Thursday, January 22, 2009

Rhetorical questions

If, as Chris Matthews wearily noted while Obama was speaking and dancing with his wife at his eighth inaugural ball, our new president's political gift consists of the ability to muster repetition with spontaneity, then the repetitive nature of political rhetoric must also come naturally to him. At the same time, there's a shock value to certain words that breaks up the repetition. "Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus..." and then a break of the rhetoric to include those so rarely included, "AND nonbelievers." Very nicely done. Rhetoricians were disappointed by the lack of a "by the people, for the people" repetition, but I think Obama's words will be just as important.

But he did have one quasi-biblical rhetorical moment that I thought was very fine; when invoking the revolutionary history of the U.S., he led into the future with, "So it has been; so it must be." I thought that was a nice summation of his theme of "remaking America." If he had put that closer to the end than the beginning, it might have had a little more impact. But overall, I thought it was an excellent speech, and an inauguration full of symbolism. Thanks, John G. Roberts.

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