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Barack Obama: Behind the teleprompter

Dear Chris Matthews,

Why do you hate my teleprompter so much?

Most people don’t even notice it's there. Like you. Remember when you said that my speaking ran a thrill up your leg? Teleprompter. Or when I upstaged John Kerry at the 2004 Democratic National Convention? Teleprompter. Or when two million people crammed onto the Mall, cheering my every twitch? Yeah: teleprompter. Lipstick on a pig? No teleprompter.

However, it may also disturb you to discover that when I narrated the audio edition of the "Audacity of Hope," I actually read from the book, instead of reciting it from memory. Sorry. As your colleague Keith Olbermann can tell you, I'm just not very good at meeting the expectations of the deluded left. Or the deluded right, for that matter, since apparently I'm too mosquey.

Here's the thing:

As a well-educated -- even professorial -- man, I like to express exactly what I mean as often as possible, for everyone's benefit. When we write, Favreau and I labor over every word. People tend to pay attention to what I say. I would hope those who listen to me would be mature enough to understand that.

Tell you what: The next time you address the nation from behind a desk hewn from the wood of a sunken British man of war, I dare you to do it without notes. We'll see how far you get before you go all Jan Brewer on us.

Then again, I suppose I could stop speaking about weighty topics, sucking substance and precision out of my words. Then I might only need to jot a few notes on my palm.

Thanks for reading,


By Stephen Stromberg  | September 3, 2010; 4:28 PM ET
Categories:  Stromberg  | Tags:  Stephen Stromberg  
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Next: A trail that Rhee shouldn't have hit


Mr. Stromberg: Could you please be more goofy, cause right now you just sound like you're stuck on stupid.

Posted by: lindalovejones | September 3, 2010 6:27 PM | Report abuse

This has to be the stupidest article I've ever read. And I despise Obama.

Posted by: RedderThanEver | September 3, 2010 8:30 PM | Report abuse

Dear WaPo,

Please ditch the kiddie bloggers you've hired. There are thousands of thoughtful writers of every persuasion available.

Posted by: happyacres | September 4, 2010 6:14 AM | Report abuse

They get loonier and loonier it thier desparate efforts to pin bum raps on this intelligent and well-spoken President. It will be hard to surpass this nutty effort. It amazes that they don't leave it along after George Bush's struggles with the English language and Sarah Palin's obvious limitations. Desperation - pitiful.

Posted by: withersb | September 4, 2010 7:35 AM | Report abuse

Thanks, Mr. Stromberg, for pointing out the arrogance of Matthews' advice to the President. I was so struck by Matthews' hubris that I sent him an email suggesting that he take a look at some film of himself on "Hardball", squinting and straining when he uses the teleprompter, in comparison to President Obama who uses the teleprompter with great proficiency.
Your points are well-taken, Mr. Stromberg, and I'm willing to bet that the folks on here calling you names watch only Faux News.

Posted by: ekgsoma | September 4, 2010 8:00 AM | Report abuse

to all,

my "problem" with BHO constantly using a teleprompter is that he cannot talk intelligently without it.

during the primary in 2008, i was invited by an old school chum to go with him & his wife to a BHO "campaign event". - truthfully, i knew almost nothing about him, other than that he was a US Senator from IL, so i went with them.

about 15 minutes into his "speech", the power failed & BHO seemed unable to say anything. someone then asked him to take questions from the audience.

one of the first questions was from a young girl, who i would guess was 12-13YO. she asked him: "Senator, what is your favorite movie?"

in response, BHO thanked her for coming to see him, said that young people were really important to America, made silly comments, stuttered/stammered/looked up at the ceiling BUT never answered her question.
instead, he got the "deer in the headlights" look, which says, "HELP. nobody told me what i was supposed to say".

he COULD have said any of the following:
1. i don't have a favorite movie,
2. i like a lot of different movies, but don't really have ONE favorite,
3.i like ________________________
(ANY movie could be his favorite.)
4. i don't have time to watch movies
5. almost anything else, except just standing there DESPERATELY hoping that someone would "rescue him".
(especially given that he is a father of two young girls of about the same age, he should have been able to give her a direct answer IF he had "anything between his ears", other than HOT AIR.)

