Obama's Teleprompter: The GOP's Dumbest Attack

Presidents speak more often and with a wider reach than ever before--they should prepare in advance.


And consider, too, how often a president must deliver remarks. When Herbert Hoover was president, at the dawn of the radio age, he averaged eight public appearances a month. When John F. Kennedy switched on the television age, he made 19. During Bill Clinton's first term, as cable television became dominant, that figure had risen to 28. And as Obama tried to punch through the noise of the Internet age, he made about 42 appearances per month during his first two years in office, according to stats compiled by CBS News's Mark Knoller. Presidents speak more often and with a wider reach than ever before. Of course they should carefully prepare in advance.

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Santorum neither employs a speechwriter nor prepares his remarks in advance. He seems to view this as a mark of authenticity. "When you're running for president, people should know not what someone's writing for you after they've had pollsters and speechwriters test it and focus group it and all this kind of stuff," he said. "It's important for you to understand who that person is, in their own words." But as Michael Gerson, the George W. Bush speechwriter-turned-Washington Post columnist (and former U.S. News-er) pointed out last week, "The craft of rhetoric involves the humility of repeated revision. The careful appeal to an audience is a form of courtesy."

It's not, as Gerson notes, a courtesy that Santorum extends to his primary night audiences. His stubborn quest for oratorical authenticity is redolent of Jimmy Carter, another pious politician wary of rhetorical artifice, and leads to meandering, muddled messages and wasted opportunities. Where it won't lead is to the bully pulpit.

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