Obama’s teleprompter (TOTUS) the talk of the town in India

Your Tuesday morning laugh:

He thrilled them by calling for India to have a permanent seat on an expanded U.N. Security Council. He reassured them by demanding that Pakistan bring those responsible for the Mumbai terror attacks to justice. He flattered them by recalling India’s historic achievements in science, philosophy and the invention of the digit “zero”. And he amazed them by using that ubiquitous tool of modern American politics: the teleprompter.

President Obama used the electronic speech-displaying device Monday to deliver his 30-minute address to Indian lawmakers in the historic Central Hall of parliament, the same place where Britain relinquished power to a newly independent India in 1947. It was the first time a teleprompter had been used inside the chamber.

“It looks like a podium”, said one mystified lawmaker. “Where do they place the paper?” asked another.

In India, politicians generally speak extemporaneously or from notes or text written on paper. The common perception, explained lawmaker Sanjay Nirupam of Mumbai, is that the really good speakers don’t need to have text in front of them.

Regardless, lawmakers in the packed hall listened to Obama’s speech in mesmerized silence, punctuated by frequent applause.

“Some moments are recorded in history as points of reference…this is that moment,” said Meira Kumar, the Speaker of the Lower House of parliament. Commentators on Indian news channels hailed the speech as “vintage Obama”.

“Vintage Obama”? Oh, indeed.

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