February 21, 2016

2 old men yelling at us — it's the pop style of our time.

Over at Facebook, my son John Althouse Cohen writes:
I remember when I first saw a minute of one of Jeb Bush's speeches last year, before any of the debates, I instantly sensed that he didn't have what it takes. He stumbled over practically every sentence as if he were reading the text for the first time. I instinctively turned off the speech — it isn't fun to watch someone who seems uncomfortable and forced.

There's a reason Obama, as a candidate in 2008, got so much acclaim for his soaring speeches. No matter what you think of Obama, you can't deny the political reality that his oratorical talents mattered.
I comment:
I remember blogging the '04 convention, complaining about all the speakers, and then, when it was Obama, saying something like: Now, this is a guy I can listen to. It's funny that it's so hard to find anyone in politics that we enjoy listening to. Right now, oddly, people are enjoying listening to Trump and Sanders... old men yelling at us. It's not soaring oratory, but it's all we've got. I'm thinking we, the culture, has some responsibility for this. It's the pop style of the time.
Here's the old post of mine, from July 27, 2004:
Now here is a speaker I can stand to listen to. He's modulating his voice and he seems to have the speech memorized, so he doesn't have that awful teleprompter stare. He places some emphasis on personal responsibility.... Obama does a great job delivering the speech, even though the words of the speech are quite banal. There are many references to hope. The speech is blessedly short.
A new pop style was emerging, the one that's been superseded by angry-old-guy-yelling. I click back to see who spoke before Obama at the DNC in '04. What was the dying-out old style then?
Daschle and Mosely Braun... Mosely Braun stressed out her voice and hurt my poor ears. Can't they turn up the sound levels and coach the speakers to speak to the people watching at home in their living rooms? This speaking to the huge auditorium is quite likely to get Kerry in trouble later this week, as his manner of speaking is insufferable when he's projecting into a large room. And we all know that speaking (and screaming) to a large, noisy crowd was fatal to Dean's candidacy....
And 12 years later we seem to have a taste once again for looking on as the loud voice stirs the crowd. It's nothing you want in your living room in person, but you like the thrill, vicariously, from a distance... like a teenager lying on the carpet, listening to heavy metal through headphones.

52 comments:

traditionalguy said...

Make that three angry old men yelling at you.

dustbunny said...

We want Howard Beale! We want to open our windows and yell at everyone else!

tim in vermont said...

Now, this is a guy I can listen to.

So would you vote for Bill Bryson? It's a serious question.

Ann Althouse said...

@Tim

Listening to somebody and having him in power are 2 different matters.

We'd have better Presidents if more people kept that in mind.

Jeb was a terrible speaker, as John said. But would Jeb have done well as President? We're told he was a great Governor, but we'll never find out what he could have brought to the Presidency.

Obama's speaking ability had too much effect on voters... and on Obama himself. He/we/some of us thought that through speech he could bring people together, uplift us, cure racial divides, etc. etc. But there's a limit to what speechifying can do.

Anglelyne said...

...you can't deny the political reality that his oratorical talents mattered.

After all these years I still can't understand how anybody thinks or thought that Obama is a great orator. Maybe it's me, political speech mainly annoys me, never moves me, but seriously, Obama? Snooze-fest. I really wonder about people who found his banal rhetoric "soaring". I'm not entertained by the old men yelling, either.

BDNYC said...

Rubio is a talented orator, despite his occasional missteps (e.g., the robot thing). Maybe a bit plastic seeming. Not unlike Obama.

Trump is not yelling at us as much as Bernie. Trump does raise his voice at times but he also whispers, cackles, pantomimes, etc.

tim in vermont said...

The first time I heard Obama he scared me, because I recognized he had a great voice that would make his warmed over seventies style leftism appealing. I also knew he would be hard to beat.

MaxedOutMama said...

Trump doesn't yell very much, and Sanders rarely does either. Rubio comes off as far more intense than either of those two.

