Tonight’s State of The Union address is an appropriate time to examine how POTUS and VPOTUS developed their elocutionary skills.
It’s fairly certain you’ve never wondered what it would be like listening to the legendary Roman orator Cicero after he’d had a hit of the brown acid. A) He died before the brown acid was circulating, and B) he spoke Latin.
But that does not mean the experience can’t be simulated. For most people Cicero’s imaginary acid laced oratory wouldn’t differ much in intelligible content from the off-teleprompter efforts of our President and Vice President.
They story of how they honed their natural abilities with diligent study is not well known. Their role models were not who you might think.
They had tried studying legendary orators and logicians, but this ceased when the President’s handler’s realized that he misunderstood the apocryphal example of Demosthenes learning to speak with marbles in his mouth; and when the Vice President’s staff realized she thought “Syllogism” was the name of Aristotle Onassis’s yacht.
Instead, Biden and Harris spent months studying the skills of two men whose Presidential campaigns are the stuff of legend: Irwin “The World’s Foremost Authority” Corey, and Pat “We Can Be Decisive… Probably” Paulsen.
Corey campaigned for President in 1960 on Hugh Hefner’s Playboy ticket. His campaign slogans included, “Vote for Irwin and get on the dole” and, “Corey will run for any party, with a bottle in his hand.” Notable quote: “I don’t believe Spiro Agnew is a crook. If he was a crook, he’d still be in office.”
Corey was a talented comedian and actor for over 50 years. He lived to be 102, which attracted the President’s attention.
In the persona of a dowdy, wild-haired professor, his schtick was non-stop streams of nonsense peppered with physical comedy. His routines sound like today’s soft “sciences” academic papers.
Corey was a nearly perfect model for Biden. Nearly, because while Corey was a master of sesquipedalian nonsense, he didn’t make up polysyllabic nonsense words. For example, he would have considered that last sentence insufficiently confusing. This deficiency will bring us to Paulsen in a moment.
Corey’s appeal to Harris was a little different. It is exemplified by this post’s title, “I feel more like I do now than when I first got here.” (the title of an LP he recorded). This convinced Kamala Harris he was a man to emulate, as demonstrated when she said “It is time for us to do what we have been doing. And that time is every day.”
Here is Corey when he was 79, Joe Biden’s age, talking about his album. For Corey, it’s an act.
But, something was missing for Biden. He needed a larger degree of freedom, outside the bounds of the English language, to exploit his propensity to create incomprehensible neologisms. Enter Pat Paulsen.
Paulsen’s Presidential campaigns spanned 40 years, starting in the 60s. Shut Up And Get Off Your Butt! was the theme of his 1988 campaign. He was famous for incisive analysis of our immigration problems early in his career: “All the problems we face in the United States today can be traced to an unenlightened immigration policy on the part of the American Indian.”
Paulsen was also a talented comedian. His stage presence combined studied affectlessness, mistimed gesturing, deliberate mispronunciation, and brief excursions into garbled strings of vaguely English sounding phonemes.
Harris and Biden both found these skills compelling, though they emphasize different aspects of Paulsen’s persona in their own rhetorical flourishes.
Here, Paulsen anticipates the message we may well hear tonight,
I predict that based on Biden’s recent assertion that Americans’ dissatisfaction with his regime can all be laid at the feet of the CCP virus:
“As Vivek Murthy, the Surgeon General, points out, I think one of the significant things we are going to find ten years from now is a phenomenal negative psychological impact that CoViD has had on the public psyche.
And so you have an awful lot of people who are, notwithstanding the fact that things have gotten so much better for them economically, that they are thinking, but how do you get up in the morning feeling happy – happy that everything is alright?
Even though your job is better, even though you have more income.”
Joe Biden has not forgotten Demonsthenes’ marbles, but he has managed to learn to channel Paulsen with a touch of Corey. His intuitive grasp of Paulsen’s syllababble is a natural fit, and his attention span mimics Corey’s.
For example, Biden’s “trunalimunumaprzure” (sometimes rendered “true ninternuvidu presher”, or “true inder nah ma preh zer”) is pure Paulsen.
Corey’s primary contribution to the President’s affect was a standard bit where Corey appears to forget where he is.
Corey’s influence on Kamala Harris is made obvious at the Munich Security Conference, where she had been dispatched to deter Vlad Putin with sanctions…
“[W]e strongly believe – and remember also that the sanctions are a product not only of our perspective as the United States, but a shared perspective among our allies, and the allied relationship is such that we have agreed that the deterrence effect of these sanctions is still a meaningful one, especially because remember also, we still sincerely hope that there is a diplomatic path out of this moment. And within the context, then, of the fact that that window is still opening – open, although it is absolutely narrowing, but within the context of a diplomatic path still being open, the deterrence effect we believe has merit.”
Harris doesn’t have Professor Corey’s vocabulary, but she absolutely nails his concept.
It’s worth noting that we could do worse than electing a comedian as President. Ukraine’s President, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, has been criticized because he was a successful comedian. He seems to have turned out alright.
Sadly, neither Biden nor Harris are funny. Well ‘funny peculiar’, perhaps, but not “funny Ha, Ha.”
Pat Paulsen Freedom to Censor
Presidential Announcement March 3, 1968
Corey on … Who knows?