Category Archive 'Rhetoric'

23 Aug 2015

British Political Insults

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geoffreyhowe
“Being attacked by Geoffrey Howe was like being savaged by a dead sheep.”

In June 1978, Labour chancellor of the exchequer Denis Healey was forced to defend his record in office after shadow chancellor Sir Geoffrey Howe tabled a motion which sought to reduce the chancellor’s salary by half. Healey likened his rival’s rhetorical onslaught to “being savaged by a dead sheep”. The government won the vote on the motion by only five votes.

31 examples, some excellent, from the Telegraph.

10 Apr 2014

Lamenting the Decline of San Francisco

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Since the death of George Sterling, San Francisco’s genius loci poet in his room at the Bohemian Club in 1926, people have complained that the days of that city’s wild, romanticism are over and contended that Sterling’s “cool grey city of love” has been going to hell in a handbasket.

Way back in 1964 (before the hippies had even arrived at Haight-Ashberry), John D. MacDonald’s Travis McGee reflected sadly on the city’s decline in The Quick Red Fox:

San Francisco is the most depressing city in America. The come-latelys might not think so. They may be enchanted by the steep streets up Nob and Russian and Telegraph, by the sea mystery of the Bridge over to redwood country on a foggy night, by the urban compartmentalization of Chinese, Spanish, Greek, Japanese, by the smartness of the women and the city’s iron clutch on culture. It might look just fine to the new ones.

But there are too many of us who used to love her. She was like a wild classy kook of a gal, one of those rain-walkers, laughing gray eyes, tousle of dark hair—sea misty, a lithe and lively lady, who could laugh at you or with you, and at herself when needs be. A sayer of strange and lovely things. A girl to be in love with, with love like a heady magic.

But she had lost it, boy. She used to give it away, and now she sells it to the tourists. She imitates herself. Her figure has thickened. The things she says now are mechanical and memorized. She overcharges for cynical services.

Maybe if you are from Dayton or Amarillo or Wheeling or Scranton or Camden she can look like magic to you because you have not had a chance to see what a city can be. This one had her chance to go straight and she lost it somehow, and it has been downhill for her ever since. That’s why she is so depressing to those of us who knew her when. We all know what she could have been, and we all know the lousy choice she made. She has driven away the ones who loved her best. A few keep trying. Herb Caen. A few others. But the love words have a hollow tone these days.”

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Well, folks, things have gotten a lot worse since the 1960s.

Dave Schilling and Jules Suzdaltsev have a terrific rant at Vice.com explaing why “everyone worth a damn is moving to Oakland.” And they don’t even mention the political pathologies!

2014 is slowly turning into the “Year of San Francisco.” The East Coast media in America has anointed SF as the new hub for innovation, conspicuous consumption, and comically absurd rents. New York Magazine parachuted a bunch of reporters into the Bay Area to figure out how to steal their douchebags back. The article asked “Is San Francisco New York?” No, it’s much worse. The existential crisis around San Francisco’s ascension to the heights of assholery stands in stark contrast to the fact that it is damn near unlivable for most normal people.

Read the whole thing.

24 Mar 2014

New York Doesn’t Love You

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John DeVore has a great rant expressing his love/hate relationship with the world’s financial center city which just elected a communist mayor by a 73% margin.

New York isn’t your fantasy. You’re the fantasy in New York’s imagination. One day the fever will break and every New Yorker will immediately cease to be.

If New York were a cat, it would eat your face after you collapsed in the kitchen from a heart attack.

New York is Galactus. New York is Cthulhu. New York doesn’t change; it mutates. Evolves. In two hundred years it will have a hundred thousand centipede legs and the entire mass will migrate south for the winter.

When did you think you were the center of New York’s universe? Why did you think that? Shame on you. Your Instagrams aren’t that great.

No one “wins” New York. Ha, ha.

You will lose. Everyone loses. The point is losing in the most unexpected, poignant way possible for as long as you can.

Jay Z and Beyonce are doing okay.

Struggle, motherfucker. Hustle. Fail, fail again, fail until you forget what succeeding is, and then, on your deathbed, as you’re full of rotten phlegm and regret, you can look back and crack a smile that you won a couple, and survived everything else.

