Accomplished trial lawyers will tell you that the key to effective cross-examination is knowing when to sit down. That’s true whether the cross-examiner is winning or losing the cross. Even a great cross’ impact on the jury diminishes severely every second that the cross-examiner drones on past the point of its maximum impact. And the longer a witness holds his own during an aggressive cross, the more credibility he gains in the eyes of jurors. Sitting down is an especially hard thing for trial lawyers to do because loving the sound of their own voice is a hazard of their occupation. The best lawyers, however, have the self-discipline to do it.
I was reminded of all this when I saw the president on the Jon Stewart’s Comedy Central show. I know that a lot of the younger voters Obama needs to re-energize watch The Daily Show. But that doesn’t make it any less strange seeing the leader of the free world straining to ingratiate himself to a cable TV comedian by saying things he has said innumerable times before. You can just imagine the fun Stewart would be having at Obama’s expense if he’d appeared on, say, the Bill Maher show.
Being the leader of their party, presidents are supposed to make campaign stops in closely contested districts during the last week of the campaign. Telling the national electorate things they’ve heard before in increasingly unpresidential settings is another thing entirely. If presidential politicking is anything like making a case to a jury, Obama should have sat down a long time ago.