Return on Success

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I was in the car on the way home, and so only heard the President’s speech on Iraq, but the delivery seemed more pedestrian than impassioned and the rhetorical devices open to criticism.

The president sounded as though he was reading from a script rather than speaking from the heart, though, of course, both may have been true. He is obvsouly not "The Great Communicator," but as the days after 9/11 showed, he can speak with an honesty and urgency that gets the message across. I heard no similar command in Thursday night’s performance.

I was a little surprised the President chose to make a major televised address, at least from a political standpoint  Everybody seems to like or at least respect General David Petraeus–except for moveon.org, I guess–while lots of people are down on President Bush. Continuing to having Petraeus be the media face of the "surge" defense, as he has been on the Hill all week, arguably made more sense than leaving the President open to a barrage of criticism, as did the televised speech roadblocked on the major nets.

Phrases like "my tomorrow begins today" and "return on success" were too facile in the first instance and mercenary in the second to escape notice.

"My tomorrow begins today" sounds like an ALANON bumper sticker and made me want to break into a rendition of "Yesterday," when all my troubles seemed so far away. And to frame the sacrifice in financial terms, as though we weren’t going to withdraw our human capital until we had gotten a better return on the sacrifice of human treasure, may or may not be the right policy, but it is the wrong way to go about winning over Democrats, as he was clearly trying to do with rhetoric about a plan that brings both sides together.

Television and radio can be a bully pulpit, but they can also be a withering magnifying glass.

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