Like a naked man seeking fig leaves for cover, President Obama stumbled, hemmed and hawed awkwardly on the debate stage this week, (in front of 70 million viewers) desperately seeking the cover of his missing teleprompter. He was left exposed to the elements of the truth.
The crutch of the teleprompter is a dangerous thing. The electronic screens, like any acting tool, only cover up what is behind the script and Mr. Obama was left open to the harsh elements of reality on Wednesday evening at the University of Denver. Governor Romney focused the light on the President’s arrogant lack of preparation and, more importantly, on a President with no solutions and damaging decisions.
During my career as a television journalist in Philadelphia, the good, seasoned reporters knew not to give in to the allure of the “prompter” for fear of becoming addicted. Experienced journalists knew they better know the facts–be able to ad lib if there was a technical glitch. It was only the naive, inexperienced reporters who, like any breed of addict, remained stubbornly dependent on an electronic, unreliable tool to do their job.
Perhaps just as telling as the words that came (or didn’t come) out of the President’s mouth was Mr. Obama’s body language. His rude, head down, note taking during Romney’s responses was so revealing. Gone was this signature, charming smile. He appeared arrogant, petulant, angry, bored, because no one has ever confronted and challenged this President so publicly. The low point for Obama was the discussion moved to our dismal unemployment rate, and he asked (or pleaded) with the moderator to move on to another topic.
Mr. Obama learned the hard way that unlike the friendly environs of a controlled press conference populated by largely complicit media members, the debate stage is a different animal. On that stage, there is real opposition, real examination of actions, real questions and real exposure. Or at least I assume he learned? If he didn’t, then Mitt Romney is in good shape heading into debate number two.