He shore do talk purty, don’t he?

Barack Obama is popular. Barack Obama is eloquent. Those two facts are connected.

If you’re curious about why Barack Obama has an 82% approval rating in the latest polls, take a look at Obama’s Christmas message. Nothing earth-shattering there; certainly no policy substance. It’s exactly what his detractors were pointing to when they kept saying “Just words.”

But in a country confused and scared by a crisis whose dimensions we have yet to measure, the capacity to say the right words – the words that give people the sense that someone competent and caring is in charge – can make all the difference.

Ask FDR. Obama has chosen Lincoln as his icon, for lots of good reasons. But he’s not in Lincoln’s position; he’s in Roosevelt’s. It’s good that he has mastered the art of the fireside chat.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com