Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Rhetorical, and orange, flourishes: Clinton

I quoted NPR's Ron Elving about Michelle Obama's speech at the Democratic National Convention, and here he weighs in on Hillary Clinton's speech Tuesday night:
It was the second night in a row the convention headliner had been a woman, and the second night in a row that a woman had delivered just about everything anyone could have asked.
The New York Times joined other media outlets in reading between the lines of this speech, and featured in its coverage what many consider the signal rhetorical touch of the night: Clinton's clever turning of the controversy over her loss back toward her supporters, as in this excerpt:
“I want you to ask yourselves: Were you in this campaign just for me?” Mrs. Clinton said. “Or were you in it for that young marine and others like him? Were you in it for that mom struggling with cancer while raising her kids? Were you in it for that boy and his mom surviving on the minimum wage?”
Clinton, benefiting from years of practice, took control of the room, gesturing easily and only occasionally stepping on her own good lines by moving too fast past them. Perhaps most disappointing, if not surprising, for women: The focus afterward on her choice of an orange pantsuit. Access Hollywood, the entertainment television show, is running a poll at its website on which color viewers would have preferred; right now, orange is leading with more than half the vote. Readers of this blog know I consider wardrobe one of the double-edged swords for women speakers, making them noticeable in useful and not-so-useful ways.

For the record, orange works on a number of levels. Here are just three: Since it is considered a complementary color to the intense blue of the backdrop, it energized her appearance and allowed her to stand out more clearly than a paler or darker color would. (Complementary colors are opposite one another on the color wheel: blue and orange, red and green, etc.) And, as she is pale-skinned, with pale hair, orange works with her own coloring, so she'd look good in it on or off the podium. Finally, unlike red--often chosen as a "power color" or a patriotic one for women speakers--orange won't appear to bleed in the visual on television. (Photo courtesy of the Obama 2008 Flickr photostream)