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I’d prefer a dumb one, you know, so he’d always be having to get back to us later.

February 17, 2009, 2:42 pm

It upsets Mary Rosh that Leno and Letterman refuse to mock Obama for using a teleprompter during his press conferences.  It infuriates her that Obama wants the White House to install a smart podium:

Obama is looking to install a computer screen into the podium so that, according to one Obama advisor, “It would make it easier for the comms guys to pass along information without being obvious about it.”  Obama’s aids would put together answers to a large number of possible questions so as soon as a reporter asks a particular question the computer screen would flash talking points to remind Obama how he’s supposed to respond to that question.

Why would a President—especially an ostensibly intellectual one—want aides to feed facts and figures to his podium on the sly?  Are we witnessing the first step down that slippery slope?

I think not.  Consider:

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That is a picture of the actual classroom in which I teach my 8 a.m. class.  Notice the podium hulking in the corner?  It is made of computers.  Know what happens when a student stumps me with a question?  I confab with computers so that I might provide the student with an accurate answer.  This is not to say that I come to class unprepared.  I have done my homework.  I come armed with my notes.  But sometimes a student still manages to stop me in my tracks.  Consider a conversation from this morning:

Me: It seems like Nolan shot this with the aid of a steadicam.

Student: You mean “with a steadicam.”

Me: No, a steadicam is something you attach to a camera.

Student: My father works in Hollywood and were he here all anyone in this building would be able to hear was him laughing because you are dumb.

At which point I stopped the lecture.  Walked to the podium.  Searched the internet.  Brought up that link.  Took me about thirty seconds total—which means that for thirty seconds my class consisted of my students watching me search the internet.  You know what would have been nice?  If I had a staffer whose job it was to do these searches for me so that the results might appear instantly on my podium computer.  I would waste less time and be more accurate.  (For the record: I was not out to humiliate the student.  I teach them that the cardinal sin of the Age of Information is the easily correctable factual error.  The above is an example of me practicing what I preach.)

But Rosh and her commenters will have none of it.  Their beloved Limbaugh employs a staff to feed him information during his show—but he is not a President.  The President is a man who should want for nothing.  The man who is President needs a lot.  He “needs a cheat sheet.”  (As did I on my qualifying exams.)  He “needs help in just speaking.”  (As did I on my qualifying exams.)  He “is our first Affirmative Action President [because] he needs extra help to do what things that we privileged white people can do with ease.”  (As do Jews just generally.)

Why should a president have a crack staff who feed him the exact figures in a spending bill or the precise wording of a policy?  Why should we value his apparent commitment to accuracy even when speaking extemporaneously?  How can we trust a president who has not already committed all 1,079 pages of the stimulus package to memory?  I think Ritchie speaks for us all: “We need to figure out how to have a recall election or impeach [Obama] on the grounds of being incapable of leading.”

God forbid a reporter ever asks him what an impeachable offense is.

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