I have a great reverence for language. Like most people who earn their living by manipulating words, I am inclined to favour the side of any dispute that has the most elegant arguments. But in America over the past weeks, watching the final stages of the presidential slug-a-thon, I had to re-order my priorities.
Sitting through the final debate and the endless stump speeches in the "battleground states", it was overwhelmingly clear that George W Bush was inarticulate and right, and that John Kerry was articulate and wrong. Strictly speaking, Kerry is fluent rather than articulate - a good deal of what he says is so self-contradictory as to be technically meaningless, and the rest is incapable of substantiation.
But he talks without pauses or hesitation, his sentences are more or less grammatical, and they seem on superficial hearing to follow on from one another in some sort of order. And that - for the Bush-haters - is pretty much enough to make his candidacy pass for the Second Coming.
Where Kerry is disingenuous and desperate, Bush is repetitive and crass. But on substance, conviction and moral courage, the President is way out in front. His message may be tailored for the good old boys in the South or the Mid-West, but what he is saying is basically true.
America is engaged in a battle with forces as wicked as any we have known: not the "nuisance" terrorism of the dismissive Kerry world view, but a form of nihilism so dark and sinister that it is almost impossible for Western democratic thinking to get its mind around it.
Those who prefer to see Islamist terror as a kind of analogue of the Cold War communist threat - an enemy which can be contained through military stalemate and diplomatic horse-trading behind the scenes - have got it seriously wrong. There is nothing negotiable about a death cult. There is no diplomatic common language for dealing with those who kidnap and murder people who are trying to bring aid to their own countrymen and co-religionists.