One of President Obama's longest-running, most-used rhetorical standbys is the earnest phrase "let me be clear." It cropped up in his national debut speech at the 2004 convention, was deployed throughout the campaign, and continues. But let me be clear—Obama's use of the phrase has changed. During the campaign, he used it to cut through his sometimes heady rhetoric and drive a point home: his opposition to the Iraq war, his faith that America was "ready" for a black president.
But "let me be clear" has changed since Obama assumed the presidency, taking on a more defensive role. It now serves as a rebuttal where the facts are not so, well, clear, Alec MacGillis and Paul Farhi write for the Washington Post . The phrase often precedes ideas that are difficult to sell, such as the president's identification of a "clear" threat from al-Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan—where murky political realities quickly emerged. The speech in which he spelled out his strategy used "clear" 11 times.