But there are a couple of lessons for Obama (and his critics). The first is not to mistake conventional wisdom for actual wisdom. The Berlin speech may be remembered as an important marker on his path to the presidency, or it might be recalled as a turning point where his campaign's balance shifted too far to audacity instead of hope. Which brings up the second point: A president has to be able to both clearly understand and also shape the context in which he addresses the American people. Presidential words are effective when they resonate with the country's political realities (whether the media perceive them or not) and when a chief executive has the skills to alter the context to fit the words. The degree to which Obama has these other skills required of a president remains unknown.
Robert Schlesinger is a deputy assistant managing editor at U.S.News & World Report. He is also the author of White House Ghosts: Presidents and Their Speechwriters (Simon & Schuster, 2008).