Perhaps it is President Obama's genuine oratorical skills that produced these two candidates? Obama still gets an approval bump after every big speech. We still love what he says. But so little of what he says ever makes it into the political realm!!! It's not even true that the Republicans block him - his administration rarely tries to work with Congress. In the end he turned out to be a somewhat remote head of state akin to a king, with most of the policy changes being carried forward by appointees and most of the domestic policy initiatives being conducted by executive action.

If voters are searching for a somewhat more active and accessible president, who can blame them? Our governing system has been slowly breaking down under Obama!

I suspect all the years of that soaring eloquence and our hopeful audiences have produced the yearning for authenticity that is drawing voters to "those" candidates.

It is not that they rant. It is what they say that the political establishment fears. They mean what they say, and that is perceived as ranting. Rubio doesn't mean a lot of what he says, so that is perceived as "rational".

Mind you, I personally would prefer Kasich out of the current GOP slate. But I would take Sanders over Clinton. I would take Trump over Obama. I think Obama's presidency has been bad for the country and destabilizing to our system of government.

traditionalguy said...

Smiley Faced Man Obama did bring people together. He assembled all of our enemies and snuck them into the Whitehouse to destroy us from the top down, while we were not looking past his articulateness at reading speeches off teleprompters.

samanthasmom said...

I can't stand listening to Obama. He has this sing-songy cadence thing going. Like when little kids read poetry. Da-dun, da-dun, da-dun. I always mute him and read the transcript later. It amazes me how people think he's a great orator, but then I remember he's an emperor with no clothes.

Original Mike said...

I can't stand listening to Obama anymore because after 8 years I know how disingenuous it all is, and that makes me angry. In the beginning all there was was the oratory, which was good, but now I've got the actions to hold up next to the speech and they are discordant.

AllenS said...

All kinds of people can give a good speech. It's what happens after the speech that matters. And, quite frankly, Obama ain't got it. He never could match his speeches with deeds that came close to fulfilling his speech promises. He's nothing more than an affirmative action hire that comes up short like all of the others before him. To me, that was evident the first time that I saw him, and once I looked at what he had (hadn't) accomplished the writing was on the wall. Too bad so many fell for it. Not enough people have been exposed to con artists during their protected lives, I guess.

paminwi said...

Obama is great when he has a TelePrompTer in front of him. Extemporaneously he is a stumbling, bumbling fool.

One example: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=eDJSVPAx8xc

And this was a speech that you would have he would have read before he gave it.

A compendium:https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=MyW9e5QdWxk

As you can tell I really, truly dislike Obama.

MayBee said...

There was a time- probably about this time in the 2008 election- I was quite taken with Obama. His oratory was very uplifting.
And I agree, Althouse, people were too taken with it. W43 was not a great orator, and I think our nation craved better, and imagined the right words would solve all of our problems. So we got Obama.
But the weird things was....his speech fell flat almost the second he became president. I don't know what happened, but do you remember how dull his Inaugural Address was? People were still making excuses for Obama then, and imagined he had purposefully made it dull in keeping with the serious times.

The pendulum swings again, and we have all listened to the oratory and feel like we've been told to shut up for too long, and everyone wants to hear anger I guess. It is a shame, because I think Jeb would have made a really good president.
I almost cannot believe we may get Trump as a nominee.

Oso Negro said...

Do not worry, Professor. You will soon have the dulcet tones of the she-beast to warm your media hearth. But only after much cruel neutrality and agonizing.

Birkel said...

Never mind the destructive policies. Those oratorical skills - reading words written by others - is what matters.

If I were not bothered with reality. Oh, such a wonderful world it would be.

MathMom said...

I suspect all the years of that soaring eloquence...

Sorry. I must have been asleep for eight years. I hear a buffoon who has stuff written for him, and doesn't bother to take a run at it before the lights come up.

I have tried to watch the speech at the Dem convention that brought him to public attention, but even that failed to impress me.

Now I watch him do the tennis-tournament thing with his prompters, and when they are (rarely) absent, he has to refer to his speech every 4-5 words. His pauses are getting longer, too. As he has less and less to say, he pauses longer as if allowing the dullards in his audience to process the speech. As a result, he is becoming more boring than ever.

