February 17th, 2008

ozarque figure

Linguistics; political language; Clinton versus Obama...

neonchameleon commented:
"Somehow I thought this was going to come up (and I expected a pro-Hillary Clinton perspective)."

I didn't want Hillary Clinton to run for president, because I knew what those many months of campaigning would do to her and I hated the very thought of it. She's done enough; she was in a professional and personal situation that was reasonably good and satisfying for her, and I wish she hadn't decided that she had to give that up and leap yet one more hurdle.

Campaigning has three parts. One: You have to Be Nice, nonstop. Because you know that the slightest deviation from Nice is going to be caught on camera and broadcast endlessly on the news channels, there's no break from being Nice until your campaign day-and-evening are completely over. Two: You have to be able to say the same thing over and over and over again to one audience after another, always with what appears to be the same degree of enthusiasm and freshness...or... Three: You have to be so skilled and so natural a speaker that you can say different things to one audience after another in a way that carries roughly the same message, which -- if you're capable of it -- is a lot easier than Two.

There are people who enjoy doing this, and thrive on it, and glory in it; there are people for whom it comes naturally. Bill Clinton is one of those people, although his status as former president gives him a little more leeway on the Be Nice component than is the standard. Hillary Clinton isn't one of those people. For her, campaigning is terribly hard, and terribly exhausting, and the longer it goes on, the worse it gets. It has nothing to do with biological gender, or with toughness, or with being qualified to be president; it has to do with the sort of person she is. Her words say one thing; her body language says another. Her body language says, loud and clear, "I'd rather be somewhere else doing something else, but it's my duty to be here, and I am someone who always -- always -- does my duty."

Yesterday I saw her do something that just flabbergasted me. You know how Obama gets his audiences to join him in a roaring chant of "Yes, we can!"? He calls it out once, maybe twice, and immediately the crowd joins in and they all do it together. Yesterday I watched Hillary Clinton, in mid-speech, start calling out "Yes, we will!" She did it over and over ... louder and louder ... And it didn't work, so far as I could tell. If the crowd did join her in that chant, they didn't do it loudly enough for me to hear. It was awful to watch, and it must have hurt; she finally gave it up and went on speaking.

I have no way of knowing who came up with that idea and persuaded her that it was a good move. Whoever it was, they were wrong.