July 26, 2008

Listening to presidential talk — is Barack Obama what we want to hear now?

"And the truth is that we've got a bunch of smart people, I think, who know ten times more than we do about the specifics of the topics. And so if what you're trying to do is micromanage and solve everything then you end up being a dilettante but you have to have enough knowledge to make good judgments about the choices that are presented to you."

It's Barack Obama, sounding smart and sensible in a casual conversation with British Tory Leader David Cameron. Drudge says this conversation was "caught on mic" so I was hoping for something revealing, but the linked article says the 2 men were "[s]eemingly unaware of an enormous fuzzy boom," which of course, means they were completely aware of the PR they were generating together.

By the way, I'm reading David Foster Wallace's essay about following around the McCain campaign in 2000, and it includes a helpful glossary with this item:
Weasel = The weird gray fuzzy thing that sound techs put over their sticks' mikes at scrums to keep annoying wind-noise off the audio. It looks like a large floppy mouse-colored version of a certain popular kind of fuzzy bathroom slipper. (N.B.: Weasels, which are sometimes worn by sound techs as headgear during OTSs when it's really cold, are thus sometimes known as tech toupees.)
(Don't buy the linked essay if you already have "Consider the Lobster." It's the same thing as "Up, Simba.")

What's the correct spelling — "mic" or "mike"? It's mike, obviously! Do you know any guys named Michael who spell their nickname "Mic"? Imagine 2 Michaels, Mike and Mic: Which one do you want to have a beer with?

So, anyway, if you think Obama sounds clever in that quote, realize that he's mainly saying "I'm the decider" — Bush's completely pithy and oft-ridiculed summary of the presidency.

And maybe it's time for a President with more elaborate language. Maybe we've heard enough from Mike and Mic is starting to sound really refreshingly wonderful.

54 comments:

vbspurs said...

Bush uttered his infamous words when the press were grilling him on why he didn't fire Don Rumsfeld.

He said:

"I listen to all voices, but mine is the final decision. [..]

"I hear the voices, and I read the front page, and I know the speculation. But I'm the decider, and I decide what is best."


Is this being spun, either by Obama or the press, as some kind of allusion to Bush's style?

Because it's amusing to think that according to the world:

Bush doesn't know what he's doing, and therefore leans on others for his knowledge

Immediately Followed By

He's personally responsible for EVERYTHING that's gone wrong.

Then

Doesn't listen to criticism

Immediately followed By

Is the most criticised President since Nixon, and is fully aware of that since he checks the papers assiduously

What Obama said made it sound like he intends to be less of a strongman in power than Bush.

This jibes with the Leftist idea that he has been impermeable to reason, and criticism, and therefore to change -- something Obama believes he can counter by being more of a "Listening President", seeking the opinions of others.

Ironically, I consider THAT dilettantism and it frightens me.

Cheers,
Victoria

Seven Machos said...

You've prejudicially taken the letter k off of the name Mick to bolster your argument.

Meade said...

"And maybe it's time for a President with more elaborate language."

If you get beyond how he's saying it, and listen rather to what he is saying, you'll notice Obama is describing a style of leadership and decision-making very different from Bill Clinton's and, instead, quite similar to President Bush's - one for which Bush has been continually criticized by the Left.

rhhardin said...

Everything Obama knows is wrong. I don't know if that figures in.

SteveR said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
SteveR said...

How come no matter what language I hear it still makes me think I'm listening to Jimmy Carter

Kirk Parker said...

Only people who know nothing about sound write "mike" in place of "mic".

Bill C said...

The spelling is obvious - it is short for mikerophone

Chip Ahoy said...

Hmmm, maybe that's because it's sort for microphone and not short for mickrophone.

vbspurs said...

different from Bill Clinton's and, instead, quite similar to President Bush's - one for which Bush has been continually criticized by the Left.

Yes.

Big time.

