Obama's safety net: the TelePrompter - C.E. Lee - Politico

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naranjaynegro

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Obama's safety net: the TelePrompter

Carol E. Lee

President Barack Obama doesn’t go anywhere without his TelePrompter.

The textbook-sized panes of glass holding the president’s prepared remarks follow him wherever he speaks.

Resting on top of a tall, narrow pole, they flank his podium during speeches in the White House’s stately parlors. They stood next to him on the floor of a manufacturing plant in Indiana as he pitched his economic stimulus plan. They traveled to the Department of Transportation this week and were in the Capitol Rotunda last month when he paid tribute to Abraham Lincoln in six-minute prepared remarks.

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.

His use of the teleprompter makes work tricky for the television crews and photographers trying to capture an image of the president announcing a new Cabinet secretary or housing plan without a pane of glass blocking his face. And it is a startling sight to see such sleek, modern technology set against the mahogany doors and Bohemian crystal chandeliers in the East Room or the marble columns of the Grand Foyer.

“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.

Obama has relied on a teleprompter through even the shortest announcements and when repeating the same lines on his economic stimulus plan that he's been saying for months — whereas past presidents have mostly worked off of notes on the podium except during major speeches, such as the State of the Union.



Ari Fleischer, a former spokesman for George W. Bush, said while it’s entirely a matter of personal style, using a teleprompter at these smaller events has its drawbacks.

“It removes you from the audience in the room,” Fleischer said. When speaking from notes, Fleischer said, the president can pick up his head and make eye contact with those in the audience, as opposed to focusing on the teleprompter to his left and right.

Bush, Fleischer added, “would use the teleprompter for his major big events, but when he would travel around the country or do events, he would almost always work off of large index cards.”

The White House says Obama’s point of reference is insignificant.

"Whether one uses note cards or a teleprompter, the American people are a lot more concerned about the plans relayed than the method of delivery. This is not always true of the media," said Bill Burton, deputy press secretary.

Obama has never tried to hide his use of a teleprompter. It was a mainstay during the final months of his campaign. He brought it to county fairs and campaign rallies alike — and once had it set up in the ring at a rodeo.

In a break from his routine, Obama did not use a teleprompter during his pre-Inauguration speech at a factory in Bedford Heights, Ohio — and his delivery seemed to suffer. He paused too long at parts. He accentuated the wrong words. And overall he sounded hesitant and halting as he spoke from the prepared remarks on the podium.

As president, the stakes in what he says are higher. Governing is not campaigning, and, as a former first-term senator, Obama has not held a previous elected position where his words carried even close to this level of influence.

“In this kind of environment, you don’t want to make mistakes — on the economy you’re talking about doing things that affect the markets,” Kumar said.

But be it extra precaution, style or a mental crutch, Obama has shown in the past that he needs the teleprompter. And while he still has his prepared remarks placed on the podium in a leather folder, the White House has shown no sign of trying to wean him off of it.

Before Obama entered a room in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on Wednesday to announce his crackdown on defense contracts, a CNN reporter asked an Obama aide if the teleprompter could be moved further away from the podium or lowered. The answer was an unequivocal ‘no.’

“He uses them to death,” a television crewmember who also covered the White House under Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush said of the teleprompter. “The problem is, 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.”

Wednesday’s event posed another scenario photographers and television crews have to work around. Obama had five others join him at the announcement, including Sen. John McCain. The takeaway shot was of Obama and McCain. But the teleprompter on Obama’s left was almost directly in front of McCain.

“You couldn’t get a good angle on him with McCain,” said a White House photographer who also covered Bush. “So if there’s someone else important in the frame, it’s hard to get a shot without the teleprompter.”
 

okstateguy987

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Charismatic men do not use teleprompters. Obama is going to have a lot of trouble relating to the citizens if he's constantly reading off a pane of glass.
 

naranjaynegro

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This is a situation where if you are not in the press and see it day in and day out you would really have no idea of his dependence on this piece of technology....it does seem out of place when talking to workers on a factory floor or that the only time he can speak more of a paragraph is when his teleprompters are in place?

