It is as if he is an actor, just like Reagan. President Obama is a master of the teleprompter, but a fish-out-of-water when his crutch drops.
The Wikipedia page on Teleprompters offers some interesting history. This device was first developed in 1950, to serve the nascent television industry. It was aimed at training actors to look more natural in delivering lines they no longer had to work so hard to memorize. It helped make ‘I Love Lucy’ a successful early sitcom. The first use of a teleprompter by the President was by Ike, in his 1954 State of the Union Address.
When I have watched President Obama speaking, he has nearly always come across as cool and smooth and relaxed. I do not think any of us would dispute his skill at projecting this image. Nor would any of us credibly question the eloquence that has often been woven into much of his message. But, if you take a closer look at his speeches, you realize his eyes are almost never connected to the people in the room; instead, his eyes go back and forth, left-right-left-right, from one teleprompter glass-panel to another. Or, find a video where he is using a single teleprompter and you will most likely see a stiffer straight-ahead look. And, if you ever watch a speech while also reading a copy of the prepared speech, you will see frequent evidence of what a good job President Obama does – not so much in connecting with people, but in playing the role of front-man pitching carefully crafted words.
It is as if he is an actor, just like Reagan.
One video example: speaking at an ‘Obama Town Hall Event’ in Bristol, VA while campaigning in 2008, Obama is cruising along but then starts to stammer when the teleprompter fails; he excuses it off as lack of sleep in the previous 48-hours. Take a close look at this video, but be sure to ignore the reader comments (unless you enjoy reading crass, juvenile, and sometimes racist crap-flinging).
Another example: in early 2010, Jon Stewart criticized President Obama for having a teleprompter set up in a classroom, while speaking to a 6th grade class.
Another video example: in early June 2016, President Obama traveled to Elkhart, IN to attack candidate Trump. His teleprompter failed, and his total reliance on the teleprompter was embarrassingly revealed. Here’s a short video clip.
A more humorous video is found where the Onion did a satire piece in early 2010, charging President Obama with doing a bad job lip-syncing a pre-recorded speech. It’s quite funny, but it also has the unfortunate effect of distracting us all from the reality that, increasingly, our recent Presidents are less about leadership and more about playing the role of spokesperson reading lines designed by a political machine.
Here’s a 5-minute compilation showing numerous examples of President Obama’s apparent total reliance on teleprompters to play the role of oligarchic message-server. It includes incidents in the U.S., while on foreign visits, and even includes one incident where the left teleprompter glass-pane detaches and falls to the floor … forcing him to rely solely on the right teleprompter glass-pane.
Lastly, there is Obama’s recent ‘Farewell Address’, in Chicago on January 10th. Click here for a transcript copy, embedded video, and a few screencaps that show his use of the teleprompter. His reliance on teleprompters was noted even at the start of his administration, such as in this archived copy of a March 2009 Politico article. Eight years on, this President is as dependent on the teleprompter as ever. Contrast this with the 10-minute speech given by Bernie Sanders o January 16th, honoring Martin Luther King, Jr. (See the embed below; note that the sound quality varies, but the speech is easily heard and understood, and it draws plenty of applause and standing ovations from the audience.)
I’ll close this commentary with a disclosure: I voted for Obama twice. I was thrilled to see him win, especially the first time. I was even more impressed with the great message he put forward on his first Inauguration Day, declaring his solid support for transparency, accountability, and full disclosure under the FOIA laws. This was a very important matter to me, as an FAA Whistleblower who had endured retaliation, and was finding his former employer/agency doing everything they could to obstruct my rights under the FOIA laws. But, sadly, from that day forward, I have to say President Obama was a serial disappointment. With the email releases by WikiLeaks, during 2016, it became evident that, no matter how composed and even brilliant President Obama was while in public and in front of a TV camera, his private objective was all about serving and sustaining money – the elite individuals and corporations who rule as our oligarchs.