By this: Did he tell good stories? Did he tell stories that actually supported his points? This is hard to fake. It was easy for Dr. Eileen Consorti to tell me that studies existed to support her surgery recommendation but — the hard part — she never supplied those studies, probably because they don’t exist. Pronouncements are easy, stories hard. It’s easy to say X and Y (“we will . . . this is a time of . . . “) but if X and Y are just wishful thinking it won’t be easy to come up with a decent story — or any story — that supports them. If Obama understands how the world works, he should be able to tell stories that support his views.
Lyndon Johnson was a great politician and an excellent storyteller. Presidents since Johnson have been worse politicians and worse storytellers. Obama’s current popularity may reflect something in us rather than something in him. Right after 9/11 George W. Bush enjoyed enormous popularity. His speeches at that time, at least those I heard, contained no stories, which I think revealed that he understood little or nothing about the situation. (I would have told stories about overreaction.) The dismal outcome was foreshadowed. His popularity at the time was due to something in us, not something in him.
More The speech contained about one-quarter of a story. My expectations are hereby lowered.