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Politics & Policy

Obama’s Latest Blunder

Former President Barack Obama delivers a speech during the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26), in Glasgow, Scotland, November 8, 2021. (Phil Noble/Reuters)

While former president Barack Obama graced Glasgow, Scotland, for the COP26 climate-change summit, he also made an amusing flub. Per the New York Post:

“Since we’re in the Emerald Isles here let me quote the Bard, William Shakespeare,” Obama said in comments about climate change.

“‘What wound,” he writes, ‘did ever heal but by degrees?’” Obama said, quoting from “Othello.”

“Our planet has been wounded by our actions,” he went on. “Those wounds won’t be healed today tomorrow or the next but they can be healed by degrees if we start with that spirit.”

“The Emerald Isle” (singular) refers to Ireland, not to Scotland. And at any rate, the Bard was from neither place.

This mix-up reminds me of two classics from the Obama years. First, his reference to a “Jedi mind meld” (inadvertently combining the telepathic suggestive powers of a ‘Jedi mind trick’ from Star Wars with the consciousness sharing ‘mind meld’ by Vulcans in Star Trek). And second, his failed attempt to refer to the Falklands Islands by their Spanish name, the Malvinas. This would have been a controversial designation to Brits, who just a few decades ago fought a war over their overseas possession off the Atlantic coast in South America. But Obama instead referenced the “Maldives,” which are thousands of miles away in the Pacific.

Ancient memories by now, yes, long made obscure by the countless news cycles since. So why revive them, and why mock this latest funny flub by Obama? Well, the former president insists on remaining in the public sphere, and seems to bask in the adulation he receives at meetings such as this. So there is an interest in continuing to puncture the nigh-mythic cult of competence and intelligence that sprung up around him during his presidency, and which has, for many people, never really weakened.

I’m sure Ireland’s . . . er, Scotland’s . . . er, England’s greatest poet would have something to say about this.


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