America is the last place on earth to hear English oratory. Oratory of the mind-changing, tear-jerking, rib-tickling kind. It was great to come home last week, turn on the telly, and catch the big speeches from the previous day’s proceedings at the Democratic Convention.
Winston Churchill, Aneurin Bevan, Enoch Powell were the last great orators we had in English politics. Now all we get is monotone Scottish whining, or robotic PC-correct Blair Babe-type drones. Depressing to both the spirit and the mind.
But from Denver, last week, came oratory of a sort with which Cicero wooed Romans, Demosthenes wooed Greeks, and Lincoln wooed Americans.
Senator Biden, Hillary Clinton, Michelle Obama made you laugh, made you cry and grabbed the heart-strings while President Bill Clinton’s phrase-making was magic. The bit about how he wanted the world to look, again, to America, because of the ‘power of our example, not examples of our power’ was magnificent.
His opening about how he was there to do two things: to support Barack Obama and to ‘warm up the audience for Joe Biden’ was a lovely, funny bit of faux self-deprecation.
Obama, of course, is an oratorical phenomenon, appealing to the best qualities in humans, and he’s funny. Referring to McCain’s record of voting in the Senate in support of President Bush for over 90 per cent of the time, Obama said:
“Senator McCain likes to talk about judgment, but, really, what does it say about your judgment when you think George Bush was right more than 90 per cent of the time?”
And he can succinctly stick in the knife as with this chilling condemnation of the Bush administration which “sat on its hands while a major American city drowned.”
Twenty years ago, I remember sittiing in a morning bath and listening to the Rev Jesse Jackson who had been speaking in support of Governor Michael Dukakis’ bid for the US presidency. I’ve never forgotten this bit:
“Governor Dukakis’ ancestors came over in the immigrant ships,” proclaimed Jackson, “mah ancestors . . . they came over in the sluuurve ships . . .but . . we’re both . . . in . . the . . .same . . . boat . . . tonight.”
Pure bollox, of course, but beautifully cadenced, glorious bollox.