Obama’s Foot-in-Mouth Syndrome
Barack Obama's verbal gaffes are becoming more frequent as the campaign goes along. But do the voters really care?
May 28, 2008 - 12:25 am
Is it my imagination, or is it true that the closer Barack Obama gets to sewing up the Democratic nomination for president, the more outrageous his gaffes and misstatements of fact become?
For an answer, I turned to the fairest, most practical, most logical person I know: my girlfriend Zsusanna. Now my Zsu Zsu is not a political junkie by any means. But she keeps up with things — if only to have something to talk to me about besides the weather and our never ending battle over whose turn it is to clean the litter box.
In fact, some campaign would do well to hire her on as the perfect bellwether of what Americans are thinking about when it comes to politics. She’d do better than any poll they could run as far as telling them what voters were thinking and feeling about a candidate and the issues. She has an unerring sense of what people find important and what they could care less about.
So I asked her about all these gaffes Obama had been making recently.
ME: Yeah, you know. Like when Obama said his uncle helped liberate Auschwitz even though it was Russian troops who did it.
SHE: Why would he say something like that?
ME: Apparently, his campaign says he misspoke.
ME: No, it’s true. His uncle helped liberate some other camp, not Auschwitz.
SHE: And this is what you do all day, what you write about? What’s this got to do with the price of gas? Gimme another.
ME: How about yesterday when he told a Memorial Day crowd he saw “fallen heroes” in the audience — dead people.
ME: Don’t you find that disturbing?
SHE: Not as disturbing as a near doubling in egg prices recently.
Leave it to my Zsu Zsu to get to the nub of what’s important to the American people in this election.
The fact is, Obama can make one gaffe after another, but unless he is caught in an outright lie — as Hillary was with her death-defying Tuzla sniper run — most of the voters who haven’t really made up their minds yet are very forgiving.
Of course, it might be different if the press covered Obama’s misstatements of facts and other campaign blunders the same way the cover, let’s say, Republican faux pas. PJM’s special DC correspondent Jennifer Rubin in Commentary:
Isn’t Obama supposed to be highly educated, sophisticated, a great intellect? Shouldn’t the media’s bar be higher for this brilliant leader of the new age of politics? Had it been Hillary Clinton or Al Gore who made all these errors, we would have heard by now that the candidate was a fabulist. Had it been John McCain it would have been a sign of senility. Had it been George W. Bush . . . oh, you can imagine. So maybe Obama’s gaffes are a sign of inexperience and shallow knowledge? Nah, couldn’t be.
More questions along that line from NRO’s Campaign Spot, where Jim Geraghty wonders about poor Dan Quayle’s “potato” problem and President Bush’s classic “Too many OB-GYNs aren’t able to practice their love with women all across this country.” Why did the press have a feeding frenzy when those gaffes occurred but not for any of Obama’s eye-poppers?
If the MSM would either A) be more forgiving of Republican officials who they don’t like or B) be a little tougher on Democratic officials they do like, the world would be a better place. In this case, I don’t think Barack Obama is deliberately lying, or trying to pull a fast one. It sounds like a family “legend” in which the specific horrors of war witnessed by his uncle are mistaken as the years go by. It happens, and Obama only deserves the lightest of metaphorical slaps on the wrist for it. But it would help if his fans in the press actually paid attention to what he says.
It’s not like the press hasn’t had opportunities. As far back as last year — when Obama made mention of how his parents met as a result of the Kennedy Administration sponsoring Kenyan students to come to America to study, only to have it come out a little later that the program was not a government-run operation and that it began before Kennedy was even elected — has it become obvious that Obama gaffes were going to be treated just a little bit differently than those made by Republican candidates.
Michelle Malkin compiled a list of some of the candidate’s more outrageous misstatements including a couple of really ignorant spewings:
* Earlier this month in Oregon, he redrew the map of the United States: “Over the last 15 months, we’ve traveled to every corner of the United States. I’ve now been in 57 states? I think one left to go.”
* Earlier this month in Cape Girardeau, Mo., Obama showed off his knowledge of the war in Afghanistan by homing in on a lack of translators: “We only have a certain number of them, and if they are all in Iraq, then it’s harder for us to use them in Afghanistan.” The real reason it’s “harder for us to use them” in Afghanistan: Iraqis speak Arabic or Kurdish. The Afghanis speak Pashto, Farsi, or other non-Arabic languages.
* [Last] weekend in Oregon, Obama pleaded ignorance of the decades-old, multibillion-dollar massive Hanford nuclear-waste cleanup: “Here’s something that you will rarely hear from a politician, and that is that I’m not familiar with the Hanford, uuuuhh, site, so I don’t know exactly what’s going on there. (Applause.) Now, having said that, I promise you I’ll learn about it by the time I leave here on the ride back to the airport.”
I assume on that ride, a staffer reminded him that he’s voted on at least one defense-authorization bill that addressed the “costs, schedules, and technical issues” dealing with the nation’s most contaminated nuclear-waste site.
So I believe my Zsu Zsu when she tells me that the average voter doesn’t care if Obama thinks there are 57 states in the union or that he voted in total ignorance on an issue of vital importance to a whole lot of people. Taken separately, they don’t amount to much — perhaps a tired candidate whose mouth gets ahead of his brain or a faulty memory about events in the distant past made even more difficult to recall under the pressures of a presidential campaign.
The big question is: if the press cared a little more, would that change the minds of some voters?