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Obama`s Accents
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January 11, 2010, 11:00 PM
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The most interesting thing about the incredibly predictable and boring hoo-haw over Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) mentioning that Obama had advantages at getting elected President over other black politicians because he was "light-skinned" (Obama`s not particularly fairer than the average African-American, due to his father being what Obama calls an "ink-black Luo," but obviously Reid was referring shorthand to Obama`s wholly non-black upbringing) and having "no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one" is Reid`s acute observation that Obama changes his accent to fit his audience. As I wrote a couple of years ago:
For example, here`s a wonderful video of Obama giving a 2007 speech to a conference of black clergy, where he has a much different accent and body language: languid, cocky, florid, and Southern. Here, Obama sounds and looks like the preacher who has the biggest church and the biggest Cadillac in Tupelo, Mississippi. (He does a shout-out to Rev. Wright between 1:00 and 2:00 of the 36:00 video).

I like this alternate persona of Obama`s better than the one he usually does on TV. I hope he does his 220 pound Baptist minister who loves his BBQ ribs number for visitors to the White House just to freak them out.

(I wonder what other impressions Obama does? Maybe that`s the secret part of Obama`s diplomatic strategy of personally meeting with rogue foreign leaders. He`ll invite Ahmadinejad to a summit conference, then do Borat the whole time they`re negotiating. Or invite the Castro Brothers and do Ricky Ricardo: "Fidel, you got some `splainin` to do!")

Reid`s an older guy, and he got punched in the head a lot when he was a young boxer, so it`s hardly surprising that he`s not at all times as facile with the latest jargon as the PC Age demands. More fundamentally, Reid`s in trouble because he`s getting a little too close to the fact that is too embarrassing to say publicly: we elected this lightweight President because people got (briefly) enthused by the idea that he`s black by nature but white by nurture.

Look, we make up stupid nature-nurture fantasies about politicians all the time. We elected another lightweight President in 2000 because by nature he comes from the New England Puritan/WASP leadership caste that been more or less running things since the 1630s but by nurture he`s a regular guy. George W. Bush: the best of both!

Fortunately, we`re at least allowed to talk about WASPs.