Without a doubt, many of the attacks from the far-right against President Obama have amounted to nothing more than the political equivalent of speaking in tongues. The attacks are only marginally more coherent than Steve Carell's Brick Tamland character from Anchorman shouting "LOUD NOISES!" for the sake of shouting something. Anything.
The most ridiculous of the loud noises are the ones that entirely ignore the legacy of the previous president. Specifically, the very same people making the loudest noises about President Obama have also spent the last eight years spastically applauding President Bush's worst trespasses every step of the way. The far-right's staggering disregard for the significant flaws of the former Republican president confounds logic when measured against their ridiculous attacks on the current president.
ATTACK: President Obama took a vacation to Hawaii.
REALITY: President Bush set a record for presidential vacations during two wars and a major hurricane.
ATTACK: President Obama is "shredding the Constitution."
REALITY: You mean there's a Constitution left to be shredded?
ATTACK: President Obama chuckled while talking about bailing out the auto industry.
REALITY: President Bush routinely smirked and grinned while talking about the significantly more serious issues of war and military casualties.
ATTACK: President Obama is incompetent.
REALITY: Do I even need to do the list?
ATTACK: President Obama is presiding over a one-party fascist government.
REALITY: This is not a joke.
So. Loud noises!
This is sort of like a fan of the Jonas Brothers accusing Death Cab for Cutie of selling out. Devoid of logic or basic consistency, these attacks are reduced to being nothing more than angry shouting. Speaking in tongues. All told, there isn't a single Bush flaw that hasn't been hamhandedly projected onto President Obama, and we're not even three months into the Obama presidency.
But wait. There's more.
As has been the case for too many years, more than a few of these crazy bombs have made the too-short journey from the far-right's psychotic pit of despair and into the establishment press. But in the case of the newest round of loud noises, the opposite is actually true.
ATTACK: President Obama uses a teleprompter when delivering prepared remarks. This clearly means he's a moron and intellectually incurious and incompetent and hopelessly doofish. Impeach! Impeach!
This one appears to have started with a February item by Dean Barnett in the self-satirical Weekly Standard in which he wrote that President Obama is unable to deliver prepared remarks without a teleprompter. You mean the president doesn't memorize his speeches like other modern presidents? And by "other modern presidents," I mean zero other modern presidents. Shocking.
Then, earlier this month, Carol Lee wrote a piece for the Politico. Her angle was, in essence, that President Obama's New Fangled Word Squares from Outer Space sometimes make it difficult for photographers and videographers to get a clean view of the president. Poor, poor news media. Why does President Obama's teleprompter hate America?
In the past couple of weeks, the teleprompter attack has gone full-blown viral among far-right tea baggers and bloggers (who, by the way, still haven't "gone Galt" as promised). Michelle Malkin, for example, posted a series of terrifically unfunny photoshopped images of the president and his teleprompters. Drudge ballyhooed a hilarious blog written by -- get this -- the president's teleprompter. And random members of broader wingnuttia have taken to calling the president "TOTUS" (Teleprompter of the United States).
So funny! I tell you what, here's more fuel for the far-right bloggers. A gift from me to them. President Obama, it turns out, needs a pen -- a PEN! -- in order to write words on paper and to sign his name. Zing! Pow! Time to work up some awesome Obama's Pen photoshops. In Pen We Trust! Barack HusseINK Obama! Sharpie of the United States -- or "SOTUS."
But okay, I get it. The claim from the far-right is that, without his teleprompter, President Obama is a dumb stupid. Yes, far-right Bush dead-enders are equating verbal performance with intelligence.
Say what you will about his politics, but no one with any degree of honesty can claim with a straight face that President Obama isn't one of the smartest presidents of the last 50-plus years. The president's impromptu speaking style, which the far-right misperceives as somehow "stupid," is actually the president being thoughtful and prudent. And yes, he occasionally stammers and uses common verbal tics, but does that mean he's "stupid?" Or disconnected? The same faction of people who proudly champion anti-intellectualism as a virtue are currently accusing a very smart man of being an idiot. Let me know if you can figure that one out. While you're at it, what the hell is a "peeance freeance secure Iraq?"
The teleprompter attacks have become so inexplicably widespread that, Monday night, David Letterman aired a bit called "Teleprompter vs. No Teleprompter" about how stupid the whole teleprompter thing has become. Leading into a video comparing a clip of President Obama using a teleprompter and George W. Bush stammering without one, Letterman basically said (paraphrasing): "This is seriously all they've got?"
Little did Letterman know that on Tuesday night the Great War on Teleprompters would reach new levels of hackery. Immediately following the end of the president's prime time press conference, David Gregory on NBC and Brett Baier on FOX News Channel reported that the president used a teleprompter for his customary prepared statement at the top of the event. As if that was somehow unusual. Baier, by the way, read his remarks from a teleprompter.
Meanwhile, the AP's Washington Bureau Chief and Karl Rove Enabler, Ron Fournier, described the teleprompter as a "crutch." Fact: all presidents read a prepared statement at the outset of their press conferences. More on that presently. The whole Fournier item is one long, shameless, desperate grab for far-right blog links. (Quick aside: in the comments under the Breitbart posting of Fournier's article, a far-right commenter wrote: "Grab some John Galt gear from [Café Press store link] and join us at your local Tea Party this April 15th." Yeah do that, because nothing says "deliberately not earning money and withdrawing from society in order to bring down the economy" quite like promoting and selling John Galt swag. Consistent!)
A "crutch," is what Fournier called it. This implies that using a teleprompter is somehow easier than reading from printed pages. That's definitely not always the case. Just ask John McCain. If you've ever tried to read a speech or some dialogue from a teleprompter, it just rolls along -- sometimes too quickly, other times too slowly. If it's manually operated, you have to rely on the judgment of the operator and hope they're paying attention. It's really quite unnerving unless you've really mastered it. But if you have, why go back to reading from pages? There's no point. It's like learning to pilot a jet, but then only ever traveling bareback on a donkey.
In politics and the media, teleprompters are about as commonplace as microphones and people named "O'Donnell." Some use a teleprompter, some use paper, some use cue cards, some use both. Really, what difference does it make whether prepared remarks are read from paper or Perspex? Either way, we're talking about prepared text printed on a readable medium. The teleprompter isn't some space-age interdimensional portal that automatically injects your audience with nitrous oxide and mild doses of heroin, drugging them into an involuntary state of euphoric torpor. It simply allows the reader to deliver a speech without looking down at the podium. That's all.
Once again, there's no other way to describe this attack other than to call it "loud noises!" amounting to schizoid, nonsensical garble. Just like any Glenn Beck show, in fact -- maudlin platitudes that, if shouted loudly enough, sound very serious.
So ultimately if the intention is to turn "teleprompter" into a bad word, then good luck running Sarah Palin in 2012. Sarah Palin -- whose one bright shining moment came complete with a teleprompter, and whose most damning moments came without one.