Robert Stein 1924-2014

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Monday, February 18, 2008

Obama's Words and Music

The Clinton campaign and its candidate are immune to irony. In attacking Barack Obama for "plagiarism" in using memorable phrases cited by Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick as he too defended himself against charges of excessive rhetorical brilliance, Clinton campaign adviser Howard Wolfson is missing the point in spectacular fashion.

Even after Gov. Patrick's testimony that he and Obama often exchange ideas, Wolfson insists "that the public has an expectation that Sen. Obama's words are his own."

But Wolfson's gotcha may boomerang. It isn't Obama's phrases that have carried him past Hillary Clinton in the Democratic race but the attitude and worldview they convey. It isn't Obama's words that count, it's the music.

By fastening attention on the literal, Clinton's surrogate is exhibiting exactly the kind of literal thinking that has damaged her campaign from the start. In the Clinton view, the campaign is a test, and the candidate with the most answers should win.

But it isn't. Voters want a sense of the candidate's heart, mind and spirit, the kind of test Obama is winning by making his feelings and thought processes available rather than hiding behind rote phrases like "ready from Day One" and "35 years of delivering change."

If anything, Obama is far from a talented phrase-maker. His speeches depend more on rhythms of openness and reaching out that seem to be connecting with voters of all demographics.

After all these years of Bush's mangling the English language and inverting the meaning of words, a little literacy is certainly welcome. But if Clinton and her crew keep harping on getting the words right, they will be missing the music.

2 comments:

Liza said...

The Hillary Clinton campaign is, at this point, a train wreck. i am so tired of her relentless daily attacks on Obama that I could scream.

Gee, Hillary, isn't it just too bad that your own oratory skills suck? Get over it and try to conduct yourself with something resembling dignity.

Miss Welby said...

are you for Clinton or Obama or...? I guess I know :)

I'm running a poll of American liberal bloggers on my European blog. thank you in advance for visiting and voting.

ciao!