A Much Better Oval Office Speech Than the First One

By James Fallows

Back in June, I thought that President Obama's first speech from the Oval Office, about the BP oil spill, was his first significant under-performance as an orator. Content not up to the occasion; stage presence detracting from rather than bolstering the message.

More details tomorrow, but Instant Analysis of tonight's address is: a better job on all fronts. A speech that in its content and line-by-line phrasing clearly conveyed its message. (Turning the page; now let's look to the next set of problems; even an oblique nod to William James at the end, with the exhortation that the public now had to match the commitment and bravery of the troops.) And bearing that backed up the sobriety of the content. Tiny but important performance detail: Obama's noticeable hands, which had been flying all over the place in his first address, were interlaced and immobile throughout.

I don't know how many people were watching or whether this will change any minds. But as a performance, clearly it helped rather hurt.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2010/08/a-much-better-oval-office-speech-than-the-first-one/62336/