In general, if a speech has five minutes worth of substance, it should be delivered in five minutes. Oprah Winfrey managed on Saturday to take seventeen minutes delivering five minutes worth of substance.
One wonders whether Oprah and the Obama handlers felt that she must give a minimum number of Oprah minutes to the fans – mostly her fans– who braved Iowa’s December weather to see her. Whether Oprah herself, having called the shots in her world for so many years, simply told the campaign “I’ve got a seventeen minute speech,” and then proceeded to give it. Or whether everyone who could have taken a blue pencil to Oprah’s remarks was so happy to have her on board, that they didn’t want to mess up a good thing.
Oprah may have been weak on content, but Obama’s expert strategists and choreographers were right on, as they almost always are. For connoisseurs of political choreography, the Oprah events were Swan Lake on steroids.
Is Oprah bigger than Bill Clinton? Hell, yes. Oprah runs an empire. She confers overnight fame and fortune on previously unknown authors. Oprah kicks the butts of people who sue her. She appears each month on the cover of her magazine, because she IS the brand. She gains weight without losing respect. She’s lampooned by the South Park guys, and for once, they are the ones who look the worse for it. Oprah is black, and yet accessible to the rest of us. She’s gorgeous, without actually being gorgeous. Oprah’s richer than Martha Stewart, JK Rowling and Madonna. And she’s nice, according to those who are in a position to know.
The Reasonable Reporter expected to be dazzled by Oprah. Wanted to be dazzled by Oprah. But apparently Oprah has been talking to the afternoon TV audience for too many years. Her speech was insipid, and way too long. And yes, she was “out of her pew,” as she told the Iowa audience.
They loved her anyway, because she’s Oprah. And because when you go out in 12 degree weather for an event, what are you going to do, leave before it’s over?
Meanwhile, in a smaller room, thousands of miles away, Dennis Kucinich yelled a lot. The more he yelled, the more applause he got from Northern Nevada’s progressive left., who had braved a tamer version of winter weather to get to the Reno Sparks Convention Center.
Kucinich inspired thunderous applause when he told the crowd of 300 or so that he’d been reading up on articles of impeachment. He spoke of his impoverished childhood. He outlined health care reforms that would strip the industry of its profit margin and redirect those dollars to patient care. He promised to be tough on lobbyists. This got him a standing ovation, but he was yelling again, so it wasn’t clear whether content brought the crowd to its feet, or choreography. (More modern jazz than ballet.)
In a brilliant bit of choreography, the statuesque young Mrs. Kucinich, who in low heels has at least six inches on her husband, perched at his feet on the edge of the raised platform where he stood. She gazed adoringly upward for most of the twenty-five minute speech, until the Reasonable Reporter’s neck began to ache in sympathy. It was intriguing, and it worked.
Mitt Romney, who once seemed to be the Republican bookend of Barack Obama for his presentation style, did not live up to choreographic expectations in his “big speech” about faith in America. The content was well thought out. The strategy was controversial, even in his own camp. The Romney choreographers, if indeed they ever were employed, have apparently joined the Hollywood writers on the picket line. Romney was smart and composed, but he wasn’t moving to the music.