If presumptive President Obama ever decides to invade a country, the Left will think it's a humanitarian triumph, bringing democracy and peace, and America is the good guy again.

Cheers,
Victoria

Gerard said...

What does he mean "We?"

ricpic said...

Yes, it's time for another nuanced liberal thinker of deep and subtle thoughts in the White House who will screw things up to a fare-thee-well.

Ann Althouse said...

Mike is the traditional spelling for microphone, and Wallace is a trustworthy speller. "Mic" is irritating as hell.

seven machos said..."You've prejudicially taken the letter k off of the name Mick to bolster your argument."

I'm presuming the pronunciation "Mike."

Alcibiades said...

What does he mean "We?"

Royal We.

The same as *We're the ones* that we've been waiting for.

P. Rich said...

you have to have enough knowledge to make good judgments about the choices that are presented to you

Spoken by someone who has absolutely no appreciation of the way executive decisions are made in situations where the sheer volume, complexity and shifting dynamics of available information preclude anyone ever having "enough knowledge" about any major topic.

What Obama really means is, "I'll just ask Michelle." But he can't say that; it isn't sufficiently presidential.

Fen said...

we've got a bunch of smart people, I think, who know ten times more than we do about the specifics of the topics.

Obama has a pattern of throwing advisors under the bus when he's caught making a bad decision. Hope he has an abundant supply...

The Drill SGT said...

Obama advisors are disposable, like Clinton Friends, when you need to discard one, NP, "we" have got 299 more.

So here Obama is saying he's not the expert on anything, he just uses his lack of experience (i.e "fresh perspective") combined with he superior "judgement" to make decisions.

great, just great :)

Quayle said...

To my ear and heart, Obama is a total personification of the 60s left-wing world view, now come to full flower.

And that world view is fatally flawed in its inability or unwillingness to make a causal connection between voluntary self control and self denial at the personal level, and social justice and peace at the collective level.

The result is a philosophy that teaches total freedom and license to the individual, then preaches total harmony and “coming together” for the world.

But wouldn’t you agree that individuals that have never said no to themselves, or ever put others before their own wants and desires, are emotionally and spiritually incapable of coming together as a group, except in the most shallow ways.

But there are a whole lot of people, on the left and the right, that believe that they can move and cut the roots of the tree and still eat fruit later on.

These are people that want all shade but no trunk or bark.

That is why, to me, Obama’s Berlin speech didn’t meet the mark. Without the personal temperance half of the equation (a clearly unpopular and unaccepted message) the other “coming together as a world” stuff is a an illusion.

It is like dreaming that you ate. You wake up hungry.

My take anyway.

blake said...

Mike is the traditional spelling for microphone, and Wallace is a trustworthy speller. "Mic" is irritating as hell.

Seriously? I've never seen "mike" anywhere, ever. Not on any sound board or computer or recorder.

But apparently some people feel very poetically about it.

Rick Lee said...

I just found this doing a quick Google:
Until very recently the casual term for a microphone was “mike,” not “mic.” Young people now mostly imitate the technicians who prefer the shorter “mic” label on their soundboards, but it looks distinctly odd to those used to the traditional term. There are no other words in English in which “-ic” is pronounced to rhyme with “bike”—that’s the reason for the traditional “mike” spelling in the first place. Although the new spelling has largely triumphed in casual usage, editors may ask you to use the older spelling in publication.

To me "mike" looks really odd. Now I realize why. I use a lot of audio equipment and it's ALWAYS spelled "mic" on the gear.

Palladian said...

It's mic.

It's not a word, it's an abbreviation.

"Mike" is stupid, as a spelling for mic. and as a name.

blake said...

I'm sitting here now trying to figure out what other words end in "-ic" on which to make this assessment.

Aspic? Logic? Magic? Music?

Then there are abbreviations. Bike. Er, psyke.

Ride your bic with the mic to your psyc?

Hmmm.

Trooper York said...

Ricpic

Poetry in motion.

Biff said...

