“Let me be clear,” Obama said when he introduced himself to the country at the 2004 Democratic National Convention. “We have real enemies in the world. These enemies must be found. They must be pursued. And they must be defeated.”

Talking about health care in July: “Let me just be absolutely clear: Medicare is in place and as long as I’m there . . . Medicare will continue to be in place.”

And when he got word of his Nobel Peace Prize in October: “Let me be clear: I do not view it as a recognition of my own accomplishments.”

Plenty of others have taken note of this habit, but they usually dismiss it as a standard time-buying device, like Bill Clinton’s “make no mistake” or Richard Nixon’s eerily similar “let me make one thing perfectly clear.” But Obama’s declarations of clarity are far more than a little presidential throat-clearing.