at that point i said to myself, "This guy is a DUNCE & his campaign ends here, because the press will crucify him as a DULLARD, a FOOL & a KNOWS-NOTHING" and "This man is just not smart."

sadly, for all of us, i was DEAD WRONG & the man who couldn't think of an even HALF intelligent way to answer a little girl's simple question is our POTUS.- i shudder to think what BHO might say to a foreign leader, during an international crisis, if asked any question that he hasn't been throughly rehearsed upon!

just my opinion.

yours, TN46
coordinatoe, CCTPP

Posted by: texasnative46 | September 4, 2010 10:28 AM | Report abuse

Do you think that the President's favorite spacer phrase, i.e., "Make no mistake", was included on the teleprompter display?

If so, why?


Posted by: russ2 | September 4, 2010 11:40 AM | Report abuse

Mr. Stromberg, I'm sorry I busted on you for writing only about global warming, please go back to writing about AGW because clearly you are not qualified to write about anything else.

Posted by: gmfletcher12 | September 5, 2010 11:10 AM | Report abuse

As televised tableaux, prior to his historic election, Barack Obama's speeches, regardless of how they were mounted technically, were stirring--especially as his predecessor, and his opponent, John McCain, were maladroit orators. However, as President, perhaps we should expect a better style of communication from the President, one that not only inspires but reassures and encourages--and also admonishes and makes direct demands of the electorate.

If one listens to Obama during interviews, even without a teleprompter, he speaks in complete sentences and uses an accessible vocabulary. What is important to point out is that he is speaking the truth. Sadly, odoriferous clumps of the electorate enjoy being titillated by demagogues speaking in code to their prejudices and willful ignorance.

Maybe in the next two months, with or without a teleprompter, Barack Obama will take the Republican Party, in all of its hypocritical guises, to task for its truculence, mendacity and thinly garbed racialism. In so doing, he may save the Republic from the disaster that would surely accompany the GOP's return to control over Congress.

Let's hope he begins by deconstructing that undeserving dervish, John Boehner.

Posted by: woodmack | September 5, 2010 2:28 PM | Report abuse

Really? After 8 years of another "Texas native" this President is a breath of articulate fresh air. I think you might want to reconsider your perspective when conjuring up your recollections. I wish you people could get it straight. Either he is a DUNCE or too elite and cannot relate to "real" Americans. My head is spinning with the hypocrisy. Try to remember the 9/11 incident when Bush was reading to the grade schoolers and then tell me who is the real DUNCE!

Posted by: sromig | September 5, 2010 11:00 PM | Report abuse

Matthews, Olbermann, Maddow, Obama, Soros, The NYTimes and MSNBC-Generla electric/ bill Gates are all responsible for ramming Obama down our throats....All of them need to feel the heat on November 2nd. Vote out everyone that is connected to Obama if you love your country and want to save it.

Posted by: JUNGLEJIM123 | September 6, 2010 6:28 AM | Report abuse

If Obama had any clue as to what to do as president,he would have to know how to fix the economy. He would had known that (banking doesn't involve fraud, banking IS fraud). And to give the peoples money to the banks, is stealing from us. The banks are not dolling it out they are hoarding it and the economy is dieing for it. He should have given it to the people that are working in this country and they in turn would have put the economy back on track. And yes he is a dolt but it's too late to ask for forgiveness now we have to fix what he did to our great nation. Next time vote for NO strawmen.

Posted by: annieandpauldonovan | September 6, 2010 7:02 AM | Report abuse


Blah, blah, blah.

Posted by: aartmann112004 | September 6, 2010 7:52 AM | Report abuse

Chris Matthews has a point. Even Obama's brief remarks from Florida about beaches being safe to swim in after the BP disaster were teleprompted. This is not because he can't write, remember and perform a few lines of his own, it's because he doesn't really know what he means or wants to express until it's scripted and approved for him by his handlers. No wonder this has left so many people cold.

Posted by: MaryLouR | September 6, 2010 8:53 AM | Report abuse

Yeah you would certain hate to have a class of fourth graders miss any of the specific detail of the eloquence of your words.

Posted by: flyover22 | September 6, 2010 9:11 AM | Report abuse

The TOTUS of the POTUS - where would Obama be without it?

