May 02, 2003

Eloquence isn't just speaking well...

…it’s having something to say, and believing in it.

Judging Bush - Early on in this piece I got to the following sentence:

It is not too early in the Bush presidency to speculate about how he will be judged by the standards we have traditionally used to evaluate our political leadership.

...and almost stopped reading. One of my major gripes is confusing journalism with history. One has a perspective of a week, maybe a month. The other has one of decades, sometimes centuries. (At least in America.) The phrase "journalism is the first draft of history" sounds nice but it doesn't really mean anything. Of course there are going to be ideas first expounded by journalists that are picked up and expanded by historians. But that conveniently leaves out the thousand other short-sighted and headline-grabbing other ideas journalists sometimes use to ply their trade. (Don't get the idea that I dislike journalists. Far from it: I have a huge amount of respect for what they do.)

I'm glad I kept reading though, because despite couching the article in this forward/looking backward idea, he builds up to the following, well worth quoting at length:

President Bush's neglect of the tutorial function of the presidency helps explain his much-noted lack of eloquence. Mispronunciations and Texas speech patterns have nothing to do with Bush's failings in the realm of words. The president cannot speak to a deeper need unrecognized by his fellow Americans because the only need recognized by his political philosophy is self-interest narrowly understood. Fully cognizant of how ignoble his objectives would appear if stated in truthful terms, he therefore has little choice but to obfuscate, and obfuscation can never be transformed into eloquence. If the president's speeches so often fail to move, it is because he has not offered anything worth moving for; you simply do not rise to the heights of greatness by calling for the elimination of taxes on dividends. The wealthy he wishes to reward are too interested in lining their pockets to care whether angels, better or otherwise, are watching what they do.
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