Let me be clear: Media starting to notice Obama's favorite rhetorical crutch

“‘Let me be clear,’ says Obama, and, as with George Bush’s rapid eye movements when he was telling a lie, you know the forty-fourth president is on the brink of some absurdity,” opined The Nation’s Alexander Cockburn earlier this month. Or as one Salon.com commenter put it: “Whenever I hear Obama say ‘let me be clear,’ I know what he is about to say is full of s—-.”

But this is too glib of a gloss.

If Clinton peppered his speeches with the phrase, Obama salts his liberally with it – and not at random. When taken together, the statements that have followed it read like the Cliff’s Notes to the first six months of the administration, with the president carefully staking out positions both foreign and domestic with an eye toward controlling the message and bringing along the skeptics in the crowd.

In foreign affairs, he uses the phrase to assert policy, to take and assign responsibility, and to warn against mistaking diplomacy for weakness, sometimes amassing multiple “clear” statements over time to achieve a complex and highly specific result…

At home, the president frequently uses the line not only to get his audience’s attention, but also to anticipate his opponents, and to steer the public’s interpretation of his words…