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TOTUS: the Teleprompter of the United States

It’s official, the Teleprompter of the United States has its own blog hosted by Google’s Blogger service at http://baracksteleprompter.blogspot.com.  We’ll keep you updated if the site moves to its own domain.totus

Obama’s addiction to his teleprompter, which reportedly travels everywhere with him has inspired many similar parody sites and blogs.  Even the Huffington Post, a notoriously liberal news outlet has referred to it as a crutch.  Others have been less kind, some referring to Obama as nothing “more than a TV anchor reading a script.”  According to Politico’s Carol E. Lee, ” no other president has used one so consistently and at so many events, large and small.” His dependance on the devices has cast doubt on his reputation as a brilliant orator, and not without reason. Teleprompter malfunctions have produced a growing stockpile of embarrassing footage and broken speech.  Most recently, Obama is reported to have thanked himself during a St. Patrick’s Day dinner party when he began reading from Irish PM Brian Cowen’s speech.  Footage from the event has not been released.

The problem is not that Obama uses a teleprompter. Previous Presidents have used the devices at their major speeches, such as the State of the Union, since the device’s inception.  Obama however, seems unable to open his mouth without a glass panel detailing his response.  He has even used them at small, “town hall” gatherings raising doubts about the accessible and unscripted marketing and giving further credibility to claims that many of the questions are prearranged by Obama’s aides.  It has also been claimed that the devices are used to display “talking points,” when answering questions from the public.

obama_teleprompter_3-23The frustration doesn’t stop there.  TV camera crews and photographers have voiced their concerns saying the devices are a nuisance when trying to capture images of the President.  It can be extremely difficult to frame the shot without also capturing one of the two glass panes, and it becomes near impossible when the President is standing alongside another presenter.  Producers and cameramen have claimed watching Obama give a speech is like watching a tennis match; “he never looks at you. He’s looking left, right, left, right — not at the camera. It’s almost like he’s not making eye contact with the American people.”

Finally, the minimal coverage of the teleprompter issue and its associated gaffes continues to bolster the claims of media bias.  While I don’t personally think the issue should be the primary focus of the news industry, one can not help to wonder what would be said if Obama were a Republican, and not a Socialist.  As the Washington Times noted,

“Mr. Bush suffered a deluge of unfounded criticism over the ‘bulge’ in his jacket during the first presidential debate in 2004. The bizarre claim was that somehow this bulge allowed Karl Rove or someone else to tell Mr. Bush what to say during the debate.  ….  The Washington Post … referred to the ‘widespread’ speculation.”

If accusations like these, and Presidential gaffes are so important, as they have been for the past eight years, how can the media ignore Obama’s complete inability to speak without guidance?

Sources:

“Editorial: Obama’s Reliance on Teleprompters.”  The Washington Times.  10 March 2009.  23 March 2009.  <http://tinyurl.com/brljv5>

Lee, Carol E.  “Obama’s Safety Net: the Teleprompter.”  Politico.com.  5 March 2009.  23 March 2009.  <http://tinyurl.com/aed9nt>

“Obama In St Patrick’s Day Teleprompt Blunder.”  Sky News.  18 March 2009.  23 March 2009.  <http://tinyurl.com/cbcq36>

The Prowler.  “In All Fairness.”  The American Spectator.  16 March 2009.  23 March 2009.  <http://tinyurl.com/aqaytw>

Whittington, Mark.  “Barack Obama’s Teleprompter Addiction.”  Associated Content. 6 March 2009. 23 March 2009.  <http://tinyurl.com/crkng4>

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