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elixir's picture

A casual story confirms my uncomfortable feeling that President Obama is not always the magnanimous, self deprecating gentleman he presents. I categorize this under "having fun at someone else's expense"

Then it was Cowen’s turn, and he was in for a surprise. ‘We begin by welcoming today a strong friend of the United States,’ he said–then stopped in surprise as he realized he was reading President Obama’s speech off the teleprompter. ‘Why don’t these things work for me?’ he asked, as the crowd roared. ‘Thank you for having us. Who said these things were idiot-proof?’ Then he got his bearings and gave the same talk that he delivered in the East Room. When he ended, at 8:12, Obama stepped to the microphone and said, ‘First, I’d like to say thank you to President Obama…(much laughter). Happy Saint Patrick’s Day, everybody.’ Then we were escorted out.

Again, call me petty, small minded, if you will.

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Aeryl's picture
Submitted by Aeryl on

The teleprompter programmer?

I am just trying to figure out what has you upset. Because he couldn't let Cowen get the only laugh?

I don't mind petty small minded critique, there just doesn't seem to be much critique.

Aeryl's picture
Submitted by Aeryl on

I just don't read it that way.

To say he is having fun at his expense, means that the comments were to Cowen's detriment. Did his comments cause any detriment to Cowen? I don't think so, and you would have to strect any reading, to say that he did.

Obama pretty much continued the joke, by implying that Cowen's speech was presented on the teleprompter for him. How is that causing detriment? The only person hurt by the dialog, is the person who programmed the teleprompter.

Sarah's picture
Submitted by Sarah on

Washington Independent too ...

Oh, while we’re at it: Barack Obama wrote his two books, while it’s an open secret that Limbaugh’s mid-1990s books were ghostwritten by John Fund, based on Limbaugh’s taped monologues. That’s not to say Limbaugh isn’t a terrifically fluid speaker — he is — but rather the TelePrompTer mania is rather pointless.

Submitted by lambert on

I'm not seeing this as Bush-esque towel-snapping, though YMMV.

But surely Obama wasn't using a teleprompter during the Q&A? Please tell me he only used the teleprompter during his intro. If it's during the Q&A, which would make my head explode, that would be a story.

Sarah's picture
Submitted by Sarah on

see Media Matters for a riff on this. I do agree with one of the comments, which I will reproduce hereinbelow.

This kind of idiotic critique of the man's personal bearing, which of course completely ignores what he says, in favor of how he says it... it sometimes makes me think the intent is to make the man self-conscious, and to knock him off his affable charm (which is one of the things that endears him to us).

I believe it was maybe what was behind the "punch drunk" thing, and I have always believed it was certainly behind the "cackle" crap that they threw Mrs. Clinton's way.

If they the media hacks find they are not being taken seriously enough by President Obama (and Mrs. Clinton too), and even worse, if they think they are being laughed at (as both the President and Mrs. Clinton perhaps did), then they the media hacks get small-mindedly all pizzy, and become vindictive and acid-tongued ("cackled" and "punch drunk" are good examples of that), and they the media hacks bend themselves to the task of making the other at least serious in the matter, if not self-conscious.

But I say screw them, and just laugh some more, louder and right in their anguished and stung faces: because who the freak do they the media hacks think they are, someone important and worthy of respect?

That in itself is just more cause to laugh at them. And that's exactly what to do: laugh, and laugh more and laugh louder...

And the whole while you're laughing, you look right into their anguished little small-minded faces, and you enjoy how their own acid burns them so from the inside, as you (truly!) watch them shrink in stature, and (truly!) watch them burn and turn vindictive...

Laugh right at them, because who the freak do these media hacks think they are, respectful and worthy people?

What a joke!

* - Dem02020 / Wednesday March 25, 2009 10:43:00 AM EDT

I don't think the media as an entity -- think of it as a giant hovering tombstone if you wish -- thinks it needs to make the President self-conscious. I think the media as a monolith wants to be seen as equally important or equally influential as the President.

If politics is showbiz for ugly people, who is Beltway punditry for?

Look at them.

Limbaugh flopped on television during Bill Clinton's presidency. The national fanny cyst may come across on the radio as admirable; but put him in front of a camera and his grossness is far too apparent.

He's the de facto head of the GOP now, too.

Then you get idiocy like this in the M$M and if you saw the NASA TV video of the Presidential interview with the Shuttle / ISS crew (I did, and it's wonderful. A President introducing students to astronauts; Kay Bailey Hutchison (!!) asking a question that wasn't completely unserious and thoughtless!), you just want to slap these pundits sillier than they already are.

Great thundering cow -- has this idiot writer never heard of tailoring your presentation to your audience?

The president's subdued tone seemed a far cry from his vivacious appearance last week on Leno's "Tonight Show," when Obama's explanations of the causes of the economic crisis were simple and sharply drawn. It marked a departure even from his Sunday interview on " 60 Minutes," when he indulged Steve Kroft with a tour of his daughters' new swing set on the White House grounds and laughed at the political peril of pursuing unpopular ideas such as bailouts for car companies and banks.
There were no smiles on Tuesday night, no memorable moments, no attempt by the president to capture the sense of drama or anticipation that has surrounded prime-time news conferences by prior White House occupants.

