A mysterious thing happened in that speech Tuesday night. By the end of it Barack Obama had become president. Every president has a moment when suddenly he becomes what he meant to be, or knows what he is, and those moments aren't always public.
Bill Safire thought he saw it with Richard Nixon one day in the new president's private study. Nixon always put a hand towel on the hassock where he put his feet, to protect the fabric, but this time he didn't use the towel, he just put up his feet. As if it were his hassock. And his house.
So with Mr. Obama, about four-fifths of the way through the speech. He was looking from the prompters to the congressmen and senators, and suddenly he was engaging on what seemed a deeper level. His voice took on inflection. He wasn't detached, as if he was wondering how he was doing. He seemed equal to the moment and then, in some new way, in command of it.
Friday, February 27, 2009
I guess Presidential speechwriters like to watch for those moments when their clients seem actually to grow into their jobs. Peggy Noonan, who wrote for Ronald Reagan, on the SOTU: