105 Ways to Give a Book

“A Linguistic Push-Up Bra”

I’ve read a few things lately about Obama’s use of the teleprompter as a a crutch and been a little confused by the snarkiness expressed. After the years of stupid phrases that came out of Bush’s mouth, I can’t see teleprompting as a bad thing. Clearly for years it wasn’t used enough. Indeed, when Obama went off script on Jay Leno’s show he made joking reference about his bowling score being like the Special Olympics that made me cringe and made others furious. I’m glad that Obama immediately called the head of Special Olympics to apologize for the thoughtless mistake. But this quick, unplugged moment didn’t show me anything about what Obama was really thinking. It just showed me that these cultural verbal tics and punchlines that we’ve grown up with can come on out at bad times.

The Washington Post has an op-ed piece today called “What the Telepromter Teaches.” I was expecting another rant about Obama not being authentic or real. But instead, I was treated to a tribute to writing — and one great title phrase:
Those writers and commentators who prefer the unscripted, who use “rhetoric” as an epithet, who see the teleprompter as a linguistic push-up bra, do not understand the nature of presidential leadership or the importance of writing to the process of thought.

Governing is a craft, not merely a talent. It involves the careful sorting of ideas and priorities. And the discipline of writing — expressing ideas clearly and putting them in proper order — is essential to governing.
I am glad that someone took this non-issue and gave it an intellectual interpretation. I, for one, am tired of off-the-cuff statements that led us to tell terrorists to “bring it on.” Authentic? Yes. Stupid? Also yes. I’m thinking that we give thoughtful, crafted statements and governance a try. The piece’s writer, Michael Gerson, is no Obama fan, but he recognizes that “good writing has an authenticity of its own.” I couldn’t agree more.


anne said...

Excellent post! You captured it exactly! shows intelligence, using the teleprompter to keep on track, etc. Anyone who has ever spoken in public and then sat down and wished they'd said what they'd MEANT to say gets it! :) How could one not admire well-written, thoughtful remarks?

Bill said...

I read that exact piece this morning, and thought it particularly relevant — since I was heading to work early to tape a speech with a presenter using a teleprompter. I was actually able to use that as a discussion point during the taping, since one thing my company is adamant about is proper scripting for presentations, and the teleprompter is a brand-new acquisition for us.

ReadingTub said...

Speaking publicly is hard enough, speaking policy - I can't imagine. Thanks for the link. How could I have missed a "linguistic push-up braw" or worse yet ... not had DH point it out while he was reading.

Solvang Sherrie said...

Great post!

I can't speak, that's part of why I write. If only I could bring a teleprompter to my pitch session!!?? :^)

tanita davis said...

This is a waaaay back, longtime philosophical argument; apparently Aristotle even complained that people shouldn't write, that the dialectic was all there should be, that writing an argument meant that you didn't have to know or remember it, and that it was going to ruin thought and discourse -- put a foot on the "threshold of barbarism."

Yeah, and he probably had a few opinions about the wheel and bathing daily, too.

The president always speaks of "we" when he talks about the things he and his team want to make manifest in this American life. When you're representing a team, it's important to make sure you get down all of what they want you to express. He's the HEAD of the team, not its sole occupant.

This latest furor is simple anti-intellectualism, as far as I see it. What did the last president read? The Hungry Caterpillar. Great book, but that's like the iconic Big Thing that he read.

I want to suggest that a more widely read president is a good thing, and let's not focus on HOW he gets his message across, but maybe what he said?

I agree with Solvang: if I could actually talk, would I be a writer!?

Elaine Magliaro said...

Some people are looking to find fault with Obama anywhere they can. Of course, after eight years of George Bush, people aren't used to hearing a president who sounds articulate and thoughtful when he speaks.

Bush also used a teleprompter--he just couldn't read the words...at least not fluently.

Saints and Spinners said...

I wish I had a teleprompter for my life.