February 24th, 2009
11:00 PM ET
12 years ago

Gergen: Speech gets an A, but the rhetoric didn't soar

(CNN) - For political impact, the President deserves a strong A for his speech tonight - it was inspiring, spoke to the chief concerns most Americans appear to have about his economic program, and explained the bailouts for banks and autos in terms that were very understandable.

It was also the most ambitious speech that we have heard from a President in decades - the first half sounded like FDR fighting for the New Deal, the second half, Lyndon Johnson fighting for the Great Society. Rhetorically, I thought the speech was a B - it had very little music. Clearly, as he himself said, he wanted to speak plainly and until near the end, he avoided soaring language. In short, I don't think it will find its way into an anthology of great speeches, but it will serve the President extremely well with the public.

Filed under: Obama address
soundoff (51 Responses)
  1. Philip Berg

    I thought that the President's speech this evening was balanced, reasoned and well delivered. This is not necessarily the time for "soaring rhetoric", but more for an honest, sobering , yet hopeful and uplifting appraisal of where we are today and where we need to move direct our country 's efforts tomorrow. Obama is walking a fine line between political diatribe and genuinely attempting to change how things work in the beltway.

    Conversely, I found Gov. Jindals response on behalf of the Republicans to be, at first, painfully fawning and somewhat condecending and then, later in his speech, an utterly jingoistic echoing of the Neo-Cons failed and supremely flawed agenda. In particular, the closing of his zombie-like oration was a regurgitation of the same tired appeals to nationalism and patriotism which the prior administration bludgeoned the American public with while they marched our country right over a cliff, like we were just so many lemmings.

    His not-so-hidden message seemed to be much akin to W's "Mission Accomplished" moment, as in; we elected our first chief executive of color and "defeated discrimination" in the United States in the process. My goodness, does the Governor live in the same country as me and does he actually preside over a state free of said discrimination. Methinks that Mr. Jindal compromised a truthful and realistic viewpoint by substituting a very unsure and ingenuine canned spiel for a valid and accurate presentation of the perspective from the other side of the aisle.

    If I am wrong about this point, then, ultimately, his message was that the Republicans, while proud of seeing a black man elected to this contry's highest office, really have no intention of cooperating with him in any way that represents true bipartisanship.

    February 24, 2009 11:39 pm at 11:39 pm |
  2. A Woman In California For Obama

    Mr. Gergen what do you know? Just because Anderson Cooper treats you as a god-does not make it true. It was a great speech and it WILL be historic. I respect your commentary but disagree with you tonight.

    February 24, 2009 11:50 pm at 11:50 pm |
  3. Marty, FL

    David, I agree with your strong A for the president's speech. Many Americans prefer inspiring substance in leadership over rhetoric.

    February 24, 2009 11:58 pm at 11:58 pm |
  4. Heidi

    I thought his speech was smart and well done. He spoke to the concerns of all people. Well thought out. I am proud to call him Mr. President.

    February 25, 2009 12:08 am at 12:08 am |
  5. Perusing-through



    I just give up on the GOP:-(

    February 25, 2009 12:16 am at 12:16 am |
  6. Hillary B.

    I give it an A+.

    February 25, 2009 12:34 am at 12:34 am |
  7. Ricky C Williams

    I really tried to listen but I dont think he came off as genuine. The republican party is just burned way to many bridges and most of America KNOWS what they have done and till they REALLY actknowledge it without a fallow up of blame game they will keep digging a hole. Everything they do comes off as Pandering, Palin, Steele, and now Mr jindal... the sooner they get its more than color of ones skin that gives confidence. the better off the party will be

    February 25, 2009 12:35 am at 12:35 am |
  8. Lynn

    What is it about CNN "pundits"...are your salaries tied to how many criticisms you can come up with even when you contradict them and they make no sense??

    February 25, 2009 12:36 am at 12:36 am |
  9. oknfl

    Great speech

    February 25, 2009 12:38 am at 12:38 am |
  10. Joan , Ontario

    Soaring rhetoric would not have been appropriate for a speech in this situation. He got the crowd on their feet constantly with his eloquent and sincere delivery and there was more bipartisan response than there has been in years. He was inspriring, thoughtful, honest, even a bit humorous and was emotional where it counted. I think he would have been criticized if he had gone overboard with rhetoric. He balanced his speech well and it was really enjoyable to listen to. How many times can you say that about a political speech?

