Orator Overrated: Ranking Obama’s worst speeches
By: Daniel Clark
President Obama is renowned as a great orator, as he would be the first to tell you. According to Harry Reid’s 2009 book, The Good Fight, the Senate majority leader praised then-Senator Obama for giving a “phenomenal” speech, to which Obama replied, “I have a gift, Harry.”
The president generously shared this gift with Queen Elizabeth, whom he and the first lady gave an iPod, already loaded with, among other things, audio of his inaugural address and his 2004 convention speech. One can just imagine Her Majesty going out for a brisk morning walk, energizing herself by listening to exhilarating tidbits like, “Uuuhhh, let me be clear.”
What the president and his acolytes have never learned is that what makes a great speech is not the way the speaker tilts his head, not the lilt in his voice, and not the quality of the stage props surrounding him. A great speech is made great by the idea behind it, and sadly, Barack Obama seldom has anything of value to convey. As evidence, consider the following baker’s dozen of the most dismal and ill-considered speeches he’s given so far.
(#13) February 4, 2010 — Obama tries to tell an uplifting tale about a Navy corpsman at a National Prayer Breakfast, but bungles it by mispronouncing the word “corpse-man,” as if referring to a dead body. He makes this mistake a second time, demonstrating that it is not a slip of the tongue, but that he really thinks it’s pronounced that way.
(#12) May 24, 2011 — At Buckingham Palace, Obama appears to finish a brief and dignified toast to Queen Elizabeth, when the band starts playing God Save the Queen. Apparently believing that this is meant as background music for one of his brilliant orations, he plods on, trampling the British national anthem with a hackneyed recitation of the famous soliloquy from Richard II (“â€¦This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England”) It’s as if he’d haphazardly assigned some flunky to scrounge up “something British” for him to say.
(#11) July 24, 2008 — Presidential candidate Barack Obama ludicrously gives a campaign speech in Berlin, where he declares himself to be a “citizen of the world.” With typical professorial arrogance, he proceeds to lecture the German people about the history of Germany.
(#10) September 8, 2011 — Obama convenes a joint session of Congress for the anticlimactic purpose of proposing a warmed-over repeat of his woefully failed stimulus package. The president comically chants the phrase “pass this bill now” 17 times during the speech, despite the fact that no bill exists. Obediently, the legislature swiftly acts on nothing.
(#9) September 9, 2009 — Obama repeatedly accuses Republicans of lying about the Democrats’ health care plan, in response to which GOP congressman Joe Wilson of South Carolina blurts out, “you lie!” The point of their dispute is Obama’s denial that his party’s plan would give health benefits to illegal aliens, which it assuredly will. Wilson would be thoroughly rebuked afterward, but it is the president who commits the greater breach of decorum, for using that particular setting to unleash a pointedly partisan harangue. This is the first of several instances in which he uses a joint session of Congress as an opportunity to scold the opposition, which is expected to sit quietly as a captive audience, appearing to endorse Obama’s unchallenged accusations.
(#8) January 27, 2010 — President Obama again shows his disdain for traditional rules of decorum in his State of the Union Address, when he levels an absurd accusation against the Supreme Court, by charging that a recent decision would allow “foreign corporations to spend without limit in our elections.” One member of the Court, Justice Samuel Alito, is seen uttering the words “not true,” which of course it’s not.
(#7) June 4, 2009 — During a widely anticipated speech in Cairo, President Obama reverts to the liberal Cold War playbook, by portraying the War on Terror as just one big misunderstanding between America and Islam. It is here that he first states his oft-repeated whopper that “Islam has always been a part of America’s story.” Speaking to an international audience on foreign soil, he criticizes American policy by referring to the invasion of Iraq as “a war of choice.” So much for the adage that politics stops at the water’s edge.
(#6) September 24, 2011 — Speaking to the Congressional Black Caucus, Obama presumes to bark orders at elected representatives of the people as if they were his personal hired help. Insultingly commanding them to “take off your bedroom slippers, [and] put on your marching shoes,” he proceeds to tell them to “stop complaining, stop grumbling, stop crying,” and give him the support he thinks they owe him. As extremely liberal as most CBC members are, it is officially nonpartisan, counting conservative Republican freshman Rep. Allen West among its members. Yet the president addresses them like low-level Democratic Party staffers.
(#5) May 1, 2011 — While announcing the killing of Osama bin Laden, Obama just can’t help taking a childish and dishonest swipe at former president George W. Bush. Not content to simply report the good news and bask in what credit he deserves for it, he spitefully tries to discredit the Bush administration, by portraying the hunt for bin Laden as having been dormant until he, Obama, took office and made the terrorist’s capture or killing a “top priority.”
(#4) March 18, 2008 — Using his ballyhooed “speech on race” to distance himself from Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Obama outs his white grandmother as a racist in order to provide balance. He summarizes some of the historical injustices against blacks, without mentioning the Democratic Party’s role in them, of course. He calls Rev. Wright’s anger “simply inexcusable,” and then turns around and excuses it, by blaming it on America instead of on Rev. Wright. Ominously, he adds, “At times, that anger is exploited by politicians, to gin up votes along racial lines, or to make up for a politician’s own failings.”
(#3) June 30, 2008 — In what is referred to as his “patriotism speech,” he describes the actions of the “so-called counterculture” as merely a reaction to their having been, completely unfairly, called unpatriotic. In one of his usual grotesque moral equations, he likens the criticism of politicians who tried to make America lose the war in Iraq to the disgraceful treatment of Gen. David Petraeus by congressional Democrats. Ostensibly setting out to define “patriotism,” he deliberately avoids identifying it to the exclusion of anything else. In short, not even the “so-called counterculture” (read: Weather Underground) can truly be unpatriotic.
(#2) November 5, 2009 — At a conference hosted by the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Obama approaches the podium to address the massacre that had just taken place at Fort Hood. First, however, he takes the time to thank his Department of Interior staff, and give a “shout out” to Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient Joe Medicine Crow (whom he misidentifies as a “Congressional Medal of Honor winner”). A jihadist infiltrator murders 13 Americans at an Army base, and the president treats it as just another bullet point in his otherwise whimsical monologue.
(#1) May 17, 2010 — At the signing of the Daniel Pearl Press Freedom Act, the president remarks that, “the loss of Daniel Pearl was one of those moments that captured the world’s imagination, because it reminded us of how valuable a free press is.” What a remarkably nonjudgmental reflection on the beheading of a reporter by Islamic terrorists, for the simple reason that he was an American Jew. Such an atrocity should outrage the world, not capture its imagination, as if the world were standing back and observing an interesting work of art.
Mind you, these are not unforeseeable gaffes, or “gotcha” traps laid out by Barack Obama’s enemies. These are all prepared speeches, specifically crafted for the man who has “a gift.” Anyone who perpetuates the myth that Obama is some kind of great orator, including himself, has got to be delusional.
Actually, that’s just as well. If President Obama ever realized what a terrible speaker he really is, he’d probably just bore us with a bunch of excuses about how he’d inherited bad oratory from the previous administration.
– Daniel Clark is a writer from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He is the author and editor of a web publication called The Shinbone: The Frontier of the Free Press, where he also publishes a seasonal sports digest as The College Football Czar.
Daniel Clark is a writer from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He is the author and editor of a web publication called The Shinbone: The Frontier of the Free Press, where he also publishes a seasonal sports digest as The College Football Czar.