The Corner

Wasp Understatement

Brit Hume really does not like Barack Obama. He communicates that by dwelling, just a little excessively, on praise for his rhetorical powers. The ability to speak well, with flair and use of voice to evoke emotion and signal what’s important is critical in the leader of a democracy. Both Bushes have gotten elected without it — which is significant: voters are not necessarily dazzled into choosing style over substance. But their nature or nurture-derived failure to learn how to communicate effectively cost them a lot in office.

So it’s interesting to see a guy like Hume, who knows that as well as anyone, use Obama’s speaking power as a way of reminding viewers that his actual accomplishments are considerably thinner and less clear. Hume, like McCain, prefers Wasp understatement.

Bill Kristol was totally explicit about it: “If the election is about speeches, Obama wins. If it’s about a record of service, McCain wins.” (paraphrase) It will be interesting, and painful to watch voters pick their way through that — assuming that McCain doesn’t become a more compelling speaker before the next round.


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