It doesn't matter what other words (if any) end in "ic" and are pronounced like "ike." Mic is professional jargon. (...and since when does English follow rigorous spelling and pronunciation rules, he asked as he drove through Gloucester.) I've worked with sound equipment and pros sporadically since the 70s, and there's a very strong bias towards "mic" among the pros. While "mike" is perfectly acceptable, it has a strong connotation of "amateur." It's just another example of a profession using jargon to identify membership in the club.

Rick Lee said...

I hadn't really thought about it but Biff just made me realize that whenever I see someone spell it "mike" I always think "amateur".

AllenS said...

You can't put an e on the end of mic.

JohnTaylor88 said...

Imagine 2 Michaels, Mike and Mic: Which one do you want to have a beer with?

Mic.

Because he's Irish.

Fen said...

So here Obama is saying he's not the expert on anything, he just uses his lack of experience (i.e "fresh perspective") combined with he superior "judgement" to make decisions.

... and thereby avoid any bad consequence of his poor judgement. Ya know, we sometimes mock the "suicide" bombers for being ignorant suckers... and I wonder how an Obama advisor feels about it... and what it says about their judgement.

It would almost be funny, if not for the looming threat of radical islam w/ rogue states w/ wmd proliferation w/ suicide bombers used for proxy attacks against the West.

No surprise the Left wants to obsess over Climate Change. I wonder what Western Europe distracted itself with in the 1930's?

Fen said...

Obama advisors are disposable, like Clinton Friends, when you need to discard one, NP, "we" have got 299 more.

Hah. If Obama really is Green, he should recycle Sandy Berger.

Jeff with one 'f' said...

My cel phone has a built-in mic!

Christy said...

It sounds to me like BO was lecturing another politician who, with an equally meteoric rise to power, none-the-less, has more experience leading. Just saying.

Pissed Off Hillbilly said...

It looks more like a possum than a weasel.
I call mine a possum.

Ann Althouse said...

I'm sorry, "mike" was spelled "mike" for years and years and years. You never saw "mic." Then "mic," the abbreviation, appeared as lettering on some audio equipment. That did not change the spelling in English.

blake said...

That did not change the spelling in English.

Well, yes. Yes it did. Or it will.

That's the way these things work, isn't it?

Ann Althouse said...

Rick Lee said..."I hadn't really thought about it but Biff just made me realize that whenever I see someone spell it "mike" I always think "amateur"."

When I see "mic," I always think "illiterate." It's like spelling "right" "rite" because you saw it spelled that way on a sign for a drug store or whatever.

Ann Althouse said...

Think of the verb, "to mike." He was miked for the broadcast. The miking was poor. Etc.

Here are examples of "miking" used in the NYT:

http://query.nytimes.com/search/sitesearch?query=miking&srchst=cse

I cannot picture this varied to "miced" and "micing." It seems to be about rodents.

Here's an nice article elaborating why "mike" is right:

http://www.sambayer.com/whymike.html

vbspurs said...

Ann wrote:

It's like spelling "right" "rite" because you saw it spelled that way on a sign for a drug store or whatever.

I agree with Rite(-Aid, e.g.) but you know when you're totally a dweeb? When you cringe every time you text someone, "nite", because it's just so damn easier.

And that would be me.

Oh, and funny how this "hot mic" contrasted favourably with the absolutely embarrassing Jesse Jackson incident.

Seems like a little cynical reverse damage control to me.

Good stuff.

Cheers,
Victoria

blake said...

That's an interesting point about the verb form.

Mike miked mics while Bike biked bikes.

Hmmm. Still, I believe the die is cast.

Ann Althouse said...

Yeah, and no one says I'm riding my bic.

No one protests "no nucs."

vbspurs said...

Yeah, and no one says I'm riding my bic.

Ouch!

blake said...

Well, I'd like to come up with a clever abbreviation for "tilting at windmills" but Jimmy Stewart has just opened the chest containing David's body, and Brandon is explaining how they share the same philosophy.

