November 10, 2009

What word frequently found in profusion in Obama's speeches is entirely absent from his Fort Hood speech?

I.

Also missing: me, my, mine.

I heard the criticism — from my husband Meade who is reading the speech alongside me — that the Fort Hood speech needed another draft, because there was too much use of the passive voice. I suspected that a special effort had been made to eliminate the first person singular. Obama is often criticized for using the word "I" too much. There are Obama critics who will count the word "I" in speeches and triumphantly announce the number. This criticism is a bit superficial. More significant is the way Obama speaks as if everything is all about him. Just this morning, I just knocked him for exactly that. Whoever wrote the Fort Hood speech must have been hyperfocused on protecting Obama from the usual criticisms. Appropriately so. It was a memorial for the dead. It would have been especially embarrassing for Obama's personal egotism to show on this occasion. But the intense effort to avoid it shows. He could afford to avoid it less conspicuously, and he ought to avoid it more consistently.

IN THE COMMENTS: With a fine eye for detail, Brian noted:
There was one self-referential moment. At Fort Hood he says: "You may remember the stories of a grandfather who marched across Europe..."
At 2004 Dem convention he said: "The day after Pearl Harbor my grandfather signed up for duty; joined Patton’s army, marched across Europe."
Ah! Truly, someone went over this speech very carefully to scrub it of the first-person singular.

51 comments:

David said...

"But the intense effort to avoid it shows. He could afford to avoid it less conspicuously, and he ought to avoid it more consistently."

Obama lovers might object by saying "he can't win" under this analysis. Maybe. But I think it's a product of his aloofness, his emotional detachment. He reads a speech very well but seems emotionally disconnected. Reagan and Clinton (and George E. Bush for those who did not hate him) could project themselves into the speech without using the first person pronoun. Obama can't.

m00se said...

He might be finding finally that being president is more a responsiblity demanding gravity than a celebration of his specialness...

David said...

That would be George W. Bush. George E. can't speak worth a damn.

Alex said...

Monty to denounce Althouse for Obama-bashing in 5...4...3...2...1... *PLONK* *flush*

kimsch said...

I was somewhat pleasantly surprised by the speech. The absence of self references was conspicuous. I was almost proud of him.

wv: clund

HelenParr said...

Toby Keith performs Obama's personal anthem.

bagoh20 said...

The President has lowered expectations so low for people not enamored with him that many of them have been praising this speech today because it was not typical Obama. I welcome that from him, but we all know it is not really what he is about. It's damage control.

The poor performance to date and accompanying low expectations is going to work for him eventually. Small success in either foreign policy or the economy will be widely praised.

This is the story of his life. He performs adequately occasionally and is Peter Principled ahead for exceeding expectations. Then, he performs poorly or not at all and repeats the process. He is the most successful person ever at this.

The promotion after becoming a President is to be judged a good one. This will be his toughest sham, but as always, he will have many that help him along.

But the kid did give a good speech today.

Maguro said...

Just a few short days ago, few would have foreseen an Obama speech without a self-reference.

Brazilian Samba Rhythm said...

Ahhh.... so not being conspicuous about what you accuse him of is what counts. What you actually accuse him of does not!

Image is everything. Thirst is nothing.

Unless we're talking about the thirst for image.

miller said...

Sorry, but I cannot listen to the man. I have found him to be insincere, and no longer want anything to do with what he says, because what he says shifts with the wind.

Youngblood said...

I watched the speech this afternoon and I thought that he did a wonderful job. Far better than any other speech I've heard him give, including his vastly overrated campaign speeches.

I'm no fan of Obama. I do not agree with him politically or philosophically, and I am not happy about the direction he seeks to take the country in. However, this particular speech was excellent and his visit and words were obviously appreciated by those most directly impacted by this latest act of terrorism.

Larry Sheldon said...

I realize that I am on hostile ground here, given who supported whom, but I will just say that in reading the Berlin Wall message it looked to me like some serious effort had been made to clean up his act.

