The Economy Is In the Tank…

…the stock market is collapsing and our enemies are still out to get us. And in the White House, we have a newbie who doesn’t trust himself to introduce a Cabinet secretary without reading off a teleprompter. It’s really a bit disconcerting:

President Barack Obama doesn’t go anywhere without his TelePrompter. …

Obama’s reliance on the teleprompter is unusual – not only because he is famous for his oratory, but because no other president has used one so consistently and at so many events large and small.

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After the teleprompter malfunctioned a few times last summer and Obama delivered some less-than-soaring speeches, reports surfaced that he was training to wean himself off of the device while on vacation in Hawaii. But no luck.

“It’s just something presidents haven’t done,” said Martha Joynt Kumar, a presidential historian who has held court in the White House since December of 1975. “It’s jarring to the eye. In a way it stands in the middle between the audience and the president because his eye is on the teleprompter.”

Just how much of a crutch the teleprompter has become for Obama was on sharp display during his latest commerce secretary announcement. The president spoke from a teleprompter in the ornate Indian Treaty Room for a few minutes. Then Gov. Gary Locke stepped to the podium and pulled out a piece of paper for reference.

The president’s teleprompter also elicited some uncomfortable laughter after he announced Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius as his choice for Health and Human Services secretary. “Kathy,” Obama said, turning the podium over to Sebelius, who waited at the microphone for an awkward few seconds while the teleprompters were lowered to the floor and the television cameras rolled.

Obama’s forays into extemporaneous speaking have not tended to go well, so maybe he is just heeding my advice about being careful when he talks. Still, it’s not exactly reassuring to know that we have a President with less confidence in his ability to speak without reading from a script than an average high school speech student.

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