THE BLOG

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

David Mills Headshot

Obama the 'Articulate'

Posted: Updated:

On the black side of the blogosphere, some folks are annoyed by the media's description of Sen. Barack Obama as "articulate." It's condescending, they say. As if a former Harvard Law Review president wouldn't be articulate?

And hey, you don't hear people going around calling white guys "articulate," do you? White articulateness is a given! Chris Rock joked about it years ago, in regard to Colin Powell. "Articulate," said Rock, isn't a compliment; "articulate" is what you call somebody when you expected him to be stupid.

Racialicious, an anti-racist blog, put up a post last week titled "Barack Obama is AWB: Articulate While Black." Guest blogger Philip Arthur Moore cited references to Obama as "articulate" in the Christian Science Monitor, India's Financial Express, Townhall.com and on KCCI, an Iowa TV station - all within the space of a couple of days.

"I hope the media gets over how 'articulate' Obama is and starts challenging him on his views a.s.a.p.," Mr. Moore wrote, "so that this infatuation with how well he speaks dies down and we can really start seeing what he's made of."

Paul Butler, a George Washington University law professor who blogs at Blackprof.com, quoted the first six words of a recent CNN profile of Obama: "Intelligent, articulate, who is Barack Obama?" "It's going to be a long campaign season," Prof. Butler wrote. One commenter seconded that emotion: "The patronizing racism from the media and pundits will only get worse from here on."

There's just one problem with this line of complaint. The media do use the word "articulate" to describe white guys too.

We have the handy example of another well-spoken Democratic candidate in this very same presidential race... another boyishly handsome lawyer who, in 2003, figured that two years in the U.S. Senate might entitle him to the keys to the White House.

I speak of John Edwards. Check out what people were saying - and still say - about that silver-tongued devil:

Candy Crowley, CNN: "He is... a very articulate man. ... He was front and center during the Monica Lewinsky impeachment trial of Bill Clinton and was considered very articulate during that time." (January 1, 2003)

Blogger Steve Benen, the Carpetbagger Report: "... Edwards is a very bright, articulate, and aggressive lawmaker." (August 26, 2003)

David Greenberg, Legal Affairs: "Fresh-faced and articulate, he possessed a warmth that his rivals lacked." (January 2004)

Slate partial headline: "... John Edwards is bright and articulate and really, really youthful. ..." (February 6, 2004)

Charles Paul Freund, Reason Online: "[A]lmost all the coverage was founded on the theme of Edwards as an articulate, appealing, and energetic political force." (July 7, 2004)

Rob McManamy, the University of Chicago Chronicle: "The charismatic, passionate and articulate former U.S. Sen. John Edwards is speaking out about the need to lift more Americans out of poverty and into the middle class." (March 2, 2006)

David Hampton, clarionledger.com: "Edwards is young, smart, articulate and a good Southerner with moderate tendencies and a heart for traditional Democratic issues." (December 28, 2006)

wikiDemocrats.com: "He's charming, he's smart and he's articulate." (as of January 29, 2007)

You know what? I don't think John Edwards and his supporters consider it an insult that he keeps being called "articulate."