Nice analysis of Bush's state of the union speech recently by a former Clinton speechwriter (Vinca LaFleur), picked up in Ian Griffin's blog. I agree with most of her critique--that the speech lacked the Grand Ideas, it didn't flow well, and lacked passion. Looked at from a slightly different angle, something else is clear: Bush is not connecting with his audience. He's lost his groove. He's talking to an audience that may have existed right after 9/11, but the world has changed. Now people are weary of the daily visuals of bomb victims, torn families and destroyed lives--yes, the ghosts of Viet Nam.
Bush has another problem. I'm sure the president feels for the families of the soldiers. But somehow his emotions don't come across well on camera. The smile, meant to show confidence, seeems eerily out of place at times. And when he looks skyward in tv interviews, as if he's seeking answers from the heavens, it comes across as indecisive, pondering, slow... Somehow the same characteristics that seem to play so well for Bush in the past and in person (I met him years ago in Fort Worth, Texas) work against him now--the wrath of the camera.
Clearly, Bush needs to find a new message and reason for being, one that will help him survive the next two years. And he needs to do some soul searching and rediscover his audience. As Mark Oppenheimer recently argued in the Wall Street Journal (picked up in Vinca's article): “The best speeches…depend for their power on the ability to strike chords that already exist within us.”