As speakers, our legislators excel

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Even Donald Trump’s critics acknowledged that his State of the Union address Tuesday night was a decent speaking performance.

Proof?

A quick poll done after the speech found that 48 percent of Americans felt “very positive” about Trump’s address.

That 48 percent is roughly 10 points higher than his overall popularity — which tells you something about scripted, rehearsed speeches.

When you give it a thought at all, of course an address perfected by a professional speechwriter — and aided by a teleprompter — is almost always going to be better than remarks delivered off the cuff.

This isn’t just true of Trump’s speeches and press conferences. It applies to all important public figures.

Hey, if we put YOU on stage in front of Congress and 100 million viewers, I’m guessing you’d rehearse until fainting from exhaustion.

Then you’d faint again right after being introduced.

I was thinking about that on Tuesday night, not fainting but the difference between speaking extemporaneously (like answering surprise questions from the media) and giving a speech that’s always right there in front of you.

Trump, like almost every major public figure before him, scored better with the teleprompter than he does with spontaneous remarks.

The reason it crossed my mind was remembering just how good our Kootenai County state legislators handle public speaking on the fly.

As a group, they’re damn quick on their feet and their remarks are very sharp.

After attending plenty of town halls and various meet-and-greets with some or all of our nine state senators and representatives, I can’t think of a single big-time gaffe — you know, where the speaker has to say, “Oops, that came out wrong.”

TRUE, SOME of them had to be pretty good with words and phrases before they ever reached the statehouse.

Rep. Luke Malek, R-Coeur d’Alene, is a former prosecutor. If you didn’t already know that, you’d have guessed when a member of the audience insisted on challenging him in a back-and-forth exchange during a forum at North Idaho College.

Malek was never rude, but…

Let’s say the anonymous gentleman will probably try someone else next time.

I was always impressed with our legislators’ grasp of individual issues, even when they had no idea they’d be questioned about certain things.

IT’S TOUGH writing this piece and singling out any specific names — because everyone is pretty darn good — but during a Q&A event in Post Falls, questions from out of the blue landed on people like Sen. Mary Souza, R-Coeur d’Alene, Sen. Bob Nonini, R-Coeur d’Alene, Rep. Vito Barbieri, R-Dalton Gardens and Rep. Paul Amador, R-Coeur d’Alene.

Others, too, let’s hasten to add.

Sen. Steve Vick, R-Dalton Gardens, pulled off a great impromptu interview via speakerphone during a long drive.

Their responses are always surprising in their depth, considering that our Legislature only meets for 80 days and that these folks have other lives.

They never seem to get flustered, and they rarely stray from the point.

I’ve seen this group do well in all kinds of venues.

That State of the Union address — naturally done with a teleprompter — reminded me how wowed I was, listening to legislators from our own county when they had to simply wing it.

And how they managed to soar.

• • •

Steve Cameron is a columnist for The Press.

Email: scameron@cdapress.com.

Facebook: BrandNewDayCDAPress.

Twitter: @BrandNewDayCDA

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