Obama Knows How to Perform, at Least Belatedly in Case of 2002 Speech


obama performing twn.jpg
Ronald Reagan thought acting was great prep for the presidency. And recently, Ben Affleck told me that he saw some obvious similarities between DC and Hollywood while here shooting his next film, State of Play.
But Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are taking “staging” to a new level.

Clinton was caught embellishing about the degree of tension and danger during a Bosnia trip in 1996. She was taped. Confronted with evidence that Bosnia was not flying with bullets the day she arrived, Clinton released a statement saying that she “misspoke”.
But there is no ‘good tape’ of Barack Obama’s much-saluted 2002 speech calling the brewing invasion of Iraq a “dumb war”. But sound wizards have helped re-create the sense of a crowd applauding to Obama speaking into a loudspeaker, echo and all.
Since there was no original — Obama made his own.
NPR’s Don Gonyea found a couple of people who were there in 2002 listening to the speech and as Faulker might have scribbled, people heard the same thing and told it differently.
According to Gonyea’s report, event co-organizer Marilyn Katz said “The crowd was pretty much transfixed.” On the other hand, US Hispanic Leadership Institute President Juan Andrade Jr. said:

There was nothing magic about it. . .There was nothing about that speech that would have given anybody any sense that he was going places. We were just glad that he was one of those who was willing to step up at a time when very few people seemed to be willing to do that.

Obama is clearly getting better and better at his performances — particularly those that he can stage in sound booths. And it’s paying off. After all, he did take this year’s Grammy for the taped recording of The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream.
But reading it on my own with out the contrived sound effects, I still think Obama’s 2002 anti-Iraq War speech was on target and deserves applause.
But we are in an era when politics has finally, definitely, completely become performance art — and national trust in those who tell their stories will appropriately erode.
— Steve Clemons


15 comments on “Obama Knows How to Perform, at Least Belatedly in Case of 2002 Speech

  1. Kathleen says:

    Perhaps it’s that I’m an official card-carrying senior, but I do not comprehend how one can mistake being fired upon and forced to take cover. This is not the stuff of mistakes. Must be the same kind of “thought” process that lets one forget about getting a BJ under your desk by “that woman”.
    Hillary is correct… you can’t choose your relatives,,, not your blood relatives, that is. I daresay, that most people would have gotten far more exercised about a cheating, lying spouse than with what their pastor said and would dumped Bubba faster than changing their church.
    I happen to agree with what Reverend Wright said. I’m not black, but I sure as hell can understand his justified anger. Every action has an equal and opposite re-action. Simple physics.
    Maggie williams needs to add another rule,,, Don’t lie.
    As for the Ragin Cajun, Mr Mary Maitlin, I think more than 30 pieces of silver changed hands at the fundraiser for Scotter Libby, held at his home. Go back to the Bayooo, buddy and slink under the mud. It’s your millieu.
    And then there’s John McPain… it was not a slip of the tongue when he tied Iran to AlQaida… it’s the same B,S. they did with Iraq and AlQaida to get Joe Six Pack to blame Iran for 9/11. What a pathetic, desperate, grovelling candidate.


  2. arthurdecco says:

    I’ll take sound effects over lies any day.


  3. roger says:

    Steve, according to David Brooks, once you’re stepped of the cliff,
    you may have less than a 5% chance of getting back alive… Get
    over it…and let’s move on.


  4. Bobalaska says:

    It seems to me that adding some effects to a political advertisement is an everyday matter. Everyone does it. Should Obama be held to a standard different than that used for other politicians? Should the ad have used a disclaimer (as in various video work) stating “re-creation” of original event?
    In any case, adding sound effects in an ad pales in comparison to clear “memories”- referenced in a major foreign policy speech to boot- his opponent has of running across the tarmac in Bosnia and ducking down to avoid sniper fire. That’s re-creating the facts.


  5. Chris S says:

    There are only 13 surviving seconds of the video of the speech and they can be seen here:
    A simple visit to the Barack Obama campaign website would have elicited that fact!
    And to those who claim it wasn’t a ‘big speech’ I would remind them that Sen Obama was not then a US Senator, and in a widespread climate of support for the war at that stage no-one, NO-ONE can discount his courage in speaking out.#
    And especially not Hillary Clinton or her supporters. They may just be words, but they are a damn site more than Hillary Clinton’s Senate vote to authorise the use of military force in Iraq.


  6. JohnH says:

    George Lakoff dissects The Speech (March 18, 2008) Wow!


  7. Mark says:

    The best version of Obama’s 2002 speech is very much a form of performance art, as he has various supporters read each part.


  8. Tahoe Editor says:

    Obama’s Iraq speech, prescient but not a profile in courage
    Click “back” then “refresh” — your comments will still be there, and a new craptcha will appear.


  9. Seth says:

    Steve –
    (should probly tone down my language – hyberbole is a bit more proper in finance than in journalism, so apologies…and yeah, i do have too much time on my hands during daily market lulls…)
    Didn’t *at all* mean to suggest you’re a clinton shill, and certainly woulnd’t want you to retract anything… I’ve yet to see you write something about either candidate that isn’t fair and worth considering. I see no unreasonable bias, but I do see a subtle and definite symapthy for Clinton. If you don’t feel that, I apologize. But felt or not, it does seem to come across in the broad content of your posts.
    The only thing that snags me is what I see as content that subtly trends in favor of Clinton, while you insist on both a personal and public neutrality.
    I’d actually love to see Obama grilled (on legitimate issues, like Fischer Tropsch, ABM treaties, intra-Shia conflicts etc instead of say, Wright). and having spent a month in Kenya I’m looking forward to that especially.
    So keep it all coming – just be aware that there’s at least an appearance that your blog’s content and your stated personal neutrality don’t always synch up. Thanks for all your work.