Rick Lee said...

You make a good point about the verb forms. It's awkward with the "mic" spelling. One of the things I like about the "mic" spelling though is the lack of ambiguity about the meaning.

blake said...

Hey, you think it's bad with mikes, just imagine how it is with jacks!

Michael_H said...

I'm Mike (long i). My grandfather was called Mic (short i and short for Mickey, his given name).

Michael_H said...

Obama.

"Ich bin ein beginner."

wordsmith2 said...

"Mic" and "mike" are both correct according to the Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, 11th edition, which is one of the standard references for scholarly publishing--so "mic" is neither mere jargon nor careless usage. This means that author preference, context, and audience would be weighed in deciding which form to use.

Oligonicella said...

Webster's Unabridged --

mic , n. Informal.
a microphone.
[by shortening]


I like my etymologists to be so employed.

PatCA said...

Obama does seem like a dilettante, Victoria, or so vague that he's a cipher. I just don't get him. He acts like being president is just sort of an interesting thing to do. What is he all about anyway?

I think he has been re-educated so completely he has no real visceral connection to his country at all--which is fine, but not for someone who claims to want to be president. He really is the Citizen of the World, the One--not the one for me, though.

ron st.amant said...

Hmmm...so Ronald Reagan delegates to his cabinet, George W Bush relies on the 'smart people' advising him and conservatives throw themselves at their feet.

Obama relies on advice of policy makers (though quite firmly states he makes the ultimate decision) and he's a dilittante...

Keep feeding the meme boys and girls and your hate...don't forget to feed your hate. It is apparently what nourishes the GOP when they are wandering in the wilderness.

Richard Dolan said...

"And maybe it's time for a President with more elaborate language."

Two comments. Bush's formal speeches have been quite good, by and large. It's true that he doesn't write them, but almost no modern president ever has. Obama's public speeches -- the ones that have been written out beforehand, and unlike Bush, with a large input from O -- are rhetorically powerful but he hasn't yet been able to use his rhetorical power to advance any coherent policy positions. It's either autobiographical "we are the change we've been waiting for" stuff, or so general as to be platitudinous. Often he uses his rhetoric to distract from the weirdness of what he's saying (in have in mind particularly his first speech on the Rev Wright, but his recent speech about the fall of the Berlin wall was similar). With O, accuracy in describing past events often takes second place to whatever vapid theme of the day he is pushing. And, like Bush, he is averse ever to saying he was wrong.

Second, Obama hasn't been all that good when he doesn't have the teleprompter to keep the rhetoric flowing. His delivery and syntax are generally better than Bush's in these off-the-cuff statements, but the substance of what he says is often very strange. He relies on style to mask the basic confusion at the heart of his attempt to be all things to all people. O's statements about the surge in Iraq captured that, as does his reflexive "you haven't been listening to what I am saying" shtick. Bush trips over words and syntax, but after he is done speaking, there aren't many people who are confused about what he said or meant.

So, a president who speaks in "more elaborate language" may not be all it's cracked up to be. Are you sure you want a president who sends out confusing messages, for whom rhetoric trumps accuracy, like that?

Richard Dolan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
M. Simon said...

As the former Chief Engineer of WTAO I can assure you that the proper spelling is mic. Of course it is pronounced mike.

M. Simon said...

BTW as a former Naval Nuclear Reactor Operator I can assure you that we were called Nucs (plural) or Nuc (singular).

Biff said...

Interesting take from the Online Etymology Dictionary (I'm still going to use "mic," even if "mike" is older):

microphone-

coined from Gk. mikros "small" + phone "sound." Modern meaning dates from 1929, from use in radio broadcasting and movie recording. Earlier, "telephone transmitter" (1878) and "ear trumpet for the hard-of-hearing" (1683). Of the two spellings of the short form of the word, mike (1927) is older than mic (1961).