Speech Critics Assess Obama's Oratory

Thurston Clarke, author of "Ask Not," a well-regarded book on President Kennedy's inaugural speech, wonders if President Obama is not still reacting to criticism during the 2008 campaign that he was too good with words. His main opponent, Hillary Rodham Clinton, cited a quote from former New York Gov. Mario Cuomo that "You campaign in poetry, but you govern in prose." Robert F. Kennedy Jr., son of the late attorney general and New York senator, worried about the limits of "poetry or lofty language."

"I think he's scared of appearing too polished," Clarke said. "I think it scared him from giving a great inaugural address, and I think that was a huge mistake because no president gets an audience again like he does for his inaugural address."

Allegations that President Obama is holding back are "not true," Burton said. "That speech (Kennedy's) was 50 years ago, only underscoring the point that these iconic moments are so few and far between. But knowing a couple lines is not the best measure of a speech and certainly not of the effectiveness of a president."

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