» Apparently I’m the only person who wasn’t blown away by Obama’s victory speech. Don’t get me wrong, I am impressed with his use of rhetoric. But his speech was the Michael Bay summer blockbuster equivalent of oratory. It starts off slow, with some establishing shots, sucks you in with some sentimentality about Ann Nixon Cooper and then finishes with explosions and loud noises that don’t really serve any purpose except to titillate and incite a feeling of rapturous patriotism. And the speech was perfectly constructed to this end. But it was one of the most emotionally manipulative (though in a positive way) pieces of clap-trap I’d ever heard from a politician since Hitler. Who was also an amazingly stirring orator. I’m not comparing the two charismatic leaders’ politics, but I mean to draw a comparison between their ability to rouse the disgruntled, disenfranchised and dismayed masses with words, words and more beautiful exciting words and slogans. Hollywood and Madison Avenue are also adept at this. They’re usually selling something with high-concept doggerel that makes it sound inviting and exciting and just what you always needed. Obama is selling something too, his product is Change. That doesn’t mean anything is going to change other than people will actually believe in and expect Change to happen. And maybe he’ll deliver on his promise. But how is it going to be accomplished? And at whose expense?
He’s called on Americans to expect a period of "sacrifice." This is just one of the many loaded, meaningless/meaningful words his speeches are packed with. It’s such a high-concept word that it lacks any concrete meaning in the context of his speech. "Sacrifice" can be taken many ways. Is he asking Americans to lay down their lives in empire-building wars or just to continue putting up with hard times while things get straightened out? Or does it just sound good? That is, I think, what struck me about the speech. It sounded good. It sounded perfect. It was like a Hollywood writer’s idea of the perfect presidential speech in a movie about the best, most inspiring president ever. But it was, to quote the Bard, sound and fury signifying nothing. There was no indication of what is to come or how he’s going to achieve it. Even Hitler’s speeches contained more meat and potatoes. Or a much better comparison might be FDR and JFK. There was a time when a presidential address wasn’t just full of fuzzy rhetoric, but also contained some substance. More The Times They Are A-Changing, less All You Need Is Love.