I think he rehearsed for his early speeches, because let's face it, he's not a busy man, and had time on his hands. Now, he's still not a busy man, (White House Dossier puts up his daily schedule, and it rarely starts before 10 am and lasts more than 3-4 hours) but also, he doesn't give a shit, and just pulls it out of his butt when the time comes. He knows he will not be critically analyzed by anyone until his reign is over. He's been phoning it in for years.

sydney said...

Like a few others here, I have never understood the appeal of Obama's oratory. His cadences are all wrong for the words he delivers. I find it very annoying. Always have. I think his pattern is an attempt to mimic preachers he has heard. I recognize it from my childhood in Baptist and Church of the Nazarene churches. You can also hear it in some the street preaching recordings from the 1920's and 1930's.

Phil 3:14 said...

Maybe there was a time when we wanted to be inspired (not something I need in a President.)

Now it's a time we want someone to kick ass.

Or at least talk a big game.

MayBee said...

MathMom- I'm with you. Obama had years to practice his speeches for the 2008 election. Valerie Jarrett's hospital board hired Michelle Obama and David Axelrod, and so Obama had money and his campaign guru close by for the years leading up to the campaign. He had little else to do but rehearse for the campaign.

Phil 3:14 said...

Who will be Donald Trump's Oprah?

I assume he/she won't be crying?

Original Mike said...

"Maybe there was a time when we wanted to be inspired (not something I need in a President.)"

Me neither. I want good policies and competent execution. Couldn't care less about inspiration (or "cares about people like me").

Curious George said...

"MathMom said...
I suspect all the years of that soaring eloquence...

Sorry. I must have been asleep for eight years. I hear a buffoon who has stuff written for him, and doesn't bother to take a run at it before the lights come up.

I have tried to watch the speech at the Dem convention that brought him to public attention, but even that failed to impress me."

Maybe this will help:
“no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one.”

Charlie Currie said...

Oh, beware the silver tongued devil.

Michael K said...

"Obama is great when he has a TelePrompTer in front of him. Extemporaneously he is a stumbling, bumbling fool. "

I agree. He is an interesting example of what can happen when image is more important than performance. People worry about Trump as a sort of Mussolini figure. That is Obama. He wanted to do things driven by his ideology.

He was not interested in politics, per se. He doesn't like politicians and did not meet with Democrats, let alone Republicans. He let Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi write Obamacare with a staff of 25 year old lawyers and insurance company lobbyists. They thought they had learned from Hillary's failure to include the insurance industry. Obamacare is unworkable.

He is not very interested in governing. I just read Robert Gates' book about his time as Sec Def. He liked Obama but hated his staff. Obama made decisions but did nothing to implement them.

Gahrie said...

Right now, oddly, people are enjoying listening to Trump and Sanders... old men yelling at us.

The Germans and Italians enjoyed listening to Hitler and Mussolini.....

virgil xenophon said...

"He liked Obama but hated his staff."

Much the same could have been (and was) said about Hitler. (yes, Godwin here) Hitler was famous for his ability to make friendly small talk, was beloved by women and loved dogs. Hitler, like Obama, surrounded himself with vicious true-believers who carried out his slightest whim. The public face Hitler, Obama, and Bill Clinton all showed to their adoring public has sadly proved Lincoln wrong. Actually, all one needs do is fool enough of the people enough of the time..

I Have Misplaced My Pants said...

I can't stand to listen to any politician speak. They're all so full of shit.

I appreciate folks who are well spoken, who have nice voices and have learned to use them well and positively and inspiringly. Did Obama once upon a time do that? All I hear now is bitchy petulance and dishonest, simplistic arguments against all his enemies. It's the opposite of inspiring and it's what I despise about him the most.

Original Mike said...

Ahh, yes. Who can forget Carol Moseley Braun?

In 1998, after George Will wrote a column reviewing the allegations of corruption against her,[18] Moseley Braun responded to Will's comments, saying that "I think because he couldn't say nigger, he said corrupt,"[19] She also compared Will to a Ku Klux Klansman, saying: "I mean this very sincerely from the bottom of my heart: He can take his hood and put it back on again, as far as I'm concerned."[20] Later, Moseley Braun apologized for her remarks.[19]

CatherineM said...

