Friday, March 16, 2012

Comparative analysis of the teleprompter president’s oratory

March 15, 2012
Barack Obama is renowned for his speechifying, but comparing him to historical figures is downright dispiriting because of the wide chasm that separates him from them. If Obama is a great orator by today’s standards, then we have a problem with our standards.

The man reads from his teleprompter like a pro but has little of import to say, lies shamelessly, uses eighth-grade language, leans heavily toward long-windedness, and stumbles over his own tongue like a stroke victim when the teleprompter is unavailable. This passage from Abraham Lincoln’s second inaugural address, delivered to a divided nation during the Civil War, shows how far standards have slipped:
“Fondly do we hope – fervently do we pray – that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue, until all the wealth piled by the bond-man’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with lash, shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said, the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.”
Those are powerful, momentous words, full of big ideas: God’s will, slavery, the price of war. Hell, the first sentence sounds like poetry. He stood at the podium in March of 1865 and told Americans the war would be prosecuted, in God’s name, even to the extent of destroying the country’s wealth, until every drop of slave’s blood was revenged. He spoke those words knowing they would be unwelcome, telling a friend in a letter that the speech would be unpopular because “men are not flattered by being shown that there is a difference of purpose between the Almighty and them.”
Even his words about his words were special.

In contrast, these are samplings from Obama’s state of the union speech two months ago:
“The point is, we should all want a smarter, more effective government. And while we may not be able to bridge our biggest philosophical differences this year, we can make real progress.”

“...America is back. Anyone who tells you otherwise, anyone who tells you that America is in decline or that our influence has waned, doesn’t know what they’re talking about.”

“No one built this country on their own. This nation is great because we built it together. This nation is great because we worked as a team. This nation is great because we get each other’s backs.”

So that’s why America is great. Here we thought the nation was great because of our relationship with God, our recognition of God-given inalienable rights, and our willingness to die for both... silly us. Turns out it’s because “we get each other’s backs.” Who knew?

Here’s Winston Churchill, in the darkest hours of World War II, one day after France surrendered to Nazi Germany leaving Britain to stand alone against the whole German-occupied European continent:

“What General Weygand called the Battle of France is over. I expect that the Battle of Britain is about to begin. Upon this battle depends the survival of Christian civilization. Upon it depends our own British life, and the long continuity of our institutions and our Empire. The whole fury and might of the enemy must very soon be turned on us.

“Hitler knows that he will have to break us in this Island or lose the war. If we can stand up to him, all Europe may be free and the life of the world may move forward into broad, sunlit uplands. But if we fail, then the whole world, including the United States, including all that we have known and cared for, will sink into the abyss of a new Dark Age made more sinister, and perhaps more protracted, by the lights of perverted science.

“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.'”
If you don’t get goose bumps reading those words, your goose must be already cooked.

One month earlier, Churchill had addressed the House of Commons for the first time as prime minister. His election was not popular with the members, who gave him a chilly reception, but he didn’t mince words:
“I would say to the House, as I said to those who have joined the government: ‘I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat.’ We have before us an ordeal of the most grievous kind. We have before us many, many long months of struggle and of suffering. You ask, what is our policy? I will say: It is to wage war, by sea, land and air, with all our might and with all the strength that God can give us; to wage war against a monstrous tyranny, never surpassed in the dark and lamentable catalogue of human crime. That is our policy. You ask, what is our aim? I can answer in one word: victory; victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror, victory, however long and hard the road may be; for without victory, there is no survival. Let that be realized; no survival for the British Empire, no survival for all that the British Empire has stood for, no survival for the urge and impulse of the ages, that mankind will move forward towards its goal. But I take up my task with buoyancy and hope. I feel sure that our cause will not be suffered to fail among men. At this time I feel entitled to claim the aid of all, and I say, ‘Come then, let us go forward together with our united strength.’”

For comparison, here’s Obama in his first address to a joint session of congress, February 24, 2009:
“In the next few days, I will submit a budget to Congress. So often, we have come to view these documents as simply numbers on a page or laundry lists of programs. I see this document differently. I see it as a vision for America – as a blueprint for our future.”
(No budget has been passed by Congress since Obama was elected president.)
“Thanks to our recovery plan, we will double this nation’s supply of renewable energy in the next three years.”

(Obama’s renewable energy programs turned out to be scandal-filled payoffs to Democrat campaign donors... and utter failures – Solyndra, First Solar, Fisker Automotive, LightSquared, Chevy’s Volt, etc.)
“For that same reason, we must also address the crushing cost of health care. This is a cost that now causes a bankruptcy in America every thirty seconds.”
(An outright lie.)
“Yesterday, I held a fiscal summit where I pledged to cut the deficit in half by the end of my first term in office. My administration has also begun to go line by line through the federal budget in order to eliminate wasteful and ineffective programs. As you can imagine, this is a process that will take some time.”
(We know how long his “pledge” lasted – by the time he left the Capitol it was already forgotten.)