The Three Types of Obama Gaffes


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© Jack Cashill - December 2, 2015 

In the past few weeks, while abroad in both instances, President Barack Obama has made the two most revealing statements of his presidency.

Obama’s propensity for gaffes of all sorts has given the media a pretext for ignoring the meat of what Obama said, first in Turkey and then in Paris, but in the age of social media, media ignorance is no longer bliss. It’s mostly just embarrassing.

Gaffes fall into a variety of categories. The routine gaffes are the kind anyone who speaks as much a president could make.

If the president is a genius, however, as Obama is purported to be, a gaffe creates a cognitive dissonance that can shake the faith of the faithful.

When, for instance, Obama told an Oregon audience on a 2008 campaign stop, “I've now been in fifty-seven states? I think one left to go. One left to go,” he left even his fans wondering what he could have been thinking—or smoking.

On other occasions, Obama has shown an odd insensitivity to issues widely understood to be serious. For example, in May 2009 on the Tonight Show Obama told Jay Leno how he had taken up bowling at the White House and bowled a 129.

“That’s very good, Mr. President,” said Leno with more than a touch of irony. “It was like Special Olympics or something,” joked Obama, a line that would have caused a major media squall had Donald Trump said it.

A second category might include false statements made to secure a political advantage, but that were so obviously false as to be considered gaffes.

In May 2007, an F-5 tornado roared through a friendly little Kansas town called Greensburg. A few days later Obama told a campaign crowd in Virginia, “Ten thousand people died—an entire town destroyed.”

Obama talked about the death toll to bolster a transparent falsehood. "Turns out that the National Guard in Kansas only had 40 percent of its equipment,” Obama dissembled, “and they are having to slow down the recovery process in Kansas.”

In fact, however, the National Guard had plenty of resources, in part because the actual death toll in Greensburg was twelve. Here, Obama showed a painfully shallow grasp of Midwestern geography and climatology.

Only 3,000 people lived in Greenburg’s county. In America, tornados have killed fewer than 10,000 people in the last hundred years.

The third category, a “Kinsley gaffe,” derives its name from journalist Michael Kinsley who introduced the concept. It means that a speaker “accidentally reveals something truthful about what is going on in his or her head.”

Some have argued, for instance, that Obama’s “57 states” reference was a Kinsley gaffe—Obama having confused American states with the 57 member states of the OIC (Organization of the Islamic Conference). I’m not sure they’re wrong.

A textbook Kinsley gaffe occurred when Obama answered a question at an April 2010 Nuclear Security Summit with the unwittingly revealing, “Whether we like it or not, we remain a dominant military superpower . . . . “ Like it or not?

On questions economic, Obama has made any number of Kinsley gaffes, the most notorious being his infamous remark to Joe the Plumber, “I think when you spread the wealth around, it’s good for everybody.”

Obama’s remark in Paris earlier this week combines elements of all three gaffes. In response to a question about the Colorado Springs shooting, Obama said, “I say this every time we’ve got one of these mass shootings; this just doesn’t happen in other countries.”

The statement was preposterously wrong, horrifically insensitive, and employed to advance two pet agendas, abortion and gun control.

Just two weeks prior, of course, ISIS terrorists inflicted a mass shooting on Paris with a death toll more than forty times higher than the one in Colorado Springs.

Perhaps more than any other statement of his failed presidency, this one revealed Obama’s epic self-absorption. In a city where grief was still heavy in the air, he could not see beyond his own petty domestic travails.

His remarks at a G-20 Summit press conference in Turkey a few weeks ago were more curious still, curious because they did not appear to be a gaffe of any sort.

“I think, on one hand, non-Muslims cannot stereotype,” said Obama, “but I also think the Muslim community has to think about how we make sure that children are not being affected with this twisted notion that somehow they can kill innocent people.”

In featuring this clip, even C-SPAN headlined it, “ Did President Obama Just Admit He Was Muslim?” The video deserves to be watched. Obama emphasized the “we.”

This is not the first time Obama has opened the closet door on a possible double life. WND has well chronicled his flirtations with the Prophet.

Most notoriously, on the campaign trail in 2008, Obama fueled the debate on his religious inclinations with a gaffe, Kinsley or otherwise, when he said to ABC’s George Stephanopoulos, “You are absolutely right that John McCain has not talked about my Muslim faith.”

The ever-protective Stephanopoulos corrected him with a sotto voce “Christian faith,” and Obama went with the correction. This was hardly the right time for Obama to “out” himself as anything but a straight, patriotic, Christian, middle-of-the-roader.

In his final year of the presidency, we may get to meet the real Obama, and God only knows what form that reality will take.

If he is in a confessional mood, I am just hoping Obama will reveal who did the real writing on “Dreams from My Father.”

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