"Obama is great when he has a TelePrompTer in front of him. Extemporaneously he is a stumbling, bumbling fool." With out the TelePrompTer he is all uuuuuuuuhs and uuuuuuuuuhhs. Leads him to say things like, "I believe the police....uuuuggghhh...behaved...uuuuggh...stupidly?"

The thing with Barack Obama is he "sounds" great when you first heard him. Like he might be saying "something." However, he wasn't really saying anything.

Who quotes his speeches? It is all technique. No substance.

Realize he didn't mean what he said in his "soaring" 2004 speech. He never wanted to compromise and unite. Unless this man thinks compromise and unification means proclaiming, "I won," and shutting down discussion.

Michael K said...

Peter FitzGerald defeated her in the next Senate race and then was undermined by the Illinois GOP which gave us Obama.

Meade said...

Old Yellers.

Sebastian said...

"After all these years I still can't understand how anybody thinks or thought that Obama is a great orator." Agreed.

And O stressed "personal responsibility" back then, did he? See, there's a reason why we should question the veracity of non-religious minimalist sanctimony just as much as the religious kind. That would be cruelly neutral.

buwaya puti said...

Obama certainly isn't a Mussolini.
Mussolini was vastly more talented, and a much more powerful personality than that.
Mussolini was an original, a founder, an entrepreneur of politics. His original writings fill many volumes. He figured out his own ideological system, founded his own party. He founded and ran newspapers. He also pulled himself up through his own efforts, no cursus honorum through Columbia and Harvard law. And he had excellent credentials as a patriot, having volunteered for and served a year in the trenches.
He, through his own efforts or through inspirational leadership, overthrew the Italian political system.
Whatever else he was, Mussolini wasn't just an empty suit, or an empty uniform, nor was public speaking his only talent. Grossly mistaken he was, on very many things, not least the nature of Italy, but he was a genuinely great man.
In the US today there is no-one like that, for good or ill.
They just aren't comparable.

JAORE said...

"He/we/some of us thought that through speech he could bring people together, uplift us, cure racial divides, etc. etc. But there's a limit to what speechifying can do."

Especially when your actions are the antithesis of your words.

Birkel said...

Obama never thought he could bring people together. That part was bull shit. The stuff he meant was about destroying coal and power industries. Obama told us exactly what Obama was and is.

But none of those things caused Obama to lose Althouse because cruel neutrality bull shit.

tim in vermont said...

Obama never thought he could bring people together. That part was bull shit.

I think the fool really believed it:

"You shall be my people and I shall be your Lord"

Of course he is a petulant child.

Biff said...

Old (people) yelling. On average, I think we are getting more value out of that then we are getting out of today's young people yelling on campus.

robinintn said...

"Two old men yelling at us". Bernie and Hillary?

Roger Sweeny said...

But Trump doesn't shout. He may be angry but he's no louder than, say, Jon Stewart.

In 2008, my mother-in-law had dementia, though not so bad that we kept her from voting. She liked Obama because he was such a "well-spoken young man."

(By 2012, she didn't even know that there was an election, but if she had, we would not have felt right allowing her to vote--and we easily could have done so, by simply telling her that she had already voted. Which probably would have led to the following exchange: "Who did I vote for?" "I don't know. You didn't tell us.")

MathMom said...

The thing about his speeches (his earlier ones, anyway - I just leave him muted now) is that he uses Neuro-Linguistic Programming in his speeches. NLP can be used for great good, for example, helping people overcome terrorizing experiences, such as a morbid fear of water after a near-drowning. They refer to this as "changing your history". Have you heard this anywhere before (*coughMichelleObamacough*)?

But it can be used to surreptitiously lower a person's (or a nation's) skepticism and critical thinking skills.

One of the techniques of NLP is to say three sentences that are undeniably true. In the receiver's mind, three things the speaker has said are unobjectionable. Then, the fourth sentence is said, and is accepted without critical thinking.

