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Read it and Weep

I had some critical things to say about President Obama’s State of the Union address. But the evening was not a total waste, thanks to the response by Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels.

Looking at it simply from the craftsmanship of speechwriting, it’s quite impressive. Several things stand out about it, starting with its tone at the opening, which showed genuine good will toward the president. Grace notes like these are not in oversupply these days. There’s also an economy of words in Daniels’s address, which helps create a sense of movement. One paragraph builds on another.

But beyond the rhetoric is the analysis, which is both sophisticated and honest. Governor Daniels resists the temptation to overstate the blame that rests with the president, even while offering a substantive, and at times a withering, critique of Obama’s failures. And Daniels offered something the president’s State of the Union address didn’t, which is an actual theory of government. And Daniels did all this in a fraction of the time and words used by Obama.

Mitch Daniels turns out to be not only the best governor in America, but also perhaps the best writer among America’s major political figures. George Will, in describing Daniels, refers to his “low-key charisma of competence.” True enough, but there’s also an understated elegance to Daniels’s words.

Needless to say, those of us who wanted Daniels to run for president this year were reminded why. In that sense, listening to Daniels’s speech left some of us more depressed than listening to Obama’s speech.

 



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