Daniel Greenfield, a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the Freedom Center, is an investigative journalist and writer focusing on the radical Left and Islamic terrorism.
Barack Hussein Obama was mocked as the teleprompter-in-chief for his heavy reliance on the text flowing across the glass screens to deliver everything from long speeches to brief remarks.
The teleprompter was an omnipresent reminder that Obama was neither natural nor authentic. He was not a gifted speaker, but a heavily rehearsed one whose speeches were the work of a committee, oral, written, and technical, that did everything but deliver the speech for him.
When Trump rose to the top of the field it was in no small part because, unlike Obama, his speeches were authentic and natural. When he reads a speech from a teleprompter, it’s obvious. And it’s those speeches in which he is the least connected to his supporters.
The Obama speeches that made Planned Parenthood supporters swoon in the aisles were teleprompter speeches. The Trump speeches that packed stadiums were wholly natural.
But at least there was no doubt that Obama was consciously and willingly delivering speeches.
When Joe Biden left the White House, he got custody of the teleprompter. But who got custody of Biden?
Speaking on the campaign trail is not a Biden skill. The first time he ran for president, he got caught ripping off a speech by British Labour leader Neil Kinnock. On the campaign trail, he had challenged a reporter to compare IQs, and more recently, called a voter “fat” and challenged him to a push-up contest. During the debates, his replies end early after running out of steam.
So it made sense for the Obama team to tether Biden to a teleprompter. But Biden’s reliance on the teleprompter has overreached even his old teleprompter-in-chief’s glass addiction.
The media and its myriad fact checkers, which no longer fact check the media, but just pump out its political spin, have rushed to deny that Biden was using a teleprompter during his Telemundo interview. That’s the same issue that Biden’s campaign press secretary had ducked in a FOX News appearance, but which the Democrat network is now denying on Biden’s behalf.
Except this sort of thing keeps happening and it happens too often to be explained away.
There’s the time that teleprompter text was reflected on a photo frame that Biden was holding up, and the time he appeared to be asking his staff to adjust a teleprompter, and when he read obvious instructions like “topline message is” and “end of quote” on separate occasions.
There’s no context in which saying gibberish like that is meant to be a response.
Not even by Biden’s low standards of stringing together random cliches in random word order to form a word salad that is impenetrable as anything produced by a random word generator.
But the problem isn’t really the teleprompter. It’s what the teleprompter reveals about Biden.
Obama’s teleprompter addiction showed that he wasn’t a natural or authentic speaker, but that he was an insecure control freak who distrusted the people he was pretending to connect to.
There’s nothing wrong with speakers occasionally using a teleprompter. Good speakers use them the way they use notes. Bad speakers use them to recite the entire presentation.
When I deliver a 45 minute speech, it’s not going to be done entirely from a blank slate. I’m going to have text that I can glance at if I need to. But reading a speech is very different than delivering it. When you deliver a speech, you’re connecting with the audience, but when you read a speech, you’re engaging in an artificial exercise that shuts out the audience.
Even when it’s a good speech and even when the speaker, like Obama, is very practiced at making a read speech feel like a natural delivery, reading a speech has a distancing effect.
Obama used a teleprompter because he didn’t like or trust the audience, and believed that they would reject him unless he tightly controlled every element of his speech while feigning a connection. That same approach marked his campaigning, rehearsed gestures, fake warmth, and hugs, that reverted to coldness and distance once he was away from the crowds.
That’s the opposite of the Trump effect.
Trump connects with audiences and trusts them to go along with whatever he’s saying. That’s what made his stadium speeches compelling while baffling political insiders who didn’t understand their appeal. When Trump uses a teleprompter, the connection fades because there’s no longer the same level of dynamic interplay between the audience and the speaker.
What does the teleprompter reveal about Joe Biden?
Biden doesn’t use a teleprompter because he hates and fears people the way his old boss did. After nearly half a century of politics, he survived because he likes audiences and crowds. Of all the things that Biden has been accused of, being an introvert like Obama, wasn’t on the list.
He isn’t using a teleprompter because he can’t handle public speaking, but because he can’t handle speaking coherently, while understanding and remembering what he’s meant to be saying. That might be a question of mental capacity, if elected, he would be the oldest sitting president in history, but it might even more relevantly be a question of power and control.
Did Biden ask for a teleprompter for even the most minor appearance where the softball questions are guaranteed, like a remote chat with unfunny uber-leftist Stephen Colbert, or is it that the old Obama team that has gathered around him wants to keep him on a glass leash?
The Obama White House was notorious for trying to control Biden and older Cabinet members.
Not only did Obama go through defense secretaries like Bill Clinton went through foreign donors, but some Cabinet members, like Secretary of State John Kerry were assigned minders to keep them from going off message and to quickly correct the message when they did.
Obama never forgave Biden for stealing his thunder by coming out for gay marriage first.
The teleprompter is arguably as much about compensating for Biden’s erratic messaging as his mental capacity. Biden has gone back and forth on a national mask mandate and on fracking, among other hot button issues, and his own political instincts were always terrible. Keeping a candidate who confuses Iran and Iraq, and suggests 200 million Americans died of the virus, tied to a teleprompter controls the messaging and the candidate.
And that raises the question of whom voters are really choosing: Biden or the Obama team?
Either Biden can’t get through a simple interview without a teleprompter or he can’t be trusted to get through an interview without a teleprompter by the Obama vets keeping him on a leash.
It’s hard to say which one is worse, but easy to say which one violates the spirit of an election.
Voters elect a candidate to public office to serve them. They’re not voting for humbug puppets manipulated by the wizards behind the curtain. A candidate who can’t do an interview without a teleprompter is either physically or politically incapacitated, and is unfit for public office.
Obama’s teleprompters were manifestations of his need to control his environment, but Biden’s teleprompters are manifestations of his lack of control over himself. Either Biden can’t get through a simple conversation on his own or he can’t be trusted to handle it on his own.
Elder abuse is often manifested by inappropriate levels of control, by an older person being denied the ability to make his decisions, being humiliated and berated for mistakes, and then being even more closely monitored and controlled by those who wield power over him.
The teleprompter may be the most tangible symbol of elder abuse by the Biden campaign.
A teleprompter telling a politician what to say and when to say it can be a symbol of power or control. Unlike Obama, Biden’s teleprompters don’t seem like symbols of power, but of control.
One of the many problems with the Biden-Harris campaign, or as Biden has on occasion called it, the Harris-Biden campaign, is that the man at the top of the ticket isn’t really in charge of it. After two Democrat nominees, Obama and Hillary, who exemplified obsessive control, Biden is being carried along to an election that he wants, but can’t remember why, by his handlers.
Biden’s candidacy is weightless and meaningless. Unlike Obama or Hillary, he doesn’t represent anything except a senescent drive for power that has outlived his ability to wield it. There are few Biden signs even here in some of the deepest and bluest parts of a deep blue state. No one can say exactly what he stands for or why anyone should vote for him. And even the polls that claim an inevitable Biden victory show little voter enthusiasm for the actual candidate.
After some unusual and unnatural candidacies, Biden’s candidacy may be the most unnatural of them all. He’s on the ticket as a generic anti-Trump candidate, a puppet for the radical political interests of his old boss, and is being kept on a tight leash by those same political interests.
Biden’s only tangible promise is that voting for him will mean a third term for Obama. Unlike so many lies that he’s told in his half century in politics, this one may be the terrible truth.