Wasn't Obama supposed to be good at giving speeches?

Each time one of Obama’s tone-deaf speeches or depressingly missed opportunities is panned in the press, their response is the same. Some top White House aide is dispatched to tell us pooh-poohers that events ultimate will vindicate the president. That Obama’s calm, thoughtful, measured approach always is the right response. (The word “measured,” by the way, ought to be banished from the Obama team’s vocabulary.) History, the White House always says, will vindicate the president. Alas, the problem for the White House is that history doesn’t vote. People do. People who expect their president to be a top-notch performer on the world stage.

Which brings us back to Oscar night. During one of the mercilessly scathing reviews of Sunday’s performance—where the kindest cut was that the telecast was merely “bland”—Franco’s phone-it-in performance was said to be “smug,” “distant,” “unwatchable,” and “detached from everything he was supposed to be celebrating.” It was so bad that people were rooting for Billy Crystal to return mid-show and save the program, and more than one wag proclaimed a deceased Bob Hope (returned through the magic of CGI) the liveliest talent on the stage. Franco, most interestingly, was compared to a “one-term president,” a performer who seemed “to withdraw into himself as the show went on, growing flatter and more monotone until, by the end, he might have been reluctantly emceeing a distant cousin’s bat mitzvah.” If the Obama White House sees no parallels, then they are in worse trouble than I imagine. It ought to tell them something when people with a straight face now defend the rhetorical talents of George W. Bush.