Freedomnomics

Article published Saturday, March 7th, 2009, at Fox News.

Obama’s Crutch — Why Is He So Afraid of Speaking Without a Teleprompter?

By John R. Lott, Jr.

Late night comedians have had a difficult problem. Presidents are usually the source of most late night joke, but commedians are having a hard time finding any material to make jokes about President Obama. This isn't anything new, it was also true during the campaign.

Possibly they just need some help. Could you imagine if Ronald Reagan or George W. Bush had used a teleprompter to answer questions during a press conference? The late night joke writers wouldn’t have let it go until the President gave in to the merciless ridicule as he was painted as an idiot who couldn’t tie his shoes without being fed instructions on how to do it.

While people who watched Obama’s first national press conference noticed his use of a teleprompter to give his initial presentation as well as in answering questions, the media and late night joke writers completely ignored it. The American Spectator notes that in many events:

. . . . down to many of the questions and the answers to those questions . . . . [t]eleprompter screens at the events scrolled not only his opening remarks, but also statistics and information he could use to answer questions.

Apparently, Obama is looking to install a computer screen into the White House podiums so that, according to one Obama advisor, ”It would make it easier for the comms guys to pass along information without being obvious about it.” [emphasis added] Obama’s aids would put together answers to a large number of possible questions so as soon as a reporter asks a particular question the computer screen could flash talking points to remind Obama how he’s supposed to respond to that question.

Finally this week a news story in Politico broke the silence and pointed out that not only have "no other president has used one so consistently and at so many events, large and small," but that it has become an embarrassing "crutch." The comic potential with the examples provided by the Politico article seem endless.

For example, when Obama was introducing Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius to head Health and Human Services, there was an awkward silence between Obama's and Sebelius' presentations as everyone had to wait for the teleprompters to be lowered to be moved out of the way. In other cases, it has apparently been obvious to everyone that the teleprompter is there only for Obama and not for any of the other speakers.

It is kinda sad when audiences notice the jokes that the late night comedians miss.

But there is one advantage that Obama gets from the teleprompter. He can always blame whoever wrote the answer when they turn out to be wrong.

*John Lott is the author of Freedomnomics and a senior research scientist at the University of Maryland.

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