I will admit that we’ve all committed social faux pas. We forget names, stare blankly as friends wave to us, give inappropriate gifts, and a thousand other thoughtless things that we later come to regret. None of us, however, are president of the United States. He gets less slack then the rest of us do. Outside of our lives, our mistakes are no big deal. His mistakes are, because the insults have national repercussions.
It makes headlines (sometimes at home, often abroad) when, less than six months after taking office, the leader of the free world manages to return a gift (that would be the bust of Churchill, sent back to the Brits); gives the Queen of Britain copies of the President’s own speeches; gives the visually impaired British PM a handful of DVDs that he cannot view (nor can he play on his DVD player); forgets Putin’s title; bows low to the totalitarian Saudi king; and mispronounces the name of the president of Brazil.
You’d think with that list of social disasters, Obama would be more cautious — but you’d be wrong. Proving himself strikingly unaware of his surroundings, Obama managed to do a grim march by Italian premier Silvio Berlusconi, completely ignore the latter’s outstretched hand:
I doubt that the slight was intentional, but the imagery is appalling. (You can see here a whole series of pictures, which ends with an abashed Obama realizing his error.)
By the way, the site at which you can see these pictures is British. I have not seen any hints in the American media about this incident. That’s not a mere oversight. As Camille Paglia pointed out (emphasis mine):
Whether Palin has a national future or not will depend on her willingness to hit the books at some point and absorb more information about international history and politics than she has needed to know in her role as governor. She also needs a shrewder, cooler take on the mainstream media, with its preening bullies, cackling witches, twisted cynics and pompous windbags. The Northeastern media establishment is in decline, and everyone knows it. Palin should not have gotten into a slanging match with David Letterman or anyone else who has been obsessively defaming her or her family. Let surrogates do that stuff.
The vicious double standard is pretty obvious. Only the tabloids, for example, ran the photos of a piss-drunk Chelsea Clinton, panties exposed, falling into her car outside London clubs a few years ago. If Chelsea had been the scion of Republican bigwigs, those tacky scenes would have been trumpeted from pillar to post in the U.S. as signals of parental failures or turmoil in clan Clinton. As a Democrat, I detest the partisan machinations that have become standard in Northeastern news management and that are detectable in editorial decisions at major metropolitan newspapers nationwide. It’s why I, like a host of others, have shifted my news gathering to the Web.
In other words, the US media is going to do its best to ignore or explain away Obama’s perpetual errors.