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Obama presidential address to Congress addressed to dueling teleprompters

Obama addresses tele-prompters instead of Congress
I’m sorry, but I can no longer be awed by Barack Obama’s unfaltering eloquence, I’m too distracted. When our impressive speaker in chief addresses an audience, he looks from side to side, but never in between. Have you noticed that? We think he’s politely avoiding looking into the camera, but everyone sitting directly in front of him must feel like chopped liver, struck by how enamored he is of the teleprompters.

I’m beginning to wonder if Obama spoke this way from the start at the 2004 DNC, because now it seems he never doesn’t.

Press conference
Even at his first presidential press conference a couple weeks ago, Obama’s head swiveled from side to side, his eyes never panned. From other television camera angles we could see the reporters were arrayed right in front of him. Can you imagine sitting across the table from a dinner companion who can’t stop talking to his knife and fork?

A friend of mine was impressed that Obama’s answers were nine minutes long. I was starting to wonder at the inconsistency of the president choosing questions from reporters in the center, but then proceeding to mimic what I can only presume was a campaign whistle stop posture, speaking from the back of a train caboose, alternately addressing people on one side of the track, then the other.

Address to Congress
The image above, by the way, is grabbed from a network broadcast of last night’s address to Congress. This angle wasn’t shown on the White House streamed video, nor that of C-Span. Every TV director’s cut of our new president’s speech featured plenty of his DC audience, rising and clapping repeatedly, but the official version completely avoided this specific vantage point. As far as I could tell, it was the only angle they excluded.

Care to imagine why? I’m thinking it’s why I insisted on finding the sequence to illustrate this post. I caught sight of the tell-tale spectacle on an evening news recap, and then hunted until late for the footage. Throughout the address, from plenty of angles, the teleprompters were plainly evident. It’s not like the cameras avoided them. But this was the only view which showed Obama’s line of sight.

This shot makes plain what Obama was looking at, juxtaposed against the mass of legislators, cabinet members, and Supreme Court justices, at whom he wasn’t.

I’ll leave it to another time to question why the networks supplemented their coverage with this shot, three times, instead of going with the official feed.

It could owe also to the non-novelty of everything Obama is saying, but I’m just bored. Now his mechanical turning to and fro compels me to think we’re both watching a slow-motion tennis match. And instead of following the ball, our eyes linger on the players, as if the goal of this game is to compare what the players are wearing to determine whose tennis white socks were the ones bleached with Clorox and whose were not.

Teleprompters

President Obama’s gaze was bouncing back and forth between the teleprompters obviously. And what’s wrong with reading a speech anyway? That Obama was reading was obvious by the occasional false starts he made. I noted the omission of a consonant which produced an incongruous word choice, and a missed punctuation, among others. Neither would be errors made in extemporized locution or a recitation of memorized text.

We can see the smoky plexi-glass plates on stands positioned at each side of the podium. Angled at 45 degree to the floor, they reflect whatever is transcripted from projectors below, without blocking the view of the audience, and creating the illusion that the speaker is looking through the glass. The panels bookend the podium at something like 60 degrees to either side of the speaker, which means his head has an approximate 120 degree range of motion, except really only at the two extremes. The entire panorama in between, as Obama’s quick head turns suggest, remains perilously unprompted.

Does it seem to you like Obama retrieves only a solitary phrase from each side? As near as I can measure, Obama turns his head with the same frequency that George Bush used to take a pause. Bush started to make fewer gaffs when he stuck to: short phrase, breath, short phrase, breath. Now it looks like Obama could have served as Bush’s metronome. At least Obama’s delivery demonstrates a stronger lung capacity; and I think we’re all thrilled with the more sophisticated grammar. But has the new president as limited an audio-memory as our previous idiot in chief? I’m afraid to think it.

I am still impressed by President Obama’s projected confidence, and I am not about to confuse him for a moron, but that first press conference worried me. Why is it, and how is it, that Obama would be fielding questions with the aid of a teleprompter?

Remember when simpleton Dubya was stumped by an unexpected question and told the correspondent that he wished he’d received his “written question beforehand?” It’s not difficult to imagine that questions are submitted ahead of time, nor might it be so unreasonable, when the Free World hangs on a US president’s every utterance. But I did imagine that Obama was up to the task of responding with an answer. He needn’t improvise one, but you’d think he could trusted to remember it.

Are the teleprompters there to assist the president with his phrasing, or are they there to enforce that his answers, like the correspondents’ questions, stick to the script?

2 thoughts on “Obama presidential address to Congress addressed to dueling teleprompters

  1. If your primary complaint about Obama is where he looks when he speaks, you must think he must be a pretty good president. The right has always done this: distract people from real issues by going after appearances. They couldn’t beat Clinton on matters of policy so they chased after small matters like his relationship with Lewinsky. They weren’t willing to engage Dukakis, Gore or Kerry on substance so they displayed images of Dukakis with is head sticking out of a tank hatch, chatted up misquotes by Gore and insulting all veterans of combat by trivializing Kerry’s purple heart award. I think it would be just great if the writer of this blog and Fox “News” would stop parading their fears and ignorance around the block, stop paying attention to irrelevant matters like where a speaker looks, and start contributing to the specific problems we face.

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