03/28/2008 02:48 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Found Poems On The Campaign Trail

The Democratic Primary, at times, seems to center around Barack Obama's preternatural rhetorical ability and Hillary Clinton's attempts to overcome it. Obama is Walt Whitman on the stump. His crowds ooh and aah even as he ticks off requisite thank yous to local politicians. You get the sense people would line up to hear him read his phone bill--and would make signs. Credit Obama's speechwriters, in part, for this. They write strong cadences into his text. Look at an excerpt from his victory speech in Iowa. The rhythms roll forward so forcefully that it almost stands as a poem:

...That is what we started here in Iowa,

and that is the message we can now carry

to New Hampshire and beyond;

the same message we had when we were up

and when we were down;

the one that can change this country

brick by brick, block by block,

calloused hand by calloused hand -

that together,

ordinary people can do extraordinary things;

because we are not a collection

of Red States and Blue States,

we are the United States of America...

It's no wonder a class called "The Poetry of Barack Obama" is now in session in the Doonesbury comic strip.

Hillary Clinton, while a solid speech giver, comes across as uninspiring and unpoetic in comparison. I imagine this must be incredibly frustrating for her. Last Sunday in Providence, Rhode Island, it seemed she finally cracked a bit, raising her voice and then her arms in a dramatic impression of Obama:

"Let's just get everybody together.

Let's get unified.

The sky will open,

the light will come down,

celestial choirs will be singing,

and everyone will know we should do the right thing,

and the world will be perfect."

Watch the performance here:

I'm guessing the campaign prepared this, which I find a little sad. Of course, she's not trying to inspire here; she's trying to mock her opponent. But the lines aren't funny. They aren't scathing. They're just dull. They make me itch for my next Obama fix. Unfortunately for Hillary, her campaign did a far better job of mocking her, albeit accidentally, with the YouTube smash, Hillary4U&Me (choice of hip spellings theirs). Cue the trumpets and the dancers!

Hillary for you and me!

Bring back our democracy!

In this country, proud and free,

Let's stand up for Hillary.

Fighting in the war,

but we don't know what we're fighting for.

It's clear we're testing minds

But we're leaving our children all behind.

The world is getting hot,

but our global warming plan is not.

Our goals are out of range,

so whoo-hoo it's time for a change!

(spirited horn section jam session)

Now Hillary will fight

for what we all know is right.

Experience is great.

Instead of war we can negotiate.

Education health and world affairs

Hillary is the one who cares

this lady knows how to lead

In this president's race she will succeed.

Hillary for you and me!

Bring back our democracy!

Oh from sea to shining sea!

Everyone for Hillary!

Oy. If you're questioning all my exclamation points, you need to watch the video. It really does call for them. In fairness to Hillary's campaign, I could see Hillary4U&Me working on seniors. The problem is seniors aren't on YouTube. This clip sums up the youth reaction.

To put things in perspective, Hillary just destroys the speeches on the other side. Inspiration and Republicans, I guess, don't mix these days. Here's Mitt Romney ceding the Republican bronze medal to Ron Paul at CPAC. His ridiculous and offensive partisanship is almost lost in the stiff, robotic presentation:

If I fight on in my campaign,

all the way to the convention,

I would forestall the launch

of a national campaign

and make it more likely

that Senator Clinton or Obama

would win.

And in this time of war,

I simply cannot let my campaign,

be a part of aiding

a surrender

to terror.

God I miss that guy. And finally, here are some excerpts from John McCain's speeches. For realism, you should spend five minutes getting angry before reading them:

In a time of war

and the terrible sacrifices it entails,

the promise of a better future

is not always clear.


nothing should unite us more closely

than the imperative

of defeating an enemy

that despises us.

They're like little haikus against hope. And here's McCain in a "lighter" moment:

I'm not interested

in trading with Al qaeda

all they want to trade is burkhas.

I don't want to travel with them--

they like one-way tickets.

Umm...ha? Considering how McCain's speeches come across worse when he delivers them, I don't think he can win in November. Inspirational speeches, of course, are only part of a campaign, but when you consider how they've galvanized Obama's hordes of volunteers and more than a million individual donors, it's obvious that they can play a big, big part. His campaign now has the feel of poetry in motion.