Senator Obama speaks with a special quality of self assurance, as if he has thought about everything he’s saying for a very long time and he has rendered a decision with such depth and profundity that there is not even the merest chance of contradiction. The Senator is sorry about this, he seems to be saying, but there is nothing to be done about it. That’s just the way it is. The Senator wishes he weren’t reading from tablets, but, well, that’s how the thing falls out.
Obama hits the last syllable of his sentences with assurance. And then, surprise, surprise, he brings the sentence in for the softest of landings. This doubles the effect of self assurance. He enters that last syllable like a lion and leaves it like a lamb. And that’s because, well, he really merely stating the obvious and it would be unseemly to pound the gavel or make a fuss.
This is deeply presuppositional speech and what it presupposes is that no reasonable man or women can disagree, that this truth is self evident, that the speaker is merely, and with some modesty, pointing out that all of us already know. More generally, this is the art of politics taken places it hasn’t gone in some time.
The anthropological question (and today, after the heated debate of yesterday, I am prudently and quite pointedly putting my anthropology hat back on) is where did Obama get this very effective rhetorical instrument. It seems to me ecclesiastical, but it is not the sort of thing he can have got from the likes of Reverend Wright. It is also a little as if from the mold of the newscaster, Cronkite etc. But it doesn’t appear to have a political precedent, not at the moment anyhow.
I think Obama has studied other oratorical exemplars. And I think he has made this a very careful and purposeful study. I leave it to someone with an ear better than mine to "reverse engineer" Obama’s style speech and figure out what these influences are. Some of the secrets of the coming kingdom are there to be divined.
The Clerestory window of the poets at Princeton