'Worse, Somehow, That It's Written Down'

By James Fallows

So says an insightful reader, KR, about this speaker's-eye view of the event in Kentucky today:

07obama2_blog_337-blog480.jpg

On the brighter side, a reader from Texas adds this perspective:

>>"May God bless the United States of America" serves a useful purpose: It's a standard signal that the speech is over. It reminds me of the way Episcopalians normally end their prayers, even extemporaneous ones: "In Jesus' name we pray," which is the accepted cue for listeners to respond in unison, "Amen." (Without such a cue, the "Amen"s come straggling in, sounding unpleasantly ragged.)

The closing phrase also has the virtue of familiarity. As members of liturgical churches know, familiar phrasing can be comforting. That's not such a bad thing in a presidential speech.<<

I have myself evolved toward a similar Zen-like view: this is how Obama is always going to end his speeches, and once we accept that fact, we can indeed use it as a reliable liturgical cue. And another reader, from California, actually finds redemptive hope in the presence of these words on the teleprompter:

>>Apparently, it's not yet completely reflexive or Pavlovian. ("Stand in front of crowd. Speak. Wait for applause. Pander to the religious right by blessing the country.") He actually needs to be reminded to say it.

Perhaps there's still hope.<<

God save us all.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2011/05/worse-somehow-that-its-written-down/238522/