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Santorum’s Disastrous Speech

Rick Santorum, the passionate conservative, just gave a heartfelt speech at the Republican Convention. Heartfelt—and very bad. It was bad because of its central metaphorical conceit—hands. Santorum informed America that he had “shaken the hand of the American dream,” and then went on to talk about shaking the hands of farmers and the hands of this guy and that woman and so on. Rhetorical conceits work when they are unnoticed, when they are introduced almost (forgive me) off-handedly and then begin to broaden and deepen as the speech itself does. The problem is that you can’t shake the hand of a dream—a dream is something abstract, hands are real, the metaphor simply doesn’t work, and you notice it the way you notice a hangnail. Then, every time it comes back, you’re reminded of the original bizarrerie and you feel uncomfortable and confused. Santorum pulled himself out of the ditch by bringing up the condition of his disabled daughter Bella, an undeniably touching story, and then tying that to his pro-life message. But before that, Santorum gave the world a master class in how not to give a convention speech.


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