We’re in an election cycle . . . again . . . which means that we’re all on the lookout for the catchy phrases, slip-ups, and downright embarrassing oral faux pas (that could be a dangerous phrase) committed by our country’s current and future leaders. One of my favorites: when Katie Couric asked Sarah Palin which magazines she reads and Sarah Palin answers, “All of them.” That makes Ms. Palin either a very fast reader, with a HUGE recycle pile, or someone who lives in Wasilla, Alaska; and how many magazines do you suppose they carry at the local 7-Eleven? So, maybe she does read “all of them.”
But, my super, super favorite was the notion that if you can’t turn a phrase, or put together a coherent sentence, you attack the ability to turn a phrase, or put together a coherent sentence. Very “meta.” We heard it over and over again, from John McCain, from Sarah Palin, from John Boehner — do you see a pattern there? Open criticism of a candidate’s ability to speak with rhetorical skill and personality was a threat to the GOP, so the GOP attacked rhetorical skill and personality. I’m sorry, but well-educated people have the ability to speak well. A lot of folks who are not well-educated, in the formal sense, speak WORLDS more common sense that the educated ones who can speak well. But, let’s face it, we expect our national leaders to be well-educated. At least I do. And my observation would be that the C-student candidate makes the C-student president.
Do I need to expound on that case in point? Really?
OK. Well, what’s done is done. So let’s look at Texas Governor (what is it with Texans and their C-student governors?) Rick Perry. He had a hard time stringing together one particular sentence in the last debate. Everyone caught it. The media piranhas jumped right on it, and even the polling after the debate showed a big drop. Aha! Go from a snappy, down-home Texas twang to a moment of Texas-tongue-tied, and your numbers drop. Maybe there’s more wisdom out there in the populous than I thought. Hypothesis: 1) America isn’t really ready for another C-student in the White House; 2) if you’re going to run for a leadership position anywhere, including public office, and public speaking isn’t your thing, stop being so proud, get a speech coach, and read more (it puts more good words in your brain so that maybe they’ll come back out when you want them to); and, 3) there’s one more data point affirming the position that “habits of speech reflect habits of mind.”
You know, I’m actually looking forward to this presidential race. Since we can assume President Obama will be uncontested in the Democratic camp, all the fun stuff is going to come from the right, and look at that lineup! Ah, the idiomatic and linguistic tidbits are going to be priceless.