Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Barack Obama: Gaffe Machine

Most politicians occasionally say dumb things. Dan Quayle, who was famous for his absurd remarks, once declared that Mars was home to canals, water, and oxygen. George W. Bush is notorious for inventing new words (misunderestimate), mispronouncing real ones (nukular), and botching quotes (fool me once, shame on - shame on you. Fool me - you can't get fooled again.") Hillary Clinton recently applied the circumstances of Robert Kennedy’s assassination to the 2008 presidential race, drawing parallels between his position and that of Barack Obama. But for sheer number and stupidity of gaffes, it’s hard to beat Barack Obama.

Some of Barack Obama’s verbal miscues are merely amusing: he has given the U.S. ten more states (he visited 57, and had three more to visit), declared that his “racist” grandmother was a “typical white person”, and thought he saw some “fallen heroes” in the audience for a Memorial Day speech (fallen heroes are dead, so it would be hard for any of them to make his speech). Others illustrate his radically liberal worldview—he doesn’t want his daughters to be “punished with a baby”, and described his discovery as a young man that white people were only satisfied “if you [as a black man] made no sudden moves.”

However, other Obama quotes seem to come from a man who is far more liberal than he claims to be. His statement that “we can't drive our SUVs and eat as much as we want and keep our homes on 72 degrees at all times ... and then just expect that other countries are going to say OK” is terrifying. It implies that Obama would impose limits on the amount of food we food, and enact thermostat controls to ensure that no one uses too many resources. Obviously, he wouldn’t be able to do all that as president—but it seems he wishes he could.

Another revealing Obama quote is his answer to a debate question regarding a hypothetical terrorist attack on an American city. (Remember when there was a presidential debate about every two weeks? That seems so long ago). Obama’s answer: “the first thing we’d have to do is make sure we’ve got an effective emergency response, something that this administration failed to do when we had a hurricane in New Orleans. And I think we have to review how we operate in the event of not only a natural disaster but also a terrorist attack. The second thing is to make sure that we’ve got good intelligence. . . . But what we can’t do is then alienate the world community based on faulty intelligence, based on bluster and bombast.”

If that answer still is Obama’s position (Obama’s views are maddeningly hard to pin down), then he clearly has not the vaguest idea of how to respond to a terrorist attack. The emergency response required for a terrorist attack is completely different than that required for a natural disaster—for example, natural disasters are handled first by state and local governments, while terrorist attacks fall squarely into the federal government’s bailiwick. In addition, terrorist attacks are preventable.

Also, Obama might want to consider retaliating against those who attacked us, a concept missing from his reply. Lack of retaliation against America’s enemies seems to be a premise of his foreign policy—if we talk to them, they won’t attack us. He seems to base his opposition to the Iraq War not so much on the strategic reasons behind it, but because he seems to think that war in general is almost always unacceptable. This quote is revealing because he rarely enunciates this idea so openly.

For someone who is supposed to be a Reaganeque, silver-tongued speaker, Barack Obama commits a lot of verbal gaffes. Some are stupid but harmless—but others reveal his true worldview, and it’s not a pretty sight.

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