By Robert Schlesinger, Thomas Jefferson Street blog
Broadcast nutter Glenn Beck is the latest right-winger to pick up the Obama/Teleprompter meme. He does so with typical, ahem, gusto, calling the president a "Manchurian candidate."
Give Beck credit for this: At least he has distilled this charge to its inane core.
Let's be clear, again (and again): A teleprompter is a tool without any magical properties. The main difference between using a teleprompter and having a speech typed on paper in front of you is that teleprompters are reportedly harder to use.
A president (or any politician, or for that matter, television commentator) using a teleprompter signifies ... that his remarks have been prepared ahead of time.
So where exactly is the problem?
In the president, we're talking about someone who can send the stock market into a dive, or cause an international incident, with an ill-considered phrase or statement. I have no problem with the notion that his words are thought through before he utters them when he's giving speeches. This is especially true in the age of 24-hour news channels and the Internet: Everything the president says is recorded and over-analyzed, and possibly sent around the world with astonishing speed.
Anyway, back to Beck:
The teleprompter is really, really, really bothering me. ... It bothers me that this man doesn't—this man is always on prompter. You want to talk about a Manchurian candidate—that's it! Who's writing every word for this man?
Who's writing the words for Obama? I'm going to hazard a guess that the White House speechwriting staff is writing his speeches because, you know, that's their job. I'll go further (I know a thing or two in this area) and suggest that senior White House aides probably have input as does—wait for it—the president himself.
But again, here's the nub of the charge (such as it is): that Obama uses speechwriters. Guess what? The dozen presidents who preceded him had full-time speechwriters. Presidents since Washington have gotten help with their speeches. And presidents since Eisenhower have used teleprompters (some more than others).
The argument is presumably that since Obama is such a gifted speaker, the assumption is that he should be able to ad-lib great speeches without preparation. And that's laughable nonsense.
You're looking for a guy who's real, who's himself ... well I've got news for you gang: I do three hours a day without a teleprompter.
I've got news for you, Glenn: There's a slight difference between being a radio blowhard and being the president of the United States.
If George W. Bush was always on teleprompter, can you imagine what people would have said? If he was always on teleprompter, never off-the-cuff, can you imagine what everybody would have said...?
The implication is that Obama is never off-the-cuff, and that's simply not true. When he does town hall meetings and prime-time press conferences he's off the cuff. He uses the teleprompter for his opening remarks, but for the rest of the hour or however long, he's thinking on his feet. And he does pretty well.
If we have to make Bush comparisons, here's one. Can you imagine if progressives had said something like this: George W. Bush claims to be a fitness fanatic. And yet he goes everywhere in a limousine . Why doesn't he bike everywhere? He's too dependent on his limousine. It would have been an idiotic charge, but no more so than the obsession with Obama and the teleprompter.
Parting thought: Glenn Beck uses a teleprompter when he's on television (as opposed to his three hours on the radio). Who's writing every word for this man?
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