Slips of the tongue

The media adored it when Ronald Reagan or Dan Quayle, or George Bush (actually both George Bushes) made gaffes.  Whether they misspelled a word, got confused about a fact, or mispronounced something (or used a regional pronunciation, these gaffes were news.

The old media, the TV and newspapers, trumpeted the gaffes in prominent places (top of the news, above the fold), played and printed them in the Friday reviews of the week’s news, and mentioned them constantly in op-ed pieces.  “See,” they said.  “This man is so dumb he can’t even speak English or get his facts straight.  How can you possible elect him for President?”

Interestingly, with Obama, who leaks gaffes like an old tire, the media is surprisingly quiet.  It wouldn’t surprise me at all that, if we pressed various members of the old media on their restraint, if they didn’t respond by saying that Obama is so brilliant one can’t expect him constantly to have a handle on the minutiae of day to day details.  That is, to them, I suspect, Obama’s gaffes are a sign of a mind operating on a higher plane, rather than just demonstrating that he’s — gasp! — human and, possibly, quite ill-informed about a lot of things.

Michelle Malkin has been keeping track of Obama’s “misspeaks” and she’s already got quite a nice collection, and when that she suspects will be growing.  Here are some of Obama’s tarnished verbal gems:

* Last May, he claimed that Kansas tornadoes killed a whopping 10,000 people: “In case you missed it, this week, there was a tragedy in Kansas. Ten thousand people died — an entire town destroyed.” The actual death toll: 12.


*Earlier this month in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, Obama showed off his knowledge of the war in Afghanistan by honing 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 March, the Chicago Tribune reported this little-noticed nugget about a fake autobiographical detail in Obama’s “Dreams from My Father:”

“Then, there’s the copy of Life magazine that Obama presents as his racial awakening at age 9. In it, he wrote, was an article and two accompanying photographs of an African-American man physically and mentally scarred by his efforts to lighten his skin. In fact, the Life article and the photographs don’t exist, say the magazine’s own historians.”

We all misspeak.  We all carry around internal visions of our own history.  We all get facts wrong.  But there is a problem when the media sees these mistakes as significant only if they emanate from one side of the political spectrum, and as meaningless if they come from the other.  (Although I will say that I’m less forgiving of Obama’s misstatements about matters in the Middle East.  He’s not ready for foreign policy prime time if he, a sitting Senator, doesn’t know what language they speak in Afghanistan, or if he can’t figure out whether Iran is actually dangerous or not.  Those aren’t mispeaks; those are mis-thinks, and they are a sign of a weak or immature mind.)

Be Sociable, Share!
  • Deana

    Hear, hear, Bookworm.

    I don’t expect any candidate to be perfect and even though I do not agree with Obama or Clinton, I do admire anyone who runs an aggressive presidential campaign. I know they are tired and can slip up from time to time.

    But it is exactly as you said – had George W. Bush said any one of those gaffes, he would have been massacred in the media. They would have been relentless.

    As it is, you have to search for reports on the numerous gaffes Obama makes. The MSM simply do not report them or if they do, they follow it up with explanations and excuses.

    However, I do not believe his inexplicable statements on the Middle East are gaffes. Instead, they reflect his lack of experience and ignorance about the realities of that region. How can he expect anyone with functioning neurons to take him seriously when he claims on one day that Iran does not pose a serious threat to the U.S., only to turn around and claim on the next day that Iran is a grave threat?


  • jj

    If Obama were white he’d been laughed out of the race as a Dan Quayle lightweight weeks ago.

    He wouldn’t have gotten beyond campaigning in more than about half of our 57 states.

  • Ymarsakar

    It is very important to have a well educated populace, to which a free press, meaning the freedom of people to publish what they wish so that common folks might see and know events for what they are, is critical. Unfortunately for today’s world, most of America’s media are the active and direct saboteurs of a free press and are working like beavers to ensure that the populace remains ignorant and parochial.

  • Gringo

    Perhaps some enterprising journalist should ask Obama to spell “potato.” Call it the Quayle Test.

  • Deana

    Good one, jj!