Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Tone of Voice

I wish I could put my finger on a description of the difference in tone of voice between when someone is speaking informatively or argumentatively. I'm getting close to understanding what's so annoying about Bush's speech pattern. But it's hard to describe in writing. His voice rises at the end of sentences. Not in the manner common with young people implying "Do you understand?" at the end of each sentence. But more like an exasperated parent telling a child for the fourth or fifth time to do something. "GO - CLEAN - your ROOM!" Like, "What's wrong with you that you don't understand what I'm saying?" "I - HAVE a PLAN!"

Bush does it more when he's speaking ex-temp than when giving a prepared speech. A few months ago I realized Scott McClellan was speaking that way, too. Now it seems like most Bush supporters are speaking that way. I have to tell you, it's really annoying. It's insulting

I raise the issue because this morning I heard a good speech by Congressman Schiff (D CA) at the Brookings Institution Forum on the Future of the Geneva Conventions. You can watch or listen to the speech on C-SPAN - Brookings Institution on Detention and Interrogation of Captured Enemies. The entire program is an hour and a half. Schiff's speech is about 45 minutes into it but all the speakers are worth listening to: the lawyer defending Kuwaitis held in Guantanamo; Brad Berenson, former assistant to Gonzales; David Cole, Georgetown law professor; David Rivkin, born in Russia, international law attorney and former State Department official.

Schiff lapses into an argumentative tone midway through the speech. Still I'm happy to hear someone speak so clearly about the question of what treatment of detainees is permissible and who gets to decide.

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