In that case, if the surrounding stuff (why didn't he go, why didn't give Reagan full credit, what's with the lights, and some others, the "I" reference was actually coupled with a reference to the female leader of Germany and as an indication of how far we have come, that was a pretty powerful thing.

It is a shame that so much else has been wrong that he doesn't get any credit.

The Ft. Hood speech reads like a pretty good job.

chuck said...

...he ought to avoid it more consistently.

I would prefer that he just be himself. Truth in advertising and all that.

Palladian said...

I'm guessing that 20 something slacker who plays video games all night and sleeps all day didn't write this one. What was that guy's name?

Me, I'm almost never impressed by speeches. Speeches? It seems so old fashioned. Shakespeare, Churchill, Lincoln, those are some impressive speeches. But pretty words change nothing in this instance. A speech is just the tear-jerker ending to the tele-political spectacle version of what Hasan did at Ft Hood.

The problem is not saying I/me/mine all the time, the problem is saying anything all the time. Enough with the speeches. Shut up for a while and read an economics textbook or the Constitution. Go on a date with your wife and your retinue. We'll gladly foot the bill if it keeps you out of trouble and out of our faces. Politicians of all parties would benefit from listening to their constituents rather than talking all the time.

MadisonMan said...

Welcome back Palladian!

Althouse, you need a Damned it you do, Damned if you don't tag. But something shorter/pithier than that.

Big Mike said...

Hopefully the speech is the culmination of people explaining to his lordship that the sun does not rise and set on him alone.

David said...

Palladian?

Lem said...

What was that guy's name?

Jon Favreau

rhhardin said...

Self reference in Latin.

Lem said...

Palladian and Vic..

What does this mean?

Headless Blogger said...

Also missing: Islam.

The one time it is actually relevant to the subject of an Obama speech, it gets left out.

tjl said...

"The problem is not saying I/me/mine all the time, the problem is saying anything all the time"

We're actually better off the more O does his I/me/mine. At least then we're getting full disclosure of his priorities.

HelenParr said...

Lem: Two horsemen of the apocalypse? Now you only need two more...

HelenParr said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Meade said...

"Politicians of all parties would benefit from listening to their constituents rather than talking all the time."

Gets my vote.

Gabriel Hanna said...

Fine speeches are just political cover for his intended lack of action.

He comes from people, and is speaking to people, who think talking is an end in itself.

MadisonMan said...

You mean he didn't say Let me be clear?

Good.

traditionalguy said...

It was a good speech. The mixture problem is raising its head here. He delivers good speeches written for him, which makes us listen to his speeches. Then he lies about everything except his name in a speech on Nationalising the health industry. So you determine not to listen anymore...but then he reads another good speech. Shall we accept his lies to get the good parts, or shall we reject the good parts to avoid his lies? Let's elect a whole person next time.

Kansas City said...

It was a very good speech and an appropriate speech. It was great that he did not refer to himself. I was starting to think he could not avoid doing it. It was probably the first time that I favorably looked upon him as our president. I hope he continues to keep the personal references out of his speeches (but I doubt it).

His delivery was probably only about a B. He did not seem to have a significant emotional attachment to what he was saying, but the words were very good and in some places excellent. It made me both proud of the soldiers who died, and proud to be an American, which is almost never the case with an Obama speech. He actually praised the military for bringing freedom to Iraq and Afghanistan.

Although this speech possibly was not the time to start doing it, I wish he would repeatedly include in his speeches the fact that we are fighting with Muslims to protect Muslims, to counter the fabrication that we are in a war against Islam.

miller said...

traditionalguy, my feelings exactly.

I think he is simply irrelevant.

Sure, he holds the office of President and he can do real harm.

But I simply refuse to listen to him or think his viewpoints are valid.

He's a liar and a fool, and depends upon what others write for him to determine what he will say.

That's not a man. That's just a shadow.

Randy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
OldGrouchy Doug Wright said...

President Obama might have finally understood what it meant to be the president and to be a leader today! His Fort Hood speech was first rate, worthy of a president.

Randy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
JAL said...

