Politics and powerpoints

For the last two weeks, the only thing on the tube were the two political conventions. I caught a dozen or so speeches mostly by the main players. I had seen the conventions from the previous two elections too. Each time, the analysis and the buzz around the conventions increases tenfold. For every twenty minute speech, there are dozens of talking heads analyzing every word trying to point out something really smart or trying to make a completely out of context correlation. At the end of the day, the networks have taken it upon themselves to prevent people from even remotely making their opinions about the speakers’ words. Its become more of a time passing sport for me to quickly switch between MSNBC and Fox every few minutes to see how they each react to something.

At the end of the conventions, the only speech I can recall with some modicum of accuracy is Clinton’s. I don’t know if its just my engineering upbringing, but the facts and numbers that he presented actually stuck very well with me. Though Obama can dazzle with his uplifting rhetoric, the truth is that his speeches feel more like a Cirque show than a Coppola movie. They give you that tingle while you are listening to them, but almost completely fade away five minutes after he is done. In contrast, Clinton’s interspersing of interesting anecdotes, subtle jabs and clear cut numbers, were both engrossing and informative. Given our short attention spans and aversion to long prose, I think more speeches should have been like his.

Which brings me to the question as to why politicians do not use PowerPoint? Without arguing the merits and demerits of policies, I can’t imagine why Obama won’t sell his achievements in numbers and graphs like the rest of the world does. Instead he keeps trying to explain massive changes in big words to small people who will try everything to object to every word he says. If PowerPoint is too giant a leap, how about at least some info-graphics that he can pull out of his pocket at a minute’s notice. It seems like his avoidance of props and reliance of words puts him at a disadvantage. Because his opposition simply speaks more and speaks louder, and drowns him out. Maybe Obama is trying to be presidential, but I think the current climate calls for him to be pragmatic rather than presidential.



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