Barack Obama is a great orator. More accurately, Barack Obama is a great orator as long as he has a working teleprompter in front of him. Without it his oratory collapses like a marionette without a puppet master.
That there are two Obamas, one that is a brilliant orator and one that stumbles and bumbles, is not a new revelation. Back in February of 2008, the great Dean Barnett wrote of Obama’s inability to live up to expectations when he was forced to make do without a teleprompter:
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? Regardless, the liberal commentators have gushed their praise nearly every time Obama has opened his mouth before a Teleprompter the past few months
It was thus interesting to see Obama climb to the stage at Virginia’s Jefferson-Jackson Dinner on Saturday night. As he strode to the podium, Obama clutched in his hands a pile of 3 by 5 index cards. The index cards meant only one thing–no Teleprompter.
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.
Now that Obama is president, keeping his image alive is of vital importance, so he doesn’t go anywhere or give any speech no matter how long or short without his teleprompter. From The Politico:
Obama’s reliance on the teleprompter is unusual — not only because he is famous for his oratory, but because no other president has used one so consistently and at so many events, large and small.
After the teleprompter malfunctioned a few times last summer and Obama delivered some less-than-soaring speeches, reports surfaced that he was training to wean himself off of the device while on vacation in Hawaii. But no such luck…
“It’s just something presidents haven’t done,” said Martha Joynt Kumar, a presidential historian who has held court in the White House since December 1975. “It’s jarring to the eye. In a way, it stands in the middle between the audience and the president because his eye is on the teleprompter.”
Just how much of a crutch the teleprompter has become for Obama was on sharp display during his latest commerce secretary announcement. The president spoke from a teleprompter in the ornate Indian Treaty Room for a few minutes. Then Gov. Gary Locke stepped to the podium and pulled out a piece of paper for reference.
The president’s teleprompter also elicited some uncomfortable laughter after he announced Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius as his choice for Health and Human Services secretary. “Kathy,” Obama said, turning the podium over to Sebelius, who waited at the microphone for an awkward few seconds while the teleprompters were lowered to the floor and the television cameras rolled.
I can’t blame him for wanting to keep them close by. The one thing Barack Obama can’t afford right now is to have the narrative that he’s a brilliant orator be destroyed. His ability to inspire the American people with his heavily controlled oratory may be the only thing he will left to keep the American people on his side once his big government, tax and spend policies come to fruition.