"It profits me but little that a vigilant authority always protects the tranquillity of my pleasures and constantly averts all dangers from my path, without my care or concern, if this same authority is the absolute master of my liberty and my life."

--Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America

Saturday, November 6, 2010

TOTUS Strikes Again!

The Teleprompter of the United States will give a speech in India's Parliament next week.   According to the Hindustan Times, some members are less than impressed:
This will be the first time a teleprompter will be used in the nearly 100-feet high dome-shaped hall that has portraits of eminent national leaders adorning its walls.

Indian politicians are known for making impromptu long speeches and perhaps that is why some parliament officials, who did not wish to be named, sounded rather surprised with the idea of a teleprompter for Obama. 

"We thought Obama is a trained orator and skilled in the art of mass address with his continuous eye contact," an official, who did not wish to be identified because of security restrictions, said.
Obama is known to captivate audiences with his one-liners that sound like extempore and his deep gaze.  But few in India know that the US president always carries the teleprompter with him wherever he speaks.
There's good reason to use teleprompters... when the United States' President speaks, world markets listen and react, and leaders of countries not necessarily friends to America take note.  He has to be careful.  I always remembered this when people would criticize George W. Bush's speaking skills... as a lawyer, I know how difficult it is to speak when you are responsible for not saying the wrong thing.   In cases, the downside is losing, sometimes millions of dollars for your client.   For the President, however, the downside can mean economic chaos, military conflict, lives at risk.   It's a big big responsibility.

But maybe, just maybe, on an occasion like this, President Obama could read from prepared remarks rather than rely on the teleprompter.   It's not good to start an important trip with probably our most important 21st Century trading partner by being embarrassed.

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