Really, Peter Wallsten? Drama, during the Bush press conferences? Or bathos?
Anticipation, or dread?

You like this beter, Peter, really?

Aeryl's picture
Submitted by Aeryl on

But Obama's overscriptedness, which the teleprompter plays into, has been an issue here and on other Obama critical blogs, long before the Right picked it up.

It seemed to highlight an inability to think on his feet, an inability further highlighted by more recent unscripted events, like the Leno Special Olympics incident, or the 60 Minutes chuckle.*

And honestly, the media's and Right wing's "concern" over Obama's teleprompter usage, is tragically funny, considering the past 8 years.

*I actually don't hold the laugh against him, I can't count how many times tragic events have given me what some consider inappropriate giggles, because that is just how I cope. But, I'm not President either.

Salmo's picture
Submitted by Salmo on

The reason a towel snaps is that the end moves like a whip, it literally breaks the sound barrier and the snap you hear is the crack of the air filling the vacuum created. Like a whip, a well snapped towel will cut skin and otherwise do real damage. When one is a freshman in the varsity locker room, one dodges the bully. As a senior, I sent a guy to the emergency room who thought it would be funny to snap one on my ass. The pundits' references to this as a kind of casual swagger are either ignorant or a reminder of the days they could share the aura of their bully. Either way, it's contemptible.

Sarah's picture
Submitted by Sarah on

ordering his thoughts or processing his answers.
"aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaand" happens a lot.
"thaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaat" happens a lot.

I don't think this is a bad thing, necessarily. John Edwards used to do it too during his run(s) at the nomination.

It's a lawyer-ism, I suspect.

Speaking of John Edwards -- how come there's no left-leaning AEI-like entity where we can stash thinkers and let policy develop from a progressive perspective, then spring it on the public with a Wurlitzer of our own?

Mandos's picture
Submitted by Mandos on

But are small, due to money. EPI is one of them, I think.

Sarah's picture
Submitted by Sarah on

would that be another way of saying 'practiced' or another way of saying 'stultifying'?
Or is the word you have in mind 'formulaic'?

'cause, seriously. we need to use the English language as a precision tool, which it is and can be when properly wielded; and it behooves us not to fall into the wingnut right's habit of emboldening our foes by coining new (often unnecessary) words/ usages.

I see overscriptedness used to imply many things. Literary pretensions, poorly designed video games, ill-directed 'reality' tv shows among them, and now the demeanour of a President? Please. Let's find a word that actually does fit, and use it. The right-wing and the M$M are using 'professorial' or variations of that, and 'somber' or variations of that. Since the M$M and the GOP are so anti-intellectual (anti-education, anti-erudition) as we all know, let us not play into their hands by aping their meme. Please.

I don't find this President somber. (LBJ often was. Jimmy Carter became somber after the hostages were taken -- I watched his spirit buckle under that burden firsthand, and when I found out Reagan / Baker / Ollie North had bought the outcome of the crisis to help Reagan get elected, I wished I lived in a sci-fi universe so the Gipper could be resurrected, tried, convicted, and executed for that treasonous deed and his feckless lieutenants shamed and sent to Leavenworth for their crimes, instead of enjoying their current lucrative status.
Bill Clinton could be somber -- I remember when he gave the address about the US pilot shot down over Bosnia -- but he wasn't, often; and his smoldering rage at the pettiness being foisted on him by the GOP came through at least as often as the somberness. Neither of the Bushes did somber well; 41 came off as lugubrious when he tried to be sober and leaderly, and 43 was just ... not capable. I still think there's some degenerative physical issue going on with 43, btw -- he used to be articulate and come across as at least moderately competent as an adult human being, but by 2007 that was fading fast.) President Obama seems deliberative to me in many of his public appearances.

I thought his gesture of walking offstage with one hand on Leno's shoulder the other night was magnanimous and demonstrated the real level of dedication he puts into his outreach; after all, the 'hip folk' don't watch Leno, and his audience can almost always be assumed not to be part of the OFB.

I can barely stand Leno sometimes, his humor depends so often and so much on putdowns of women, but at least Leno isn't Letterman, whose ... gap-toothed Duhness ... is second only to W's in loathesomeness as it reduces what ought to be edifying interviews to the lowest common denominator of coarseness (that idiot Ferguson is almost as bad but at least his brogue is entertaining) and sophomoric 'humor' -- usually truly at the expense of someone else on stage. Cynicism and
sarcasm seem to have replaced laughter in our society, and we're poorer for that, I think, just as we're poorer for having suffered since 1980 under the delusion that education is for sissies and real Americans don't need to read the directions, let alone follow them.

Aeryl's picture
Submitted by Aeryl on

"would that be another way of saying 'practiced' or another way of saying 'stultifying'? Or is the word you have in mind 'formulaic'?

