A predominantly older audience filled Alumni Hall on Monday night to listen to columnist William Safire. IU alumnus Michael Arnolt introduced Safire, noting Safire's accomplishments, such as winning the 1978 Pulitzer Prize for distinguished commentary, serving as president Richard Nixon's speechwriter for four years and being the most widely read writer on the English language.
When Safire took the stage, he said the purpose of his speech was to analyze the current political scene. He then focused on the uniqueness of this year's presidential election.
"This is the only three-ism campaign that I can recall," Safire said, noting the three candidates could face racism, sexism and ageism.
Safire said there are different factors that could change the election, such as a blooper, predicted recession or a scandal.
"Nobody is scandal-proof," Safire said. "A lot of guys are looking around for a hint of scandal and whoever finds it wins a Pulitzer."
After Safire summarized the upcoming election, he talked about each candidate individually. For the Democrats, Safire said Sen. Hillary Clinton "has to hang in there and do a lot better than good." He also said he has a lot of respect for Clinton.
After Clinton, Safire moved on to discuss Sen. Barack Obama. He said Obama is a fresh face to the election and that he is bringing back thoughtfulness to speeches, even though Obama's speeches tend to be similar.
"He has 'that' speech," Safire said. "After the fourth or fifth time you see it, your lips start moving along with him." However, Safire said later in his speech, "(Obama) is one hell of a speechwriter and speech maker." He then compared him to John F. Kennedy.
To wrap up the Democratic nomination, Safire touched on the possibility of an Obama-Clinton or Clinton-Obama ticket. He said the likelihood of Obama becoming vice president with Clinton is more likely than Clinton becoming vice president with Obama. However, he said both options are remote.
Safire then moved to the Republican side and said how he thought presidential candidate John McCain would run.
"He'll run as a man of honor and a man you can trust," Safire said. "He's a patriot."
Safire also said his predicted possibilities for McCain's running mate, including New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg or Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
Toward the end of his speech, Safire said one of the world's biggest problems is China and its methods of dictatorship and repression. He also mentioned the war in Iraq, and noted each presidential candidate's stance on how to end the conflict. For a finish to his speech, Safire said the 2008 election will influence history, and how citizens should take part in it.
"This is a moment in history where we're all going to lap it up," Safire said. "Read about it on television. Compare the nutty blogs to the responsible blogs. This is a moment, 20 to 30 years from now, we'll be looking at and saying, 'this is how I voted.'"
A question and answer session followed the speech.
Even though Safire received response from the audience during his talk, he did not amaze every audience member.
"It was hard to hear," Bloomington resident Jim McLay said. "I wasn't overly impressed. It seemed like a cobbled-together speech."
But McLay said the speech included interesting tidbits.
Another Bloomington resident, Patricia Pizzo, said she decided to attend the speech because Safire is a well-known writer and she thought he would have interesting things to say, but Pizzo also said the speech was difficult to understand.
"He dropped his voice at the punch line," Pizzo said. "He may be a great speechwriter, but he isnot great at delivering speeches."
Pizzo also said she was happy Safire endorsed Obama's good speechwriting.
Safire's speech was the second in the School of Journalism's Spring Speaker Series. The next speaker will be Michael Beschloss on April 14 at the IU Auditorium.
© 2008 Indiana Daily Student via U-WIRE