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The GOP's Not-So-Great Communicators, by Peter M. Robinson

The GOP's Not-So-Great Communicators, by Peter M. Robinson

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Published by Hoover Institution
Appeared in the Wall Street Journal January 4, 2012.
Appeared in the Wall Street Journal January 4, 2012.

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Published by: Hoover Institution on Jan 06, 2012
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Peter M. Robinson
 
The GOP’s Not-So-Great Communicators
Hoover Institution
Stanford University
by Peter M. RobinsonJanuary 4, 2012Although a lot o Republicans keep wishing otherwise, running the ederal governmentis nothing at all like running a business. Presidents don’t hire or re members o Congress, and only a ew thousand o the more than one million civilians that the ederalgovernment employs serve at the chie executive’s pleasure. An aptitude or reviewingbusiness plans or a talent or wooing investors—useless.Presidents must instead govern by getting the rest o us to see things they way theysee them. They need to interest, move and compel us. In a word, they need to be goodspeakers.Which brings us to Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum and the rest o the GOPeld. As the candidates continue their scramble, a scorecard: Test One: Does anybody really want to listen to this person?Some politicians are simply a pleasure to hear. Franklin Roosevelt’s reside chats still holdup. His voice is sonorous. His manner is warm and engaging. Ronald Reagan’s deliveryproved so enjoyable that once, drating a speech or him on education, I worked in a longpassage rom Tom Sawyer purely or the pleasure o listening to the president read Mark  Twain.How many candidates has this campaign produced to whom you would listen just or un?Only one, Herman Cain, and it may be awhile beore we hear rom him again.Mr. Romney? Bland. Michele Bachmann, Rick Santorum, Jon Huntsman and Ron Paul?Either orgettable or grating. Only Mr. Gingrich commands listeners’ attention, yet his isthe command o the actory whistle. You don’t enjoy Mr. Gingrich, exactly. You just can’tnot listen to him.Mr. Gingrich gets a C, each o the others, a D. This raises a problem: the need to gradethese candidates on a curve.Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush possesses a sweet, easy delivery; Indiana Gov. Mitch Danielsand Rep, Paul Ryan both bring zeal and conviction to their every utterance; Gov. HaleyBarbour o Mississippi and Gov. Chris Christie o New Jersey—but you see the point. Noneo the GOPs most gited speakers is running. We must thereore recalibrate. Mr. Gingrichgets an Aminus. Each o the others, a Bplus.A WALL STREET JOURNAL OP-ED
 The GOP’s Not-So-Great Communicators
 
Peter M. Robinson
 
The GOP’s Not-So-Great Communicators
2 Hoover Institution
Stanord University
 Test Two: Why is that candidate wagging his nger at us?Ronald Reagan told stories, cracked jokes and limned the values all Americans share.“Vote or me,” he in eect argued, “because I’m one o you.” Jimmy Carter and MichaelDukakis by contrast sounded like policy wonks, talking less about broad values thanabout the details o government programs. “Vote or me,” each in eect argued,“because I’m smarter than you.”For their membership in the Carter/Dukakis school o wonkishness, Messrs. Romneyand Gingrich both get Cs. They don’t always talk down to us. But at moments theycan’t help themselves.Jon Huntsman? A grade o D. He hectors. He lectures. He waves his unusually longindex nger in the air like everyone’s leastavorite proessor.For their membership in the Reagan school, Mrs. Bachmann and Messrs. Santorumand Paul deserve As. They come across as regular people. Ron Paul may loseaudiences when he champions isolationism or denounces the Fed, but even then heseems like somebody’s excitable uncle, not an intellectual snob.Rick Perry merits a special word. He’s relaxed, appealing, a regular guy, a committedstudent in the Reagan school . . . and yet. Although President Reagan mightintentionally umble or a moment as he answered a question—Reagan onceexplained to a riend o mine that he wanted people to be able to see that he wasthinking matters through, just as they would do i they were in his position—henever turned in a perormance quite like Gov. Perry’s debate lapse. The governor o  Texas, as you will recall, lost his train o thought or 53 seconds, then blurted “Oops.”Appearing normal diers rom appearing addled. Mr. Perry’s grade: C. Test Three: Folks, this is serious.Gravitas. Weight. Substance. Which o the GOP candidates demonstrates that heis equal to the moment? Who shows that in asking his ellow Republicans to placehim in a line o succession that includes Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt andRonald Reagan, he understands the undamental solemnity o the undertaking? The most important test, this is also the most subjective. Ater listening to speeches,debates and interviews or lo these many months, I have concluded that just twocandidates pass: Messrs. Romney and Gingrich.Mr. Romney has o course ipped and opped. While he now reers to himsel as“a conservative businessman,” he claimed as recently as 2002 that he was instead a“moderate and . . . my views are progressive.” Why hasn’t he been laughed out o the

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