Enter Barack Obama, whose presidency has perhaps been the most scripted in history.
Early in his first term Obama’s zeal for the teleprompter became obvious – to the point of derision by opposition Republicans. Since then it has become legendary, even sparking the creation of websites such as this trademarked site called The Teleprompter Obama.
So when the scripted president is, well, off script, that makes news. And when he’s off script because he doesn’t have his script handy, that’s even more damning because it reveals a man who, unless his comments are carefully preordained and screened, doesn’t have much to say to the American people.
This lack of adaptability was on display June 7 during an appearance by the president in San Jose, Calif., where he not only did not have a teleprompter but didn’t even have a copy of his speech.
“My remarks are not sitting here,” the President declared awkwardly, according to a characterization by Fox Nation, which is associated with the Fox News Channel.
“I’m uhhh….people….oh goodness….uhhhh…folks are sweating back there right now,” he yammered and stammered, looking offstage on a few occasions to spur his staff into action.
“President Obama, who’s often mocked for an over-reliance on scripts, shifted uncomfortably smiling for several moments buying time. An aide sprinted out with a hard copy of the speech, tripping at one point, adding to the drama,” Fox Nation reported.
That the president could not even carry on a momentary conversation, either with members of the audience or those who appeared on stage with him, is telling, and it appears to justify the criticism he has gotten for being too scripted – so much so as to appear phony at times.
Per the Washington Post, which ran a political story in 2011 as the following year’s presidential election cycle kicked in:
Picking up on a theme that has been rippling through GOP circles for two years, Republican presidential candidates are trying to use President Obama’s reliance on teleprompters to deflate one of his biggest strengths – his oratorical skill. If Obama can’t give a two-minute speech without a screen telling him what to say, the critique goes, it’s a sign that he doesn’t know what he’s talking about and can’t be trusted to do his job.
“Obama ruined the teleprompter for the rest of the politicians,” Fred Davis, a media strategist and former adviser to Sen. John McCain, who ran against Obama in 2008, told the paper.
“If you use it now, you’re like Obama,” he continued. “It’s a negative because it’s a sign of inauthenticity. It’s a sign that you can’t speak on your own two feet. It’s a sign that you have handlers behind you telling you what to say.”
Indeed it is. But sometimes, when Obama gets off track – when he says what he really means, not what’s on his teleprompter, what Americans get is extremely authentic. Here are a few examples:
— During his 2008 campaign, Obama – in a moment of candor in Ohio – said this to Joe “The Plumber” Wurzelbacher regarding his plan to tax wealthier Americans: “It’s not that I want to punish your success; I just want to make sure that everybody who is behind you that they’ve got a chance to success, too. I think when you spread the wealth around, it’s good for everybody.”
— During the same campaign, this time in Pennsylvania, Obama told an audience, “You go into these small towns in Pennsylvania and, like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing’s replaced them. And they fell through the Clinton administration, and the Bush administration, and each successive administration has said that somehow these communities are gonna regenerate and they have not. And it’s not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy toward people who aren’t like them…”
— In the 2012 campaign Obama let it slip that he wanted to essentially insert government control over every American business, the way the government stepped in to bail out the automobile industry: “I believe in American workers, I believe in this American industry, and now the American auto industry has come roaring back. Now I want to do the same thing with manufacturing jobs, not just in the auto industry, but in every industry.”
Obama’s slick when he sticks to his script, but he reveals more about his true self when he strays.