scholars and rogues

Obama: 6:54 of clarity

While driving around this evening I caught NPR’s interview with Barack Obama, and I found myself having a reaction that had nothing at all to do with what he and the reporter were discussing. Go here, click on the “Listen Now” link at the top of the story, and give it a couple minutes of your time.

Then go anywhere on the Internet and listen to our current president in a Q&A format, whether it’s a one-on-one, a press conference, whatever.

Here’s what struck me about Obama. When he’s asked a question, he answers it directly, efficiently, clearly and coherently. He comes off as a guy with a mastery of the English language and you don’t find yourself holding your breath wondering if he’s going to accidentally make up a new word because he’s so inept around the ones we already have. His adeptness in fielding questions – sometimes tough ones – suggests that whether you agree with him or not, he’s at least a smart person.

No, I’m not yet a big Obama fan, but even where I have complaints about him as a candidate he inspired more confidence in me in 6 minutes than the current resident of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue has in seven interminably long years.

I suspect this means something.

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8 replies »

  1. What does it say about how low we’ve set the bar that someone of Obama’s elocution and verbal skill is now exceptional? There was a time when ALL of our great leaders could command an audience and spin a narrative.

    We get the leaders we deserve, and those that are suitable for our times. Perhaps Bush is emblematic of our debased, ahistoric, and coarsened culture, and Obama is a signifier of what we can return to.

    One can hope.

  2. To hell with charisma. The sheer power of someone’s personality is a somewhat undervalued and derided factor in choosing a leader, but no one should base their vote on charm. The clarity and coherence of delivering an argument is a much more important trait in a presidential contender. Doing so in a way that incorperates opposing viewpoints instead of dismissing or deriding them while still holding firm to one’s core beliefs is a rare and commendable talent.

    Case in point:,9171,1546579,00.html
    That’s a chapter from Obama’s “Audacity” book chiseling the wall between church and state. And while I don’t share his views on religion or how it intersects with politics, I have a real appreciation for the way he carved his path to his conclusion. This transparency in his decision-making process and his non-ideological approach speaks volumes about his ability to create consensus needed so that we can take the large steps needed to fix this country.

  3. The great American experiment in entrusting our country to someone who doesn’t make us feel inferior with his superior intelligence has failed.

    I just about finished reading “Arsenals of Folly” by Richard Rhodes, the nuclear chronicler. The climax of the book is Reagan and Gorbachev’s summit at Reykjavik.

    We think Reagan wasn’t, to be charitable, a details guy. But he studied hard, referred to his notes, and engaged Gorbachev in dialogue for days on end. (Of course, it didn’t end so happily, no thanks to Reagan. But that’s another story.)

    Bush couldn’t have even gotten to square one in that chess game. But at least he’s helped us understand the importance of electing a president with brains.