Obama was always a fluid if vapid speechmaker, although his off-the-cuff statements featured a lot of hemming and hawing. But I’ve noticed something that seems new: hesitancy even when he speaks from a prepared text.
Obama now seems to go off-teleprompter more often—perhaps because he’s been critiqued so much for its use—and when reading from notes on a lectern he stops and starts, as well as using a tennis-match-like repetitive back and forth movement of his head.
What’s more, Obama’s disfluencies have an odd cadence, coming at times that seem unnatural, as though he’s distracted and not even thinking about what he’s saying but rather merely reading it from a text he’s never seen before. Is he nervous? Lying? Nervous about lying? Nervous about being caught in lying? Aware that the gift he’s relied on his entire life is going or perhaps even gone, now that he needs it most?
Whatever the cause, I imagine it must be quite frightening to Obama (rather like losing your turns). He’s accustomed to having the magic touch when he speaks, and now he’s become self-conscious, watching every word. Many have remarked on his changed affect, as well; we hear descriptions such as “passionless” and “not properly engaged.”
Here’s a tape of Obama speaking about the Northwest Airlines bomber (we’re still searching for the proper name for the incident; I prefer the “BVD bomber” myself). I think you’ll be able to see what I’m talking about:
[ADDENDUM: It may be time to revisit this, which I wrote at a moment of low ebb in Obama’s campaign. And then there’s this, which if I’m not mistaken is the first piece I ever wrote about Obama. It was posted in May of 2007, and features the following observation:
]The problem is twofold. The first is that it may indicate not only a certain lack of toughness on Obama’s part, but a willingness to offer up excuses too easily. It’s okay for a Presidential candidate (or President) to be tired, but I’m not so sure he should be so eager to excuse himself on that score. I’ve often thought that, if the campaign is a grueling marathon, it’s probably a (pardon the phrase) cakewalk compared to the actual Presidency.
Just as the Presidency is not for the shy or those tortured by ambivalence, just as it requires a certain amount of narcissism (perhaps more than is healthy in ordinary life), it also requires true grit and enormous—almost superhuman—endurance. And if the President doesn’t feel up to it all the time, he/she is supposed to shut up about it and not let others see.]
[ADDENDUM II: The Anchoress has more to say on the subject, including this:
I suspect that what Obama wanted was to be the King, not the President. The King’s role is largely ceremonial. In time of national tragedy the King goes before the camera and says, “this is very sad.” If he can assign blame on a perceived enemy he does so, and then he steps aside and retires to his amusements while those actually in charge clean up the mess and determine how to prevent future messes. Everyone loves the King, defers to the King, rushes to do for the King, but the King -who tends to get bored and distracted by the dry business of actually governing- is responsible for very little, and most are just as glad of it.
And American Digest has more as well.]
[ADDENDUM III: Michelle Malkin takes note of the tiredness factor.]