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Tilting at Windmills

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March 25, 2009

FOURNIER'S PREOCCUPATION.... If you read far-right blogs, you've probably noticed conservatives' fascination with President Obama and teleprompters. The argument, in a nutshell, is the president can speak on substantive issues, but only if he's reading from a screen.

As arguments go, it's pretty silly. Over the course of the last two years, Obama has spoken without notes in hundreds, if not thousands, of town-hall meetings, candidate debates, and media interviews. The notion that the president can't communicate without a teleprompter is absurd.

And yet, the meme has made its way from far-right blogs and talk radio to analysis pieces from Ron Fournier, the Washington bureau chief for the Associated Press. Here's Fournier take on last night's White House press conference.

What kind of politician brings a teleprompter to a news conference?

A careful one.

President Barack Obama took no chances in his second prime-time news conference, reading a prepared statement in which he took both sides of the AIG bonus brouhaha and asked an anxious nation for its patience. [...]

One of the few times he summoned raw emotion came after a reporter demanded to know why it took him so long to express outrage over the AIG executive bonuses.

"It took a couple of days because I like to know what I'm talking about before I speak."

Even better, he likes to have it up on the teleprompter.

This is an "analysis" piece? From where, the Republican National Committee?

Look, it's not at all unusual for a president to read a prepared text at the start of a press conference. Modern presidents have done this many, many times. Last night, Obama had some specific things to say about a pressing international crisis, and instead of reading from note cards at the podium, he read from a screen. It's hardly exciting, and it's hardly worth obsessing over. And yet, here's the Washington bureau chief for the AP insisting that the president is overly reliant on a "crutch."

A.L. concluded, "The truth is, Fournier is a hack. The only reason to use the word 'teleprompter' five times in a 100 word write-up of a presidential press conference is in order to push a meme, a meme that just happens to be popular right now on right wing blogs. As usual, Fournier's agenda is transparent."

The five-in-100 ratio is a bit of an exaggeration, but you get the point.

Steve Benen 9:35 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (53)

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Comments

Well, the Republicans and the Republican-wired media don't really have anything else to 'critique,' so they have to make up something regarding his stellar speaking ability--that if it weren't for the teleprompter, he'd be stumbling and fumbling everything, and he wouldn't be in command of the material.

No matter that GWB and most everyone else has used them in the past, teleprompter use is 'suddenly' an issue amongst the Village. It's so blatant and obvious that they're grasping here. Kind of sad, really.

Posted by: terraformer on March 25, 2009 at 9:39 AM | PERMALINK

Fournier is proving his irrelevance!

If the press could give the Great Communicator pass when revealed Nancy whispered "We're doing the best we can" at the famous press conference after William Buckley had been found murdered in Lebanon, why whine and cry about a president who comes prepared with all the stops and whistles.

Oh, I get it, if guys like Fournier can't pick their games up and be part of the early 21st century problem solving effort, they'll simply show their envy! -Kevo

Posted by: kevo on March 25, 2009 at 9:40 AM | PERMALINK

What kind of politician brings a teleprompter to a news conference? A careful one.

Oh no! We have a careful president! Run and hide, everyone, run and hide!

Seriously, if "careful" is the best insult a wingnut like Fournier can come up with, after America was subjected to eight years of reckless, heedless incompetence, then I don't think we have much to worry about. Careful is what the American people want. Careful is what the American people need.

Posted by: Stefan on March 25, 2009 at 9:42 AM | PERMALINK

Teleprompters: Bad

Hidden wires: Good

Posted by: Markozilla on March 25, 2009 at 9:51 AM | PERMALINK

This sort of wingnut BS can only be effective when the rabble are fat, dumb and contented. When the broad electorate are insecure and concerned, they pay close attention to the goings-on in Washington, and scared people tend to see through the trivial. The repugs are in unfamiliar territory since even those 'memes' that make it to the MSM gain no traction, and sooner or later the beltway gasbags will modify their behavior. Once they see clearly that their audience is not following their lead, they'll line up in front of popular opinion to make it appear that they're leading the debate. Obama is well on the way to emasculating the GOP and bringing the pundits to heel at the same time.

Posted by: Bill D. on March 25, 2009 at 9:52 AM | PERMALINK

Compared to What?

Would it be appropriate to remind everyone that the unlamented "President" Bush appeared to have difficulty, even with a teleprompter? Wasn't Mr. Bush the guy who had an earpiece, with a voice reading his speech for him, phrase by phrase, for him to repeat? It gave for lots of long, ponderous pauses between phrases - what the MSM likes to refer to as "gravitas."

Then, when Bush started speaking on his own, off the cuff, it was just painful. Seriously - I've heard 6 year olds who were more articulate. But mostly, Bush didn't bother - just a short statement, then he was out of there.

