While President Obama travels around the world, attends fundraisers and speaks somewhat leisurely with groups of supporters, the Republican presidential nominee candidates are keeping strenuous schedules to meet with voters in early primary states. And some candidates are beginning to look a little tired.
Last week the airways were full of video clips of Rick Perry’s memory lapse at the debate and his subsequent appearances on the morning news shows and “The Late Show with David Letterman”. Now Herman Cain has had a long moment of uncertainty during an interview with the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinal editorial board. But comments that these episodes disqualify Perry and Cain from the Republican nomination are ridiculous.
Almost everyone has had a similar moment of “brain freeze”. For older Americans, it’s sometimes called a “senior moment”, but these occasions begin to happen more often after age 45.
If you watch President Obama when he is not using a teleprompter, you will hear him fish around for the right word fairly frequently. But Obama is such a good speaker that he will talk around the gap until he finds an appropriate word. Next time, listen carefully for the incomplete sentences and extra words.
The biggest problem with the Republican field is that President Obama will talk circles around any of them except Newt Gingrich. The President knows how to talk even when there is nothing new to say. And he often uses emotional language to engage his listeners. Only Newt has enough legislative experience and substantive information to hold his own in a general election debate.
Of course, we need more than just a good debater in the White House. Humorous one-liners, audience jeers and candidate flubs make the debates interesting to watch, but it‘s critical to get more out of them than entertainment. We need to pay careful attention to the ideas expressed, not just the style in which the ideas are delivered.