Obama Speech More of the Same

President Obama gave a speech tonight - second one from the Oval Office in his 19 months in office. It was a yawner. What's going on here?

First of all I want to confess I've not reviewed Obama recently because he basically is the same. In delivery. Think of teleprompter, predictability, cadence, professorial, etc. See here and here for a lot more detail. But tonight I was challenged by Michael Hyatt on Twitter, who said;

@MichaelHyatt: I’d like to hear @BertDecker’s analysis of the President’s speech. It’s difficult to comment apolitical.

Now Michael is a friend, and a HEAVYWEIGHT (sorry for the caps) in the blogosphere and Twitterland, as well as respected CEO, so I couldn't refuse. Otherwise I would have passed it by again.


It IS hard to be apolitical, as I try to stay away from the politics of the content in most reviews. But in this 19' speech anyone could have said "What's the point."

  • An apolitical comment would be that he wanted to be front and center, use the Bully Pulpit, and declare the war over and reshift our priorities as a country. Did he? I don't think so.
  • A political comment (that I heard elsewhere) would be that he wasn't really as interested in Iraq and America at war as he was about changing the domestic agenda of the country. I'm not sure that's true, but his manner would probably reflect this view more accurately.

The Obama Experience

Here are the opening few minutes of his speech in good quality. For experiencing the communication of the President, you really only have to look at the first minute. It doesn't change. (But look here to get the entirety in less quality.)

  • Boring - He has no passion or emotion. Granted he is talking policy and he will be quoted and dissected, but a little passion in voice and face now and then would help his believability and influence immeasurably. And he had no stories or SHARPS that would make his message stick.
  • Cadence - Ever since Fred Armison on Saturday Night Live got his cadence down while playing Obama, I can't look at the President himself and not think of Armison. It is a rhythm that becomes sing-song, and contrived, and does not lead to a feeling of conviction and authenticity. Which leads us to...
  • Professorial - It's not just me that sees our President as more and more professorial (academic, informational and aloof) in both demeanor and presentation, it is becoming widespread. Professorial is fine in the classroom, not so fine on the playing field. That is not the communication of a leader.

I could go on, but this is already too much politics for an 'objective' communications blog. But thanks for the prompt Michael - this gets the juices flowing.

More importantly, what do YOU think?

13 thoughts on “Obama Speech More of the Same
  1. Thanks for this analysis, Bert. I really wanted him to win, but I was bored to tears. I think Bill O’Reilly got it right: “Obama was a rock star on the campaign trail. However, he has morphed into a boring professor.”
    Where is Ronald Reagan or even Bill Clinton when you need them!

  2. we currently have a professor (Michael Ignatieff) who is morphing into a politician and could become Prime Minister. There is hope guys.. Obama could morph back.

  3. At the end of the day, even a skillful communication engine must run on the steel rails of effective application. Brilliance is best displayed by the product, not the packaging.

  4. Obama tried, but I remember Ronald Reagan, and voted for him… President Obama is no Ronald Reagan (neither was Bush, Clinton, or Bush)! Although, I do admit that the President, in the Oval, suit and tie, gold drapes, American flag – all brought out patriotic emotion in my heart. Really. I’m a sucker for the Red, White, and Blue!

  5. I agree with Bert Decker’s review and would add this.
    1) As for ending the combat mission in Iraq, at best this is disingenuous. We have doubled, and almost tripled our civilian private contractors (Black Water) in Iraq. So while it is wonderful and right to withdraw our volunteer forces, lest anyone think that financially we will be saving any money, you would be incorrect. Secondly, if you saw Dan Harris’s report on Nightline last night, our rush to celebrate this turnover may be a bit premature.
    2) Regarding the speech itself and the comments regarding Candidate Obama versus President Obama, easy answer to what changed. Candiate=standing in front of students at UCLA Berkley pontificating on the theory of business. Office Holder=Running a small business and Thursday night worrying if you will actually make payroll on Friday and if there might be a few dollars left to pay yourself.

  6. On the campaign trail, President Obama spoke to the people. Last night he spoke at them. I miss the sincerity of Clinton (real or fake), and I miss the half-smiles of the Bush family (appropriate or not).

  7. The real reason the speech was “without”, is that Obama is. There is no real substance. As Scott mentioned, candidate Obama stood “in front of students at UCLA Berkley pontificating…” It seems now that the REALNESS of the job has shown a light on the inexperience and the lack of true leadership.

  8. Seems like this was a tough needle to thread and boring was probably better than nothing. He had to give the speech but probably didn’t want to. It brings up some uncomfortable issues like his opposition to “the surge” but also the last “Mission Accomplished” speech. It also reminds us of all we’ve lost during this war. That’s a lot of balls in the air to juggle so it’s best to keep it somber and serious, congratulate the men and women who’ve done what their country asked in impossible circumstances, and then turn the page to our next task.
    Chestthumping would be inappropriate but so wouldn’t making it political and talking about how stupid Bush was for invading in the first place.
    Anyway, tough to compare to his other moments given the circumstances.

  9. Thanks for all the comments. Seems to be a consensus that the strategy of putting President Obama ‘out there’ to speak all the time because he’s a great communicator needs to be revised. He is not a great communicator. He might have been a great professor…

  10. What we truly need is a fireside chat. Put away the teleprompter and speak from the heart. Unfortunately that is not Obama’s style. We are still mired in a deep recession and the least the guy can do is “feel our pain.” That is what I truly admired about Reagan, he spoke from the heart and he truly cared about this country. The last thing we need now is another professorial lesson.

  11. Bert- pretty blunt and true criticism of Obama’s delivery. My opinion is that his professorial style was very effective on the campaign trail, but that constantly talking “at” the public in this manner, instead of with the public, is leading to some sort of persuasion-fatigue (or inspiration-fatigue). I agree with John R’s suggestion: ‘fire-side chats’ or a similar format would help his audience see him in a different light, in a more relaxed environment. Did you see his demeanor on his visit to The View? He was just a guy on couch talking. His comm team needs to show him in that manner more to combat this growing sense of distance and fatigue that you succinctly captured. Also he could take a page out of Palin’s style. I reviewed her last major speech (at the Restoring Honor rally) and found her use of qualifiers (You know, etc.) to effectively generate what feels like a “conversation” between her and the audience. That review, and comments about Obama’s delivery style on The View are at bravospeeches.com
    Keep up the good work!

  12. Forget the LOL Cats, how about LOL Presidents…. Obama : I has a Teleprompter. Actually it’s getting even funnier now, with GOP politicos makign cracks about Obama’s Teleprompters – while readign their wisecracks from a Teleprompter.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

blog post