Last night we witnessed one of the more bizarre memorial services ever. Was it a time of mourning, healing, and reflection, or was it a political pep rally kicking off the 2012 presidential campaign? When was the last time you went to a memorial service that came with T-shirts with political slogans?
The conventional wisdom, the consensus of the media right and left is that President Obama is a brilliant speaker, a truly gifted orator. Is this because it is the only obvious talent of this young man in the White House and everyone feels it needs to be held up as fact? I think he is an adequate speaker, but nothing special, I have yet to see a speech of his that I found particularly moving or even far above average. Granted far too few of our political class has any skills at all at oratory, so is it that adequate becomes extraordinary compared to the ordinary?
I grew up around brilliant speakers, and have myself spoke all over this country in venues from a few dozen to as many as 16,000 in the audience at the Maybee Center in Tulsa. Personally I could easily name dozens of speakers who Obama couldn't carry their notes to the podium for them in comparing skills. Some of these men and women, who are brilliant speakers, are wonderful, warm, caring people with hearts of gold. Some are brilliant onstage and then cold and arrogant off. The first are able to continue for as long as they choose leading people, the last eventually their insincerity catches up with them.
When I watch a speaker, I find that I look for different things than someone who hasn't been trained to speak. I watch to see if their words and music match, more so than the text of their speech. It takes a con-man's emotional disconnect to truly perform and make it look and feel like they believe and feel what they say they do. The best I have ever seen at this is Bill Clinton, though I rarely ever have agreed with anything he has said or done, I have always admired his skills at speaking and moving an audience with his ability to "feel your pain." The most telling moment was as he was walking to a funeral of a friend and colleague, Clinton was cutting up with one of his aids saw the camera, immediately he teared up and "had a moment" for the camera. I have never known anyone any more talented in manipulating people's emotions than he.
With Obama, I have never seen the words and music in concert other than when he is working in his community organizer mode trying to agitate the crowd against his political opponents. When he tries to show warmth, show compassion, his words speak to warmth and healing, but the jut of his chin, and the ice in his eyes speak to a total emotional disconnect. There seems to be no human emotion there, just narcissism displayed. I have never seen colder eyes, they seem to show two emotions coldness and or anger, nothing more.
When I watch pundits on both sides of the political spectrum gush over Obama's brilliance as an orator, I often feel it is possibly latent racism, the "articulate" used by sports casters. Brilliant, dazzling, not so much.