I also noticed the first lady talking yesterday that she seems to use "uh" quite a bit also in her un-teleprompted speech.

Teleprompters and speech writers.....if we added the voice of James Earl Jones to the mix, we could put Ed the talking horse at the microphone....maybe he is a manchurian candidate?
 
Dec 15, 2003
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I don't think the use of teleprompters is a bad thing but one of my pet peeves when Obama speaks has been his consistent head movement. It doesn't appear to have any emotion at all in his words as somebody who speaks to you face to face. Maybe the guy has stage fright. Sucks if true since he is the leader of a superpower.

I do agree with the comment from the story that Obama isn't looking into the eyes of America. Anybody else think that the White House will install a camera with the teleprompter sitting just above the camera lens?
 

Cimarron

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It is interesting when you get Obama somewhere that he isn't being prompted as to what to say.....
 

metallicajake

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It is interesting when you get Obama somewhere that he isn't being prompted as to what to say.....
unbelievable. you guys just look for something to whine about and then tear on into him.

if he wasn't using a teleprompter, at first stumble someone would probably be there to say "maybe he should be more prepared".

teleprompter usage in recent history
G. W. Bush
Sarah Palin
John McCain
Rudy Giuliani
Hillary Clinton

OH NO SAY IT ISN'T SO!
Ronald Reagan

i'd love to hear any of you guys read a 20 page speech from memory written only a few days before your speech.

especially if you were in front of Congress.
especially if you were in front of millions on TV.
especially if any one slip-up meant that your opponents would shred you to pieces.

seriously? this is an issue for you guys?
 

metallicajake

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I do agree with the comment from the story that Obama isn't looking into the eyes of America. Anybody else think that the White House will install a camera with the teleprompter sitting just above the camera lens?
he moves from teleprompter to teleprompter because he's not trying to address the nation, he's addressing the crowd. it's rude to talk directly at one person when you're giving a speech to a few hundred, and talking directly at a camera is rude if you're in a joint Congressional session.
 

Duke Silver

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unbelievable. you guys just look for something to whine about and then tear on into him.

if he wasn't using a teleprompter, at first stumble someone would probably be there to say "maybe he should be more prepared".

teleprompter usage in recent history
G. W. Bush
Sarah Palin
John McCain
Rudy Giuliani
Hillary Clinton

OH NO SAY IT ISN'T SO!
Ronald Reagan

i'd love to hear any of you guys read a 20 page speech from memory written only a few days before your speech.

especially if you were in front of Congress.
especially if you were in front of millions on TV.
especially if any one slip-up meant that your opponents would shred you to pieces.

seriously? this is an issue for you guys?
Sarah Palin's teleprompter broke during that speech.

BO would use a teleprompter to talk to you in your office/living room. Alone.
 
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i'd love to hear any of you guys read a 20 page speech from memory written only a few days before your speech.

especially if you were in front of Congress.
especially if you were in front of millions on TV.
especially if any one slip-up meant that your opponents would shred you to pieces.
No one ever billed mrorange as a fantastic, charismatic public orator. But, Pres. Obama sure painted himself in that light. And, as the leader of this country, he's supposed to be an excellent public speaker.

It's like in sports. Suppose that Byron Eaton misses 2 free throws that would win the game against OU, or something like that *knock on wood*. Anyway, this board would be frying him. Not because they could start as point guard on an NCAA-bound, D1 basketball team, but because someone who starts as point guard on an NCAA-bound, D1 basketball team should be able to hit 2 free throws to win a game.

So just because we can't do it, doesn't mean that the leader of the USA shouldn't be able to give simple addresses without his teleprompter.
 

metallicajake

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No one ever billed mrorange as a fantastic, charismatic public orator. But, Pres. Obama sure painted himself in that light. And, as the leader of this country, he's supposed to be an excellent public speaker.

