Feature

Um, uh, what I mean is…

What Obama suffers from is the classic “intellectual stammer”—a hesitancy that “signals a brain that is moving so fast the mouth can’t keep up," said Meghan Daum in the Los Angeles Times.

Meghan DaumLos Angeles Times

Is Barack Obama “bumblingly inarticulate”? asked Meghan Daum. Despite his soaring speeches, many people seem to think that without a teleprompter, the president is a terrible speaker. His responses to questions are marked by frequent “pauses, ‘uhs,’ and sputtering starts,” and sometimes his search for the right word “seems to last longer than the search for Osama bin Laden.” But this doesn’t mean Obama is incoherent. What he suffers from is the classic “intellectual stammer”—a hesitancy that “signals a brain that is moving so fast the mouth can’t keep up.”

Think of the speech patterns of Woody Allen, college professors, and many other intellectuals—including the grandiloquent god­father of the conservative movement, William F. Buckley. But for a politician, sounding like a “phlegmatic egghead” is a definite drawback. Oxford graduate Bill Clinton was just as brainy, but he hid his smarts “behind a folksy regional accent or good-old-boy affectations.” When Obama speaks, unfortunately for him, he sounds exactly like what he is: a man who has spent a lot of time in university classrooms.

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