Monday, August 4, 2008

A Sophistical Rhetorician Inebriated With The Exuberance Of His Own Verbosity

The above title is a quote of Benjamin Disraeli as he described William Gladstone and used by George Will in his column today to explain why Obama is vastly underpforming his party brand. Powerline also offers some related thoughts.

This from George Will writing in the NY Post:

As the presidential candidates enter the three-month sprint to November, Barack Obama must be wondering: If that didn't do it, what will?

"That" is his Berlin speech. "It" is assuage anxieties about his understanding of the need to supplement diplomacy with military force.

. . . But polls taken since his trip abroad don't indicate that Obama succeeded in altering the oddest aspect of this campaign: Measured against his party's surging strength, he's dramatically underperforming. Surely this is related to anxieties about his thin resume regarding national security, the thinnest of any major party nominee since Wendell Wilkie's in 1940. But it also might be related to fatigue from too much of his eloquence, which is beginning to sound formulaic and perfunctory.

Even an eloquent politician can become, as Benjamin Disraeli described William Gladstone, "a sophistical rhetorician inebriated with the exuberance of his own verbosity."

Does Obama have the sort of adviser a candidate most needs - someone sufficiently unenthralled to tell him when he has worked one pedal on the organ too much? If so, he should be told: Enough, already, with the we-are-who-we-have-been-waiting-for rhetorical cotton candy that elevates narcissism to a political philosophy.

And no more locutions such as "citizen of the world" and "global citizenship." If they meant anything in Berlin, they meant that Obama wanted Berliners to know that he is proudly cosmopolitan. Cosmopolitanism isn't, however, an asset for US presidential candidates. Least of all is it an asset for Obama, who needs to seem comfortable with America's vibrant and very un-European patriotism.

Otherwise, "citizen of the world" and "global citizenship" are, strictly speaking, nonsense. Citizenship is defined by legal and loyalty attachments to a particular political entity with a distinctive regime and culture. Neither the world nor the globe is such an entity.

. . . Sweeping changes are almost always consequences of calamities - often of wars, sometimes of people determined to "remake the world." Wise voters hanker for candidates whose principal promise is that they will do their best to muddle through without breaking too much crockery.

Read the entire article. It is a good one this week.

On a related note, Paul at Powerline has an insightful post on how Obama pointing out that Obama's reliance on rhetoric and race to win the primary is ill serving him in the general election.

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