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What’s Up With All the Presidential Gaffes, Anyway?

June 23rd, 2011 - 7:17 pm

Big Media doesn’t pay much attention to them, even though Obama makes an amazing number of errors in his public statements.  And I think it’s easy enough to understand why the BM largely ignores them:  to report them all would totally undermine the image of the president to which a surprising number of “reporters” and pundits are wedded:  that of an unusually intelligent and well educated man.

Yet someone who tells a crowd in Vienna that his “Austrian” isn’t very good, who tells Marines that he’s pleased to speak to the “Marine Corpse,” and who, just today, said he’d given the Medal of Honor to a survivor from the 10th Mountain Division, when in fact the award was given posthumously, doesn’t fit my definition of a brilliant and cultured man.

Yes, there was a Medal of Honor winner who lived to receive it, but it was a different man.  The living honoree is named Giunta;  the deceased hero from the 10th Mountain Division was named Monti.  Both are Italian names.  Did a White House speechwriter confuse the two Italians?  And if so, what does that tell us about the ship under the command of President Obama?  That’s worth pondering for a moment.

When you add up all the mistakes he’s made–not slips of the tongue, but real errors in statements and speeches he could read from the ubiquitous teleprompter–they make quite a number.  So what? you may ask.  The answer is that hundreds of people traditionally read the drafts of presidential speeches and statements.  That happens for two good reasons.  First, presidential utterances are instant policy.  It’s hard to walk away from a public statement.  Second, the myriad political appointees want their leader to look good, and they strain to ensure the accuracy of his statements.  Or at least they did when I had first-hand knowledge of such things, now a few years back.

I don’t think that is happening in this administration.  A friend said to me earlier today that he was really amazed at the discipline of Obama’s team, specifically in the small number of leaks compared with previous administrations–especially W’s years.  It’s a good point, and that only happens when information flow is severely restricted;  when only a handful of folks know what’s happening, chances to leak are reduced.  (On the recent decision on force level reductions in Afghanistan, for example, most of the “inside the Beltway” rumors were dead wrong).

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