ABC's Tapper, Limbaugh touted Weekly Standard characterization of Obama that is based on false assumption

››› ››› RYAN CHIACHIERE

Citing Dean Barnett's Weekly Standard piece about a recent speech by Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama, radio host Rush Limbaugh and ABC's Jake Tapper promoted Barnett's claim that without a teleprompter, Obama is, in Limbaugh's words, "a different guy." However, in claiming that Obama "improvised" or "ad-libbed" and that the audience "saw a different Obama," Barnett provided several quotes that have been part of Obama's standard stump speech since as early as November 2007.

In a February 12 Weekly Standard article on Sen. Barack Obama's (D-IL) speech (text, video) at the Jefferson-Jackson Dinner in Virginia, staff writer Dean Barnett wrote that Obama spoke without a teleprompter and asserted, "Because of Obama's improvised moments, this speech was different than the usual fare he offers. ... Virtually every time Obama deviated from the text, he expressed the partisan anger that has so poisoned the Democratic party [sic]. His spontaneous comments eschewed the conciliatory and optimistic tone that has made the Obama campaign such a phenomenon." Barnett concluded the article, headlined "Obama Unplugged: Lost without a Teleprompter," by claiming: "The pressing question that Obama's decidedly uninspiring Jefferson-Jackson oratory raises is which Obama is the real Obama -- the one who read beautifully crafted words from a Teleprompter after his victory in Iowa, or the tediously angry liberal who improvised in Virginia?" However, to support his claims that Obama "improvised" or "ad-libbed" and that the audience "saw a different Obama," Barnett provided several quotes that have been part of Obama's standard stump speech since as early as November 2007. Citing Barnett's article, ABC News senior national correspondent Jake Tapper wrote on his Political Punch blog that Barnett's "observation" that Obama is "different" without a teleprompter "gets at what could be a real vulnerability for Obama." Rush Limbaugh asserted that without a teleprompter, Obama is "a different guy."

Barnett wrote of the February 9 Jefferson-Jackson Dinner speech, "At one point, Obama launched an improvised jeremiad against the current administration that took special note of the recent revelation that he and [Vice President] Dick Cheney are distant relations," and then went on to quote at length from Obama's speech:

"Now I understand some of the excitement doesn't have to do with me. I know that whatever else happens whatever twists and turns this campaign may take, when you go into that polling place next November, the name George Bush won't be on the ballot and that makes everybody pretty cheerful. Everyone's happy about that. The name of my cousin Dick Cheney won't be on the ballot. That was embarrassing when that news came out. When they do these genealogical surveys, you want to be related to somebody cool. So, but, his name went be on the ballot.

"Each of us running for the Democratic nomination agrees on one thing that the other party does not -- that the next president must end the disastrous policies of George W. Bush. No more Scooter Libby Justice! No more Brownie incompetence! No more Karl Rove politics."

Barnett commented, "None of this was in the prepared text," adding, "And all of it was a marked departure from the kind of successful campaign that Obama has run." He went on to speculate what Obama might have done with the anecdote about Cheney "if he thought things through more fully." But, contrary to Barnett's suggestion that Obama had not "thought things through more fully" with regard to the joke about being related to Cheney, Obama had used the joke in his stump speech for months prior to the Jefferson-Jackson Dinner speech in Virginia. On the December 23, 2007, edition of NBC-syndicated Chris Matthews Show, NBC's Norah O'Donnell noted that Obama "uses that line in just about every speech that he gives, talking about everyone has a black sheep in their family."

Barnett went on to ask: "Looking past the missed opportunity regarding the vice president, how many times has Obama deliberately pushed angry-left hot buttons like Scooter Libby and Karl Rove? Obama has run looking to the future, and thus hasn't felt it necessary to dwell on the purported horrors that the Bush administration has visited upon the nation." In fact, as early as July 15, 2007, the Associated Press reported Obama saying, "People are tired of Scooter Libby justice" and as early as November 3, 2007, The Hill quoted Obama as saying, "The era of Scooter Libby justice, and Brownie incompetence, and the Karl Rove politics of fear and cynicism will be over."

In addition, the January 6 edition of CNN's Ballot Bowl aired portions of a live campaign event in which Obama used almost exactly the same language that Barnett said was "improvised" at the Jefferson-Jackson Dinner that took place over a month later. From the January 6 edition of Ballot Bowl:

OBAMA: Now, let's face it: Part of the reason that so many people came out, twice as many people as had come out previously, has to do with the fact that they knew that they -- next, that this November, they'll be going into the polling places, selecting the next president of the United States of America, and they know that the name George W. Bush will not be on the ballot. And they're excited about that.

[applause]

The name of my cousin, Dick Cheney, will not be on the ballot. That was really embarrassing when that news report came out. You know, when they do these genealogical surveys, you're hoping that you're related to somebody cool. You know, maybe Abraham Lincoln, or Willie Mays, or Tom Brady. You know, but Dick Cheney -- that's a, that's a letdown.

But his name will not be on the ballot. And what this means is that the era of Scooter Libby justice, and Brownie incompetence, and Karl Rove politics will finally be over next year. It will finally be over.

Barnett later asserted that:

Other improvised moments also contradicted the generally lofty tone of the Obama campaign. At one, point when addressing what we have to do for the economy, Obama ad-libbed, "The insurance and the drug companies aren't going to give up their profits easily ... Exxon Mobil made $11 billion this past quarter." This is the kind of empty class warfare shtick that earned John Edwards an early exit from the race. What's more, it displayed the kind of simplistic sloganeering that Obama had previously eschewed.

