High-Class Boilerplate

Barack Obama's biggest draw is not his eloquence. When you watch an Obama speech, you lean forward and listen and think, That's good. He's compelling, I like the way he speaks. And afterward all the commentators call him "impossibly eloquent" and say "he gave me thrills and chills." But, in fact, when you go on the Internet and get a transcript of the speech and print it out and read it--that is, when you remove Mr. Obama from the words and take them on their own--you see the speech wasn't all that interesting, and was in fact high-class boilerplate. (This was not true of John F. Kennedy's speeches, for instance, which could be read seriously as part of the literature of modern American politics, or Martin Luther King's work, which was powerful absent his voice.) --Peggy Noonan

In Obama's defense, JFK was working with the likes of Ted Sorenson. Still, I think Noonan (who has always been very kind to the Illinois senator) is right: it's Obama's presence that's remarkable, but stripped to bare text, his rhetoric lacks the gravity of a Lincoln, or an FDR, or a JFK/RFK.

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