Ed Driscoll

'Thumper Obama'

At Power Line, Steven Hayward on the semiotics of the president’s speech last night:

This is a simple point, but one overlooked by 99 percent of all public speakers. Most of us (I plead guilty, as a nervous, overly-animated speaker) use hand gestures as devices to relax us while speaking. Reagan learned, starting especially with his radio days but also later in movies, that the voice is much more important than hand gestures. Reagan’s missing hand gestures are the “dog that did not bark” in most of his speeches–a sign of his unappreciated discipline at public speaking. He understood the subtle point that if you aren’t making ostentatious hand gestures, people will pay more attention to your voice and your words. Of course, Reagan’s handsome, sincere face and dulcet tones helped a lot, but the point about not distracting people with hand gestures is significant. If you want to see a useful contrast, see Reagan’s speech discussing the 1986 bombing raid on Libya (no hand gestures) and then watch Jimmy Carter’s cringe-worthy hand gestures in the infamous “malaise” speech, which where the deliberate product of the advice of his media adviser Gerald Rafshoon.

Just watch the first 30 seconds of each speech with the volume off to immediately see the contrast that Steve describes above. And obviously, based on his title, note which camp the current Democratic president is in — Carter’s successor, indeed.

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