    February 25, 2009 12:45 am at 12:45 am |
  11. ken from jefferson city

    David what part didn't soar for you because I finally can see a light at the end of the tunnel this has inspired me to believe that life will get
    better and with this speech I can see how we are going to do this and also I can see why he is leading us down this path.

    February 25, 2009 12:46 am at 12:46 am |
  12. Roland in St George, UT

    Honestly, who cares about grading the speech at a time like this? What we need is someone with a plan, and a brain. Those are 2 things the previous president lacked.

    February 25, 2009 12:47 am at 12:47 am |
  13. Dave

    It's so funny that Gergen has a man crush on Obama. Gergen is seriously patheric. obama could say ANYTHING and Man Lover Gergen would drool....

    February 25, 2009 12:48 am at 12:48 am |
  14. KO

    I agree that rhetorically it wasn't great, but this is not the time for that. This was a purposeful President letting the Congress, and the American people, know exactly what he intends to do. He was clearly speaking over Congress' heads directly to his viewers, so they, along with him, can hold Congress accountable if they do not act. In that way, and particularly given the strong poll numbers, the speech was a success. We'll know how much of a success in the coming days and weeks. It was also incredibly refreshing listening to a President speak eloquently and treat his audience like intelligent adults.

    February 25, 2009 01:01 am at 1:01 am |
  15. George

    I think Gergen is a hypocrate. Have you realized how nowadays his voice is loud on TV than b4 republicans came together on Monday!

    February 25, 2009 01:14 am at 1:14 am |
  16. Obama prefers the A-/B+

    It's not accident, when Obama performs just a shade below the superlative. That's his plan. He doesn't want to get by with too much dazzle, because that sets a politician up for a hard fall later. This is how he'll usually conduct himself, even though he always has the rhetorical skill to push things to the max.

    February 25, 2009 01:32 am at 1:32 am |
  17. Irene

    well done, Mr presindent!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!, the speech was the best, America is fortune.
    Let it be . Amen

    February 25, 2009 01:34 am at 1:34 am |
  18. Irene


    February 25, 2009 01:37 am at 1:37 am |
  19. Irene


    February 25, 2009 01:38 am at 1:38 am |
  20. Steve in Las Vegas,NV

    At last a president that tells it like it is, the unvarnished truth about where we are and what he plans to address it. I noticed that the words, terrorists, and terror were noticeably absent as W would have used.

    Now the action can begin. We all have to do our part if we are to succeed.

    February 25, 2009 01:54 am at 1:54 am |
  21. mike

    This speech will be forgotten when the Dow goes below 7,000.

    February 25, 2009 01:57 am at 1:57 am |
  22. Leslie

    I love how CNN's pundits complain that Obama's speech isn't "one for the ages" or "well, probably won't be written in history as one of the greatest speeches ever."

    Hello? After 8 years of "Is our children learning?" it's OBAMA who has the problem with not making history-book speeches?

    February 25, 2009 02:04 am at 2:04 am |
  23. Robert Teal, Palm Desert, CA

    Surprise, surprise, David Gergen and other members of the "best political team on television," gave Obama's speech two thumbs up. When-oh-when will the slobbering idiot crowd (David, Anderson, Gloria, Roland, Campbell "all bull," Jeffrey Toobin, Don Lemon, Wolf, Cafferty, et al), cease their love affair with Barack H-word Obama? You people have lost all sense of objectivity. You have become a national joke. CNN needs less of D. H. Hughley, Don Lemon, and Carl Bernstein, and more of Kyra Phillips, Lou Dobbs, and Erica Hill.

    February 25, 2009 02:45 am at 2:45 am |
  24. Ron , West Coast

    An A from David.... That`s rich . I was very pleased and then some. The speech was fantastic ! I guess David , you thought Mr. Obama was speaking to you , well you`re wrong ! He was speaking to me and millions of other americans who`ve lost their job, or about too! I don`t need you or any of you pundits to decern what I hear or can see with my own eyes and ears . But you can have any interpitation of the speech you want ...... I don`t get paid to analyze like you do , what does not concern me !!!

    February 25, 2009 02:49 am at 2:49 am |
  25. Mike H.

    Why do we need David Gergin to tell us how we'll remember this, or any other, presidential speech?

    February 25, 2009 03:41 am at 3:41 am |
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