Stultifying isn't right, he doesn't look stupid. Formulaic might work, but even that doesn't fit, in my mind. A Nascar pit crew is formulaic. Practiced maybe, but practiced comes off as if this quirk of Obama's is a good thing, but it isn't.

He demonstrates discomfort when he has to work "off script". He gets held up when he has to talk about things he hasn't spent days prepping for. He hems and haws while his brain is working. These things equal over reliance on scripts to me, yes, like a badly directed reality show, so yep, overscripted it is.

If you can think of a better word to portray this, fine, I'll use it, if it fits with my perceptions. But we are not aping the meme of the Right wing, they are aping ours, because we are disappointed into the demonstrated slow thinking of our President. And I am not going to be overjoyed, just because we have a president who doesn't look like an idiot while reading a teleprompter, unlike Bush, who did look like an idiot even while reading a teleprompter.

bringiton's picture
Submitted by bringiton on

How about "careful"? Or "cautious"? Or "deliberate"? Or "precise"? Or...well, you get the point. You have the power, you make the choice; do you want to describe his practice of delivering scripted comments accurately when dealing with difficult subjects as a positive thing or a negative thing? Take your time; it is a tough question.

Goddess forfend, we should have a president who is thoughtful, cautious, careful, deliberate and precise when discussing important matters. That last guy, the unscriptedy way he had with words, was so much more impressive. Shoot from the hip more, Barack; that'll make everything better!

Aeryl's picture
Submitted by Aeryl on

That bothers me, it is his inability to function thoughtfully without one.

So no, careful, cautious, deliberate or precise don't fit.

But please, try again!

Submitted by lambert on

Everybody does that.

If he uses a teleprompter in a situation framed as spontaneous, then I'd a little taken aback. It would remind me of Bush with the radio transmitter on his back during the debates. Nobody's suggesting that Obama uses a teleprompter when answering questions in the presser, right? So, if not, who cares?

Aeryl's picture
Submitted by Aeryl on

With the AIG bonuses, without a few days prep time, he doesn't need to be president*. He doesn't even need to be principal at my daughter's elementary school. He should have known what he was talking about, before he decided to run for the job.

The American people are suffering, and we can't get relief, because the president's still on a learning curve? I don't think so. He doesn't get extra credit points for having baseline intelligence, just because the last one was moronic.

I don't expect him to play "Whose Line Is It Anyway?", but are we really defending the fact that the man doesn't think on his feet?

*Not to mention, the whole reason it took a few days for him to know "what he was talking about" was because he didn't know what members of his own administration had done, in reference to Dodd and the bonuses? And that is being generous, assuming that he didn't know what they had done(which is still 100 levels of bad), versus he did know what they had done because he told them to, and they still tried to place the blame on Dodd.

vastleft's picture
Submitted by vastleft on

This story suggests that he was able to make a funny ad lib (the opposite of being teleprompter-bound).

In standup comedy, it's called "calling the room," acknowledging the dropped glass, loud air conditioner, etc., that the audience all noticed, and which makes you look oblivious if you don't.

I don't think it was particularly hard on anybody, either. I do have considerable doubts about how empathetic Obama is (given, among other things, the character a-----------n that got him the gig). But this story just doesn't cash the check you're writing for it.

Sarah's picture
Submitted by Sarah on

I was reminded almost forcibly of the scene in the Kenny Rogers TV-movie, "The Gambler," where a (then incredibly young) Bruce Boxleitner pulls an assortment of no-longer-hidden weapons out onto a table and says proudly, "read the room for you, Brady."

Realist's picture
Submitted by Realist on

Sort of a tempest in a teacup if you ask me. I'd have to work pretty hard to get outraged over this one.

Can't remember where it was, but I saw a comment from some wingnut this morning claiming Obama's quip was NOT an ad lib. "Somebody wrote that for him!!!" Uh, yeah. OK.

Submitted by lambert on

and no teleprompter in sight.

I've got nothing against making fun of the man, but I don't think this one has legs. If he's not using a teleprompter in spontaneous situations, I don't care.

Submitted by jawbone on

when Obama used, apparently, only two teleprompters (or was it three?), it did seem that he didn't want to look directly at the audience or the camera and thus to the TV audience. At the most recent press conference it was noted that there was a new teleprompter set up, front and center--and it was commented on by the MCMers.

I'm assuming there's a learning curve to using teleprompters and being able to risk losing one's place when losing eye contact? I really don't know.

But, yes, in Q&A's I find Obama does quite well. A tad longwinded and wordy, but, most likely, as he does it more he will begin to self edit.

I think Geithner's problem with his first TALF announcement was that he had not done national appearances and was, most likely, suffering stage fright. It's one thing to direct a meeting, even to make a speech before a large group, and quite another to be on TV and before a huge audience.

Jon Corzine was awkward when he first began speaking to the media and even in campaign appearances. I even wondered why a guy who had headed of Goldman Sachs would be somewhat tonguetied. Well, with practice, he's become much better, much more fluent, better able to counter questioning.

Gee, I guess doing something frequently does make one better able to do it well!