The Duck of Minerva

The Duck Quacks at Twilight

Until she spoke for herself…

September 4, 2008

Listen people, Palin delivered a friggin speech. That someone else wrote. Biden delivered a speech. That someone else wrote. Obama delivered a speech. That he apparently wrote at least part of. McCain will deliver a speech. That someone else wrote.

This is not speaking for yourself.

It’s more like a high-school forensics, albeit with the functional equivalent of performance-enhancing drugs… and woefully inconsistent judging on the “supportment” and “factual” citeria.

Despite of the apparent evidence of my video blogging, I was, in fact, pretty good at high-school forensics. But I’d make a lousy President.

Now, Palin was, by all accounts very good at delivering her speech. I respect that. It is a very important–but not essential–political skill. I said, in fact, that I thought she’d be fine. But after sitting through the Democratic convention and now trying to get myself to watch the Republican one, I just can’t take it any more. The speeches matter for what they communicate about what the campaigns want to… well… communicate. But that’s pretty much it.

And, of course, the media has every incentive to play up this charade. The hype helps their ratings. It justifies their endless bloviating. But it also runs deep in some kind of primal narrative of contemporary life which I just can’t quite put my finger on.

The best I can say is this: every time I hear someone using these speeches as a way of evaluating anything more than the skills of a candidate at dramatic delivery, I feel like I’m listening to some contestant on “America’s Next Top Model” (or whatever) describing the deep significance of the next challenge; how it will demonstrate something about the deep recesses of the contestants’ souls.

… Whilst I’m on the subject of high-school forensics, I recommend reading the second paragraph of the wikipedia entry on the history of the National Forensic League:

As of 2008, Missourian Kyle Conley holds the world record for most underappreciated Dramatic interpretation at the National Tournament in Vegas. We should all tip our hats to such a brave soul for dedicating four years of his life to a dying craft. He will forever be a god among men. A child sheds a tear at each of his performances, not out of sadness, but out of sheer joy and happiness that they witnessed him peform.

Now that’s the kind of wikivandalism I can support!

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Daniel H. Nexon is a Professor at Georgetown University, with a joint appointment in the Department of Government and the School of Foreign Service. His academic work focuses on international-relations theory, power politics, empires and hegemony, and international order. He has also written on the relationship between popular culture and world politics.