Hell, maybe your kin will survive the apocalypse and sing mighty ballads of your tragic battles by a roaring bonfire.

But until then — accept that your umbrellas will turn themselves inside out. That your rent is a tumor in the guts of your bank account. Complain that you deserve a raise, that the N train never, ever, ever runs when you need it to run (and that it’s probably personal,) and that New York is a giant meat grinder extruding tons of chewed up dreams.

Complaining is the only right you have as a New Yorker. Whining is what children do. To complain is to tell the truth. People who refuse to complain, and insist on having a positive outlook, are monsters. Their optimism is a poison. If given the chance they will sell you out.

New York will kick you in the hole, but it will never stab you in the back. It will, however, stab you multiple times right in your face.

02 Jan 2014

“If.”

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Leonidas, Thermopylae monument.

Five good lines.

30 Sep 2012

“President of the Future”

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His Obamaness addresses the UN General Assembly.

Mark Steyn
tops Obama’s rhetoric with his own satirical rap.

One of the reasons why Barack Obama is regarded as the greatest orator of our age is that he’s always banging on about some other age yet to come — e.g., the Future! A future of whose contours he is remarkably certain and boundlessly confident: The future will belong to nations that invest in education because the children are our future, but the future will not belong to nations that do not invest in green-energy projects because solar-powered prompters are our future, and most of all the future will belong to people who look back at the Obama era and marvel that there was a courageous far-sighted man willing to take on the tough task of slowing the rise of the oceans because the future will belong to people on viable land masses. This futuristic shtick is a cheap’n’cheesy rhetorical device (I speak as the author of a book called “After America,” whose title is less futuristic than you might think) but it seems to play well with the impressionable Obammysoxers of the press corps.

And so it was with President Obama’s usual visionary, inspiring, historic, etc., address to the U.N. General Assembly the other day: “The future must not belong to those who bully women,” he told the world, in a reference either to Egyptian clitoridectomists or the Republican party, according to taste. “The future must not belong to those who target Coptic Christians,” he added. You mean those Muslim guys? Whoa, don’t jump to conclusions. “The future must not belong to those who slander the Prophet of Islam,” he declared, introducing to U.S. jurisprudence the novel concept of being able to slander a bloke who’s been dead for getting on a millennium and a half now. If I understand correctly the cumulative vision of the speech, the future will belong to gay feminist ecumenical Muslims. You can take that to the bank. But make no mistake, as he would say, and in fact did: “We face a choice between the promise of the future or the prisons of the past, and we cannot afford to get it wrong.” Because if we do, we could spend our future living in the prisons of the past, which we forgot to demolish in the present for breach of wheelchair-accessibility codes.

And the crowd went wild! Well, okay, they didn’t. They’re transnational bureaucrats on expense accounts, so they clapped politely, and then nipped out for a bathroom break before the president of Serbia. But, if I’d been one of the globetrotting bigwigs fortunate enough to get an invite — the prime minister of Azerbaijan, say, or the deputy tourism minister of Equatorial Guinea — I would have responded: Well, maybe the future will belong to those who empower women and don’t diss Mohammed. But maybe it’ll belong to albino midgets who wear pink thongs. Who knows? Que sera sera, whatever will be will be, the future’s not ours to see. But one thing we can say for certain is that the future will not belong to broke losers. You’re the brokest guy in the room, you’re the president of Brokistan. You’ve got to pay back $16 trillion just to get back to having nothing, nada, zip. Who the hell are you to tell us who the future’s going to belong to?

Read the whole thing.

The idea of Progress, the notion that change is good and the past is bad, is an essential ingredient of liberal pseudointellectuality.

Sure, we keep getting better gadgets as time goes by. We gloat over having personal computers and the Internet now, the way my parents used to congratulate themselves on having television and owning an automobile, and my grandparents rejoiced over indoor plumbing and electric lights. We generally live longer, too. But progress is hardly uniformly upward. As technology gets better, it seems that concomitantly the sphere of personal liberty diminishes, the volume of laws and regulations climbs skyward, material culture gets cheaper and shoddier, our music and entertainment becomes coarser, our journalism more corrupt, and the character of the typical American grows feebler and more dependent. People my age commonly watch the old black & white films on Turner Classics rather wishing we could go back and live in that terrible old-fashioned America that Barack Obama consistently condemns once again.