President Obama came across sounding like an adult - an educated, smart, knowledgeable adult. Frankly, I can't get over it.

Posted by: Zandru on March 25, 2009 at 9:53 AM | PERMALINK

Those darn "hacks" seem to be multiplying.

The Bush "wire" foolishness has long since been debunked

Posted by: Mike K on March 25, 2009 at 10:00 AM | PERMALINK

I can recall Reagan almost never saying an unscripted word, particularly after a memorable press conference in 1986. He read from cards most of the time.

Republicans really shouldn't want to go here, after that and Bush's mangling of the language.

Posted by: Cycledoc on March 25, 2009 at 10:09 AM | PERMALINK

You attack your opponent's strengths.

Obama is, as Fournier and everyone pushing this meme knows, a thoughtful, analytical and spectacularly talented speaker. "He can't do it without a teleprompter" is a comically lame response which, sadly for them, highlights the dearth of real arrows in their quiver.

Posted by: shortstop on March 25, 2009 at 10:10 AM | PERMALINK

Reflexively calling someone a hack for calling out Obama is unworthy of this blog. Fournier's point is that Obama should not be regarded as some "master of policy" details as he relies on a teleprompter to tell him what say. It's hard to argue Fournier is wrong here, though he may often be elsewhere.

Comparing Obama to Bush in this case is rather unflattering as Bush spoke off the cuff at press conferences. To my knowledge, he never used a teleprompter or wire.

Posted by: Rock on March 25, 2009 at 10:11 AM | PERMALINK

and lets all talk about it incessantly, thereby giving this non starter of a non issue much more than its due.

Posted by: getaclue on March 25, 2009 at 10:13 AM | PERMALINK

paper...

and what a maroon!

Posted by: neill on March 25, 2009 at 10:14 AM | PERMALINK

"What kind of politician brings a teleprompter to a news conference?

See the guy is just so 'in-authentic'. He's such a faker. You'd never want to have a beer with him!

[/snark]

Posted by: leo on March 25, 2009 at 10:15 AM | PERMALINK

Have we forgotten that Reagan was "President Teleprompter"? That his stupidest statements we made when he departed from the prepared text? That his handlers quickly learned to prevent any of his ad hoc remarks?

Have we forgotten George Bush (the first)'s classic gaffe "Message: I care" while reading from cue cards?

And we could spend all day talking about how "W" couldn't put a sentence together without a teleprompter.

Yes, the last three Republican presidents have, to different degrees, looked like doofuses without a script. While the last three Democrats have each had a deep knowledge of the topics of the day and were able to converse eloquently about them.

Yet somehow the teleprompter is now becoming an issue for the press corpse.

Posted by: Cool on March 25, 2009 at 10:18 AM | PERMALINK

The cream that has risen to the top of the vat of conservatism has curdled. Is this really, seriously the best they've got? He uses a teleprompter?

It's painfully laughable.

Posted by: doubtful on March 25, 2009 at 10:28 AM | PERMALINK

Rock your a complete doofus and an uninformed asshole. To my knowledge you never beat your wife or girl friend.

Posted by: Gandalf on March 25, 2009 at 10:32 AM | PERMALINK

This is all you have to see (video). Teleprompter v. No Teleprompter. Thank you David Letterman!

Posted by: MsJoanne on March 25, 2009 at 10:34 AM | PERMALINK

Rock - and Obama has spoken "off the cuff" at a lot of meetings and press conferences too. He also takes questions from people who haven't been vetted and made to sign loyalty oaths.

Man - the trolls are so stupid it's actually hilarious! Guess the recession means the RNC has cut pay and they're sliding into Cheeto-withdrawal.

Posted by: Butch on March 25, 2009 at 10:35 AM | PERMALINK

I read this story earlier this morning and I still haven't figured out the point. It appears to be written in an attempt to find fault with Obama, but comes off as just the oppposite. Obama is cool, calm, and collected. Obama is keeping control of his anger, not falling in to mob mentality, and urging the American people to remain level headed as well. This is a bad thing?

Posted by: VT Idealist on March 25, 2009 at 10:36 AM | PERMALINK

Puh-leeze. Fournier is a guy who literally sent a "keep up the good fight" (that's verbatim) to KARL ROVE. He is a major embarrassment to journalism.

As for me, I want the President to stop all work so he can concentrate on memorizing speeches. What utter crap.

The Constant Weader at www.RealityChex.com

Posted by: Marie Burns on March 25, 2009 at 10:37 AM | PERMALINK

When I want hard hitting factual news AP is always the place I turn.
FOURNIER - we remember how you were a shill for McCain

Posted by: John R on March 25, 2009 at 10:38 AM | PERMALINK

-
-
Fournier believes that only the weak-minded rely on the crutch of the written word.

