Jewish World Review Oct 26, 2011 / 28 Tishrei, 5772
Archivists long for Obama's teleprompter
By Dale McFeatters
http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | The best brains of both agencies in the war rooms deep in the Library of Congress and the Smithsonian Institution are at work on a problem of critical importance.
(Yes, they have war rooms. The Library of Congress' is behind a steel door marked "The Complete Archives of the Whig Party, 1833 to 1856." No one has ever tried to break in. The Smithsonian's war room is Fun with Science: Making Friends with Poisonous Reptiles." Occasionally, someone tries to force the lock. That's why so many of the Smithsonian's mannequins look so lifelike.)
At stake is a rare piece of equipment, one that has insinuated itself into American politics since Herbert Hoover first used one to address the 1952 GOP convention and now has largely taken over the presidency of Barack Obama.
Obama is perhaps the most self-confident and gifted orator in the White House since Ronald Reagan. Yet, he uses a teleprompter, in his case two panes of glass bearing the text of his speech that rise discreetly on either side of the podium. That allows him to turn to the left and the right when speaking, rather than standing riveted to a written speech on the lectern before him.
In major speeches in the East Room, he has a large screen on the back wall that allows him to avoid looking robotically to the left and right.
All presidents have relied on teleprompters, basically electronic cheat sheets. But Obama has carried it to an extreme, using his teleprompters -- and there are always two of them -- for the shortest and most mundane events, like words of welcome to the 4-H.
Obama even has written out for him electronically the traditional close of a major presidential address, "Thank you. G0d bless you, and G0d bless the United States of America." How hard could it be to wing that? He's only been doing it for almost three years.
Obama's oratorical crutch has even acquired an acronym: TOTUS, for Teleprompter of the United States.
That's why it was major news in Washington when the government truck carrying the teleprompter, the presidential podium and the presidential seals was stolen from a hotel parking lot just north of Richmond, Va.
It's not a mystery why the truck was stolen. It's a mystery what they planned to do with the contents. Richmond surely has its dope markets like any other city, but can you imagine trying to fence the most recognizable parts of the White House briefing room? And the lectern, being fortified, weighs hundreds of pounds.
And then there's the teleprompter. "Hey, man, what am I supposed to do with this junk? Couldn't you at least come up with a flat screen TV?"
"Well, you could pretend to be the president and deliver the State of the Union Address. I'm sure they are all in there."The upshot is that the truck showed up, contents intact, in the parking lot of a Holiday Inn Express at Richmond Airport.
You can see why the Library of Congress, which operates the presidential libraries, and the Smithsonian, which is the curator of many presidential artifacts, would want the teleprompter for their collections.
But ex-presidents do a lot of speaking and there's no sign that Obama is ready to surrender his training wheels. History and the public will just have to wait.
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