Thursday, February 14, 2013

Unquotable: The Annotated 2013 State of the Union - James Fallows - The Atlantic

Except for 'not red states, not blue states, but the United States of America" Barack Obama - a fine rhetorician - is not a generator of snappy lines.  No Kennedyesque "ask not what your country can do for you..." phrase will capture the Obama years.  Former Presidential speechwriter and analyst of political rhetoric James Fallows dissects Obama's fifth State of the Union address.  An excerpt from the Fallows intro  follows. Click though for the annotated full  text of the SOTU.  Well worth the effort.  - GWC
The Annotated 2013 State of the Union - James Fallows - The Atlantic:

Given that formal speeches make up a bigger part of Obama's still-unfolding legacy than, say, Bill Clinton's, note this remarkable fact: You can barely remember a word of what he says.
Obama's eloquence exists almost exclusively on the macro scale -- the overall impression he gives of the subject he is wrestling with, and of his own temperament and cast of mind. You could take John Kennedy as the opposite extreme; his speeches are far more memorable, and quotable, for epigrammatic phrases than for their more elaborated thoughts. Abraham Lincoln may be the one example in our public life of success at both levels. His first and second inaugural addresses, plus the Gettysburg Address, are considered in a class of their own because they combine lasting beauty of phrasing -- "malice toward none," "mystic chords of memory," "government of the people, for the people, by the people," "every drop of blood drawn by the lash" -- with depth of thought.
No one else can play in Lincoln's league -- and, perhaps in growing awareness of that fact, as Obama's career has gone on he has been more careful and sparing in drawing connections between himself and another young legislator-become-president from Illinois. (Six years ago, in his original announcement speech in Springfield, he said, "In the shadow of the Old State Capitol, where Lincoln once called on a divided house to stand together, where common hopes and common dreams still, I stand before you today to announce my candidacy for president of the United States." Tuesday night, in the U.S. Capitol, on the 204th anniversary of Lincoln's birth, Obama did not mention his name.) Still, the point remains that for a famous orator, Obama is remarkably hard to quote.

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