...Takes On Cool, Lecturing Obama

Dem hopeful, a great orator, has struggled one-on-one
By Jason Farago,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 23, 2008 2:01 PM CDT
In this Dec. 13, 2007, photo, Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., speaks as Sen. Joe Biden, D-Del., listens during the Des Moines Register Democratic Presidential Debate in Johnston, Iowa.    (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
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(Newser) – Barack Obama is famous for his soaring set-piece speeches, but his facility with oratory hasn't translated into success in debates, writes John M. Broder in the New York Times. At last month's Saddleback Church forum he sounded every bit the law professor, offering complex, humorless analysis to the sound bites that John McCain deployed. While Obama has improved since the Democratic primaries, he can seem visibly exasperated by questions he finds silly.

One of Obama's worst moments during the primary came when a debate moderator asked about fighting terrorists; while Hillary Clinton gave a short, clear answer, Obama rambled for minutes about intelligence gathering and diplomacy. Later on he showed more mettle: in January, he bashed Clinton for service on the board of Wal-Mart. As one professor observed, "Obama clearly knows how to float like a butterfly, but he needs to work on the sting-like-a-bee part."