The Sketch: The curse of the teleprompter leaves President looking leaden

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The Independent Online

The economy barely has a pulse and America is fighting two wars, so the presidential presser was never going to be entertaining. But anyone who was inspired by candidate Obama last year will surely have felt let down by Tuesday's event, which swept aside the prime-time schedules of every network and cable news channel.

In the absence of any solid headlines, commentators and bloggers are talking more about Mr Obama using a teleprompter for his opening remarks. We know by now that the President favours reading from a teleprompter – even at state dinners – because it keeps him strictly on message and guards against gaffes, like the Special Olympics blooper he gave us on the Jay Leno show last week.

But the teleprompter in the East Room on Tuesday night– not the usual pair of glass screens reflecting text at each side of the podium but a huge scrolling TV screen facing Mr Obama at the back of the room – had the effect of deadening the proceedings. Galloping through the statement, Mr Obama was at his most tediously professorial and least engaging. American Idol on Fox was bumped for this? Even the spiteful Simon Cowell might have been preferable. That the question-and-answer session was almost as dull was also no particular surprise. The system of giving Mr President a list of reporters in advance for him to call on one by one lowers the temperature in the room. Reporters are not flinging their hands up in the air to press the leader of the free world on whatever issue is consuming them because there is no point. And the tradition of excessive politeness in the White House press corps does not help.

Mr Obama did not stumble on Tuesday and covered all the bases he wanted to cover. But if he expects the network chiefs to clear the schedules for him again – and for the public to be bothered to watch – he needs to remind himself of what real press conferences are meant to look like. More back and forth. Less control.