Obama off the Cuff

Conservatives caricature 24/7 Barack Obama’s reliance on the teleprompter. True, his speeches are scripted; but we forget why so: He is very good at reading a prepared script as if he were talking off the top of his head, and he is very bad at actually talking off the top of his head. In the former mode, he sounds pleasantly moderate and mellifluous; in the latter, sort of creepy and awkward.

Yet the result is paradoxical: Obama seems to feel false when he sounds balanced and eloquent reading someone else’s ideas on a teleprompter, and genuine only when he is extreme and ad hoc in his own words. Because teleprompted eloquence is by definition somewhat artificial, Obama believes that his real wit and insight are appreciated only in extemporaneous exposition.

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