Barack Obama really does go on a bit
Posted By: Iain Martin at Apr 5, 2009 at 18:26:40
Isn't it time for him to go home yet? It is good, in theory, that the new President of the United States is taking so much time to tour Europe. He arrived in London last Tuesday, has been to Strasbourg, Prague yesterday and now he's off to Turkey. It shows, I suppose, that he cares about the outside world and that is 'A Good Thing'. But his long stay means that we are hearing rather a lot from him, way too much in fact.
His speeches have long under-delivered, usually leaving a faintly empty sensation in this listener even though I welcomed, moderately, his victory last year as offering the possibility of a fresh start and a boost to confidence.
Yet, we are told that he is a great orator and in one way he certainly is. He does have a preternatural calm in the spotlight and a mastery of the cadences we associate with the notable speakers in US history - such as JFK and MLK. But beyond that, am I alone in finding him increasingly to be something of a bore?
His performance at the first press conference in London with Gordon Brown featured moments in which he sparkled - his riff on loving the Queen was a high-point. But most of the serious answers that I listened to were interminable, windy and not very impressive. At points there were pauses so long that it appeared he had simply lost his train of thought.
Today, we were treated to another set-piece Obama speech, and my didn't he go on a bit? The crowd in Prague was huge, and initially wildly enthusiastic, but what he served up was not any more impressive than his damp squib in Berlin last year. Is there a computer which churns this stuff out for him?
"For over a thousand years, Prague has set itself apart from any other city in any other place. You have known war and peace. You have seen empires rise and fall. You have led revolutions in the arts and science, in politics and poetry. Through it all, the people of Prague have insisted on pursuing their own path, and defining their own destiny. And this city - this Golden City which is both ancient and youthful - stands as a living monument to your unconquerable spirit."
Empires rising and falling, destinies being defined and a Golden City standing as a monument to unconquerable spirit... goodness, what a ham. When he really gets going he's worse than Tony Blair.
But Obama was only warming up. "When I was born," (Everything usually leads back to him, you'll notice)... "the world was divided, and our nations were faced with very different circumstances. Few people would have predicted that someone like me would one day become an American President." (Him again)...
"Few people would have predicted that an American President would one day be permitted to speak to an audience like this in Prague. And few would have imagined that the Czech Republic would become a free nation, a member of NATO, and a leader of a united Europe. Those ideas would have been dismissed as dreams". (Not by Ronald Reagan they wouldn't have been, when most of Obama's Democrat friends thought the then US President's robust approach to the Cold War made him a loony on the loose).
"We are here today because enough people ignored the voices who told them that the world could not change. We are here today because of the courage of those who stood up - and took risks - to say that freedom is a right for all people, no matter what side of a wall they live on, and no matter what they look like... (subtly this time, but right at the end the sentence leads back to him again).
The Obamas have handled their trip well and in their public appearances have been a credit to their country. But I'll wager that within a year or so he'll be marked down as a wind-bag.