27 January 2012

Teleprompter Fixation as a Sign of OIP Derangement Syndrome

After winning the Republican primary in South Carolina, Newt Gingrich (shown above in June 2009) threw out an unrealistic plan to challenge President Barack Obama to seven “Lincoln-Douglas debates” and added, “I will concede up front that he can use a teleprompter.” In saying that, Gingrich was repeating himself and repeating a cliché of today’s American right. Folks have even set up a blog for the presidential teleprompter (now inactive).

Everyone can see that President Obama uses a teleprompter when delivering prepared remarks. So do many other politicians, such as Gingrich himself (as shown above), Lyndon Johnson, Ronald Reagan, Bob Dole, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, Mitt Romney, Rick Perry, and Sarah Palin. It’s standard equipment for television personalities and convention speakers.

Obama uses a teleprompter in more locations and situations than his predecessors, as the New York Times has observed. He eschews note cards and papers for three reasons. First, the machines have become more portable. Second, he’s very good at reading from a screen so that he seems to be speaking naturally. (In contrast, John McCain struggled with that task.) And third, he values good writing and precision, as every profile of the man has said.

The teleprompter goes away (I understand the traveling version telescopes down to the floor) after the President has finished his prepared remarks. Then he speaks extemporaneously, as anyone can see—anyone who doesn’t suffer from OIP Derangement Syndrome, that is. Many of those people have apparently convinced themselves that President Obama can’t express himself without a teleprompter.

Large audiences saw Barack Obama speak extemporaneously in twenty-five Democratic debates and three presidential debates in 2008. As for press conferences and interviews, President Obama did more of those in his first years in office than his predecessor. In May 2010, Mark Knoller at CBS News reported:
By my count, Mr. Obama has done six formal, full-scale White House news conferences, including the one on February 9. Four of the six were prime-time events in the East Room that lasted between 52 minutes and 59 minutes. Then there was a 53 minute session in the Briefing Room on June 23 and the disputed 35 minute event on February 9.

But add up all the press availabilities Mr. Obama has done, including abbreviated sessions with foreign leaders, and some solo news conferences at home and abroad, and the number of press events he's done since taking office climbs to 49.

During the same period of time in his presidency, George W. Bush took part in a total of 33 press availabilities of all varieties of which five were formal, solo White House news conferences. Only one was an evening event in prime time. The others were daytime sessions lasting about half an hour.

Besides press conferences, Mr. Obama has also sat for 190 interviews with members of the press, far more than any of his recent predecessors during their first 16 months in office.
And then there are televised events like the “health care summit” in February 2010. You’d think Gingrich’s followers would have seen that Obama can express his ideas (whether or not they like those ideas) without needing a machine.

But some apparently people can’t see that. They’ve convinced themselves that the President is an inarticulate puppet. Either that, or they’re using the “teleprompter” meme to let themselves sidle up to saying this black man is naturally too stupid to think for himself. Since they vociferously deny being that bigoted, the only explanation left is OIP Derangement Syndrome.


Glenn Ingersoll said...

I tend to think imperviousness to evidence that might contradict one's opinion is an essential feature of conservatism. If you accepted that you could be proved wrong, you wouldn't be conservative for long.

I am open to evidence that would prove me wrong.

J. L. Bell said...

Conservatives who claimed inspiration from Edmund Burke used to argue that they were more realistic than their opponents, whose idealistic plans were subject to failure. Today’s American right wing has, as Karl Rove reportedly said back in 2004, left “the reality-based community” behind.