George Packer writes the single most repellent piece of Obama hagiography I have ever read
Who kidnapped The New Yorker?
If Obama is the best writer-President since Lincoln, it’s not because of an extraordinary gift for language—it’s because of his breadth of experience and depth of thought.
Obama's not a "writer-President," forsooth. He's got a team of writers, and the Inaugural speech has "Committee" stamped all over it. What on earth can “bridge the meaning of those words with the realities of our time” possible mean if you actually read the words? Of course, Packer might be thinking of either of the Obama's two autobiographies, or both, but Obama wrote them before, or on the way to, becoming President.
.... "Obama is too complex, too nuanced, too elusive, and too careful, for words that stick." ...
Packer's sycophantic gobbledegook reminds me of this famous cartoon: "It's a domestic little burgundy without any breeding, but I think you'll be amused by its presumption." From when The New Yorker was The New Yorker.
But his chosen profession, politics—even politics in the highest sense—has a stiffening, at times deadening effect on Obama’s language. Politics often turns his arguments into lists, his stories into pat illustrations, his ideas into sentiments; and when something like uplift is called for, he resorts to abstractions that have no rhetorical power...
Packer performs the neat trick of making Obama not responsible for his own words.
Great political speechmaking depends on turns of phrase joined to profound ideas that answer the pressures of a historical moment. “Nothing to fear but fear itself” is rhetorically pleasing because of syntax and repetition, it’s a penetrating insight into the psychology of the Depression, and it optimistically summoned Americans to overcome their fears at the country’s darkest moment. By contrast, Obama’s second inaugural comes at an inauspicious moment for political rhetoric. A weak recovery, continued gridlock, a bunch of issues (debt, spending, health care, immigration, guns, climate, the Middle East) competing for attention—it’s a much less dramatic time than 2009, let alone 1933. Americans are no longer looking to the President for salvation or survival.
Obama can never fail. He can only be failed!
I hope Obama surprises us [in the SOTU]. I hope he throws out the kind of boilerplate that made last year’s convention speech one of the weaker ones in Charlotte. I hope that Obama the writer finds some vivid prose for the occasion; that Obama the thinker treats us like his intellectual equals, as he did in Philadelphia and Oslo; and that Obama the man allows himself the risk of deep feeling, as he did in Tucson and Newtown. Most of all, I hope Obama the politician is willing to say things that some people might not want to hear.
Words "some people might want to hear" like who and what words?
Young people who don't want to be told they'll get no decent work while being loaded with debt?
Old people who don't want to be told they'll eat their cat food and like it?
And so on.