S/SW blog philosophy -

I credit favorite writers and public opinion makers.

A lifelong Democrat, my comments on Congress, the judiciary and the presidency are regular features.

My observations and commentary are on people and events in politics that affect the USA or the rest of the world, and stand for the interests of peace, security and justice.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

When "eloquence" is an epithet --

The last debate between the two presidential candidates, Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) and Senator John McCain (R-AZ), is over. The panels and pundits have had their say, the polls have been enumerated, and the TV replays are on the way. Since I have the floor, here are my impressions. The contrasts I see are between form and substance, between shooting from the hip and fluent expression.

Candidate form was in the eye of the "commentaria." Opinion makers looked at how the men spoke more that what each said. TV opinion posited that the difference seemed to be indicated by what was visible on viewers' split screens. There was Obama's unflappability and McCain's edgy emotional reactions of anger, disdain and dismissiveness. The initial responses of both CNN and MSNBC, as I flipped back and forth, were that Senator McCain's performance was a definite improvement, and that Senator Obama's performance was rather flat. Many thought that McCain prevailed at the beginning. He did seem to be in good form, his thoughts persuasively expressed. Many liked the way Bob Schieffer handled the moderator's role.

Candidate substance was in the eye of the "publica." After the first responses of the pundits, the instant polls and the focus group results began to emerge, the tide turned toward an apparent Obama win. It seems that the public watched the debate somewhat differently than the TV commentary community. The viewing public did not like the candidates' attacks and defenses nearly as much as the core substantive content. Approval went up when the debate focused on the issues, particularly the economy. What won the public's approval, once again was Obama's eloquence, marked by forceful and fluent expression.

Form vs. substance: The challenge that "Joe the Plumber" faces in trying to start a business became one of McCain's talking points. Obama's focus with each new theme introduced by the moderator was a specific plan, eloquently laid out. He stayed on message, while McCain was trying everything to get under Obama's skin. Once again, it became very clear that, to the very serious problems facing the people of the U.S., McCain's lack of answers, his garbled and inarticulate responses, are in stark contrast to Obama's wide-ranging and specific ideas. Eventually McCain took up the theme of Obama's "eloquence," using it over and over as a kind of disdainful epithet for deceitfulness.

The word "eloquence" was used by Senator McCain, for example, in completely dismissive comments about the issue of the "health of the woman" in Roe vs. Wade. He used it as reverse snobbery shorthand for manipulation or deceit, and it was very insulting. Senator McCain's revealing misuse of the word eloquence as an insult is a good clue to how little the man offers to a potential presidency.

With what are left? We have 19 days until the election, 95 more days of the Bush presidency, and $562,900,440,000 (and rapidly counting) money spent on the war in Iraq. We have stock markets around the world going down again. Out own lost 733 points yesterday. We have Congress campaigning, Democrats optimistic and Republicans pessimistic.

We have experienced 8 years of a rampant epidemic of "dumb." A vaccine is on the horizon, "eloquence." In its correct usage, according to Webster's Dictionary, it means "1) marked by forceful and fluent expression, 2) discourse marked by force and persuasiveness, 3) vividly or movingly expressive or revealing." The choice is clear. Go with Webster. Eloquence will never be an epithet.

View my current slide show about the Bush years -- "Millennium" -- at the bottom of this column.

(Cross-posted at The Reaction.)

My “creativity and dreaming” post today is at Making Good Mondays.

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betmo said...

i noticed that too- just like women's 'health' was a used disgustedly when talking about medical emergencies for abortion. you have made all of the same points i would have- only better my friend :)

Carol Gee said...

Thanks to you, my friend. The power of television is quite astonishing when it comes to showing character. It just comes through. I heard recently that radio audiences thought Nixon won his debate with Kennedy, but TV audiences gave the edge to Kennedy. And I don't think it was just that Nixon has a 5 o'clock shadow. He had a shadowed character.