Someone please alert his employer.
-
-

Posted by: eightnine2718281828mu5 on March 25, 2009 at 10:40 AM | PERMALINK

Comparing Obama to Bush in this case is rather unflattering as Bush spoke off the cuff at press conferences.

A great off the cuff Bush press conference moment:

Monday, 18 February, 2002, 07:33 GMT
Bush gaffe hits yen

A remark by US President George W Bush about "devaluation" in Japan has caused confusion in the currency markets. The yen fell as some traders interpreted the comment as meaning the US favoured a devaluation of the Japanese currency.

Bush aides hastened to clear up the confusion, saying the president - in Japan as part of an Asian tour - had "misspoken".

They said his comment had meant to be about Japan's problem of "deflation" - steadily falling prices, which depress spending and investment - not devaluation.

Posted by: Stefan on March 25, 2009 at 10:41 AM | PERMALINK

While we're at it...how about other people who use teleprompters? Look at the pics.

Posted by: MsJoanne on March 25, 2009 at 10:43 AM | PERMALINK

Bush spoke off the cuff at press conferences

Off the brain, too.

Posted by: shortstop on March 25, 2009 at 10:46 AM | PERMALINK

Uh, can we just admit this is all about how "that black guy really ain't that smart" and move on?

Mike

Posted by: MBunge on March 25, 2009 at 10:47 AM | PERMALINK

The left-wing hysteria about Bush wearing a "wire" was decisively disproved years ago by Talon News, RealClearPolitics, Charles Johnson, the Ace of Spades, the Washington Times, Jerome Corsi and Sean Hannity.

Try to keep up, liberal loons.

Posted by: Myke K on March 25, 2009 at 10:50 AM | PERMALINK

I guarantee you that this will be the first thing Limbaugh mentions on his show today. Which is what Fournier was gunning for all along. Next up for AP's bureau chief will be an analysis of the interesting claims regarding Obama's birth certificate.

Another guarantee: Rush will pull the EvenTheAssociatedPress gambit.

Posted by: D on March 25, 2009 at 10:57 AM | PERMALINK

Those darn "hacks" seem to be multiplying.

Not really, Fournier is one of the original hacks.

has long since been debunked

That's never stopped you before Mike.

Posted by: ckelly on March 25, 2009 at 11:03 AM | PERMALINK

It's simple: If you're worried about the president's teleprompter use, you're worried about the wrong things.

There can be no serious debate with those people.

Posted by: Herb on March 25, 2009 at 11:12 AM | PERMALINK

Comparing Obama to Bush in this case is rather unflattering as Bush spoke off the cuff at press conferences. To my knowledge, he never used a teleprompter or wire.

I take it that "Rock" is short for "Dumb As A." Either that, or you never actually bothered to watch a speech by Reagan, Bush I, Clinton or Bush II and are convinced that the teleprompter is a brand-new technology never before used by a president.

Which takes us back to "Dumb As A."

Posted by: Mnemosyne on March 25, 2009 at 11:15 AM | PERMALINK

I would suggest to Fournier that he cash his check from the RNC quickly as I don't think their account will have sufficient funds for long.

Posted by: BD on March 25, 2009 at 11:17 AM | PERMALINK

Ditto shortstop: you attack your opponent's strengths. It's on page 3 of the little political strategy book that the right hands out at all its planning sessions.

So this is just the their attempt to deal with the blatantly obvious fact that Obama is a much, much better and more convincing public speaker than Bush was on his best day, or than any other conservative spokesman currently operating, for that matter. It's a compliment, rightly understood.

It's getting a lot of play, but will it work at diminishing Obama, or just make its promoters look stupid? I guess it depends how dumb the public is, and that's never a safe bet. It certainly succeeds in allowing conservatives to feel better about themselves, though, so I bet they'll keep spouting it whether it works on the larger public or not.

Posted by: Jon on March 25, 2009 at 11:18 AM | PERMALINK

To his credit, and, perhaps attempting to atone for his questions of last evening, Chuck Todd made the same argument to Scarborough, this morning on "Morning Joe" - Spoke of the many speeches and remarks, the President must make daily and said, "He can't memorize everything".

Posted by: berttheclock on March 25, 2009 at 11:19 AM | PERMALINK

This teleprompter thing is another way of saying the black man can't think on his own, therefore he's dumb.

Posted by: Micheline on March 25, 2009 at 11:19 AM | PERMALINK

Cue Leader Limburger to make further remarks about certain African-American NFL QBs having to have plays called for them. Of course, there are few of any color left, who are allowed to call their own plays. Geez, if President Obama was up at bat for the Cubs or Sox, they would criticize him for not deciding on his own, whether to take or swing away.

Posted by: berttheclock on March 25, 2009 at 11:26 AM | PERMALINK

Know what this is? It's a pathetic attempt to cajole the president into a gaffe which they can then pounce upon. We are just beginning to see the desperation. By next year, as the president's plan begins racking up success, it will be even worse.

