In a recent back-and-forth with my former college roommate whose conservative credentials I do not question, he enjoined me to consider the President’s use of “I” when reading from a teleprompter. This “double-dig” is, of course, standard fare in the right-wing blogosphere; i.e. Obama’s a “narcissist” and can’t function without a visual technological aid.
My chum can be forgiven for his lacking of any serious, in-depth knowledge on both topics. What is hard to look past is his willingness to take both “digs” at face value without any apparent wondering if either/both represented a complete picture. What follows is meant to be helpful and in a broader context, useful to those with an interest in rebutting the same smears.
The number of “I’s” in any given speech is a meaningless bit of datum when presented free of the total number of words spoken, AND the contexts in which that word is used. As a professional well-schooled in these matters, let’s take the following hypothetical: Obama, working off a teleprompter, delivers a 15 minute speech. The average normal adult reading rate is 170 words per minute (wpm). So, in his 15-minute oration, the president produced something on the order of 2,500 words (15-min’s x 170 wpm). If he used “I” 25 times that would be 1.0%, and 250 times would still be just 10%, and that’s not even considering context.
Vis a vis “I”, context matters, especially when the speaker is the President of the United States. If he is speaking of issuing an Executive Order or a veto, how is the word “I” to be avoided? To employ “we” would be totally inappropriate since no other member of the Executive branch has the power/authority to undertake such actions. Alternatively, to say “An Executive order (or veto) will be issued” is stilted, disconnects the action from the person taking it, and could be viewed as a clumsy way of preemptively trying to avoid responsibility*.
Finally, we come to the trumped up nonsense regarding Obama’s sole dependence on a teleprompter. The facts are these: Once that technology came into being, every president made use of it or at least tried to. Reagan used one as did Clinton and GHW Bush. GW Bush never got comfortable with the device and instead, relied on a fully-typed out version of his speech that he carried with him to the podium.
Given the foregoing, and unless some presently undiscovered evidence surfaces to contradict the facts presented here, the “I” + teleprompter rants by conservatives should properly be seen for what they are; i.e. baseless attempts to discredit a man who they have been completely unable to defeat at the ballot box.
*One might remember one of President Reagan’s mea culpas in the midst of the Iran-Contra scandal; i.e. “Mistakes were made”. Imagine – “mistakes” materialized out of thin air, disembodied from the mistake-maker(s). Talk about dodging responsibility!!!