‘Thank you and God bless you, and God bless the United States of America’ (1). ‘Thank you and God bless you, and may God bless America’ (2). Once again (1), and then again (2), Barack Obama invokes God and America to draw his speech to a close. POTUS is one of the few political performers who knows how to commute between vocal registers, moving effortlessly between public rhetoric and apparently private conversation. On the campaign trail prior to the presidential election in November, he’s been demonstrating this ability to good advantage. Over and over again. But now a study of Obama and his teleprompters (quoted above) by a Reuters photographer, seems to show that even the variations in what he says, the bit of Barack that comes out differently because that’s how the moment has moved him – yeah!, is really scripted in advance. Just as Dean Martin acted drunk, Obama is performing a patina of confidence and ease. Will it be enough to start a fire this time?
In the White House, the new French president faces the press alongside Barack Obama. Monsieur Francois Hollande is dumpy and speccy compared to the iced-coffee elegance of his host. Although Obama stumbles over his visitor’s name (hesitates, then over-frenchifies it), it is Hollande who is somehow in the wrong. Instead of simply being the President of France on his first visit to Washington, he is also thinking that he is the President of France on his first visit to Washington; that kind of thinking which is one step removed from being there, doing it. Hollande only has to sit still while Obama introduces him to the Washington press corps. Naturally, Obama followed the ‘remarkable’ election in which Hollande ousted Sarkozy. Of course, having read his biography, Obama knows that as a young man Hollande spent time in America studying fast food. Meanwhile we can see the President of France wriggling in and out of his own skin: one moment inside himself; next second, beside himself. At the end, he chips in with a line about French fries and you only wish he hadn’t.