Friday, July 24, 2009

Obama's language pattern of persuasion

There is a well-known pattern for persuading an audience. You begin with statements that you know the audience will agree with or will recognize as true. Those statements do not have to have anything to do with the actual question! Then you say what you want to say in such a way that the agreement-pattern has already been established. This reduces the chance that the audience will disagree with you. They will be programmed to agree and to hear what you want them to hear.

Examples from recent Obama press conference:
Q. Congress is trying to figure out how to pay for all of this reform. Have you told House and Senate leaders which of their ideas are acceptable to you? If so, are you willing to share that stand of yours with the American people?
A. (1)Right now premiums for families that have health insurance have doubled over the last 10 years...(ALL AGREE SINCE FACTS CAN'T BE CHECKED)
(2)We also know that with health care inflation on the curve that it's on we are guaranteed to see Medicare and Medicaid basically break the federal budget....(ALL AGREE--SOUNDS REASONABLE BUT FACTS CAN'T BE CHECKED)
(3) ...What I want to do is to see what emerges (FEELS LIKE AN ANSWER WITHOUT BEING ONE)

Q.Do you think -- do you accept the premise that other than some tax increases on the wealthiest Americans, the American people are going to have to give anything up in order for this to happen?
A. (1)They're going to have to give up paying for things that don't make them healthier. (WHO CAN ARGUE WITH THAT!)
(2)Look, if right now hospitals and doctors aren't coordinating're wasting money. (WITHOUT LOOKING CLOSELY, SOUNDS REASONABLE AND FACTS CAN'T BE CHECKED)
(3)Now, I want to change that. Every American should want to change that. Why would we want to pay for things that don't work, that aren't making us healthier? (CAN'T ARGUE WITH THAT!)...

And still no answer to the question.

The secret is to make statements that sound like truths as well as statements that the audience will certainly agree with. You can win friends (and elections) and never really answer a question.

It's not just Obama. All politicians do this. Remember the dance scene in Best Little Whorehouse in Texas with Charles Durning doing the two-step and the press asking, "What did he say?" It's just that Mr. Obama is a master at the craft. Watch and learn.