Praise has been heaped upon Mitch Daniels’s succinct rebuttal to Obama’s monotonous SOTU rhetoric. The contrast (comparing the small to the large) was like that of Lincoln’s Gettysburg address following Edward Everett’s endless sermon.
What most liked about Daniels’s brief talk was his matter-of-fact candor and steady delivery. There were none of the psychodramas and first-person braggadocio that we hear ad nauseam from Obama. For the first minute, the change was startling. Daniels appeared that he might be dry and monotone. But that impression vanished almost immediately. He neither wasted a word nor indulged in a sob-story anecdote, in laying out both where Obama has failed and how he has not been candid about his failures. His delivery and demeanor were flawless — just the right understated tone, with measured emphases, hints of weariness with Obama, and firm warning to us where all this is leading. He sounded like a concerned parent trying to warn an adolescent of the damage that his recklessness was doing to the family.
In classical terms, it was Attic simplicity trumping the windiness of the Asiatic style. We cannot remember a speech in which all the usual grating elements that the media praises (personal confessionals, therapeutic stories, I/me/mine narcissism, name-dropping, thunderous intonations, voice lowering in faux-sincerity, counterfeit accentuation, etc.) were missing, and we just got the straight story without the acting and gimmicks.