OKAY, first the quick points:
Generally good, to the point and effective.
- The setting before an audience of government and military people (not from the Oval office) gave the speech a bit of a stilted, phony quality.
- What’s the point of having an audience if they are told not to react or applaud until the end of the speech?
- Obama can be a great public speaker, but he’s made so many addresses as president that he sometimes comes off as not completely relaxed, almost “going through the motions”. He needs an audience, a real one.
- The podium they were using for the president sort of acted like a drum when he put his hands on it to make a point. Boom. Boom. Boom. Not terribly loud, but if you were listening closely, a distraction.
- The speech was clearly too long. Twenty minutes is enough. 30 plus minutes exceeded the patience of the American public and, to this point, the gravity of the situation. This is not WWII or the invasion of Iraq. This is a bombing campaign to try to set things up to allow the rebels to win in Libya. Keep it short.
BEST POINT OF THE SPEECH: Obama throws the rhetorical weight of the United States behind the movement for freedom, individual rights and human dignity in the middle east. This would never have happened under a Republican president and certainly not under G.W. Bush, who would have waited until the whole thing would be over and done before giving any encouraging words.
NEXT BEST POINT:
The Prez talked about the American revolution and our historical tradition in saying that we should be prepared to stand with those in the middle east who want freedom and dignity. These words would not have been spoken by a Republican president, beyond a doubt. I don’t ever recall a Republican president ever talking about our revolution, except on or near the 4th of July.
The words of this president, representing to many around the world the face of an previously oppressed people in America, carry more gravitas than others who came before him. By saying that we are on the side of change, and are willing to stand up and be counted, millions in the middle east are likely to take a measure of inspiration from Obama’s remarks. These statements might be coming late in the game, but the game, oh yes, the game is still on. Very much so.
The only obvious error I noticed in the speech was one of wishful thinking: Obama said the movements for freedom are being led by the young. This is not entirely true. The movements we have seen generally cut across generational, educational and income lines. They are movements of the rich and poor and the well educated and the barely literate, but, clearly in Egypt, younger people (under 40) played the dominant role in encouraging them and keeping them going. Just because many were in their 20s we should not conclude that this is a youth led effort
It will take some time before we know with certainty whether this is truly a youth movement or one orchestrated behind the scenes by other elements of Arab societies. Revolution is the proper business of the young, but idealizing or romanticizing what is happening in the Arab world serves little purpose, save trying to align the idea of the younger than others Obama-corps with change in the middle east.
Doug Terry, 3.29.11