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“There are those who claim we have to choose between paying down our deficits…and investing in job creation and economic growth,” President Obama said last week. “This is a false choice.” During the same speech, he asked his audience to “let me just be clear” that his administration, having racked up the biggest budget deficits ever, is embracing fiscal responsibility, as reflected in his vow that “health insurance reform” will not increase the deficit “by one dime.”
For connoisseurs of Obama-speak, the address featured a trifecta, combining three of his favorite rhetorical tropes. There was the vague reference to “those who” question his agenda, the “false choice” they use to deceive the public, and the determination to “be clear” and forthright, in contrast with those dishonest naysayers. These devices are useful as signals that the president is about to mislead us.
Here are some other things Obama has asked us to let him be clear about: “Earmarks have given legislators the opportunity to direct federal money to worthy projects”; the U.S. government “has no interest in running GM”; Medicare cuts will be made “in a way that protects our senior citizens” from changes in benefits or costs; and a “public option” for health care, which would invite businesses to offload their medical costs onto taxpayers and could drive private insurers from the market, “would not impact those of you who already have insurance.” From now on, when you hear Obama speak, try replacing “let me be clear” with “let me lie to you,” and see if it makes more sense.
Speaking of making sense, some of the “false choices” Obama has identified in the last year are more puzzling than misleading. “I reject the false choice between securing this nation and wasting billions of taxpayer dollars,” he declared in March. So according to Obama, we can secure the nation and waste billions of taxpayer dollars. Actually, that sounds about right.
1. Talk About the Audience’s Concerns
2. Keep It Simple
3. Anticipate What Your Audience Is Thinking
4. Learn to Pause
5. Master the Body Language of Leadership