Mr. President, you could use a few storytelling classes. As it stands now, you are an above average reciter of facts, when you aren’t tired, but you seem to lack the ability to really exploit the unique position you are in whenever you are in front of a microphone. A good storyteller can get his audience to laugh, cry, love and hate. A bad storyteller will have his audience looking for a place to hide. I’ve watched the last few impromptu press conferences you’ve given live, Mr. President. Needless to say, I’ve had no choice but to declare that when they ended, I was a little embarrassed to think that this was the best performance you could muster at such a critical juncture in the debt ceiling talks.
You have said that Ronald Reagan wouldn’t be put in the position you are in of having to beg for a debt limit increase every other president has gotten without breaking a sweat. I’ll agree with your premise, Mr. President -you and I both knew going into this thing that you would be getting the Negro President treatment- but Ronald Reagan, despite all his other shortcomings and inadequacies, could deliver a line. He could tell a story.
The other thing Ronald Reagan understood implicitly was he could never afford to let America see him looking like an old man. He would have those shoulders squared and his head thrown back like he was getting ready to be crowned prom king whenever the cameras were rolling, because he knew that an important part of communicating to an audience was a speaker’s nonverbal cues.
We are a nation obsessed with movies and TV, two mediums that depend on the drama and intensity actors bring to bear when they deliver their lines to flesh out their narratives and hold our attention. To many of us, these video recreations of life’s challenging moments are the baseline by which we often judge reality. Ronald Reagan knew this.
Mr. President, at times like these, we need you to talk to us like you are the coach and we are a football team in overtime that needs one more first down to put us in field goal range. We need you to talk to us like you are the coach and we are a basketball team who is down three points with six seconds left until the final buzzer. We need you to talk to us like you know we are going to be on the winning team.
Mr. President, we may tell you that we want you to tell us the truth, but we are lying. Ronald Reagan knew that too. What we really want is for you to come as close as you can to telling us the truth without abandoning the obligatory happy ending we’ve come to expect as part and parcel of the American dream.