Hillary is Channeling Hubert Humphrey, While Barack is... Doing What Exactly?

05/25/2011 12:15 pm ET

I happened to catch a couple of hours of Road To The White House on C-SPAN this weekend. Back to back, Hillary and Barack addressing the folks in retail politics venues.

First, Hillary!!!!!!
(There cannot be too many exclamation points)

The Happy Warrior!

That's what they used to call Hubert Humphrey when he was leading FDR Democrats away from Bobby Kennedy and Eugene McCarthy, back to the nightmare of LBJ's Vietnam War. The way he smiled! Grinned! Enthused! Never a downer moment, no matter how dark the reality.

But he has met his match in Hil!! Never mind empowering Bush to bomb Iran in a mad effort to double-down on a bad bet just so she can fend of Ruthless Rudy in the general election. The heck with that potentially deadly decision and its long term consequences. She's SO optimistic! No sentence uttered that doesn't lilt upward. Every gesture palms up, arms lifting. She is thrilled to be here! Thrilled to see you, and you and you! Grinning from ear to ear -- and when she does that, she gets a trifle jowly and actually looks like Hubert Humphrey.

Meanwhile, there's Barack. Eyes downcast to his notes or gazing out into the nowhere in particular. Every other phrase punctuated with an uh or ta. Every gesture, the palms of his hands down, pressing home the last in a list of the burdensome points he's making. Or the palms are moving sideways as he ticks off the same endless list. His voice monotonic, staccato -- this and then (pause) this and then (pause) this and then, finally, dum-de-dum--DUM. This. Hand out, pushing down.

What is he doing? Keeping himself in check? Why? We know he can speak in rousing cadences. He did it in the Joshua generation speech in Selma last March and at the Democratic convention in 2004. Why is he holding back?