The Ignorance of the Right–And Clinton Supporters

Andrew Sullivan is fed up with conservative attacks on Obama which falsely claim that there is not enough substance to his plans. Of course this also applies to the similar attacks on Obama from Clinton supporters:

Now the reason I balk at this is that I actually sat through a long Obama speech on taxes last year in Washington. I couldn’t get through the details there were so many. It bored the pants off me. The notion that Obama has not released details and specifics on economic policy is a fantasy. It’s a product of pundit laziness. The cocoon right seems to believe that because they haven’t done their homework, Obama hasn’t.

And because Obama actually inspires with oratory, they also assume he doesn’t have substance. The premise is that you cannot be inspiring and detailed at the same time. Two words: Why not?

What people fail to understand is that in politics, words are also substance.  The ability to inspire people is not inherently a dangerous phenomenon. It is sometimes critical to effective governance. Conservatives used to understand this. Perhaps Churchill’s greatest actual weapon was the English language. It did things no bureaucrat, soldier, armament, or policy could do. The core of Ronald Reagan’s success was his rhetorical ability to reach over the heads of the Washington process to the people who can force Washington to change: the American people. And I don’t recall conservatives decrying the rhetoric of hope reacting to George W. Bush’s inspired speeches after 9/11.

For the most part I agree with Sullivan, except I didn’t find Bush’s speeches after 9/11 to be so inspired. What stands out in my memory of September 2001 is how first Bush hid behind a children’s book and then he dropped out of sight for a couple of days as if he was too shook up to actually do anything. The accounts of the period after 9/11 do suggest my initial impression of Bush at the time were correct. Besides, George W. Bush is hardly the person one would include in a discussion of the oratory skills of Ronald Reagan, Winston Churchill, and Barack Obama.

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