Of course Barack Obama talks differently to different groups. So do most politicians.

Who's winning, who's losing, and why.
Jan. 11 2010 6:33 PM

Code Black

Of course Obama talks differently to different groups. So do most politicians.

(Continued from Page 1)

American code-switching is relatively subtle. And Obama, ironically, is one of its more subtle practitioners. As Zadie Smith pointed out in her essay on Obama and language, his speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention demonstrated his ability to pivot nimbly between cultures, sometimes in a single sentence: " 'We worship an awesome God in the blue states, and we don't like federal agents poking around our libraries in the red states.' Awesome God comes to you straight from the pews of a Georgia church; poking around feels more at home at a kitchen table in South Bend, Indiana." If Harry Reid noticed it then, he held his tongue.

AP Video: Harry Reid apologizes

Christopher Beam is a writer living in Beijing.