On page 342 of Kennedy & Nixon, Chris Matthews talks about Ted Kennedy’s meandering (and, for him, politically disastrous) response to the question of why he wanted to be President. Matthews states: “It took seventy-one words to reach the secret password, ‘restoration.’ But its power was dissipated.”
How can one make a point effectively? Some of it is probably a
matter of identifying what people need or want to hear, and catering to
that. That can be a bad thing, but it isn’t always, since we all have
needs that we want people to care about, and there’s nothing wrong with
that. In this case, Kennedy needed to speak to the nation’s desire for
healing and restoration. On some level, he did, but the impact was
dissipated through all of that meandering. There needs to be clarity.
Clarity does not have to mean being succinct or blunt, since I think
that many people also like informed eloquence: a sense that the
candidate knows the ins-and-outs of an issue. But there needs to be a
point, a central message.