Philosopher Kings

At TNR the linguist John McWhorter takes a comparative look at the rhetorical style of the Clinton and Obama speeches in Charlotte, and unsurprisingly, the Big Dog comes out ahead in his judgment. But McWhorter does offer one area in which Obama was very effective:

Heralding a return to an America all about “products stamped with ‘the three letters USA,’” emphasizing a strong military, charging that the Romney/Ryan philosophy is “not who we are,” he made all further claims that his approach to governance is somehow foreign and unpatriotic automatically qualify as nonsense. Dinesh D’Souza looks all the more a crank as of tonight.

Still, McWhorter, like many others now and in the past, marvels at Clinton’s ability to weave relatively detailed and complex facts and policy arguments into a fluid and compelling speech. I had to love this comment about Clinton’s accent:

His Southern accent only helped send the speech over the plate, lending an air of warmth and sincerity that was key in getting him elected 20 years ago. Many assume that a Southern accent signals stupidity, but in our era, vernacular cadences are an aural emollient to American ears. A twang reads “real.” In 2012, he who exhibits a command of facts in the accent of a country-western singer becomes the closest thing we have to a philosopher king.

That’s what I’m always reaching for.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.