But in a January 27 interview on ABC's This Week with George Stephanopoulos, Obama similarly asserted, "The insurance companies, the drug companies -- they're not going to give up their profits easily when it comes to health care. The oil companies like writing the energy bills, and they have a clear agenda." Earlier, on January 4, according to a Congressional Quarterly transcript (accessed via the Nexis database) of a campaign event in Concord, New Hampshire, Obama asserted, "And, of course, there are going to be insurance companies and drug companies that don't want to give up their profits when we say we need to reform health care. Of course, there will be operatives in Washington who want to tear me down and won't even think about trying to work with me on a piece of legislation when I'm president."

In his post on the Political Punch weblog -- headlined "Not So Inspiring Sans Teleprompter?" -- Tapper quoted verbatim portions of Barnett's article and wrote:

Barnett writes that the lack of a Teleprompter "revealed Obama as a markedly inferior speaker ... Virtually every time Obama deviated from the text, he expressed the partisan anger that has so poisoned the Democratic party. His spontaneous comments eschewed the conciliatory and optimistic tone that has made the Obama campaign such a phenomenon ...

"The pressing question that Obama's decidedly uninspiring Jefferson-Jackson oratory raises is which Obama is the real Obama--the one who read beautifully crafted words from a Teleprompter after his victory in Iowa, or the tediously angry liberal who improvised in Virginia?"

Consider that this is a conservative source, of course. But it's interesting. What do you think?

Tapper called Barnett's story "fascinating" and something that he hadn't "seen anywhere else."

On the February 12 edition of his nationally syndicated radio show, Limbaugh said of Obama, "[W]hen his teleprompter breaks down, and when he doesn't have the teleprompter, all this flowery, vapid speech filled with hope -- it vanishes." And he reverts into the typical liberal: angry, full of rage, ripping Bush, ripping Rove, ripping Exxon Mobil -- every, every standard Democrat [sic] talking point." Limbaugh concluded, "[W]hen he doesn't have the teleprompter, he's a different guy."

From the February 12 edition of the Rush Limbaugh Show:

LIMBAUGH: And by the way, speaking of Obama, there's another fascinating story today, American Spectator [sic], about Obama. When he -- when his teleprompter breaks down, or when he doesn't have a teleprompter, all this flowery, vapid speech filled with hope -- it vanishes. And he reverts into the typical liberal: angry, full of rage, ripping Bush, ripping Rove, ripping Exxon Mobil -- every, every standard Democrat talking point. He just starts railing with this. Soft-spoken -- when he doesn't have the prompter, he's a different guy.

From the 4 p.m. ET hour of the January 6 edition of CNN's Ballot Bowl:

OBAMA: Now, let's face it: Part of the reason that so many people came out, twice as many people as had come out previously, has to do with the fact that they knew that they -- next, that this November, they'll be going into the polling places, selecting the next president of the United States of America, and they know that the name George W. Bush will not be on the ballot. And they're excited about that.

[applause]

The name of my cousin, Dick Cheney, will not be on the ballot. That was really embarrassing when that news report came out. You know, when they do these genealogical surveys, you're hoping that you're related to somebody cool. You know, maybe Abraham Lincoln, or Willie Mays, or Tom Brady. You know, but Dick Cheney -- that's a, that's a letdown.

But his name will not be on the ballot. And what this means is that the era of Scooter Libby justice, and Brownie incompetence, and Karl Rove politics will finally be over next year. It will finally be over.

[applause]

But what is bringing people out is not just opposition to George Bush. I mean, that's easy -- being against something. The reason people were coming out in Iowa was because they wanted to be for something. They want some affirmation that we can still come together as a nation and solve big problems. That we are not inevitably divided into Red States and Blue States. That we are not just a collection of individuals. That we're not just in it on our own, but we can in fact join together and dream big dreams and do big things.

From the December 23, 2007, edition of the NBC-syndicated Chris Matthews Show:

MATTHEWS: Strangest bedfellows: Who made the oddest couple this year? Well, there's televangelist Pat Robertson endorsing Rudy Giuliani. There's Barack Obama and Dick Cheney, who found out from genealogists that they are in fact long-lost cousins.

[...]

O'DONNELL: I would have to say the lost cousins of Barack Obama and Dick Cheney. And that's because it was my interview with Mrs. Cheney that first let that out, where Mrs. Cheney said, "You know, by the way, they're eighth cousins." What's happened is that as a result, Barack Obama now uses that line in just about every speech that he gives, talking about everyone has a black sheep in their family. And it's Dick Cheney. And it's applause --

MATTHEWS: Ha!

O'DONNELL: -- line that works for him.

From the January 27 edition of ABC's This Week:

OBAMA: So, part of what -- part of what I think we have to do is to set a new tone in politics. Not -- not a naive one. The insurance companies, the drug companies -- they're not going to give up their profits easily when it comes to health care. The oil companies like writing the energy bills, and they have a clear agenda. But it does mean that we have to reduce the interests of -- or the influence of special interests and lobbyists. I think that we've got to take ethics reform seriously. I think that we all have some responsibilities in terms of focusing on how are we going to solve problems for the American people.

Network/Outlet
The Weekly Standard, ABC, Premiere Radio Networks, ABCNews.com
Person
Rush Limbaugh, Jake Tapper
Show/Publication
The Rush Limbaugh Show
Stories/Interests
Barack Obama, 2008 Elections
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