Apparently momentum is gathering behind the idea that Barack Obama is a fantastic and inspirational orator, perhaps even better than the great John F. Kennedy himself (and what Democrat candidate wouldn't kill for that kind of an accolade?). William Rees-Mogg, a venerable former editor of the Times, and presumably not a man susceptible to excitement or hyperbole of any kind, was even moved to gush:
"It is hard to see who can stop Senator Barack Obama becoming the next President of the United States. He has built up an excitement such as no candidate has created since President Kennedy in 1960. He is, in my view, a better speaker than Kennedy. Like Kennedy, he combines personal magnetism with a strong appeal to American idealism."
With this ridiculous, hyperventiliating overstatement in mind, I was very amused to read a column by Gideon Rachman in the Financial Times. He's watched Obama, and he just doesn't get it. He's not feeling it:
"All this leaves me baffled. I have watched Mr Obama speak live; I have watched him speak on television; I have even watched his speeches set to music on a video made by celebrity supporters (www.dipdive.com). But I find myself strangely unmoved – and this is disconcerting. It feels like admitting to falling asleep during Winston Churchill’s “fight them on the beaches” speech.... his most famous phrases are vacuous. The “audacity of hope”? It would be genuinely audacious to run for the White House on a platform of despair. Promising hope is simply good sense. “The fierce urgency of now”? It is hard to see what Mr Obama means when he says this – other than that some inner voice has told him to run for president.
"And then there is “Yes we can” – the phrase that was so inspirational that it inspired Will.i.am of hip-hop group the Black Eyed Peas to make his infamous video, backed up by film stars and musicians such as Scarlett Johansson and Herbie Hancock.
"The strumming of guitars and crooning drowns out Mr Obama on the musical version. So I had to consult the text to find out what exactly it is that we can do. “Yes we can to justice and equality. Yes we can to opportunity and prosperity. Yes we can heal this nation. Yes we can repair this world. Yes we can.”
"This sounds to me like a man doing an impression of what he thinks a great speech might be like. It is the kind of empty exhortation that usually gives politicians a bad name. Peter Sellers, a British comedian of the 1960s, caught the genre nicely in a parody speech: “Let us assume a bold thrust and go forward together. Let us carry the fight against ignorance to the four corners of the earth, because it is a fight that concerns us all.” Mr Obama might easily give a speech like that – although he would probably strip out some of the detail."
Ouch. That Peter Sellers quote is frighteningly near to the mark. Perhaps someone should set that to music and put it up in YouTube.
Where's Lloyd Bentsen when you need him? "Senator, you're no Jack Kennedy"
Mind you, it's also abundantly clear that neither is Hillary Clinton.... and if Hillary had anything at all to do with this, then she has absolutely lost my completely theoretical and not-counting-in-any-way vote.
...Or is it all a double-bluff by someone on Obama's side designed to make Hillary look vicious and desperate and thus to lose her yet more support?
Who knows? Is the US Presidency really worth stooping to that kind of level? Would the US want a president who was prepared to stoop to those kinds of levels? Well, I suppose they wouldn't be the first.....