09 Sep 2011

Obama Gave Perhaps the Best Speech of his Presidency, and Nobody Cared

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From today’s emailed The Goldberg File by Jonah Goldberg:

Obama gave perhaps the best speech of his presidency last night and no one cares (for an excellent recap see this Taiwanese animation)..

Maybe I am alone in this, but have you ever noticed that when you watch a recording of a movie — on a DVR, DVD, Blueray whatever — and you rewind a scene or even a snippet of dialogue, it suddenly makes whatever the actor is saying seem fake? Watch Don Corleone deliver a great little 30-second speech in The Godfather and then rewind it and watch it again, and suddenly you can see that it’s an actor reciting words. The more you do it, the more fully you’re removed from the flow of the movie.

Something similar happens for political reporters who follow politicians around on the stump. Once you’ve seen a candidate give the same speech — with the same uhs and ahs, the same choked-up moments, the same comedic pauses — a dozen, two dozen times, it becomes impossible not to grow jaded and cynical about it. You may still like the politician, but the substance of what he’s saying fades into the background.

Heck, we all know that if you just say a word over and over and over and over again, it soon starts to sound funny or fake. Quick: say “sponge” twenty times fast.

That’s where we are with Obama, I think. He’s become an endlessly looped highlight reel. He says the same things, makes the same arguments, uses the same debater’s tricks, and can’t understand why he’s not getting the same reaction he got in 2007-2008.

He’s the political equivalent of an aging Vegas crooner who doesn’t understand why 25-year-old girls don’t still give him their hotel room keys when he sings “Fly Me to the Moon” the way they did when he was 50 pounds lighter and 30 years younger.

The old lines don’t work anymore either. C’mon baby, did I tell you that Warren Buffet wants his taxes raised? You’ve got to dig that.

This has always been an acute problem for Obama because his meteoric political rise had more to do with the dynamics of faddishness than they did with merit or experience. He belonged in the category of Beanie Babies and Justin Bieber more than that of Lincoln or FDR.

It must be very frustrating for Obama, because he seems to think he “delivers” when he gives a good speech. But politicians, even non-faddish ones, aren’t like baseball players, who deliver the goods when they get on base or hit a home run. If a good baseball player does the same thing he did last year or ten years ago, he’s an all-star. If a politician simply repeats what he did last year, he’s in danger of being a has-been.

Obama’s speeches get “better” in the same sense that when we talk to people who don’t speak a word of English, we think if we say things louder and slower they will suddenly understand English. Rhetorically, he talks louder and slower by simultaneously clarifying and becoming more strident in making arguments he’s made a million times before.

Meanwhile, his political operation is like the entourage who tells the crooner he’s still got it baby. Work that cowbell one more time.

I think the reason it comes across so glaringly as a performance is that Obama, for all his creased-pants Niebuhrian nuance, is stunningly unreflective about himself. His public persona is nearly always “I meant to do that.” So there was no acknowledgment that all of his “new ideas” last night weren’t new. No acknowledgement that he tried this stuff before in the stimulus. It’s just one more encore of “Fly Me to the Moon.”

I should say there have been times where he has admitted fault, but even then it comes across badly. His admissions that “shovel-ready” wasn’t shovel-ready (which should have been a scandal) either took the form of a condescending giggle or a report of fact that he assumed everyone else would be surprised by, too. He discovered that “shovel-ready” was b.s., and rather than report this as confirmation that Obama was outrageously learning on the job, the media acted like the man had confirmed the existence of an heretofore unknown atomic particle. Of course we can forgive you for not knowing shovel ready jobs don’t exist, the NY Times crowd seemed to say, because we thought they existed too!

All of the other times he’s admitted failure, it’s been a kind of humble brag. After Scott Brown’s election and again after the 2010 “shellacking,” he explained his biggest failure was that he, in effect, hadn’t sang “Fly Me To The Moon” louder and better with accompanying cowbell. In other words (heh), if only he gave people more Obama, everything would be better. It reminds me of the Campbell Scott character in Singles who thinks if he can just explain that his idea for commuter rail involves providing commuters a really, really good cup of coffee, everyone will understand the genius of his boondoggle.

