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She's Not Laughing . . .

Jim Geraghty reports that Sarah Palin finds no humor in President Obama's off-hand gag about the Special Olympics last night on Leno. And it seems that she's not lending a sympathetic ear to his belated apology either. I can't say that I blame Sarah Palin. If I had been treated in the way she's been treated by that man and his flunkies, I probably wouldn't be cultivating any generosity of spirit about him either. That said, I actually think the comment from Obama ought to be left alone. There's no doubt that it was a mortifying and stupid thing to say . . . but it was clearly an innocent and self-deprecatory gaffe. Anyone who claims that he could never make such a gaffe is either lying or is an insufferably scrupulous and inhuman sort of person whose opinions are probably equally interesting. Still . . . one cannot help but wonder what sort of frothing mob would be chasing after Bush or, God help him, Limbaugh if either of them had said anything of the kind. The whole thing does, however, present an interesting case study in what happens when the politically correct behave in a way that is considered politically incorrect.
Categories > Presidency

Discussions - 18 Comments

According to what I have learned on this site, Obama's was a manly act. It showed confidence and command in a situation of risk. Palin' response showed her unfit for leadership positions.

Blah Ren, get ready to drink. I watched it and really agree with Julie. Obama was on Leno with Brooks, the thing was largely unscripted. If we want to purge this sort of thing from speeches we can kiss goodbye the days of reading from anything but a tele-promter. It is somewhat ridiculous to call the gaffe a manly act...but I suppose one could call it that...In this sense speaking unscripted with a country music star is manly. Obama was jokeing that he only scored a 129 which isn't that great...and when Leno asked him the question he was already questioning his manliness/prowess when it came to basketball...the flow of conversation also followed how busy he and Geithner have been. His natural train of thought was thus directed towards a question of juggling things and competence...I suppose one could say that being busy , his efforts towards improving his bowling score or getting a dog went unmet...he was thus handicapped, and recognized his handicap in terms of having to focus on priorities. Some jackass that does nothing but bowl will burry the president in bowling...So he was being self-depricating. Some jackass(pundrocracy) that harps on every gaffe will burry the president. It is this stupid pundit dialectic that ensures nothing but telepromted speeches. But for healthy people and even quite sensible handicapped people, I assume that comments like this are water over backs, because in many ways Obama was comparing himself to the handicapped...and folks would be just as pissed if Obama bowled a 300 or honed his basketball skills while things turned south. In my view it was all part of the direction of his dialogue to show that these things took a back seat.

No one who is sensible says that the special olympics can compare on an even field with the regular olympics...which is why there is a special provide a venue where people with handicaps can work towards a victory and moral/physcial improvement that is particular to the handicaps they actually have. You were born or suffered handicaps, but you can still overcome, you can still find partial triumphs, and with a strong enough will you can triumph over a large group of non-handicaped people who don't know how good they have it.

Obama was simply suggesting that he be held to a lower level of manliness/triumph than the guy who trains in bowling or basketball seriously...and really at the end of the day I sure as hell don't want a president who excells at these or other personal the same time I grant Obama that familly is important and that he must make sacrifices...I can't seriously feel sorry for the stresses of his familly given all the opportunities they have but even here when he was speaking of his daughters he mentioned they were more concerned for eating starbursts than reflecting on the Washington Monument or flying in Marine One...In some sense the interview with Leno was simply another recap of the Audacity of Hope.

In many ways Julie there is no "Frothing Mob" there is simply a collection of pundits and interest groups in a mad dash to find blood in water. They circled around Bush or Rush and now they circle now around Obama...In many ways these folks feel morally charged with creating what is politically correct....but one thing this dialectic does not produce is manliness...In fact it makes for a seriously telepromted maliness...the same sort that Obama mocks in the ADH when he ignores his advisor and asks the waitress for Dijon mustard (because we all know that Yellow is manlier, by virtue of not being virtue of anti-french sentiment from the Iraq war...and earlier)

Now I grant that in Washinton this sort of finely tuned sociologically crafted manliness has power and is thus in some sense historically rational/with a sort of inevitable customary weight of its own...but frankly I side with the damn waitress in saying eat whatever mustard you damn well like and worry about if it is manly latter...

Of course this is not in many ways liberal, because being liberal is in many ways about being sociologically acute, eating the right foods, wearing the right clothes, saying and thinking the right things...not giving unecessary offense(thus the apology, it is not that Obama was wrong, but that he was wrong because his words gave unecessary offense)...and it might be that the sociologist of power have pretty much figured conservatives out as well...and it may simply be that anything I say simply contributes by the cunning of history to a sort of refinement of the understanding of what is conservatively manly...

But this sort of american liberalism does terminate in an ever refined topiarization of manliness...the chief problem is that Hegel was more insightfull than Marx. All of this is in many ways rational and good. Giving unecessary offense is bad. The rational choice theorist who crunch market data towards the end of achieving a manliness index, do provide a rational picture even if they do so simply to sell salted nuts and candy bars...and the politically correct pundocracy and the institutions that perpetuate an isothymic outlook on behalf of the handicapped are also relatively rational(directed towards something like achieving a Kantian perfectability).