Example: How many times did Obama use this construct: "We are here!" (YAAAAAY!!!) "At this time!" (YAAAAAAAAY!!!!!!) "In this place!" (YAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAYYYYY!!!!!!!) This is followed the the WTF??? statement, and the loudest cheering of all. This is a form of hypnosis, and even in a crowd, the mind instead accepts the fourth statement. If he had opened with that statement, without the three agreements first, people would have heard the statement clearly and objected.

I used to study NLP for the purpose of accelerating learning, and it can certainly help a poor speller learn to spell and recall his spelling words much more easily. I have also used it in a manner that might be considered unethical, except that I used it that way on Saudi Arabian Immigration and Customs agents to get them to leave my luggage alone instead of ransacking it when entering the Magic Kingdom.

rcocean said...

Obama wasn't a good orator - its just that everyone else was so bad. McCain and Hillary can't make a good speech if their life depended on it. The same is true of Bush II and Romney. All of them were good at talking to small groups of people but oratory? Forget it.

Reagan is the only politician who's speeches I could listen to without turning off the radio/TV. His speech after the Challenger Disaster was a classic.

rcocean said...

People don't like Trump's message so they attribute a lot of bad things to him. He's not angry nor does he yell. He is passionate and can be cutting and brutal towards people he criticizes. His opponents don't like that, so he's labeled "angry" or "yelling".

Trump can also be funny. As opposed to Cruz, Rubio, Hillary, and Bernie.

zipity said...

Obama can read or regurgitate from memory a speech fairly well.

But speaking off the cuff? I would want to kill myself while listening to him string together "uh" "um" "tuh" over and over and over and over...

CatherineM said...

The time the TelePrompTer broke down at family dinner http://youtu.be/aXQTaWjMoFw

MathMom said...

CatherineM,

THAT was priceless.

R. Chatt said...

I always wondered how Obama, the inspirational orator, made this mistake: Obama Claims He's Visited 57 States

MathMom said...

R. Chatt -

You evidently haven't ever heard of the "Lower 58", huh?

mtrobertslaw said...

The authenticity of Obama's black dialect ranks right up there with Hillary's.

Iapetus said...

What Anglelyne and sydney wrote.

Over a four decade working career I listened, I estimate, to more than 10,000 public speakers and never, in all the time since 2008 when I first heard Obama speak, would I have ever ranked him in the top 9,500 for his oratory. When people describe his public speaking as "soaring," I can only shake my head and wonder what broadcast channel they are listening to that my head is not receiving.

The Godfather said...

You've probably never heard a recording or seen a video of any of Lincoln's speeches. Not your fault.

But you can read the texts. During the Senate race in Illinois, and the presidential race 2 years later, Lincoln gave hours' long addresses, standing on the courthouse steps, often after dark, while his audience stood for hours in the courthouse square listening to him. He gave thorough analyses of complex constitutional and historical issues, and people listened and understood what he was talking about. He used lofty rhetoric and Biblical references ("a house divided") that made his arguments emotionally compelling as well as logically sound. He believed that the people he was speaking to were capable of understanding the great issues of the day. No one voted for Lincoln because of the crease in his pants, or his telegenic looks, or the historic significance of this particular "first" in American politics. Not even law professors.

I don't blame the candidates that this is no longer so. I blame us the voters and the political commentators we listen to.

Gahrie said...

But you can read the texts

I teach US History, and every year we read some excerpts from Lincoln's debates with Douglass. The kids are stunned to read what Lincoln had to say about the races. I've actually had to send kids to their counselor.

It is a valuable lesson about:

a) Historical agendas. Lincoln is presented as a saint like figure, leading a crusade to free the slaves, when the reality is much more complicated. At least my kids leave knowing that preserving the union was much more important than freeing the slaves to Lincoln.

b) Historical figures are people. They aren't characters in a movie, and real life is complicated.

c) It isn't fair to judge people by today's standards, and it is much more appropriate to judge the by the standards of the time they lived in.

You should hear my lecture about the days of real air pollution, when the cities were full of horses and before sewage systems.