I have no idea), then I'm sure it was part of the original idea. Even if they were not, Lincoln certainly recognized slavery as a shared moral stain on all Americans. Eliminating it couldn't undo that stain, of course, but it could put a terminus on "the bond-man's two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil".
11.5.2008 4:53pm
phaedruscj:
Republicans and moderate democrats like myself owe Mr. Obama no more or less respect than that shown to president Bush by liberal democrats.

The fact that his chief of staff was a fromer Freddie Mac board member and staunch supporter of Freddie and Fannie during his service in Congress tells you a lot about the kind of change we are in for.
11.5.2008 5:37pm
NoelG (mail):
Houston Lawyer wrote:
We'll have ample opportunity to see whether Obama has any true speaking skills. To date, he has been followed around by a fawning press primed to ejaculate if he even glanced in their direction. One of these days, bad things are going to happen on his watch, since that is inevitable. People will then get an opportunity to hear him directly in a crisis and will judge him accordingly.


This is very true and one of the reasons McCain lost the election when people saw how he responded when the residential real estate bubble burst.
On the other hand, Obama passed that test as he did during the Russia-Georgia brouhaha when he opted for calmness or McCain's beligerence.
11.5.2008 5:48pm
NoelG (mail):
"Republicans and moderate democrats like myself owe Mr. Obama no more or less respect than that shown to president Bush by liberal democrats.

The fact that his chief of staff was a fromer Freddie Mac board member and staunch supporter of Freddie and Fannie during his service in Congress tells you a lot about the kind of change we are in for."


Bush earned his low regard which is shared by 71% of the population.
11.5.2008 5:52pm
nkb (mail):
"a return to serious political oratory"? Please, let's be serious.

When has Obama's oratory had any substance let alone seriousness? "We are the ones we have been waiting for"? "Yes we can"? "Change"? It's all gibberish.
11.5.2008 7:50pm
PC:
A former Reagan speech writers seem to think Obama is a great orator.
11.5.2008 8:48pm
Hoosier:
"We are not blue America and red America, we are and always will be the United States of America." (from his acceptance speech last night)

Well, that meets the requirement of /remembering/ a line. But do really think it is a particularly /memorable/ line?
11.6.2008 12:17am
Hoosier:
looking4u

Sorry, but if I got any more sex or had any more money, they'd send me to Hell on a scholarship.
11.6.2008 12:18am
David Warner:
Hoosier,

He mentioned Apollo. Total times in my life I've heard a leftie mention Apollo: zero. Note: JFK was shot by a leftie. He was a liberal.

Very memorable for me.

Also his list of American Ideals: Democracy, Liberty, Opportunity, Unyielding Hope.

Memorable: no equality.
11.6.2008 1:35am
David Warner:
Chimaxx,

"I hope you'll be reporting those voters who "went both ways" for voter fraud."

I'd make a joke here, but I'm feeling sad for Dale Carpenter and friends in Cali.
11.6.2008 2:06am
einhverfr (mail) (www):
What is actually funny is that I think that Bush's best speech was better than any of Clinton's speeches. Bush's biggest problem was pretending to be dumb, though....

However, I would expect the senator and former lawyer will provide many many great speeches during his time in office.
11.6.2008 2:28am