Over at the Weekly Standard, Dean Barnett tries to downplay Obama’s speeches:
In spite of Obama’s obvious strengths in this area, questions linger regarding Obama’s gifted speechifying. Do his speeches give us a glimpse at a very special man with a unique vision? Or are we merely witnessing a political one-trick pony? Yes, Obama can turn a phrase better and do more with a Teleprompter than any other modern era politician. But does his special skill set here actually mean anything, or is it instead the political equivalent of a dog walking on its hind legs–unusual and riveting, but not especially significant?
1) I don’t think that Barnett is racist as Republicans understand the term “racist” (as far as I can tell, Republicans consider conservatives racist only if they join the KKK, and liberals racist only if they favor any program that might help people of color); I don’t know the man and can’t speculate about what he intends. But if this “Obama is like a trained dog” smear takes off among right-wingers, it’ll be because of its covert appeal to racism.
2) Obama isn’t as good speaking off the cuff as he is with a teleprompter; but that’s not because he’s substandard off the cuff, it’s because he’s off the fucking charts with a teleprompter. Obama’s been perfectly able to hold his own in debates, in interviews, and other occasions where he’s been talking without a script.
3) Even if it were true that Obama is terrible without a teleprompter — and it isn’t — so what? As John Cole at Balloon Juice points out, President Bush is mediocre with a teleprompter and disastrous without, yet he somehow managed to get elected. (Or close to elected.)
4) This attack isn’t going to fly. A good political smear should be time-consuming to rebut; it takes quite a bit of tedious explanation to prove that Gore didn’t claim to personally invent the internet, and that Kerry in fact was pretty brave in Vietnam.
In contrast, spend twenty seconds watching Obama on TV, and the “Obama is a dog walking on its hind legs” lie dies for everyone but the most hardcore reality-deniers.
If Obama wins the nomination, they’ll have to find a better lie to tag him with. Hmmn, what other quasi-racist criticisms could they throw up? I’m betting they try “lazy.”
[Edited for typos]