Friday, August 5, 2011
Peggy Noonan does a takedown of Obama's oratorical self-image. The conclusion:
The president has been obsessing on Ronald Reagan the past few months, referring to him in private and attempting to use him to buttress his position in public. They say Republicans can't get over Reagan, but really it's Democrats who aren't over him, and who draw the wrong lessons from his success. Reagan himself never bragged about his ability to convince the American people. He'd never point a finger and say: "I'll go to the people and grind you to dust." He thought speaking was a big part of leadership, but only part, and in his farewell address he went out of his way to say he never thought of himself as a great communicator. He thought he simply communicated great things—essentially, the vision of the founders as applied to current circumstances.Zing! That's gotta hurt...
Democrats were sure Reagan was wrong, so they explained his success to themselves by believing that it all came down to some kind of magical formula involving his inexplicably powerful speeches. They misdefined his powers and saddled themselves with an unrealistic faith in the power of speaking.
But speeches aren't magic. A speech is only as good as the ideas it advances. Reagan had good ideas. Obama does not.
The debt ceiling crisis revealed Mr. Obama's speeches as rhetorical kryptonite. It is the substance that repels the listener.