Monday, February 18, 2008

Waiting for Gaffeman

What's been remarkable about the Obama campaign is how both the candidate and those supporting him have been pretty good at avoiding the dreaded gaffe. The first slip may have happened today, out of the mouth of the candidate's spouse, Michelle Obama.

Here's the full quote (video here):

"What we have learned over this year is that hope is making a comeback. It
is making a comeback. And let me tell you something -- for the first time in my
adult lifetime, I am really proud of my country. And not just because Barack has
done well, but because I think people are hungry for change. And I have been
desperate to see our country moving in that direction and just not feeling so
alone in my frustration and disappointment. I've seen people who are hungry to
be unified around some basic common issues, and it's made me proud."

If you listen to the full quote, this seems silly but not necessarily objectionable. As I've been dinging around the internet tonight, the part that's been used most has been this:

And let me tell you something -- for the first time in my adult lifetime, I am
really proud of my country.

As you might imagine, this fragment of the larger quote has been generating howls of outrage from various sectors of the punditocracy. And if you take just those words, I can see why someone might be outraged. But I don't think that you can or you should do that. Conservatives have howled for years about "Dowdification" - the practice (named after New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd) of some in the media to take a fragment of a longer quote and use the words as a brickbat with which to beat conservatives. We hate it when it happens to us. We shouldn't do the same thing to the other side.

Anyway, what I see in the fuller context of Mrs. Obama's quote is not anti-Americanism, but solipsism. What I see is a speaker who is so locked into her own vision of the world that she either refuses to see, or cannot see, the country that the rest of us see. That's unfortunate and it is potentially troubling that as a potential First Lady she should be so blinded to the goodness of so many other people, and of the many amazing things that have happened in her adult life, which roughly spans the same period as mine. But I also see something else - she's not the candidate. Her husband is. And he's the guy who should be getting the scrutiny. While Barack Obama hasn't seen nearly the scrutiny I'd like to see him get, it will come.


Uncle Ben said...

That's fair.

Anonymous said...

I'm surprised that you didn't mention how Obama took someone else's speech and used it as his own, only attributing it to the original orator after being called out by the Clinton Campaign.

Someone should take this and use it. In truth he has no new ideas, only respun old ones. They sound nice when recited through his silver tongued lips but, does he really bring anything new to the table?

Mark said...

I saw that this morning, anonymous. Using someone else's words without attribution is more serious than Michelle Obama's solipsism. What Obama did isn't plagiarism per se, but it's intellectually lazy, which is something I have on good authority that Democrats never are. You might remember 20 years ago that Joe Biden got in trouble for essentially copying a speech given by Arthur Scargill, a British labor leader. Now Obama has done the same thing with the words of Deval Patrick.

Here's the question. What's more disturbing, that Biden and Obama lift words from others, or that they lift words from people as singularly unimpressive as Scargill and Patrick?

Mark said...

Correction - Biden plagiarized Neil Kinnock.

Right Hook said...

I'm not so sure Ms. Obama's remark was attibutable to solipsism as much as a Freudian slip of a blame America first attitude. Regardless, the campaign is spinning it as a "what she meant to say was" situation.

"We hate it when it happens to us. We shouldn't do the same thing to the other side."

Maybe we should do it to the other side more often. I'm getting real tired of the double standard.

George Allen's "mukaka" comment was completely blown out of proportion and (arguably) cost him the election and the Republicans control of the Senate. As I am writing this Jason Lewis has just pointed out that Trent Lott was not extended the courtesy of getting the benefit of the doubt when he mis-spoke and it cost him politically.

Time to take the gloves off when dealing with liberals!

Mark said...

I take your point, RH. My preference is to go after the actual candidate. And Sen. Obama has now given us something to use. Watch this space....


Gino said...

i didnt see o-babe's remark as anti-american, nor as solipsism, nor freudian.

in saw it for what it was: prepared words, a speech, or prepared outline, crafted to play to the audience.

is everybody forgetting? this is political campaigning here. rounding up the base, and turning them out. its done with words that play to the emotions of the audience.
i'm just shocked to hell to hear someone from the left say they were proud of america, for any reason, and actually have it play well with their audience.

this is the news. not what she said, but the positive reaction of who she said it to.