Yes, I know Obama is trying to “trap” the GOP, and his advisers are moving little pewter toy-soldier versions of Boehner and Cantor on giant maps in the West Wing playroom. But at its core, last night’s speech was built around the assumption that all that separates Obama from a second term and greatness is one more really good speech, when the truth is that all that separates Obama from a second term and greatness is Obama.

15 Apr 2011

Obama’s Budget Speech, Re-examined

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James Taranto has a rational explanation for the lies and stupidity.

Why did Obama give this appalling speech? A pair of articles give a partial answer. The first one appeared at TheHill.com early yesterday morning, before the speech:

    Anxiety over President Obama’s shift to the political center is threatening to alienate the White House’s liberal base. . . .

    The concerns have surfaced after the White House rankled lawmakers on the left by agreeing to a 2011 spending bill that slashes funding for a number of programs long favored by Democrats and embracing a controversial trade agreement with Colombia. . . .

    The criticisms highlight the problem facing Obama, who is trying to lead from the center without alienating his political base. The White House strategy could help the president with independents, but risks leaving liberals at home in the fall of 2012.

The second, by Salon.com’s Joan Walsh, was a glowing review of the speech:

    The president came out fighting with firmness, and with a rhetoric of social justice and equality, that I haven’t seen enough of these last two years. . . . That’s the president I voted for. . . . After the speech, pundits called it the opening salvo of the Obama 2012 reelection campaign, as though there was something wrong with that. If these are the founding principles of the president’s 2012 campaign, Democrats and the country will be better off than we’ve been in a while.

Mickey Kaus notes that “Obama tends to defend the welfare state in ineffective paleolib terms. It’s mostly ‘compassion’ and taking “responsibility for . . . each other,’ whether we work or not.” It seems to us, though, that the speech was meant for the left, not the center, and paleolib terms are effective with a paleolib audience.

The optimistic reading of this speech is the cynical one: Obama knows he is going to have to compromise with congressional Republicans and is buying himself some goodwill with the base. If he was speaking from the heart, though, we’re in for a long 2012, though his may be even longer.

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Ann Althouse says exactly the same thing, more colorfully and succinctly, by quoting (and glossing) Rush Limbaugh:

“That’s what they love. That’s what they get off on. That’s their orgasm.”

“They” = the “walking human debris… those savages that make up the Obama base.”

“What they get off on” = Obama’s attack on conservatives.

He was just blowing smoke to keep the moonbat base home on the ranch while he tries to make a deal. The natives had been getting noticably restless at the idea that the welfare state is over, so Barack was just singing the lullaby they love to hear to put them back to sleep. “Compassion versus greed…. millionaires and billionaires… repeal the Bush tax cuts…”

26 Jan 2011

That State of the Union Address

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Barack Obama’s 2011 SOTU address text.

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Jeff Goldstein provides a handy glossary of Obamaspeak:

1. “Investment” = “government spending”
2. “civility” = “now shut up, you bitter-clinging racists. …
3. “competition” = “See? I’m all for capitalism, provided I can control the outcome, and get mine in return. So, for instance, it’s cool with me if, say, GE gets rich breaking into the Chinese market, provided they know who is buttering their bread, politically speaking. And make with the campaign cash!”
4. “Deficit reduction” = “increasing your taxes.

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Ross Douthat marvels a bit.

[I]t was… striking that in an address organized around the theme of American competitiveness, which ran to almost 7,000 words and lasted for an hour, the president spent almost as much time talking about solar power as he did about the roots of the nation’s fiscal crisis.

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Ralph Reed, at National Review, described Obama as channeling Bill Clinton.

Watching Pres. Barack Obama’s State of the Union address, it was hard not to close one’s eyes and hear the voice of Bill Clinton. The only thing missing was: “The era of big government is over.” Had Obama used those words, he would have had to pay royalties to Dick Morris, who actually wrote the line, and whose participation was hidden at the time from the White House staff by Clinton.