We have seen what happens when he thinks for himself and speaks off the cuff or off TOTUS.

Obama is a total bust.

Posted by: mlemac | September 6, 2010 9:24 AM | Report abuse

Are some of these commenters in a separate universe? The writer, far from criticizing Obama's use of teleprompters instead explains it (because apparently no President in the modern age ever used one before). "As a well-educated -- even professorial -- man, I like to express exactly what I mean as often as possible, for everyone's benefit". This teleprompter thing is just another right-wing talking point, as if GWB was extemporaneously articulate. I must have missed that about him. He was even clearly wired in one of his debates with Kerry, which most of the press refused to address. Pictures taken from the back show that. But meanwhile this President, one of our most thoughtfully articulate, is criticized for using a teleprompter. Puh-leeze!

Posted by: gailinpb | September 6, 2010 10:16 AM | Report abuse

This column is a waste of ink, paper and time. In other words, just plain silly.

Posted by: Kansas28 | September 6, 2010 10:39 AM | Report abuse

The problem isn't that people hate giving Barack Hussein Obama the chance to precisely express himself via the teleprompter.

The problem is that people suspect, more and more, that Barack Hussein Obama without the teleprompter is like the Wizard of Oz without the man behind the curtain. And we also suspect that the man behind the curtain is NOT Obama.

Now we know that someone else wrote his "autobiographies," someone else comes up with his strategies, someone else does his legislation, and someone else writes all his words. Obama is simply a figurehead and a mouthpiece without the simple self-discipline to stay on message. Remember the "stupid Cambridge cops" remark, and sucking up the Gulf spill oil leak, and the mosque controversy? All three comments were without the teleprompter, and all three killed the message his handlers were trying to get out.

The Audacity of Hope is really all about the Audacity of Hype, and the sad fate of those who are finally exposed for who they are -- empty suits with empty minds and empty words.

Posted by: spamagnet987 | September 6, 2010 10:46 AM | Report abuse

Apparently satire is outside the comprehension of many people. Stromberg nailed it about the teleprompter. Any person, President or not, who speaks to any important gathering would do well to avail himself of this splendid technology. But, over and above whether the Prez uses this tool of oratory well or ill, the scathing comments about his inability to extemporize without the teleprompter's aid are incredibly inaccurate. Obama is more than likely the most articulate president we have had since, maybe, Abe Lincoln. Anyone who has ever listened to an interview with him knows full well that his responses are clear, well-spoken and reflective of a superior knowledge about, well, almost anything. Why? Because he is inherently, naturally, brilliant, added to which is a superb education and a gentlemanly reluctance to rant and show off. His innate humility stands him in good stead, although it tends to drive his hate-blinded enemies on the right to a rage that would be comical if it were not so appallingly vicious. Is there not a single repuglican in this universe willing to make just one fair-minded response to this good and decent man? I'm not holding my breath.

Posted by: HotDem | September 6, 2010 11:01 AM | Report abuse

Give Obama a couple of drinks/beers and a pack of cigarettes and I'll bet he talks without a teleprompter. Elections have consequences and look at what we got, a lazy golfer with an ego.

Posted by: rustynailx | September 6, 2010 11:07 AM | Report abuse

Giving speeches is one thing, running a country effectively is quite another. Creating jobs is hard work, and our problem in this country is that not only is this president clueless about how to create private sector jobs, he has surrounded himself with sycophants are are either equally clueless or they are outright hostile to the creation of private sector jobs. Having said that, they are growing federal jobs like there is no tomorrow.

I think Obama was prepared for what is expected to be a huge mid-term loss by the Democrats. He will now concentrate on blaming the Republicans in an effort to turn the tables in 2014. If he fails in this strategy, we might be able to save this country from those who would run it like Cuba. If he is successful in this grand strategy not only will he win in 2014, he will help bring in more useful idiots like Barney, Bernie, Maxine, Alan Grayson, Joe Sestak, Allison Schwartz, Anthony Weiner, et al. Mind you, many if not most of these folks are well educated and smart. But they are woefully misguided. We need more of them like a hole in the head.

Posted by: buggerianpaisley1 | September 6, 2010 12:10 PM | Report abuse

Please get rid of this blogger. He is obviously stupid. This little article was a complete waste of my reading time.

