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The Campaign Spot

Election-driven news and views . . . by Jim Geraghty.

MR. PRESIDENT, WHAT ABOUT YOUR GAFFES?



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Today’s Morning Jolt features one of the first reviews anywhere of Brad Thor’s new thriller Hidden Order, an examination of why a new documentary about TWA Flight 800 is getting some fairly credulous mainstream-media coverage, and then these highlights from President Obama’s trip to the G-8 Summit:

MR. PRESIDENT, WHAT ABOUT YOUR GAFFES?

We all make mistakes, Mr. President.

MUSIC fan Barack Obama kept getting George Osborne’s name wrong after mixing him up with one of his favourite soul stars — Jeffrey Osborne.

The President explained his confusion to the Chancellor as he apologised for calling him “Jeffrey” three times at the G8 summit of the world’s wealthiest nations.

A witness dubbed the series of slips “a visibly crushing blow” to the Chancellor.

Of course, we know how President George W. Bush calling a foreign leader by the wrong name would be covered. And while I don’t think President Obama intended to blame Catholic schools for Irish sectarianism, I think he offered some very stale, generic, we-all-must-come-together rhetoric that glosses over why Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland have such animosity:

Sticking his nose in Northern Ireland’s internal affairs at the Group of Eight summit in Belfast, the president pretty much told the Irish to dismantle their Catholic and Protestant schools, on the grounds they’re hotbeds of hatred.

“If towns remain divided — if Catholics have their schools and buildings and Protestants have theirs, if we can’t see ourselves in one another, and fear or resentment are allowed to harden — that too encourages division and discourages cooperation,” Obama told an Irish audience of 2,000, many of whom were children in religious school uniforms.

It was an odd statement coming from an American president whose nation’s founding was premised on the idea that diverse religions could flourish together as long as there is freedom. America has been a beacon of this idea’s success for more than 200 years.

Mr. President, Northern Ireland is not like the neighborhoods of Chicago.

Well, at least the president still has the diplomatic skills of his lovely and charming family, who always make a lovely impression upon their hosts.

What’s that?

Oh, come on.

Trinity College may have reminded them of Hogwarts, but the Obama children looked like they would have preferred to be at a Harry Potter theme park than poring over dusty documents showing their distant Irish heritage.

The glazed over expressions on the faces of Malia (14) and Sasha (12) during their brief visit to Ireland with First Lady Michelle Obama didn’t go unnoticed by the US media.

ABC’s Good Morning America featured a segment with the reporter noting that “Even the president’s daughters can get a bit bored with history” as they were shown the Book of Kells.

Meanwhile, stateside, the New York Times notices that five years into his presidency, Obama has more or less ignored the states that supported him the least:

Mr. Obama has not given North Dakota his time. It is one of six states he has not visited as president, along with South Dakota, Arkansas, Idaho, South Carolina and Utah. He has gone just once to Kansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Tennessee and Wyoming.

Mr. Obama’s near-complete absence from more than 25 percent of the states, from which he is politically estranged, is no surprise, reflecting routine cost-benefit calculations of the modern presidency. But in a country splintered by partisanship and race, it may have consequences.

America’s 21st-century politics, as underscored by the immigration debate embroiling Congress, increasingly pits the preferences of a dwindling, Republican-leaning white majority against those of expanding, Democratic-leaning Hispanic and black minorities. Even some sympathetic observers fault Mr. Obama as not doing all he could to pull disparate elements of society closer. “Every president should make an attempt to bridge the divide,” said Donna Brazile, an African-American Democratic strategist. “It’s a tall order. I wouldn’t give him high marks.”

Al Cross, who directs the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues at the University of Kentucky, said, “You’re president of the whole country.” By all but ignoring the state, he added, Mr. Obama has allowed negative sentiment toward his presidency to deepen.


Tags: Barack Obama , Diplomacy


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