Tuesday, January 24, 2012


While it's on my mind, I have to say this: it irks me no end to hear the pundits go on endlessly about how great Newt Gringrich's performance was, at that last debate, when he excoriated the journalist who had the temerity to ask about his personal integrity. No. It wasn't great. It was effective, perhaps, in appealing to an audience that found in his rage a reflection of their own. That doesn't make it great rhetoric. His strategy was not to be responsive but to deflect. To manipulate the question rather than to answer it with anything like honesty. Successful rhetoric, to my way of seeing things, is not the same as great rhetoric; it does not earn the praise that was lavishly heaped upon it.

The Buddhist concept of "right speech" is a useful measure. Right speech is a matter of telling the truth, and telling it skillfully, in a manner that uplifts the dialogue rather than degrading it. By this standard, the Speaker's calculated outburst--why does everyone persist in calling him "the Speaker"? I've noticed that Nancy Pelosi is always "the former Speaker" in the media--fails the test. Posing as righteous indignation, it was nothing if not offensive, abrasive, evasive. I refuse to dignify it with praise.

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