It's like in sports. Suppose that Byron Eaton misses 2 free throws that would win the game against OU, or something like that *knock on wood*. Anyway, this board would be frying him. Not because they could start as point guard on an NCAA-bound, D1 basketball team, but because someone who starts as point guard on an NCAA-bound, D1 basketball team should be able to hit 2 free throws to win a game.

So just because we can't do it, doesn't mean that the leader of the USA shouldn't be able to give simple addresses without his teleprompter.
no, in your example, a teleprompter would be a machine that took the ball from his hands and placed it into the hoop.

it's a device that a man under extreme pressure uses to help him do the best job he can for the people who are counting on him to succeed.
 

Duke Silver

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no, in your example, a teleprompter would be a machine that took the ball from his hands and placed it into the hoop.

it's a device that a man under extreme pressure uses to help him do the best job he can for the people who are counting on him to succeed.
Sad.

I rely on me.
 

metallicajake

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Sarah Palin's teleprompter broke during that speech.

BO would use a teleprompter to talk to you in your office/living room. Alone.
well if he got to all of his talking points and delivered all of the information i wanted to hear, i wouldn't care. if he's delivering information to me, i don't care if he's a robotic Presidential body double, so long as it's the info he would deliver himself. what, it hurts your feelings that he doesn't "look you in the eyes"?

there are 300mil people in the USA. i doubt i'll ever feel like the President is "looking me in the eyes" while watching A SPEECH ON TV!
 

metallicajake

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people counting on Byron Eaton in the analogy = team, coaches, fans
people counting on BO in the current topic = Congress, American people, world

yes, i count on him to make good decisions and use his influence to push our country in the right direction. anyone who says that the President doesn't have any power to move the country is silly.

note: "counting on" does not imply "relying on as a sole source of positive movement".
 
Dec 15, 2003
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he moves from teleprompter to teleprompter because he's not trying to address the nation, he's addressing the crowd. it's rude to talk directly at one person when you're giving a speech to a few hundred, and talking directly at a camera is rude if you're in a joint Congressional session.
When I took the required speech class at OSU, I was taught to look at the PEOPLE. Into their eyes, make the speech personal.

If you look at me, in the eyes, I will listen to you. If you move your head back and forth while never making eye contact, I will lose interest. There's a difference and you know it.

However, during a speech, you don't look at one person the entire time, you move around the room. You bring the room to you, you are the center of their attention, until you pay no attention to them.

Secondly, these are his beliefs, his goals. You mean to tell me that he has to wait until a couple of days prior to his speech that he can finally read what they are?
 

Cimarron

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unbelievable. you guys just look for something to whine about and then tear on into him.

if he wasn't using a teleprompter, at first stumble someone would probably be there to say "maybe he should be more prepared".

teleprompter usage in recent history
G. W. Bush
Sarah Palin
John McCain
Rudy Giuliani
Hillary Clinton

OH NO SAY IT ISN'T SO!
Ronald Reagan

i'd love to hear any of you guys read a 20 page speech from memory written only a few days before your speech.

especially if you were in front of Congress.
especially if you were in front of millions on TV.
especially if any one slip-up meant that your opponents would shred you to pieces.

seriously? this is an issue for you guys?
If you bothered to read the same article the rest of us did you would know that we all know each of the people you listed also used the telePrompter for long speechs. But the difference is those Presidents didn't carry it around in their hip pocket and were not afraid to face the American People without being led by a teleprompter!
 

metallicajake

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If you look at me, in the eyes, I will listen to you. If you move your head back and forth while never making eye contact, I will lose interest. There's a difference and you know it.
[sarcasm]

i'm sorry BO didn't look directly at you when he spoke for Congress the other night. did you have good seats in the chamber at the Capital, somewhere near Hillary? i heard she was peeved too because he didn't look directly at her all night.

i must have misread you, because i thought you were saying that you were at home and you expected him to stare directly at the camera the whole night never looking away.

[/sarcasm]

also, eyes move when you read. he's reading from a speech. his eyes are going to move.

this is seriously a problem for you?