Did he hire Peggy Noonan?

Jerry said...

"Just this morning, I just knocked him for exactly that." And, of course, I, President of the United States and I, Ann Althouse, ur, blogger, have a peer-to-peer relationship so I'm sure he took your censure very poorly indeed. Not to mention, it's an ugly sentence. Too many "justs" for my taste

Just Lurking said...

I Me Mine, The Beatles

Bit of trivia From Wikipedia:
Quoted from Harrison: "'I Me Mine' is the ego problem." The set of pronouns which forms the song's title is a conventional way of referring to the ego in a Hindu context. For example, the Bhagavad Gita 2:71-72 can be translated as "They are forever free who renounce all selfish desires and break away from the ego-cage of "I," "me," and "mine" to be united with the Lord. This is the supreme state. Attain to this, and pass from death to immortality."

Perhaps unconsciously, the song also reflects Harrison's reaction to the clashes of egos in the Beatles' painful closing days as a group.


Am I the only one who had never heard of this song until The Beatles Rock Band game?

PatCA said...

Obama just might find something interesting or presidential if forced to stop referencing himself all the time.

miller said...

"Some of the people here who say that they, too, honor the sacrifices of of our men and women in uniform, have demonstrated that, in truth, partisanship comes first. "

Please name names. Otherwise it's simply a vapidity.

SteveR said...

At some point, very early on when I started watching him, I could not avoid the monotonous teleprompter pattern. The words turned into Charlie Brown's teacher.

Montagne Montaigne said...

Way to get my goat, Anne. You couldn't have left it at the one post saying you liked the speech? You had to come up with some extra bullshit to say about it?

"Whoever wrote the Fort Hood speech must have been hyperfocused on protecting Obama from the usual criticisms."

Bullshit.

"Obama is often criticized for using the word "I" too much."

By YOU. Other, more rational people have easily disproven this 'criticism,' which has no basis in reality. All you would have to do is compare the number of I's relative to other speeches and speakers. And voila, the criticism turns out to be BULLSHIT.

Beth said...

It's like I'm watching Althouse asking Obama to move the couch.

Just a little more to the right. There, under the window.

No, left. Just a bit. No, that's too conspicuous. Right again - oops, too much.

Sigh. It needs to look effortless. Can you move that end, just a bit, again?

Beth said...

Oh, hi, Palladian!

vbspurs said...

Having to make sure this occasion didn't sound like he was infusing himself into it is bizarre, unless you are aware that normally he does. The fact that it was a funeral is not the point. There are other occasions where it is also inappropriate to inflect yourself into the situation -- but they could care less about tone then.

The point is that they had to hyperfocus, as Ann phrased it, NOT to include I, me in the speech. That means his speech writers don't give a damn and let 'er rip in all his other speeches.

Cheers,
Victoria

vbspurs said...

wv: alergy! I'm allergic to Obama's elegy. :)

Brian said...

There was one self-referential moment. At Fort Hood he says:" You may remember the stories of a grandfather who marched across Europe..."

At 2004 Dem convention he said: "The day after Pearl Harbor my grandfather signed up for duty; joined Patton’s army, marched across Europe."

MadisonMan said...

Beth, that is a perfect metaphor.

Salamandyr said...

Palladian, you were missed.

Randy said...

Beth, that is a perfect metaphor.

I agree with you, Madison Man.

Meade said...

An even more perfect metaphor would be asking Obama's speechwriters to move the couch one more time.

While Obama continues to lounge on it.

phosphorious said...

"But the intense effort to avoid it shows. He could afford to avoid it less conspicuously"

Usually he uses TOO MUCH. Today he didn't use it ENOUGH.

Once agin, in the word of Althouse, everything he does is the worst thing he could have done.

jeff said...

"And, of course, I, President of the United States and I, Ann Althouse, ur, blogger, have a peer-to-peer relationship so I'm sure he took your censure very poorly indeed."

Were you somehow under the impression we live in a monarchy?

I see Montagne and phosphorious continue to read things that are not there.