Monday, September 26, 2011

Catch of the Day

TPM's Evan McMorris-Santoro catches Florida Governor Rick Scott making a teleprompter joke...while reading a teleprompter.

I'm fairly certain this isn't the first time, but I'm too lazy to look up others. Teleprompter jokes are wonderful, because they show exactly how little is needed to get these things started and embraced within the conservative marketplace -- in this case, essentially nothing at all. I believe that there was a news story concluding that Obama used a teleprompter one (twice? a few times?) for situations in which previous presidents might not have, but then again Obama has certainly held a fair number of press conferences, interviews, all-day health care summits, sessions with House Republicans, and other such things that he managed somehow or another to get through without a script. In other words, is based on nothing. And it certainly is a slur on his intelligence, albeit no worse than those that partisan Democrats hurled at George W. Bush and Ronald Reagan.

Now, there's also the question of what it is about Barack Obama that attracts conservatives to this particular idea, and whether they would have used the same thing had Hillary Clinton or John Edwards or Chris Dodd been elected president in 2008. I'll withhold my speculation on that one, however.

Anyway: nice catch!


  1. It's not just that he read the teleprompter joke off the teleprompter, it's the fact that he mentions the teleprompter in the setup.

  2. That's part of why it's effective too, right? By more or less explicitly acknowledging the emptiness of the joke in relation to reality, he can that much more clearly signal to the audience that the teleprompter issue is purely a means of expressing dislike/contempt for Obama.

  3. I see a few factors feeding into the teleprompter fetish on the right. One, Dems have picked on Republican candidates (notably Reagan - he was associated with the teleprompter as I recall, Bush 2, Palin) as less than bright for years, and conservatives are eager to return fire on that front. A bit of a strange choice to question the intellect of a guy who was selected editor in chief of the Harvard Law Review and hired as professor at UChicago Law School as a young man, IMO, but hey, they were waiting 30 years to take a shot at someone. Two, he's a black man who went to school on scholarship. To the right, this is prima facie evidence that his intellect is overrated. Three, Obama has proven himself an effective speaker, so it's an attempt to defuse admiration of his speaking ability. After all, someone's feeding him the words.

    They probably would have found something else with Hillary but it would have been equally silly.

  4. cgw: Related to three, there was also a perception on the right that Obama is successful only because of his speaking ability, so showing that he uses teleprompters like we mere mortals is proof that he doesn't even have that.

  5. And it certainly is a slur on his intelligence, albeit no worse than those that partisan Democrats hurled at George W. Bush and Ronald Reagan.

    This is true only if the judgment of a given slur as "better / worse" doesn't include whether it's accurate.

  6. Right, Jeff. Our childish insults are acceptable because they really are morons (not to mention evil - that goes without saying). Theirs are intolerable because our guys are perfect.

  7. So which is it: Obama is a dimwit who needs a teleprompter or Obama is an evil genius who is secretly masterminding a plan to impose European socialism on America? The conservative brain has managed to achieve amazing new levels of cognitive dissonance.

  8. Cognitive dissonance is pretty much a job requirement for anyone involved in politics these days. It's what allows the two parties in Congress to completely switch positions on a host of procedural issues every time the majority shifts. It's also what allows them to loudly exclaim "but that's different!" whenever someone on their side gets caught in a scandal that looks an awful lot like the scandal that they were condemning their opponents for yesterday.

  9. Sullivan, the phrase "childish insults" is loaded. I suppose "slur" is too, so perhaps i shouldn't have borrowed it from the original post, but the point is: criticisms are not all equally unfair because they sound similar. If Barry Bonds and I accused each other of being worthless at hitting for power, one of us (not me) would be right, and one would be absurdly wrong. You can't judge the criticisms without evaluating the facts they're referencing.

  10. Jeff -

    Were you around during the Bush (43) years? I don't think it unreasonable to describe some of the things that were put on protest signs or yelled by hecklers as childish. Bush was not stupid - he graduated from Yale, albeit only with a business degree - and "stupid" was one of the milder terms used. Both parties seem to have lost the capability for civil discourse.

    (No, I'm not suggesting that Bush was as intelligent as Obama. Few are.)

    So Obama used a teleprompter a few times and is ridiculed for it. Big deal. Ford stumbled once getting off of Air Force One and was ridiculed by opponents for the rest of his career. (And he was probably the most athletic President since Teddy Roosevelt!) Thise who know anything know that Obama is a gifted orator. Those who know nothing will probably stay that way.

  11. Sullivan, this argument of equivalency between the parties has been much discussed and, I think, effectively refuted many times (by Jonathan Chait, among others). Yes, there were childish insults on protest signs aimed at Bush 43, so if we were only talking about what people say in street protests, I'd take your point. But at least some of the vitriol aimed at Obama has come from Republican leaders or would-be leaders. The teleprompter idiocy referenced in this post, for instance, came from the Governor of Florida, not some clown carrying a sign at a rally. And of course he's repeating what others like him have said. Do you know of any similar example of a Democratic party leader or office-holder calling Bush 43 stupid?

    Thinking back, I do recall Ann Richards' crack about Bush 41 having been "born with a silver foot in his mouth." OK, but one reason I remember it is that Republicans recycled it endlessly in subsequent years as an example of how terribly cruel and childish Democrats are toward them. Meanwhile, Newt Gingrich was circulating this memo by way of planning official Republican Party strategy:

    Again, Gingrich was not some random crank (well, not random, anyway): He was then the leading Republican in the country, on the verge of becoming House Speaker, and he was urging his colleagues to accuse Democrats of being "sick, pathetic, lie[ing]... traitors," among other bon mots. Do you know of anything similar coming from Dick Gephardt, Tom Daschle, Nancy Pelosi, or even Barney Frank?

  12. Jeff -

    (sorry for the slow response - trouble logging in)

    I don't recall suggesting that the Democrats were as bad as the Republicans (in this one respect). I just don't think that pointing out incivility on the part of one's opponents justifies incivility on one's own part.

    You're right - Gephardt, Daschle, and Frank are generally civil, as are some prominent Republicans. (I think Pelosi is a different matter, but as I'm not going to waste my time searching for examples, I'll give you that one, too.) As for Richards and Gingrich, I won't comment for fear of violating my own strictures regarding incivil discourse.


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