Great context in Part 1 and an interesting assessment. Like you, Mr. Fallows, I liked the speech. I thought some of the lines were great: for example, capitalism/competition, fund/defund, "Even Switzerland." I was also glad to see Sherrod Brown recognized. He has survived in a difficult state for Democrats. I hope the party will take some pages from his playbook.

The point about transitions is interesting. While watching the speech, I, too, noticed they were missing. I was a little startled at first, but then I got into the rhythm. Omitting transitions flies in the face of traditional speech writing wisdom. So much for the wisdom, at least in this case.

The stress on "possibilities" near the end reminded me of my favorite Emily Dickinson lines: "I dwell in Possibility - A fairer House than Prose." I realize that her "Possibility" refers to poetry. But I prefer to read it as possibility in a broader sense.

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I have been utterly baffled at professional commentators' reactions to Biden's SOTU speech.

It seems that only half of the population is actually even impacted by the rhythm and intonation of speech. These people automatically convert the words into text like it was written on a page, and delivery doesn't matter. But for the half who hear the music in spoken phrases, a delivery that is rushed and mumbled, like Biden's was, is bound to miss, regardless of textual content.

It seems that even you, Mr. Fallows, must be a textualist. Perhaps it's because you had an advance copy, and were focused on that. Perhaps because you long for normal. Your annotation of Biden's delivery was exceedingly generous, to the point of tone deafness. Frankly, my wife and I could barely follow the President from one point to the next. We kept yelling at the television. "Slow Down!" "Pause!" "What? How does that follow?"

Timing, man! This has nothing to do with a past speech impediment. Mr. Biden has delivered speeches very well recently. He can do it.

Someone needs to get through to the comms team that they are blowing it by letting Mr. Biden waste opportunities like this. Is he a depot who doesn't tolerate feedback? Block out an afternoon nap, give him wine with dinner, or at least just slow down that damned teleprompter!

Side note: Barack Obama had a different problem with his comms team. They positioned the teleprompters to the left and to the right, so Obama was never looking into the camera. Even though his words and beautiful delivery were directed right at the American people, he wasn't making the connection because he was evidently talking to someone else. If it can be done in news studios, they can position the President's teleprompter where the camera is.

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Mar 7, 2022·edited Mar 7, 2022Author

Thanks for taking the time to read and offer this careful response.

I do understand your argument about the importance and power of different sorts of rhetoric and connection. I also understand the music of on-the-text and through-the-ear deliveries.

What I was trying to lay out in the preceding item, "Part 1," and some of the notes here was that in some cases, plainness (and even hurry), like what Biden was doing here, can match the message. (Eisenhower's "military industrial complex" speech was not delivered very stylishly or beautifully.) I understand that you take this as a counter-example case.

You could be right; I could be wrong. We will see, and I appreciate your engaging in this depth.

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