Tom Shales did a rhetorical evaluation of the Democratic presidential debate held in Ohio Tuesday night. What is noteworthy — to me, at least — is this observation:
It would seem certain that viewers who watched the debate and asked themselves which candidate they would rather listen to for the next four or eight years — holding news conferences, giving speeches and doing fireside chats from the Oval Office — would choose Obama purely on matters of speaking technique, eloquence and charisma. He is the most charismatic figure on the national political front since Ronald Reagan and is nearly as effective on television — a great, if not “The Great,” communicator.
I must agree with this observation. Whenever I close my eyes and imagine listening to a President Hilary Clinton give a State of the Union address, what I hear is a lecture by a high school principal or someone’s feminist-leaning ex-wife. When I do the same thing with a President Barack Obama, what I hear is… a President of the United States.
In the world of rhetoric — which is the bread and butter of politicking, no? — how you say your message is as important, if not *more* important, as what you say. Sure Logos (logical reasoning and evidence) is the core of any good argumentive/ persuasive speech. But Pathos (emotion) and Ethos (ethical character) are the two things that keep your audience from turning away, that keep your audience listening. And between Clinton and Obama, Obama is the better communicator when it comes to negotiating those three parts in anything that he says.
That is likely the reason for Obama’s increasing appeal, especially to GenXers and independents (both categories of which I belong).
But I must say, after eight years of “Bushisms,” I’m looking forward to anybody in the Oval Office who doesn’t butcher the English language. 🙂