  10. questions says:

    I teach in this supposedly blue state of Illinois and I found that being opposed to the war early on did indeed take tremendous courage — not perhaps the courage of a soldier facing enemy fire, but the courage of knowing that well more than half the people around you would think you were a)an idiot b)unpatriotic c)naive or d)all of the above and then some. It was tough to be in class and in opposition. Listening the the NPR report in the car this morning, I was really unhappy with the tone. It wasn’t balanced. It seemed to me to be designed to make Obama look really fake, as if his early anti-war stance was as fake as an applause line. Oh give me a break. Should he have faked applause on a re-creation? Probably not. But does that negate his having seen that the war was dumb? No.
    (And by the way, the captcha errors are a pain. Use the browser back key (just like it says in the error message) and then when that fails, copy and paste in a new posting.)


  11. Steve Clemons says:

    Seth — seriously, you have too much time on your hands this morning. Do you think a Hillary Clinton shill would have called her out of the race after the Wisconsin debate?? I think not. I did — and then had to retract. Give me a break. I’m not going to argue you with you because your note won’t change what I write at this point. I’ve made my views clear. Did you see my Maggie Williams post today? Why would a Clinton-biased person post that? You are a great guy — I like your commentary normally — but I will totally resist your effort to typecast me because I’m not there.
    On today’s post, I heard the Gonyea report on NPR. I was dumbfounded that Obama would recreate applause and echo on a tape. And i was aware of Hillary’s fibbing about Bosnia. That’s where things stand.
    I won’t retract a thing — or tilt this way or that because of your thoughtful perceptions.
    But my friend, you are wrong. What else can I say.
    I have a post coming up on Obama and Kenya — which I have been working on forever — and I’m sure that you will see pro-Clinton bias in that as well…but just for fun, after reading it — please go read my posts on Clinton and Cuba, and Clinton and the IRGC vote…or any of a bunch of my Clinton posts?
    Thanks — but I’ll expect to see you back here after a later post. Oh, enjoy the Obama video…but I guess only Hillary shills would put that kind of thing up.
    best regards,
    Steve Clemons


  12. Seth says:

    Steve – sorry to rag on your for this again, but really…I honestly think you’re a closet Clinton supporter and unable to admit it. Ha. Maybe not a rabid or strong supporter, but there really is a thread of bias that a lot of us have observed here over a few months.
    Today for example: you fail to mention (and perhaps didn’t know) that Katz is a strong Obama supporter and Andrade a strong (and widely quoted) Clinton supporter. These are partisans pushing their campaign’s take, and Gonyea’s reporting is not sound.
    Further, the two issues you cite are Clinton’s misrepresentation of her Bosnia trip, and Obama’s adding of applause to a recording of his speech.
    Now, I don’t in the least like the Obama gimmickry, but “recreating” something that did take place and which has been widely reported, is very different from what Clinton did, which is essentially make something up for political purposes and present it during a major address.
    The falsity and the infraction upon credible self-presentation isn’t impressive in either case, but in Clinton’s case it’s far more egregious.
    And yet the title, focus and substance of your post is directed toward the “staginess” of Obama and fingers him more prominently for the misrepresentational approach you decry.
    This is one example – of many: do you see how a lot of us think you have trouble self-assessing on the balance of your blogging?


  13. JohnH says:

    “Performance art” is nothing new in politics. Witness the 40th President and the Governator. Most successful politicians have learned to act. They need to. Pandering to Big Money while pretending to represent the common good is something that actors are ideally suited for.
    What’s different about this Democratic campaign is not acting, but communication style. People like Steve want candidates to deliver laundry lists read from well thought out position papers. Republiscum learned 30 years ago that voters do not relate to that. They want candidates to talk about values and principles, to show that they “get it” from their own personal experience. Yes, issues are important but secondary. Anybody can read policy positions concocted by their spinmeisters. In fact, it’s the easy path to living a lie. But to “get it,” that’s precious.


  14. DonS says:

    Steve, you are in good company, e.g., Atrios, in recognizing that to be overtly againist the war in 2002 represented an act of courage. Now one can say, yeah, but he was naive and didn’t make the same calculations a high profile politician with ambitions would have. But that merely reinforces the case.
    The argument that we should not look backward to that speech, and that Senate vote because of [fill in the blank] any number of qualifying factors, is churlish, to my ears. That period is one of the markers along the downward path of American foreign ploicy over the past eight years or more, and damn well ought to celebrate those who had the foresight to buck the easy, chauvinistic trend at the moment.
    Disclaimer: I am no Obama groupie; I consider myself independent, if for no other reason than that few politicians inspire me in the least.
    (btw, re the new site format, I get “captcha” errors where none exist; I miss the preview button; some of the formatting is a bit awkward — but thank goodness at least my old “name” is still valid and I don’t get error messages because “That email address is already registered”, etc! I can work it.


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