Obama's Teleprompter

Cross-posted at Mike's Blog!

In the last few weeks, Republican partisans have all started to talk about Obama's teleprompter.

Here are threeexamples of the meme from the last 24 hours, and here's some Google Trends evidence of the expansion of this trend.  This, from early 2008, seems to be one of the original articles that started the meme:

...questions linger regarding Obama's gifted speechifying. Do his speeches give us a glimpse at a very special man with a unique vision? Or are we merely witnessing a political one-trick pony? Yes, Obama can turn a phrase better and do more with a Teleprompter than any other modern era politician. But does his special skill set here actually mean anything, or is it instead the political equivalent of a dog walking on its hind legs--unusual and riveting, but not especially significant? ...

Shorn of his Teleprompter, we saw a different Obama. His delivery was halting and unsure. He looked down at his obviously copious notes every few seconds throughout the speech. Unlike the typical Obama oration where the words flow with unparalleled fluidity, he stumbled over his phrasing repeatedly... The extremely articulate and passionate Obama that makes all the speeches has yet to show up at any of the debates. For such a gifted and energetic speaker, he is an oddly tongue-tied and indifferent debater.

My first thought (other than to link to some debate polling) is that this looks on its face to be an example of the Karl Rove tactic of deliberately turning your opponent's strength into a weakness that the McCain campaign tried to use earlier this year with suggestions that "Obama is a celebrity" and "Is Obama toopopular?". I think the teleprompter talk is different, however, in that it really seems to have arisen organically among Republican partisans who watch Obama's public addresses and are not impressed. After all, I'm not hearing this talk from Congressional Republicans or GOP leaders; it's mostly coming from conservative bloggers and writers and often in their real time commentary on his appearances.

That suggests to me that these people really believe this stuff, that to them Obama is secretly a terrible public speaker who relies on his teleprompter to pass himself off as intelligent and competent. It's especially striking in light of the contrast between Obama and George W. Bush. In my opinion, Bush gave surprisingly effective speeches, but it's hard to deny that his (very rare) unscripted comments were hilariously inept. But to claim the same about Obama seems completely unbelievable: especially in comparison to Bush, how can someone possibly see Obama as a poor public speaker?

To be honest, I am mystified by this phenomenon. I mean, the explanation seems fairly obvious, and I've discussed it before; it's just an example of people rationalizing ideologically inconvenient facts. In this case, I guess the fact to rationalize is that a liberal can be an effective leader. And I can even make some testable predictions about it: if people believe this teleprompter crap because of ideological self-delusion, then it should scale with Obama's perceived progressiveness, so as Obama is seen as more liberal, there should be more conservative partisan screeching about his teleprompter, and when Obama pleases conservatives, they should instead speak more reverently about his powerful rhetoric. (This is something to check back about with Google Trends in six months or so.) But what mystifies me is the degree of delusion these people evince. (I mean, read this!) I hope I never delude myself about anything to something even approaching this degree, and I'm really saddened that a significant part of the opposition to Obama's policies is intellectually sloppy enough to fall for this crap.

Tags: obama, Psychology, teleprompter (all tags)



How is he doing it in the town hall meetings?

When he is walking around the audience.

Does he have a Bush-like growth in his back where the wire-less is?

Enquiring Drudgy type of Journalistic hounds are probably looking over footage right now.

And, love the quote from the Weak-ly standard.

This from a group of folks who backed a president that couldn't pronounce Nuclear.

by WashStateBlue 2009-03-25 12:20PM | 0 recs
Re: Obama's Teleprompter

Yeah.  As if handling questions and writing books don't speak more about his abilities than whether he prefers to work from a teleprompter or not.  Soon they'll be suggesting that his facility with computers and his blackberry prove he's a fraud.

PUMAs love the teleprompter meme as well.

by Strummerson 2009-03-25 12:23PM | 0 recs
Letterman on Obama's Teleprompter

by jsfox 2009-03-25 12:31PM | 0 recs
Re: Letterman on Obama's Teleprompter


by markjay 2009-03-25 03:45PM | 0 recs
Re: Letterman on Obama's Teleprompter

I loved that piece!

by Neef 2009-03-25 04:01PM | 0 recs
Re: Obama's Teleprompter

There are three really interesting things about this meme:

One, that it's very hard to square it with fact. Obama does not have teleprompters at townhalls, nor notes, and he performs quite well.

Two, that it turns an essentially irrelevant fact into a criticism. I wear glasses, you could as easily say "Neef can't read nearly as well as you people claim. Take away his glasses and see how well he does!". Really, what??

Three, and most annoying, is that it requires a willful lack of common sense to even propose it as a criticism. The man does four to eleven speeches a day. Do we really want him mixing up the "Russian friends" speech with the "Mexican Drug Lords" speech? It's in our best interests that he speak as smoothly and persuasively as possible.

