Friday, December 04, 2009

So How'd That Speech Move Ya?

Jules Crittenden has a masterful guest poster in Richard F. Miller, a historian and author, most recently of In Words and Deeds: Battle Speeches in History.

The entire post, Words and Deeds, ranges beyond Mr. Miller’s “off-the cuff” analysis of President Obama’s speech at West Point to make other points, though that review is certainly succinct.

Crittenden also looks at Fogh Rasmussen’s op-ed in WaPo, which Mr. C. termed “doing a little cleanup after the American commander in chief”. Oh, dear. However, he’s right: there was “more clarity from a Eurocrat than from an American President”. [note: Spell Check doesn’t have “Eurocrat” but it does offer “Euro rat” as an alternative. Just sayin’…]

Mr. Crittenden failed to notice that Rasmussen is a Dane. As such, the current head of NATO is used to the idea of speaking clearly and to the point. Even bogged down in that anachronistic bureaucracy, Fogh Rasmussen is certainly a cut above “Eurocrats”.

No, the Danes aren’t perfect, but they have a history of talking even straighter than Texans do. So Mr. Crittenden is to be forgiven his damning with faint praise Fogh Rasmussen’s op-ed. There are many Americans (we used to be among them) who don’t ‘know’ the Danes. But that can be remedied as they’re quite easy to understand and well nigh impossible to forget. This is definitely a ‘what-you-see-is-what-you-get” culture, unlike, say, the Chinese. Or the Swedes. Both these cultures have high penalties for any of its citizens who talk straight.
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As I was putting this post together, I mentioned to the Baron Rasmussen’s op-ed. He reminded me of another straight talker, from a story in tonight’s newsfeed.

Denmark’s Speaker of Parliament has doubts about global “warming” and the way its tenets came into being:

As the world prepares to converge on Copenhagen for the COP15 Climate Summit, Denmark’s Speaker of Parliament has expressed serious doubts as to the way in which the climate debate has developed.

“The problem is that lots of people go around saying that the climate change we see is a result of human activity. That is a very dangerous claim,” Parliamentary Speaker and former Finance Minister Thor Pedersen (Lib) tells DR.

“Unfortunately I seem to experience that scientists say: ‘We have a theory’ - then that crosses the road to the politicians who say: ‘We know’.

Who can be bothered to hear a scientist who says ‘I have a theory’ when politicians go around saying ‘I know’“ Thor Pedersen says, Thor Pedersen adds that the temperature has not risen in the past decade.

“I’m not saying that in the decade that the temperature has fallen or stagnated is enough to evaluate developments. But one should only say what one knows,” the Speaker adds.

“You should say that although we believed in our models, that the temperature would rise from 1998 to 2008, we have to admit that it has not risen. We cannot explain why it has not risen, but we believe we still have a problem. I’m just asking that people say what they actually know” … [my emphasis - D]

Good heavens! If the academic scientists were limited to what they know, where would the government grants come from? It’s their duty to umm…extrapolate stuff and then pass these extrapolations around until they’re too shopworn for further use. At which point, another academic scientist extrudes a new extrapolation and the round robin begins again. This is called the scientific method. Sometimes bird droppings may be involved, plus covert coin-tosses.

As for politicians being limited to what they know?? Lord love a duck, those folks would be stunned into silence. Politicians say what gets them elected - and that they know quite well. It boils down to one principle: seek incumbency. All their emanations precede from that initial summum bonum. If they waited to speak until they had something worth saying, they’d quickly sink into the depths of their fellow pols’ oceans of words.

But I digress. Back to the embedded Harvard historian who did a quick review of the president’s speech at West Point. Mr. Miller doesn’t think well of this particular endeavor. He easily could have called his remarks “How Was He Wrong? Let Me Count the Ways”. Here’s a snip from the final paragraph:

…There are certain kinds of speeches, just like there are certain kinds of orders, lover’s messages, job terminations, and awful medical diagnoses, that one gives face to face, period. The only way for a president to do that is alone, behind his desk, in the Oval Office.

The whole critique is blunt and cogent. Our military-historian-type readers probably already know this guy. So go over to Jules Crittenden’s post and read the whole speech. In addition to this plum, you’ll find links to other works by Mr. Miller and one to his web page.

Mr. Miller speaks with such clarity, why he could even be a Dane… maybe on his mother’s side?