Barack Obama is regarded as a gilded orator, eloquent of voice, brilliant in intellect. Oh, baloney! Pay heed to his cagey devices of theatrical deception.
Here are a few clues for the clueless that a recovering ghost writer looks for when tracking what, how, and why presidents say what they say in speeches. Follow them, and they leave this president exposed for what he is . . . and isn’t.
Clue 1: What presidents say isn’t always what they’re saying.
Obama doesn’t want to wage “war on terror.” He would prefer it go away. If it doesn’t, he would scold. He has aides refer instead to “man-made catastrophes” and “overseas contingency operations.” So much for the memory of 9/11.
Knowing how Americans detest going into debt, Obama misnames his massive spending as “recovery and reinvestment.” Sounds prudent.
Claiming to bring the national debt under control, he adopts policies blowing it far out of control. With a growing recession now on his watch, he cites “glimmers” of recovery.
At this rate, some enterprising publisher will come out with a best-selling “Glossary of Obama-Speak, a Guide for the Befuddled.”
If Obama called everything by its right name, including acknowledging his policies are socialism by any other name, his popularity ratings would plummet. To avoid committing an unpopularity, he prefers being disingenuous rather than forthright, pusillanimous rather than courageous.
His way through that thicket is to follow an old Irish admonition in times of trouble: “Whatever you say, say nothing when you talk about you-know-what.”
Clue 2: How presidents say what they say tells you more about them than about what they’re saying.
Elocution matters, so try listening with your eyes closed. You’ll notice Obama ends almost every sentence or phrase on a decided drop in tonal scale as added emphasis.
That says you are being looked down upon oratorically by one whose haughtiness and arrogance he cannot camouflage and relishes displaying.
Now open your eyes. Watch his.
He gazes to your left, then to your right, back and forth. Feels like Wimbledon. It would be unkind to call him shifty-eyed, as Harry Truman did Richard Nixon. Obama is playing oratorical handball off his teleprompters. Un-teleprompted, he “uhs” and “ers,” stumbles and bumbles. Do you suppose he cannot say, “Please pass the salt,” without his stage script?
There is a more-revealing reason for his dependency on teleprompter crutches. When he reads off the screen on one side, he often makes a point that’s void of factual support, wandering around the barn and back again.
Then, as he shifts to reading from the other side, he slip-slides into yet another baseless point — unlinked by logic to what he just said out of the other side of his teleprompter.
The way Obama wings it, there’s an implied “so therefore” that transfers listeners to the next teleprompter panel. But, there’s no there in his “therefore.” So listeners won’t catch on, it’s Obama’s slick way of saying one thing one moment and another the next that flat doesn’t compute.
In the mathematics of logic, that’s known as the fallacy of the undistributed middle.
Clue 3: Why presidents say what they say also tells you what they really think of you.
Presidents require oversize egos, so they naturally want to look good in all they say. There comes a tolerable limit to that. Obama has sped right past it. His speeches show he’s thinking of others only to the depth of a Hollywood star’s shallow inquiry: “What did you think of my last movie?”
Next time the president takes the stage with his twin teleprompters, watch and listen closely with those three clues in mind. They will reveal a Barack Obama who is anything but presidential, intellectual, or eloquent. Commonplace is not presidential. Crafty is not intellectual. Grandiloquent is not eloquent.
The more this man is seen and heard, even by the clueless, the more he will appear as what he really is — merely Barack Obama. Like attention spans in this immediate-gratification culture, his wispy celebrityhood span will find its limits.
John L. Perry, a prize-winning newspaper editor and writer who served on White House staffs of two presidents, is a regular columnist for Newsmax.com. Read John Perry's columns here.
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