All this really tells us is how much the Right dislikes Obama, they need to be able to say negative things, regardless of how meaningless those things are.

To be more precise, they are acting like doody-heads.

by Neef 2009-03-25 12:31PM | 0 recs
Re: Obama's Teleprompter

To be more precise, they are acting like doody-heads.

I love it when you are precise!

by jsfox 2009-03-25 12:35PM | 0 recs
Re: Obama's Teleprompter

I don't see why people would have trouble with a teleprompter if they have no trouble with reading from a written speech or even looking down at index cards.  All are recorded forms of thought.  

by rfahey22 2009-03-25 12:52PM | 0 recs
Re: Obama's Teleprompter

not to mention the fact that Republicans use teleprompters too. the fact that I even had to write those words shows how absurd this whole debate is.

by Todd Beeton 2009-03-25 03:24PM | 0 recs
Re: Obama's Teleprompter

Fallows has an excellent takedown on the telepromter idiocy - http://jamesfallows.theatlantic.com/arch ives/2009/03/one_last_point_about_telepr omp.php  Follow his links for his first thoughts on the subject.

A shining example of the idiocy of this meme is on full display in today's Arena @ POLITICO, coutesy of RedState's Jeff Emmanuel.  Here I present you with a slightly condensed version:

Obama didn't really ditch the TelePrompTer

One of the most ridiculous things I'm hearing about President Obama's presser is that he proved critics of his oratorical skill wrong by ditching the TelePrompTer that has become his public-speaking crutch and going without it.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Yes, he left behind the old familiar glass-paneled prompters that helped him recall childhood memories he said he would "never forget," that helped him talk down to attendants at dirt-floored Midwestern appearances, and that allowed him to thank himself for a St. Patrick's Day invitation. ...because he was upgraded to a full-size plasma screen at the back of the room from which to read his remarks.

You can give the president credit for realizing what a story - and what fodder for parody -- the prompter has become (when Rush Limbaugh revokes his offer to debate the president and instead extends that challenge to the president's TelePrompTer, you know the meme has legs).

However, you * can't * give them credit, as so many are trying to do this morning, for ditching the scripting altogether, any more than you can give a student credit for no longer cheating on a test because he scrubbed the answers off of his forearm and instead brought them to class on a piece of poster board.

Oh please, please, please keep tying this to Rush!  (Though I thought that was our job.  heh.)

Surprisingly, moderator Fred Barbarash questions the point:

I am unsure why anyone--critics or supporters of Obama--cares about whether or not he does or does not use a teleprompter, the placement of the teleprompter, the type of teleprompter and the resolution of the teleprompter. What's the deal with the teleprompter?

I don't see this becoming much of an issue outside of the right-wing fringe-pots.  We might be in real trouble if Caro were highlight the subject in one of her her widely-read, highly respected, and eagery anticipated headline paste-ups.

by January 20 2009-03-25 01:36PM | 0 recs
They are flailing...

pure and simple.

They have either old burn outs or young crazies in their leadership, and no real leader to coalesce around. The have no agenda or no plan, except no itself.

Think about it, Sarah Palin and Joe the Plumber are the figureheads of the party.

No wonder they are obsessed with Teleprompters.

by WashStateBlue 2009-03-25 01:47PM | 0 recs
Re: Obama's Teleprompter

When people like you, it ain't your fault.  When people don't like you...

by Endymion 2009-03-25 06:06PM | 0 recs
Re: Obama's Teleprompter

The teleprompter thing was a common argument among Hillary supporters back in the day.  It's not particularly Rovian or right-wing or anything else.  It's apparently just a criticism that occurs naturally to folks who don't like Obama.  And yes, it's always been lost on me.

by Steve M 2009-03-25 07:44PM | 0 recs
Re: Obama's Teleprompter

ok the issue must die down. It is silly to comment such a thing here. I hope these people will be rained down with promo codes. What do all think?

by traceymclain 2009-03-26 04:10AM | 0 recs
Re: Obama's Teleprompter

Yes, the strength into a weakness thing is one element.  Sure he is great speaker .... but.

I also think they are baiting him.  Obama isn't good off the cuff.  He is halting and stammers some as he stumbles over his thoughts.  I think they are hoping they can under his skin some, and convince him to go without the teleprompter a bit more, so that when he does he may deliver a subpar performance.

by RichardFlatts 2009-03-26 05:38AM | 0 recs
Re: Obama's Teleprompter

You don't find him effective in Town Halls?

I do agree he tends to stutter one-on-one, but I find him a pretty effective public speaker. His engaging manner (sans teleprompter) holds audience attention.

by Neef 2009-03-26 11:02AM | 0 recs
Re: Obama's Teleprompter

i think we should appreciate obama for his extraordinary teleprompt capabilities.....

Mortgage Modification.

by creditrepairing 2009-03-26 08:48AM | 0 recs


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