Friday, March 20, 2009

Obama's Tonight Show Appearance - UPDATED

I watched President Obama's Tonight Show appearance with Jay Leno last night and I think he did a pretty good job. Reaching out to a television audience that isn't fixated to 24 hour cable news chatter and most likely not addicted to MSNBC or CNN, President Obama did a great job explaining the AIG bailout mess in clear, succinct, layman's terms for everyone to understand.

His one gaffe came toward the end of the interview when Leno asked him about his bowling skills. As he said that he'd been practicing and he bowled a 129, Leno sarcastically congratulated the President and amid the laughter and applause, Obama responded, "It's like the Special Olympics or something."

I had watched Countdown with Keith Olbermann previously and Olbermann had mentioned this possibly cringe inducing gaffe, but when watching the Leno interview, I have to admit that had I not been listening for it, I probably would have missed it as it was said in the middle of laughter and applause. Let's get one thing straight: the audience did not laugh at Obama's "joke" as some news articles suggest. They were already laughing and applauding at Leno making fun of the President's latest bowling score when he blurted out the unfortunate line. Here is the video.

Now there is yet more outrage from the right wing "teabaggers" about this line. All I had to do was go to Fox News online to see it as the headline on the main page. But let's break it down.

There is no excuse for what President Obama said. It was a dumb thing to say, and the President should be held to a higher standard. But if we're honest with ourselves, I think almost everyone has used some form of wording to imply mental or physical handicap in such a way. "Retard" (pronounced ree-tard) has been used forever until it became politically incorrect, but I occasionally still hear some older people and comedians use it. I remember using it in the playground as a kid and all through high school. It was another version of "dumbass" as far as I was concerned until you peel away what it really implies. "Duh" evolved from the same place when you exaggerate its pronunciation. And EVERYONE uses "duh."

Ultimately, Obama's "Special Olympics" comment wasn't said in a malicious way and he was making fun of himself, so yes, the faux outrage is a bit much. I mean it wasn't as if he was flailing his arms about making fun of people afflicted with Parkinson's disease or anything.

Bill Burton: “The president made an off-hand remark making fun of his own bowling that was in no way intended to disparage the Special Olympics,” White House deputy press secretary Bill Burton said. “He thinks the Special Olympics is a wonderful program that gives an opportunity for people with disabilities from around the world.”
If we're honest with ourselves, in an unguarded moment, anyone could have said it.

UPDATE (3/21/09 10am): President Obama apologized before anyone knew about it.

Even before the taped program aired, Obama had already issued an apology.

On Air Force One, Obama called the chairman of the Special Olympics, Tim Shriver, and apologized.

"He expressed his disappointment and he apologized in a way that I think was very moving. He expressed that he did not intend to humiliate this population," Shriver said Friday on ABC's "Good Morning America."

...The White House said Friday Obama realizes his quip was a "thoughtless joke."

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said the president believes that the Special Olympics are "a triumph of the human spirit."

Gibbs added that Obama "understands that they deserve a lot better than the thoughtless joke that he made last night."


Fraulein said...

The Fox people are capable of ginning up all kinds of outrage about this, but as you mentioned none of them said boo about Limbaugh mocking Michael J. Fox's affliction. While it was certainly an unfortunate choice of words, it's not like Obama has a long history of making mean-spirited remarks. Unlike, say, John McCain, who famously compared Chelsea Clinton to a dog in the 90s when she was a teenager.

Fraulein said...

Oh, and also can you cross-post this one when you get a chance? I am hoping to finally catch up on some blogging this weekend. Thanks!