Public Speaking

PUBLIC SPEAKING….After every Democratic debate I always get one or two emails from people asking me if Barack Obama was off his game. The answer is usually no. It’s just the way he is. In debates he has a tendency to stutter and stammer a bit and his answers usually aren’t as sharp as they could be.

After the last email I got along these lines it occurred to me just how unlucky this is for Obama. And for the rest of us too. Consider.

Obama is frequently outstanding at giving speeches to large crowds. And that’s a great skill for a president to have. Unfortunately, very few people, especially outside the early primary states, get to see Obama giving a speech.

He’s also really good in small groups, and again, that’s a great skill for a president to have since presidents are constantly meeting legislators, foreign leaders, and various interest group brokers in small groups to try to hash out deals. Unfortunately, again, very few people ever get to see Obama in this setting.

And then there are the debates. This is a completely artificial format, one that presidents never engage in, so having slightly mediocre debate skills really doesn’t mean a thing. But it’s the one format where millions of people see him.

I’m not really going anywhere with this. Just observing that Obama appears to be very good at the things that help a president and not so good at the ones that don’t matter. But it’s only the latter that we see. That’s kind of a drag, isn’t it?

UPDATE: As a counterpoint, Ari Melber points out at The Nation that Obama’s Sunday address at Ebenezer Baptist Church has been viewed 268,000 times (and counting) on YouTube. I think my general point still stands, but it’s certainly true that more people are able to view political speeches today than they were a few years ago.