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August 20, 2008
Obama's missing spontaneity
One thing made clear by the Saddleback broadcast was Barack Obama’s utter lack of spontaneity. This inability to put himself across without a script has been characterized as "thoughtfulness" and "nuance" by the legacy media, which does little to convert it into a virtue.
It’s a strange failing. Because it’s the quality of spontaneity, the ability to think and express oneself on one’s feet, to play an outstanding game without a net (or even an acceptable court, for that matter), that’s valued above all other abilities in black culture.
We have the black preachers who can speak for hours on scriptural topics, without repeating themselves and maintaining a high emotional tone throughout. We have the jazz improvisors who can work out all the possibilities of a musical theme without the least sign of effort.
(Improvisation used to be common in European music during the Baroque era – Bach was one of the great improvisors of his day – but that vanished as serious music became more codified and intellectualized.)
It’s even present in rap, contemptible though it may be otherwise.
The original source for rap, "the dozens", featured rhymed challenges and insults that could go on for hours.
Clearly, spontaneity is a cornerstone of black American culture. And yet Obama simply doesn’t have it. That mean nothing in and itself, but it’s a peculiarity in a man whom makes such a point of identifying himself with black America. Stranger still that the old white dude should be so much better at it.