My opinions on our current President run the gamut from thinking he’s merely hopelessly unprepared for the task to believing he’s a dangerous force from which we’ll need decades to recover. (Okay, I’ll grant you, it’s a limited gamut.) But trying to put politics aside, I’m baffled by the widely-held notion he possesses great oratorical skills. Am I the only one who finds his cadence to be sing-songy, his delivery to be robotic, and his timbre to be downright irritating?
When he delivers a speech, I can’t help but picture myself in a room filled with several hundred bored undergraduates trying to stay awake by looking for something meaningful among the platitudes. Each time he tries to move one of his pet pieces of legislation along by delivering an address, it seems to cause the opposite result. His predictable and repetitive style has an almost hypnotic effect that renders his words virtually meaningless.
He’s the guy at the wedding reception who causes everyone to roll their eyes when he stands up to give a toast. He’s the assistant principal who puts everyone to sleep at the morning assemblies. He’s the minister at the funeral who can speak in vague, pleasant-sounding generalities about the deceased without every having met the poor soul.
Maybe his reputation has something to do with his predecessor’s limitations in the public speaking arena, though I would still argue that President Bush could occasionally sound more human (think Ground Zero in New York) than President Obama has ever sounded.
Whenever we elect a new Commander-in-Chief, one of the first things I think about is what it’s going to be like to hear that voice over and over for the next four or eight years. When Ronald Reagan was elected, the prospect seemed delightful; when George H.W. Bush took over, there was a dignity in his style that I could live with; when Bill Clinton came to power, there was, at least, a genuineness that seemed to be present; and in 2000, my main concern when the ballots in Florida were being fought over was that I might have to listen to Al Gore every night.
Then came Barack Obama, and I knew almost immediately that, oratorically speaking, we had a problem. Unfortunately, that may be the least of our difficulties.