Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Barack Obama uses a Teleprompter

You will, I am certain, be shocked to learn that when he delivers a speech, Barack Obama does not recite the entire text from memory. You are not alone in having your illusions blown so cruelly away. Like you, dear, gentle reader, the Weekly Standard's Dean Barnett also held the innocent belief that Sen. Obama's stirring oratories sprang organically from deep within the fertile loam of his heart mere seconds before they emerged from between his lips to the eager ears of his adoring supporters.

Oh, harsh reality!

In spite of Obama's obvious strengths in this area, 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?
I won't make too much of Barnett's comparing Barack Obama to an animal performing a trick. I'm actually pleasantly surprised that he didn't refer to him as a monkey in a suit. But, if a speech by Obama is the equivalent of a dog walking on its hind legs, what on earth is a speech by George W. Bush? A dog eating its own shit? Bush's inability to express himself with or without visual aids has given birth to an entire subgenre of the English language!

Leaving that aside, I read Barnett's essay closely, and I honestly can't figure out what the point is supposed to be.

Barnett says "questions linger about Obama's gifted speechifying." Really? What questions? Barnett doesn't say. He merely suggests that the fact that Obama uses a Teleprompter for his speeches indicates... something... about him.

Obama's supporters have had ample notice that the scripted Obama is far more effective than the spontaneous one. 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.
Really? I suppose Barnett missed the most recent debate between Obama and Hillary Clinton. Clinton and Obama spoke extemporaneously and at length about their positions on issues as varied as foreign policy, immigration, and health care.

Granted, there is not a lot of high-flown rhetoric in this clip. But, then, there isn't supposed to be. Obama articulates his position on health care in clear, concise terms - obviously, the result of a disciplined thought process. Even if it isn't the equivalent of "I have a dream today," it is immeasurably superior to the rote repetitions of "socialized medicine" that we hear from the Republicans.

And can Barnett identify (with the arguable exception of Bill Clinton) one public figure who does not use note cards or a Teleprompter during long speeches? As I write this, I am watching Russ Feingold out of the corner of one eye as he argues against giving retroactive immunity to lawbreaking telecoms, and damned if he isn't looking down at a sheet of paper every few sentences. I suppose that makes him the equivalent of a horse jumping off of a diving board.

I guess you have to have your sense of shame surgically removed before becoming a member in good standing of the conservative pundits' club. Otherwise, I don't know how they show their faces in public after writing crap like this.

Photo by diggersf, used under a Creative Commons license