A pres­i­dent’s re­liance on teleprompters

The Washington Times Weekly - - Editorials -

Is Pres­i­dent Obama able to con­duct a news con­fer­ence without a teleprompter? Is he is an au­toma­ton in an­swer­ing ques­tions? With all the jokes about Karl Rove as Ge­orge Bush’s brain or cracks dur­ing the 1980s about Ron­ald Rea­gan sup­pos­edly be­ing an ami­able dunce, could you imag­ine the re­ac­tion if ei­ther pres­i­dent had used a teleprompter to an­swer ques­tions? The late night joke writ­ers wouldn’t have let it go un­til the pres­i­dent gave in to the mer­ci­less ridicule as he was painted as an idiot who couldn’t tie his shoes without be­ing fed in­struc­tions on how to do it.

As it was, Mr. Bush suf­fered a del­uge of un­founded crit­i­cism over the “bulge” in his jacket dur­ing the first pres­i­den­tial de­bate in 2004. The bizarre claim was that some­how this bulge al­lowed Karl Rove or some­one else to tell Mr. Bush what to say dur­ing the de­bate. Demo­cratic Na­tional Com­mit­tee Chair­man Ter­ence R. McAuliffe raised the is­sue. Sa­lon.com asked, “Was Pres­i­dent Bush lit­er­ally chan­nel­ing Karl Rove in his first de­bate with John Kerry?” The Wash­ing­ton Post noted, “Jour­nal­ists had been pass­ing around the link to the photo all week” and re­ferred to the “wide­spread” spec­u­la­tion.

Well, it might be time to ask even more se­ri­ously if David Ax­el­rod is Barack Obama’s brain.

Fi­nally, on March 6, Politico broached a topic that has been talked about in Wash­ing­ton for months — Obama’s al­most to­tal re­liance on a teleprompter. The Politico went so far as re­fer­ring to it as a “crutch” that cre­ated awk­ward mo­ments wit­nessed by the press that made tak­ing pic­tures of the pres­i­dent and oth­ers in the White House tricky. It is hard for the me­dia to ig­nore the teleprompter when they are angling for shots so that every­one had to wait for the teleprompters to be low­ered to be moved out of the way. Politico men­tioned the “un­com­fort­able laugh­ter” the de­lay pro­duced from the au­di­ence.

The Amer­i­can Spec­ta­tor notes that for many events: “[. . .] down to many of the ques­tions and the an­swers to those ques­tions. [. . .] [t]eleprompter screens at the events scrolled not only his open­ing re­marks, but also statis­tics and in­for­ma­tion an­swers to pos­si­ble ques­tions and from time to time cues up the wrong one.

Some have noted that Mr. Obama’s stum­bling speeches have occurred when teleprompters have mal­func­tioned. The Politico re­ports that Pres­i­dent-elect Obama’s va­ca­tion to Hawaii last year was ac­tu­ally used to try “wean[ing] him­self off of the de­vice [. . .] But no such luck.”

An­drew Bre­it­bart’s Big Hol­ly­wood blog fol­lowed the Late Night comics dur­ing the first month of the Obama pres­i­dency and noted the com­plete lack of jokes about the new pres­i­dent. Of course, that is noth­ing new. Dur­ing the cam­paign last year from Jan. 1 to July 31, the Cen­ter for Me­dia and Pub­lic Af­fairs found that both John McCain and Hil­lary Clin­ton had at least twice as many jokes about them by net­work co­me­di­ans as about Mr. Obama.

Yet pos­si­bly the co­me­di­ans have an ex­cuse for miss­ing this, given the vir­tu­ally com­plete lack of cov­er­age by the news me­dia. With all the ef­fort to ma­neu­ver cam­era shots to avoid teleprompters block­ing Mr. Obama’s pic­tures, the news me­dia has no such ex­cuse.

While the teleprompter might let Mr. Obama blame some­one else when­ever the an­swer turns out to be wrong, we would like to have a pres­i­dent who oc­ca­sion­ally comes across as more than a TV an­chor read­ing a script.

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