Posted by: jpaul2 | September 6, 2010 12:53 PM | Report abuse

Bush wasn't articulate but at least he can speak two languages (Spanish). Obama, our boy genius president, can only speak one. He doe regret that he can't speak Austrian, though.

Posted by: lure1 | September 6, 2010 1:31 PM | Report abuse

Bush wasn't articulate but at least he can speak two languages (Spanish). Obama, our boy genius president, can only speak one. He does regret that he can't speak Austrian, though.

Posted by: lure1 | September 6, 2010 1:31 PM | Report abuse

I find it distracting to listen to a guy who looks like he is watching a tennis match.

Posted by: ECON1011 | September 6, 2010 1:56 PM | Report abuse

Stromberg, who cut your article? Did you mention the note cards?
You failed to mention the new, at home, family game; " Count The Um's."
When the president wings it, free style, there are so many "Ums," that the goal of the game is to count as many used before you get too bored to count.

Posted by: Bubba20 | September 6, 2010 2:03 PM | Report abuse

Dear Mr. Prezident:

Little stevie stromberg writing to say i heart u! That mean man chris matthews really doesn't heart u like i do. He is a doofus!!! Hee hee!!!

Anyhoo keep up the good job, i'll be root toot tooting 4 u!

Your pal 4 evah!,
little stevie stromberg

Posted by: adamnescot1 | September 6, 2010 2:03 PM | Report abuse

WaPo this is junk.

Posted by: rlj1 | September 6, 2010 4:36 PM | Report abuse

Without getting into Obama's politics (I consider him a DINO and a disappointment) I'd like to note that I've given many speeches to industry and college groups without a teleprompter or notes, and that the few times I've used notes they've been a few index cards to remind me of key points I needed to cover.

Posted by: roblimo | September 6, 2010 5:23 PM | Report abuse

Just another MSM article written to get our focus off of the failed policies of the Democrats and the President in this election season.

Let us not forget the arrogance and dis-respect of the Democrats. The "above the law" attitude of Charlie Rangel and Maxine Waters.

Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, and Barack Hussein Obama, and the Health Care Scheme that they shoved down our "collective" throats.

Remember all the legislation which was forced through, which was against the interests of the American People.

Remember the dis-respect towards their constituents, us.


Posted by: barrysal | September 6, 2010 9:01 PM | Report abuse

The same fools who insist that Obama is an empty suit without a teleprompter insist in hushed tones that he is the most dangerous President ever intent on taking over. The fools can't have it both ways, they can't say Obama is stupid on the one hand and can't speak without a teleprompter (like every President in the last generation has not used a teleprompter) and tehn on the other hand go on about how he is intent on taking over the planet for his muslim, terrorist, communist, illegal alien, and Klingon friends.

Posted by: orange31 | September 7, 2010 6:23 AM | Report abuse

Brilliant! Just brilliant. I agree, 100%.

Posted by: Dominique9903 | September 7, 2010 9:11 AM | Report abuse

If Barack is a dog,what does that make Michelle?-------------Right!

Posted by: wkropf2 | September 7, 2010 12:37 PM | Report abuse

sromig; all,

sromig: fyi, i've NEVER thought (since i saw him in person during the primary) that "bho, the Chicago machine politician" was anything but a SCRIPTED, NOT terribly bright,ARROGANT,SELF-impressed, "talking head".

as i said, ANYONE, who cannot QUICKLY answer a 12-13YO child's simple question, "What is your favorite movie?", is a DUNCE, a DULLARD. a FOOL & INCOMPETENT to be POTUS. period. end of story.

otoh, he is evidently MUCH smarter than the current VPOTUS, who was/is known by his peers in the US Senate as "Poor Joe" Biden, "the DUMBEST bunny of us all".
(the inside joke, during his tenure in the Senate & how he got his nickname, among hill staffers was that, "POOR Joe is so STUPID that you could pee on his feet & convince him that it's raining.")

if those two DIM-bulbs are the best that we can do as voters for "national leaders", i do NOT see good days ahead for the USA!

just my opinion.

yours, TN46

Posted by: texasnative46 | September 7, 2010 5:24 PM | Report abuse

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