Obama is in the midst of his own Clintonian shift to the middle: extending the Bush tax cuts, replacing Rahm Emanuel with Bill Daley, and replacing virtually his entire economic team. Unlike Clinton, he has made no attempt to hide his outreach to a new crop of outside advisers, including Bill Clinton himself and former Bush campaign adviser Matthew Dowd. It is head-snapping.

The result was a State of the Union speech so filled with cognitive dissonance as to be incoherent. Self-contradiction abounded. We must reform Social Security, Obama declared, but not reduce benefits for future retirees or expose them to the vicissitudes of the stock market. That pretty much removes 80 percent of a potential compromise on entitlement reform from the table. We must reduce government spending — but increase “investments” in education, energy, and infrastructure by tens of billions of dollars. We must finish what we started in Iraq and Afghanistan — but bring all the troops home as soon as possible. That Obama could deliver these words with such apparent conviction is a testament to his political skills, but an indictment of his leadership. His only north star is himself. As one adviser told New York magazine in an unintentionally revealing observation, “He wants to be Barack Obama again.” Which leaves one wondering: Who has he been for the past two years?

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As usual, Ann Althouse provides the best snark.


    At stake right now is not who wins the next election – after all, we just had an election.

Ha. What a lie! The next election is completely at stake. As for the last election, some of us think it was really important. But you’re saying: Eh, it’s over. Let’s turn away from electoral politics. But we know damned well you’re working on 2012, and your opponents want some attention paid to what just happened last November. …

    Many people watching tonight can probably remember a time when finding a good job meant showing up at a nearby factory or a business downtown. You didn’t always need a degree, and your competition was pretty much limited to your neighbors. If you worked hard, chances are you’d have a job for life, with a decent paycheck, good benefits, and the occasional promotion….

When was that true? Who is he talking about? I’m 60 and I don’t remember that ever being true.

    That world has changed. And for many, the change has been painful. I’ve seen it in the shuttered windows of once booming factories, and the vacant storefronts of once busy Main Streets. I’ve heard it in the frustrations of Americans who’ve seen their paychecks dwindle or their jobs disappear – proud men and women who feel like the rules have been changed in the middle of the game….

Proud… and bitter, clinging to their guns and religion.

    What we can do – what America does better than anyone – is spark the creativity and imagination of our people. We are the nation that put cars in driveways and computers in offices; the nation of Edison and the Wright brothers; of Google and Facebook….

Edison? Can I have my incandescent light bulbs back? …

    Now, I’ve heard rumors that a few of you have some concerns about the new health care law. So let me be the first to say that anything can be improved. If you have ideas about how to improve this law by making care better or more affordable, I am eager to work with you. We can start right now by correcting a flaw in the legislation that has placed an unnecessary bookkeeping burden on small businesses.

    What I’m not willing to do is go back to the days when insurance companies could deny someone coverage because of a pre-existing condition.

He’ll work together with Republicans, but only if they offer little tweaks to the big overhaul he rammed through, with no consideration for their opinion, when they didn’t hold the seats in Congress.

16 Jan 2011

Obama’s Adroit Rhetoric

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Byron York observes that Barack Obama has managed, in his Tucson speech, to succeed in having it both ways.

Pundits and politicians alike praised President Obama’s speech at the Tucson memorial service last Wednesday. “A wonderful speech,” wrote the New York Times’ David Brooks. “A magnificent performance,” wrote National Review’s Rich Lowry. “A terrific speech,” wrote Sen. John McCain.

And those were just the voices on the right.

Obama’s tribute to the victims of the shooting and the heroism of bystanders was appreciated by everyone. But many conservatives particularly admired the speech because the president took care to say, in clear terms, that political rhetoric did not cause the violence in Tucson. “It did not,” Obama said flatly. After days during which prominent voices on the Left — by and large Obama supporters — blamed the Right for inciting the violence, the president’s words were a welcome change.

But how could he have said otherwise? By the time Obama spoke, there was irrefutable evidence that shooting suspect Jared Loughner was deeply mentally ill and acted out of no recognizable political agenda. Obama simply could not have made the case that Loughner’s acts were in any way the product of political rhetoric from right or left.