But we got your back, Mr. President.

Can we stomp these piss ants? YES. WE. CAN.

Posted by: MissMudd on March 25, 2009 at 11:27 AM | PERMALINK

another day of Steve Benen amplifying right wing talking points no one would otherwise care about. I can see why, there's a lack of real news to discuss and blog about these days.

Posted by: grinning cat on March 25, 2009 at 11:31 AM | PERMALINK

"I take it that "Rock" is short for "Dumb As A." Either that, or you never actually bothered to watch a speech by Reagan, Bush I, Clinton or Bush II and are convinced that the teleprompter is a brand-new technology never before used by a president."

No, I just said that I never saw Bush II use a teleprompter at a press conference. He clearly used them for speeches. I took Fournier's point to be that Obama was not some super-genius capable of perfect recall. I don't see how that is wrong or even really controversial.

For the record, I'll take Obama as president over Bush II any day.

Posted by: rock on March 25, 2009 at 11:32 AM | PERMALINK

Remember that plastic used in teleprompters also is bulletproof. It's a good idea.

Posted by: Hank Roberts on March 25, 2009 at 11:44 AM | PERMALINK

Myke K

"... decisively disproved years ago by Talon News, RealClearPolitics, Charles Johnson, the Ace of Spades, the Washington Times, Jerome Corsi and Sean Hannity."

What can we say. An impressive list of truly impartial news professionals. I haven't given too much weight to the 'Bush-was-wired' claims in the past, even though his performance in that debate was so bizarre, it alone should have cost him re-election.

Say Myke, is that all the news outlets that have pronounced Bush 'not guilty' or is it just the universe of sources you get your information from?

I'm tempted to assume it's the latter, 'cause it would be so true to form considering your little missives on this blog. But if it actually were the former, that would make me pause to think that maybe there is more to this conspiracy theory after all!

Pray tell!

Posted by: SRW1 on March 25, 2009 at 11:54 AM | PERMALINK

I can see why, there's a lack of real news to discuss and blog about these days.

What we can't see is why you continue to daily visit a blog which you continually claim has no value for you. What's in it for you?

Posted by: shortstop on March 25, 2009 at 11:54 AM | PERMALINK

Say Myke, is that all the news outlets that have pronounced Bush 'not guilty' or is it just the universe of sources you get your information from?

"Myke K" is a parody of "Mike K". The sad thing is so many people can't tell the difference.

Posted by: qwerty on March 25, 2009 at 12:11 PM | PERMALINK

Do any of the pundits who complain about Obama bringing a teleprompter to press conferences ever comment on the command of the facts that Obama displays in responding to questions?

Posted by: Lynn Dee on March 25, 2009 at 12:13 PM | PERMALINK

And this morning on CNN reporting from the White House, Suzanne Malveaux used almost the exact wording Fournier used. "Obama is using a teleprompter because he has to be careful."

Posted by: garyb50 on March 25, 2009 at 12:14 PM | PERMALINK

"Myke K" is a parody of "Mike K". The sad thing is so many people can't tell the difference.

Thanks for the info. Frighteningly well done parody.

Posted by: SRW1 on March 25, 2009 at 12:19 PM | PERMALINK

What I truly find impressive is how the White House communications team was able to load the teleprompter with answers to questions they didn't know beforehand would be asked....

Posted by: Stefan on March 25, 2009 at 12:20 PM | PERMALINK
Seriously - I've heard 6 year olds who were more articulate.

Zandru, my daughter was more articulate when she was 2. Granted, her range of topics was somewhat more restricted.

Posted by: noncarborundum on March 25, 2009 at 12:29 PM | PERMALINK

Great links, msjoanne.

Posted by: phoebes in santa fe on March 25, 2009 at 1:04 PM | PERMALINK

I remember hearing ca. early 80s of conservatives wanting to infiltrate the media and buy it up - Fournier is an example, right?

Posted by: Neil B ☺ on March 25, 2009 at 1:34 PM | PERMALINK

Difference between USSR Communist media and USA "mainstream media"

In Russia government make media say what they want - even if lie. In USA "Mainstream media" try make government what they want - even if lie.......eventually they become same thing?!

I Igor produce Obama birth certificate at www.igormarxo.org

Posted by: IgorMarxo on March 25, 2009 at 1:46 PM | PERMALINK

Ron Fournier was offered a job by the McCain operatives and hacked for the pathetic, angry old fart the entire campaign. Why do we care about his dog-whistle racist shill over one of the smartest Presidents we've ever had using a teleprompter for prepared remarks at a press conference?

Posted by: Keori on March 25, 2009 at 2:52 PM | PERMALINK

Note to igor marxo: Don't quit your day job.

Posted by: MissMudd on March 25, 2009 at 5:15 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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