Mencken weighs in

There has been a lot of virtual ink deployed in commenting on President Obama’s Iraq-War-U.S.-Economy speech.  My unofficial Tomatometer reports that viewers and pundits alike have judged about 43 percent fresh. Eugene Robinson of The Washington Post thought that the President “Brought Gravitas to Speech.” But most of the commentary I saw gave it a barely passing grade. Karl Rove, as usual, was both judicious and percipient, quietly comparing what the President had to say about foreign policy to George McGovern’s “Come home, America” hustings speech in 1972.

Not a few commentators were even darker in their assessment, concluding that the speech was a muddle wrapped in mendacity inside a cipher. It is to that last group that my own brief commentary belongs. An erudite reader, responding to my judgment that it was “one of the worst speeches in modern memory,”  sent along a bit of tonic abuse from H.L. Mencken on Warren G. Harding’s performance as a speaker: “It reminds me,” wrote Mencken:

“of a string of wet sponges, it reminds me of tattered washing on the line; it reminds me of stale bean soup, of college yells, of dogs barking idiotically through endless nights. It is so bad that a sort of grandeur creeps into it. It drags itself out of a dark abysm (I was about to write abcess!) of pish, and crawls insanely up the topmost pinnacle of posh. It is rumble and bumble, it is flap and doodle. It is balder and dash.”

I thought it worth sharing Mencken’s little detonation with you. I have a feeling it will come in handy in the months ahead.