I’m glad WAPO ran this shot yesterday, for a number of reasons.
On the most basic level, it exposes the trappings of a typical campaign event, in this case, McCain’s return to his high school alma mater. I can’t recall, over the past four years, when I saw such a revealing shot of a teleprompter.
Where this shot goes a little deeper, however, is in its non-idealized allusion to the man remembered at Episcopal High School as “The Punk.” Highlighting the teleprompter draws attention to how impersonal and highly-scripted McCain’s self-described biographical tour has turned out to be. In someone with a healthier attitude and behavioral history, one would expect a more informal, personal and emotional connection to one’s past. Instead, we witness events such as this one in Virginia, and one previously, at Annapolis, in which the talks are canned, the events are rote, and the candidate, beyond uncomplicated hat tips to his admiral father and grandfather — goes mostly for cheap laughs at his own expense.
To get a sense of the rote-quality, and how dependent McCain was on the script at his old stomping ground, check out the ABC News video, most likely taken from one of those cameras we see in the back. The particular snippet captured on the teleprompter is interesting too. Maybe the selection was completely random. Or maybe, reflecting the way in which the press tends to run interference for him, this particular fragment is designed to make Mac seem more like he was the happy, well-adjusted child. It reads:
“I’m happy to be back at Episcopal, my alma mater, which I have many happy memories of, and a”
As a fragment, though, it also hints at the “real dope” which followed. In this case, the rest of the sentence went:
“…few that I’m sure former teachers, school administrators and I would rather forget.”
(image: Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post, April 1, 2008. Episcopal High School. Alexandria, Va. via WAPO)