Teleprompters prompt latest war of wordsRick Santorum, the Republican presidential candidate whose recent popularity is the best evidence that much of America has gone raving mad, is not just against contraception. He also wants to make that plague of modern communications, the teleprompter, illegal.
By: By Reg Henry, The Dickinson Press
Rick Santorum, the Republican presidential candidate whose recent popularity is the best evidence that much of America has gone raving mad, is not just against contraception. He also wants to make that plague of modern communications, the teleprompter, illegal.
At the risk of bringing my own sanity into question, and not for the first time, I support him 100 percent on the banning of teleprompters in the presidential context.
Indeed, I would go further and ban all female speakers from using teleprompters, thus combining the Republican war on women with this new war on teleprompters. If these are combined with the conservative war on reality, that’s surely a winning trifecta.
As for contraception, I am only for banning it for old people, because politicians are always pandering to seniors and we have to draw the line somewhere. Besides, as the old joke has it, the best contraceptive for old people is nudity — and that comes free.
My support of the Santorum war on teleprompters is based on the idea that the more politicians speak off the cuff, the more startling things they are apt to say — and America’s columnists and bloggers have to get their material somewhere. Readers with a fine sense of irony will note that Santorum is himself living proof of this theory.
The other day, while running his mouth with characteristic friskiness, Santorum explained his thinking, such as it is. “I’ve always believed that when you run for president of the United States,” he said, “it should be illegal to read off a teleprompter, because all you’re doing is reading someone else’s words to people.”
The other reason I support a ban is that the teleprompter has made joke telling on the Republican hustings much too easy. All a candidate has to do to wring a laugh out of a sullen audience is to say the magic words “Obama” and “teleprompter” and the crowd collapses in hysterics. “Stop it, stop it, you’re killing us” is the cry from a thousand mirth-filled voices.
This phenomenon has now affected joke-telling off the campaign trail. In country clubs and boardrooms, a conservative will ask his friends, “Say, did you hear the one about the priest, the rabbi and Obama?” and be met with glum looks. Only when he remembers the magic words “ and teleprompter” does the group dissolve into riotous cackling and backslapping. After that, the punch line isn’t even necessary.
It is possible Santorum was himself making a little joke with his war on teleprompters, but I take him at his word, because the difference between his jokes and his serious remarks is not visible to the naked eye — if I can dare to put naked in the same sentence with his name without him throwing up. (He has a very delicate stomach.) So call me jealous, but as soon as presidentially related teleprompting is ended, normalcy will return to this great republic and speakers will once again have to be humorous in the old-fashioned way. And when President Santorum gives his State of the Union address off the cuff — or off the sweater vest, in his case — the laughter will drown out all thoughts of deficits.
Again, readers of a curious and ironic bent will be puzzled by this obsessive fuss about President Barack Obama and teleprompters, given that all presidents of the last 50 years have used teleprompters — Republicans and Democrats alike. Whether this president uses a teleprompter more than others did is a question best left to professors of teleprompting studies, but it’s not as if this president never speaks without a teleprompter.
But his critics clearly see, as most of us do not, that Obama wants the government to take over the teleprompter industry, and this must be stopped at all costs. Socialized teleprompting is a grave threat to the nation, on a par with everything else that Obama does, just because he does it.
After all, there’s nothing to stop a president from using a megaphone, microphone or trombone to relay his own words. But if “reading someone else’s words to people” is truly the problem with teleprompters, what would happen if a president were to read his own words? Ah, there’s a question for the legal scholars, not to mention the teleprompting police.
What a sight Santorum makes recklessly galloping through the country without a thought in his head; why, he’s a latter-day Paul Revere shouting: “The teleprompters are coming, the teleprompters are coming.” He’s a gallant sight indeed, even if all we see of him is the back of a horse.
Henry is a columnist for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.