The sad teleprompter joke

THE SAD TELEPROMPTER JOKE…. Appearing at CPAC yesterday, Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R) demonstrated the far-right’s dry and sophisticated wit, while showing his own attention to detail.

“President Obama was in a grade school classroom speaking to elementary school children and he was using a teleprompter,” Pawlenty said Friday in a speech to the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington.

“You’ve got to be kidding me,” he added. “That’s not a joke. That’s a real story.”

Actually, it’s not. The tale spread by bloggers over the Internet and in some media, including the Comedy Channel’s Jon Stewart, blended together two Obama appearances Jan. 19 at the Graham Road Elementary School in Falls Church, Virginia, to make it appear he used the teleprompter when speaking to a classroom of 30 pupils.

In reality, Obama sat on a chair and spoke with the pupils without the device.

OK, so Tim Pawlenty doesn’t know what he’s talking about. That’s hardly new.

But the fact that the right is still obsessed with this — often telling teleprompter jokes while literally reading from teleprompters — has quickly transitioned from odd to sad to pathetic.

All modern presidents have used teleprompters to deliver speeches. It’s never been noteworthy, better yet “controversial,” until today’s right-wing GOP decided it’s hilarious — so much so that, as Pawlenty demonstrated, they’re willing to lie about it.

It’s worth pondering what, exactly, Republicans hope to accomplish with this. Apparently, the far-right thinks it can convince Americans that President Obama is, what, not as brilliant as he seems? The party that revels in anti-intellectualism and makes heroes of obvious dim-bulbs like Bush and Palin seriously believes the president is dependent on a prepared text to tell him what to say?

These clowns aren’t concerned with details like reality, but Barack Obama has been on the national stage for several years now. He’s spoken eloquently and intelligently — without notes or teleprompters — in debates, town-hall forums, media interviews, Q&As, and assorted appearances. Obama off the cuff is more cerebral than any figure in modern Republican politics.

I’d hoped we saw the end of this inanity a few weeks ago in Baltimore. House Republicans asked Obama what they thought to be really difficult questions. Perhaps believing their own nonsense about teleprompters, GOP lawmakers thought they’d show the president a thing or two. Instead, he made them look ridiculous, demonstrating a mastery of policy details and depth that they couldn’t hope to match.

These folks have to realize eventually that to attack the president credibly, they’ll have to do better than this.