Obama off the Cuff
We see the real Obama when he strays from the teleprompter.


Victor Davis Hanson

Take also the question of race. Officially, in scripted speeches, we still hear the healing tropes of 2008. Unofficially and in clumsy fashion, we are told that America is a society in which police officers stereotype and act stupidly. Presidential wisdom about the Trayvon Martin tragedy is limited to a tribal reflection that the son Barack Obama never had would have resembled the deceased — an odd observation whose exact intent is still not clear. In 2008, “typical white person” and the clingers speech were also ad hoc and not teleprompted, but these repulsive remarks proved to be more accurate harbingers than any soaring script explaining away the Rev. Jeremiah Wright.

How about healing and unity — as in the no-more-red-America-or-blue-America sermons of the past? For the answer to that we turn to the imprompu “If they bring a knife to the fight, we bring a gun,” “Get in their faces,” “tea-baggers,” and “punish our enemies.” Or consider Obama’s private call to Sandra Fluke and his later quip that he did not wish his daughters to grow up in a world in which a Rush Limbaugh defames women — without much cognizance that his own campaign affiliates had gladly accepted $1 million from the misogynist Bill Maher, or that he now de facto owned the comments of his celebrity supporter, who had said far worse things about women than had Limbaugh — but without commensurate presidential rebuke.

Obama felt impulsively that he must editorialize that the shooting of Representative Gabrielle Giffords teaches us about the need for civility in public discourse — without much worry that soon those words could come back to haunt him. They surely did when labor leader Jimmy Hoffa Jr., in Obama’s presence, appeared to threaten violence, with the promise, “President Obama, this is your army. We are ready to march. Let’s take these son-of-a-bitches out and give America back to an America where we belong.”

The inadvertent Obama gives glimpses of his them-vs.-us world, in which doctors lop off limbs and rip out tonsils for cash, fat cats junket to Vegas on their kids’ tuition money, the uncaring don’t know when to stop their profiteering and they worry little about spreading the wealth. In the world of the flippant Obama, energy prices should “skyrocket”; Brazil should sell us the sort of offshore oil we ourselves will not develop; and proper tire pressure, tune-ups, and algae can substitute for more drilling. In these moments of candor, there are no speechwriters, and no canned phrases moving down a screen, spiced with the Nixonian “Make no mistake about it” and “Let me be perfectly clear” fillers. The thoughts, phraseology — and incoherence — are all Obama’s own.

If it comes down to a choice between an eloquent delivery of someone else’s neatly crafted liberal ideas and Obama’s ad-hoc revelations of his own hard-left worldview, it is no wonder why most of us prefer the teleprompter.

NRO contributor Victor Davis Hanson is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and the author most recently of The End of Sparta, a novel about ancient freedom.