We have a category here for politicians, but we rarely use it. Unless they're making specific claims about policy or about reality (which they really don't do in speeches), one can't really expect them to be subject to the minimal standards of coherent reasoning. They're not really reasoning, after all, when they make speeches–they're motivating, encouraging, etc. When they send out their surrogates to give rational grounds for their views, or if they themselves do so, that's another matter. But the speeches, especially speeches to very large crowds of people in foreign countries, really shouldn't be subject to the kind of scrutiny one would expect even of campaign stump speech. This is why, I think, today's David Brooks' column is so silly. He chastises Obama for saying not being hard-headed enough:
The odd thing is that Obama doesn’t really think this way. When he gets down to specific cases, he can be hard-headed. Last year, he spoke about his affinity for Reinhold Niebuhr, and their shared awareness that history is tragic and ironic and every political choice is tainted in some way.
But he has grown accustomed to putting on this sort of saccharine show for the rock concert masses, and in Berlin his act jumped the shark. His words drift far from reality, and not only when talking about the Senate Banking Committee. His Berlin Victory Column treacle would have made Niebuhr sick to his stomach.
Obama has benefited from a week of good images. But substantively, optimism without reality isn’t eloquence. It’s just Disney.
And he's no Jack Kennedy either. That would have been funnier. The really dumb thing about this is the Brooks even admits that Obama has more to offer than the speeches–while claiming at the same time that he doesn't. People, some people at least, can tell the difference between a speech in front of a crowd of 200,000 screaming Teutons and a health care proposal that has a chance of passing. David Brooks can't seem to make this basic distinction.