John McCain, in his Thursday convention address, deployed the technique in this admirably honest line: "We were elected to change Washington, and we let Washington change us." The audience roared. McCain's antimetabole echoed one used by his running mate, Sarah Palin, the night before: "In politics, there are some candidates who use change to promote their careers. And then there are those, like John McCain, who use their careers to promote change." The inversion of change and career, forming a crisscross structure, gives the line a powerful one-two-punch feel. During his speech last week, Bill Clinton recycled an antimetabole he'd first used in the 1990s: "People the world over have always been more impressed by the power of our example than by the example of our power." The turn of phrase pleased the delegates—they clapped and hooted—but a far less famous speaker can lay claim to the most successful rhetorical switcheroo of the Democratic Convention. Barney Smith, a regular guy from Indiana who lost his job to outsourcing in 2004, took the stage at Invesco field and produced this zinger: "We need a president who puts the Barney Smiths before the Smith Barneys."It's nice to see rhetoric getting the attention it deserves during this election year. It probably stems from the fact that, for once, we have some halfway decent public speakers in the mix--Bush vs. Kerry was, rhetorically, a parched desert.
Added:Peter Wall makes his own observation.