Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Is Obama a Good Speaker?

Daniel Finkelstein of the Times of London asks the question.

"I find that too often he can be an empty, rather woolly speaker. Someone who likes the sound of his own voice a bit much. It is a danger he has to guard against."

Popular wisdom holds that Obama is a fantastic orator. But is he effective? He's still not shown he can match Bill Clinton's ability to frame difficult issues in clear, succinct language that gives the audience a simple takeaway.

If Bill were running against McCain, his lead would be insurmountable. What advice does Clinton's policy adviser William Galston have for Obama?

"Your stump speech is too long and discursive. It shouldn’t last more than fifteen minutes, it should focus on your agenda, not today’s news story, it should feature short, declarative sentences, and it should leave no doubt about what you care about the most."

Though he, too, was a law professor, Bill Clinton never sounded professorial. After a rambling speech at the 1988 Democratic Convention (the audience applauded when he said "in conclusion"), he simplified his message, turned up the dial on his personal charm, and won consecutive terms. Obama has inherited what should be an ideal landscape for victory. Will his message seize it?

1 comment:

Weezie said...

I think, however, that his vocal tone exudes confidence and calm and makes him sound "leadery." In interviews, off script, he says "um" a lot.