Friday, October 10th, 2008
Sarah Palin’s cringe-inducing interview with Katie Couric, and her sometimes (oft-times?) clumsy phrasing has subjected her to considerable mockery. But some of the greatest political orators have had clunkers all their own.
Ted Kennedy, to name one.
In 1979, when he let it be known that he intended to challenge Pres. Jimmy Carter for the Democratic nomination, Kennedy was interviewed by Roger Mudd on CBS. What transpired was hardly inspiring.
MUDD: “Why do you want to be President?”
KENNEDY: “Well, I’m — were I to make the announcement to run, the reasons that I would run is because I have a great belief in this country that it is — has more natural resources than any nation of the world, has the greatest educated population in the world, the greatest technology of any country in the world, the greatest capacity for innovation in the world and the greatest political system in the world.
“And yet I see at the current time that most of the industrial nations of the world are exceeding us in terms of productivity or doing better than us in terms of meeting the problems of inflation, that they’re dealing with their problems of energy and their problems of unemployment. It just seems to me that this nation can cope and deal with its problems in a way that it has in the past. We’re facing complex issues and problems in this nation at this time, but we have faced similar challenges at other times and the energies and the resourcefulness of this nation, I think, should be focused on these problems in a way that brings a sense of restoration in this country by its people to — in dealing with the problems that we face, primarily the issues on the economy, the problems of inflation and the problems of energy and I would basically feel that it’s imperative for this country either move forward, but it can’t stand still or otherwise it moves backward.
MUDD: “What would you do different from Carter?”
KENNEDY: “Well, in which particular areas?”
MUDD: “Well, just take the question of leadership.”
KENNEDY: “Well, it’s — on what — on, you know, you have to come to grips with the different issues that we’re facing. I mean we can – we’d have to deal with each of the various questions that we’re talking about, whether it’s in the questions of the economy, whether it’s in the areas of energy.”
Kennedy’s campaign pretty much derailed after that interview. Yet, several months later, at the 1980 Madison Square Garden convention, Kennedy gave one of the greatest speeches of his life.
Again, Palin has shown no indication that her oratorical best is better than what we’ve already seen. But, as is the case in baseball, a rookie who has a terrible spring will be sent down and possibly never heard from again. But when a veteran has a bad spring is, we’re told “it’s still early.”
It’s interesting to see who is forgiven verbal clumsiness and who is not. There must have been dozens, if not tens of dozens, of national opinion columns that have humiliated Palin for the frequency with which she drops the g’s at the end of her words. Almost no one has noticed how often, and under what circumstances, Barack Obama does the same thing.
Camille Paglia, writing in Salon (Sep. 10): “I have become increasingly uneasy about Obama’s efforts to sound folksy and approachable by reflexively using inner-city African-American tones and locutions, which as a native of Hawaii he acquired relatively late in his development and which are painfully wrong for the target audience of rural working-class whites that he has been trying to reach. Obama on the road and even in major interviews has been droppin’ his g’s like there’s no tomorrow.”
How is it that just about nobody else wrote about that, compared to the dissection of the folksy Palin?
Earlier this year, Jake Tepper of ABC News, couldn’t help but notice that Hillary Clinton’s speech pattern suddenly got southern fried when campaigning below the Mason-Dixon. (Follow Tepper’s video link to the end of the selections.)
Here’s another clip of Hillary auditioning for Scarlett O’Hara.
At least I’m pretty convinced that Palin talks the same way in public as she does in private, the same in Selma, Alabama as in St, Paul Minnesota. Not so, for Hillary and Obama. That’s no reason to elect Palin but it’s also no reason to single her out for a punchline.