Fire and Ice: One Speech, Two Rebuttals, and a Report Card – Part 3

By Miryam Ehrlich Williamson

Part 3: Grading the Presentations

I haven’t mentioned the second rebuttal, originally meant for Tea Party members alone, but picked up by CNN and broadcast nationally, partly (with all due respect) because it began

“Good evening, my name is Congresswoman Michele Bachmann from Minnesota’s 6th District.

I’m hard put to take seriously someone who thinks her first name is Congresswoman and her last name is District. More seriously, what she said didn’t add anything to the dialog, and contained enough dubious numbers to keep the people at Politifact busy for months.

Bachmann’s decision to go up against both Obama and the spokesman for her own party was not one that delighted the Republican establishment. And it didn’t do either her or her party much good, either.

CNN superimposed on the screen the constant reactions of a focus group made up of Democrats, Republicans, and independents, each of whom held a device on which to record their reactions on a scale of 0 (very unfavorable) to 100 (very favorable.) At no point did the Democrats’ combined scores go above 50 (neutral), and the independents tracked closely with the Dems. Only the Republicans showed favorable scores – a few times in the 60s, mostly in the 50s. Fully two-thirds of the focus group just wasn’t buying what Bachmann had to say.

If I were grading the three presentations for visual impact, I’d give Bachmann a C-. Throughout her talk she was looking up and away from CNN’s camera. To me it looked like she was addressing the Jolly Green Giant. I later learned she was looking at the Tea Party’s web cam, but to those of us seeing her on CNN the look was ridiculous. That wasn’t her fault, I guess, although she might have asked about the camera setup. What was her fault, though, was her absolutely irrelevant showing and reference to the famous (and posed, as we now know) photo of the flag raising on Iwo Jima, for crying out loud. She was talking about how great America is. Is that the best symbol she could find? That’s why the C minus, not a gentlewoman’s C.

Ryan I give an A- (I’m a tough marker – you have to be superb to get an A from me). He maintained eye contact with the camera lens, read from the teleprompter without moving his eyes (that’s harder to do than you’d think), and was smooth and non-confrontational.

Obama gets a B-. He can read a speech as though he’s saying it for the first time, which is also harder than you’d think. But he didn’t listen to me, which is where the minus comes from.

After his beautiful, healing Tucson speech, I put a note on the public comment page at I told him that his habit of looking from one teleprompter to the other and back again made it look as though he was watching a tennis match. I asked him to have the teleprompter placed next to the camera, so he could engage the home audience at least some of the time. (Reagan, Clinton, and even Bush 2 could do this. Why not Obama?) I also asked him to stop raising his chin, because it made him seem haughty, like he was looking down his nose.

I really did that. I did it once before, when I was consulting with a New Hampshire man who was running for the US Senate, and it went over well. He didn’t win because of that, I’m sure, but he did win.

And least Obama kept his chin down.

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One Response to “Fire and Ice: One Speech, Two Rebuttals, and a Report Card – Part 3”

  1. That raising the chin on one sentence then lowering on that next is off-putting. Lately I close my eyes and listen.  The words get fair emphasis. The AZ speech was amazing, the STOU adequate … even with my eyes closed.

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