Rumors about Barack Obama’s addiction have crept around the capital for the last few weeks, but no one has wanted to explicitly report it until Politico did so this afternoon.  Has Obama relapsed on smoking?  Do his massive government spending plans indicate an acute gambling problem?  No, in this case, Obama has another crutch:

President Barack Obama doesn’t go anywhere without his TelePrompter.

The textbook-sized panes of glass holding the president’s prepared remarks follow him wherever he speaks.

Resting on top of a tall, narrow pole, they flank his podium during speeches in the White House’s stately parlors. They stood next to him on the floor of a manufacturing plant in Indiana as he pitched his economic stimulus plan. They traveled to the Department of Transportation this week and were in the Capitol Rotunda last month when he paid tribute to Abraham Lincoln in six-minute prepared remarks.

Obama’s reliance on the teleprompter is unusual – not only because he is famous for his oratory, but because no other president has used one so consistently and at so many events large and small.

After the teleprompter malfunctioned a few times last summer and Obama delivered some less-than-soaring speeches, reports surfaced that he was training to wean himself off of the device while on vacation in Hawaii. But no luck.

This may be news to the throngs of Obamabots who elected him, but not to those of us who paid attention to Obama on the campaign trail.  When he had the TelePrompters, he made crowds swoon.  When he didn’t, though, things would go terribly wrong.  Most of the fumbles on the campaign trail — such as Iran being a “tiny” and therefore no threat, America not being “what it once was”, came when Obama had to go off script.  Once, his TelePrompter failed for a couple of moments and he stammered until someone apparently fixed it.

It’s not exactly news among the media, either, but they didn’t exactly trip all over themselves to report it.  Give CNN a small credit for mentioning Obama’s crutch once in the midst of a flurry of criticism of Sarah Palin for her lack of extemporaneous talent:

The Democratic presidential nominee has never tried to hide the fact he delivers speeches off the device, though normally he doesn’t use one at standard campaign rallies and town hall events.

But the Illinois senator used a teleprompter at both his Colorado events Monday — making for a particularly peculiar scene in Pueblo, where the prompter was set up in the middle of what is normally a rodeo ring.

This came two weeks after the Obama campaign derided Palin for using a speechwriter, which CNN failed to mention in its report and which the rest of the media ignored. They liked painting Palin as some sort of empty suit, and heralding Obama as a secular messiah with wisdom rolling off his tongue at every occasion.  They swallowed the meme gladly from Team Obama.

Look, a TelePrompter is a tool, like anything else, and using the right tool for the right job is part of competent performance.  Using it a press briefings, though, looks more like Obama is helpless without a script than a man relying on technology for success.  Had the media paid attention to Obama’s disastrous off-script performances during the campaign, he might not be at the podium at all now.

Update: The video’s been pulled, but Jake Tapper told Diane Sawyer in August about Obama’s TelePrompter crutch.  Video here.  And while I always enjoy my friend T-Steel’s posts, his criticism about this not being a real story runs a little cold when we count up the I-hate-Rush posts his co-bloggers have piled up over at TMV the last couple of weeks.