I was a speechwriter for Ronald Reagan, and like all those who have had the inestimable privilege to help craft a president’s words, I’m a connoisseur of the form. Despite his reputation as a stemwinder, Obama has not given an address in his seven years that any serious student would elevate into the pantheon of American oratory.
But as the president’s words flowed and deepened in Dallas, I was sure I was listening not only to the best remarks of his presidency but possibly one of the great presidential speeches of our age.
This was true even though he was making certain arguments with which I did not agree — but because his tone was so beautifully modulated and his argumentation so civil, the president himself got me to listen, pay attention, and respect the seriousness of his contentions.
And then he blew it.
He blew it by going on for almost 25 more minutes, repeating himself endlessly, and broadening his specific focus to a more general preachment about how “we” need to “open our hearts” on the subject of race.
As usual, Obama made strange use of the word “we,” because when he says “we,” he means “you,” and when he means “you,” he means people who aren’t as enlightened and thoughtful as he and his ideological compatriots are.
Worse yet, the excessive length gave rise to a few extraordinarily ill-conceived flourishes that would have been discarded from a more contained and controlled final speech.
By far the most jaw-dropping was his assertion that it’s easier for a poor kid in a struggling neighborhood to get a Glock than a book. That’s not presidential. That’s Bill Maher, or Trevor Noah.