Borrowed eloquence

Is Barack Obama really the somewhat interesting guy who wrote Dreams From My Father? I doubt it. I don’t say Bill Ayers necessarily wrote the book, but I doubt that it was Obama. He has yet to formulate a political thought in an even slightly original way. Hackneyed phrases and deadening cliches make up the essential medium of his expression. His speeches are like New York Times editorials. They ought to be accompanied by a warning: Reading may kill brain cells.

There is no premium on originality in political rhetoric, but Obama tests the limits of the formulaic. He extends the concept of recycling into previously uncharted territory. Unlike waste recycling, however, Obama’s rhetorical recycling actually saves energy. He’s saving the energy of his speechwriters.

In order to soar, I should add, words should have the force of truth. If he was he was ever in the vicinity, he left the area some time ago.

On the occasion of Nelson Mandela’s death, Obama declared in remarks from the White House: “He achieved more than could be expected of any man. Today he’s gone home. He no longer belongs to us. He belongs to the ages.”

Obama’s eloquence was uncharacteristic, but it was of course borrowed without attribution. He took for the occasion the words reportedly spoken by Secretary of War Stanton at the Petersen House on the death of Abraham Lincoln: “Now he belongs to the ages.”

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