It’s not an accident that so many righties settled on the “Obama is boring” meme this morning. The idea of attacking what is perceived to be Obama’s greatest strength — his ability as a communicator — has been brewing for a while. It’s what all the yammering about the teleprompter is about. It’s what all the hand-wringing about Obama’s jokes is about. And they’ve already phrased it in the convenient Slate/TNR contrarian “myth-busting” form that media types love so much (Ben Smith gushed over this piece):
2. Obama is a great communicator. Cut away the soaring rhetoric in his speeches, and the resulting policy statements are often vague, lawyerly and confusing. He is not plain-spoken: He parses his language so much that a casual listener will miss important caveats. That’s in part why he uses teleprompters for routine policy statements: He chooses his words carefully, relying heavily on ill-defined terms like “deficit reduction” (which means tax increases, rather than actual “savings”) and “combat troops” (as opposed to “all troops in harm’s way”).
4. Obama is smooth. Despite being deliberate, Obama is surprisingly gaffe-prone. Reporters on my e-mail lists last year know he consistently mispronounced, misnamed or altogether forgot where he was. (In one typical gaffe in Sioux Falls, S.D., he started his speech with an enthusiastic “Thank you, Sioux City!”) His geographic gaffes are not just at routine rallies but at major events, including the Democratic National Convention and his first address to Congress. Any politician occasionally misspeaks, but the frequency of Obama’s flubs is notable.
This is a classic Rovean technique — attacking your opponent where he is strongest. I happen to think it is a smart technique in many cases. I’m skeptical whether “Obama is teh boring” will work right now, because the public is more focused on the next paycheck than on whether or not they find Obama’s pressers entertaining.
But make no mistake: right-wing media types will be pushing this hard over the next few months. And when even a pretty good reporter like Ben Smith is eating it up, you can bet we’ll be hearing a lot about it in the media.
(By the way, while Michael Wolff probably doesn’t qualify as a right-wing hack (although he certainly does enjoy fellating Rupert Murdoch), this piece is pretty remarkable.)
Update. This weirds me out a little: Michael Scherer of all people nails the teleprompter “issue”.
I don’t really get all this gabbing about Obama and his teleprompter. Does anyone really doubt Obama’s ability to speak cogently and in detail without notes, after winning three presidential debates and slaying just about every press availability he gets? So he likes reading from a screen and not a piece of paper. But this whole line of attack, promoted widely by conservative blogs, sort of baffles me. And does anyone stop to think about how all this back and forth is effecting the feelings of the computer that powers Obama’s teleprompter? Well, I have, but that’s only because I have been reading the teleprompter’s blog and Twitter feed.