He didn’t need to. The point Obama wanted to make was not that political rhetoric caused the violence but that such rhetoric — like, for example, criticism directed at Barack Obama — should be toned down. So even as he conceded that rhetoric did not cause the violence, Obama argued that it should be muted anyway. And he cloaked his appeal in so much emotionalism, in so many tear-jerking references to the recently departed, that some in his audience might not have noticed he was making the political point he wanted to make all along. …

Some Democratic strategists hope Obama can capitalize on Tucson the way Bill Clinton capitalized on Oklahoma City. Perhaps he’ll be able to, and perhaps he won’t. But he’s already trying.

Substantively, the left has lost the “civility” debate, but the low-quality mainstream media goes right ahead talking about “a change in political rhetoric in response to the Tucson tragedy” as if they’d won.

04 Jun 2009

Huh?

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Erick Erickson notes that the essence of the Obama oratorical style is having it both ways, and wonders how everyone avoids noticing the obvious contradictions, like this one.

Take this one section of his speech to Muslims.

Here is sentence one.

    No single nation should pick and choose which nations hold nuclear weapons.

Now, here is the sentence that immediately follows that one:

    That is why I strongly reaffirmed America’s commitment to seek a world in which no nations hold nuclear weapons.
    23 May 2009

    President Above-It-All

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    “In my long experience in Washington, few matters have inspired so much contrived indignation and phony moralizing as the interrogation methods applied to a few captured terrorists.”

    –Dick Cheney

    Rich Lowry hits Obama’s nail right on the head.

    Put Barack Obama in front of a Tele PrompTer and one thing is certain — he’ll make himself appear the most reasonable person in the room.

    Rhetorically, he is in the middle of any debate, perpetually surrounded by finger-pointing extremists who can’t get over their reflexive combativeness and ideological fixations to acknowledge his surpassing thoughtfulness and grace. …

    It’s natural, then, that his speech at the National Archives on national security should superficially sound soothing, reasonable and even a little put upon (oh, what President Obama has to endure from all those finger-pointing extremists).

    But beneath its surface, the speech — given heavy play in the press as an implicit debate with former Vice President Dick Cheney, who spoke on the same topic at a different venue immediately afterward — revealed something else: a president who has great difficulty admitting error; who can’t discuss the position of his opponents without resorting to rank caricature, and who adopts an off-putting pose of above-it-all righteousness.

    Read the whole thing.

    24 Jul 2008

    Obombing in Berlin

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    To read orgasmic accounts of leftwing emotional reactions (and leg spasms) to the rhetoric of Barack Obama, you’d think that we are living in the time of a great speaker, of another Churchill, another Lincoln.

    The reality is that Obama possesses a good announcer’s voice, and can read from a teleprompter with appropriate emphases. I don’t suppose he writes all his own speeches, but he is responsible, in any case, for their content, or rather for the characteristic absence of any meaningful variety of the same.

    The standard Obama speech is simply an extended litany of conventional liberal bromides, organized around the central prop of some historical event intended to shed borrowed glory upon the farrago of nonsense passing by in circles like the parade of elephants and clowns under a circus tent.

    In Berlin, Obama used the Berlin airlift as his borrowed lamp, and Ann Althouse is not alone in finding more than a little irony in the invocation.

    I guess we’re not supposed to think about how Obama wanted and still wants to give up on the Iraq war. Surely, if he’d been there in 1948, he would have said the Berlin airlift is hopeless. He thought the surge was hopeless.

    My own favorite bit of inadvertent hilarity occurred as the great man arrived at his peroration, i.e., the portion of the speech where he sums up his conclusions. Having previously described himself as both an American citizen and a citizen of the world (though not a citizen of Kenya, which he might have mentioned, too), Obama revisited the original duality.

    People of Berlin – people of the world – this is our moment. This is our time.

    How can anyone not be moved to mirth by this classic piece of Obama thought? Whose time is it? Everybody’s. What do we do with it? Elect Obama.

    I can picture Gilbert & Sullivan’s Gondolieri singing: If everybody’s is this time, then our time is nobody’s.


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