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A Special Olympics Gold Medal in Stupid and Tasteless Remarks

The Tonight Show comment was just one example of a slip-up when the umbilical cord that links Obama to his teleprompter is severed.

by
Mike McNally

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March 25, 2009 - 12:31 am
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I’d like to add my voice to those who have condemned President Obama for the thoughtless, tasteless, and insulting remark he made during his appearance on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. While I accept that Obama didn’t intend to cause offense, there’s no escaping the fact that his words have angered and upset millions of people. The damage has been done, and Americans must be wondering how the man they elected president, in large part because of his supposedly towering intellect and unsurpassed eloquence, could say something as stupid as: “I think Geithner is doing an outstanding job.”

What’s that? Oh, you’re talking about the other stupid and tasteless remark, when Obama likened his bowling skills to those of a competitor at the Special Olympics? Yep, that was also pretty dumb.

Those who have criticized Obama are of course right to do so, and those who have been offended by his remarks are entitled to feel aggrieved. Their reactions are genuine and understandable, unlike the mock outrage expressed by liberals last month over the New York Post’s chimp cartoon. And there was no room for ambiguity in this case: Obama likened his lack of bowling prowess to the performance of a disabled person.

In his defense, however (yes, I’m about to defend Obama — blink and you’ll miss it), it’s clear that Obama didn’t intend to disparage disabled sportsmen and women. He was trying to be self-deprecating, but as we’re seeing more and more, when the umbilical cord that links Obama to his teleprompter is severed, he has an unfortunate tendency to, as he puts it, “misspeak”.

Some of the blame for Obama’s slip can be laid at the door the culture of political correctness that has spawned terms such as “Special Olympics.” By inventing artificial labels for groups in a misguided attempt to spare people’s feelings, it is more likely that people will inadvertently say the wrong thing. It’s hard to believe that even an teleprompter-less Obama would have said “I bowl like a disabled person.” But terms such as “special” have become coded insults for incompetence or clumsiness, and it’s easier to cause offense, whether intended or not, when language is rendered deliberately imprecise.

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