Friday, January 21, 2005

Inauguration Comments
Lileks apparently had a reaction to the inauguration that's closely related to a discussion I had last night. He says "I'd heard the speech earlier in the day, so I didn't pay attention to the rerun. And I suppose some will say it's just a rerun in the first place - blah blah freedom, blah blah tyranny, etc. I found it striking, but I suppose you'd expect I would."

A friend of mine said "A good speech is a good speech," implying that her impression of Bush yesterday was negative. And I think on some level she's right that one can tell a good or bad speech regardless of content. But that level, more specifically, is the charisma of the speaker.

I read the inauguration speech before I saw the video. In text, I think it was a very well-written piece—though it doesn't add much to the national debate, or to predictions regarding the second administration's likelihood of success. In the performed version, however, it's easy to see Bush's shortcomings as a public speaker (though one must also admit his vast improvement over four years ago). I compare this to a speech given by Clinton when he visited Yale several years ago.

After the speech, everyone who saw it—regardless of party affiliation—swooned over what a great speech it was. So, out of curiousity, I found a text of the speech. Reading it, I quickly discovered that he had said absolutely nothing, and that it wasn't even very well-written nothing.

So, in conclusion, I think there are different parts of rhetoric, and depending upon which piece one focuses on, one can judge the same speech in completely different ways. Basically, even the best speeches can be destroyed by a bad speaker, and even the worst speeches can be saved by a good one. In the case of this inaugural address, Bush falls in the middle-to-bad category, and his speech falls in the middle-to-good category.

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