So if Sarah Palin is offended she has allies and institutions in Washington and the press willing to articulate towards and on behalf of her sensitivity.

Really one way to think about it is that without concern and outrage about comments like those of Obama, institutions like the special olympics might find themselves out of income or valuable time in the limelight.

At the end of the day in America we make everything a business...

Obama can't end the race problem because the NAACP wants to countine existing, and the neo-nazi's want to countinue existing, and all these interest groups work at cross purposes to ensure themselves continual existance...and really political correctness is sociological sensitivity to the aims of these institutions, and the enlightened and proffesionally politically engaged folks who take part in them...

The real reason I think that frothing mobs would go after Rush or Bush with greater ferocity than Obama is simply that generally speaking the democrats are more amenable to the "isothymic" institutional agencies...if you are really consitent about it you would hammer both equally...but you can't drop the hammer on friends...

The frothing mobs are just what the institution wants and needs to perpetuate itself and the necessity/immediacy of its cause.

But really it is always super difficult to know if the frothing mobs are new converts or simply the noise making agents/those convinced that this is the cause du jour that they are dedicated towards.

But look I don't have beef with the Special really is beyond my pay grade to imagine what Washington would look like without moral cause interest groups and pundrocracy carping...

Yeah conservatives should be willing to give Obama some slack on the Special Olympics thing and on the NCAA brackets too. Obama is basically comes across as a likeable guy and if the apolitical folks out there get the impression that conservatives are just carping, the apolitical will tend to tune conservatives out.

Good thing that the classless, white-trailer trash hick of a Governor of Alaska did not get voted into office. Just imagine the mess the country would be in right now.

Wow, interesting to see, as in that ^^^ comment above (from "DN" - D. Nalecki, I presume, based on your e-mail address?) when someone can't even spell their racist epithets correctly - in this case, DN, you've called Obama a piece of an African country. A fine testament to NLT's readership. Maybe Obama's hiding that yellowcake in his suit?

John - I'm not sure how you could determine that you agreed with Julie, as she offered so many contradictory positions within her post (is that the conservative version of "nuance" now?). She "can't blame" Palin but, at the same time, thinks the "comment ought to be left alone." It's stupid and mortifying, yet innocent and merely self-deprecatory. Why not just keep going, and say that it's sinister and charmingly cute??

I loved her closer most of all, though: " The whole thing does, however, present an interesting case study in what happens when the politically correct behave in a way that is considered politically incorrect."

No, it's more like a perfect demonstration of how bankrupt and hollow the idea of "politically correct" is, and that the typical right-wing "rebels" against PC have to tie themselves into contradictory linguistic knots in order to manifest the childishly scolding tone that isn't even extant among the "politically correct" half as much as the right thinks it is. Much more often, it's just a cheap shield - for example, by the like of "DN" above - to give them a free pass on obnoxious, mindlessly hateful (and worse) speech. It's okay to call Obama a n****r if one is bravely and nobly fighting the "PC thought police" who are trying to take away our freedom of speech, etc., etc. ad nauseum.

I won't use the phrase "politically correct" but I will call this statement by Palin ridiculous:

"By the way, these athletes can outperform many of us..." --- (sorry, I don't think so.)

If anyone has explaining to do - about something substantive, rather than just a questionable remark on late-night TV - it should be Palin, who IS accepting 69% of the federal stimulus money for various projects, but REFUSING $170 million for economically disadvantaged and special needs students from the exact same federal source. Now that's some "advocate" for special needs children! (as long as they don't stand in the way of her 2012 plans)

I think this whole episode demonstrates ineptness if not incompetence by the Obama political team. When people are gunning for you don't keep popping your head up.

I've seen every President on TV since Truman. Everyone of them has gone behind a wall upon entering office, except Obama. The President, more than anyone else in the world, is watched intensely where ever he goes and every statement is parsed down to whether that was a comma or a semicolon. A President must, at all cost, maintain his gravitas. Lose that and he's toast.

It isn't a big deal. Minor goof. A one-off like this is only offensive because many misguided folks want too much to take offense. In this case, that includes Governor Palin.


Craig I agreed with Julie because I saw her point or trajectory, but disagreed with parts of it and largely how it fit together. In particular how the comment by Obama ought to be left alone and her general thinking on why. As someone who writes really long posts intermixed with potentially objectionable content, I assume the possibility that someone can agree with me without agreeing with me. A point by point developement and clarification would take a book and that isn't polite to assume.

Moving on...for the time being...a really good story on the plight on the disabled occured when no one was watching being caught up in March Madness or perhaps this Obama "gaffe" that was what Carl Scott said it was.

Earlier on manliness I commented that some women could make a stab at competing with men in wrestling and make it as far as districts...but hardly ever to the state my way of thinking women compete in sports with women in part to level the playing field...wrestling is a sport severely hammered by Title 9...I digress, in any case a disabled man lacking a leg competed in the NCAA division I mens wrestling tournament, representing Arizona State at 125. He finished third! Absolutely tremendous showing, a couple of years ago a young man lacking both legs qualified for state in wrestling here in Ohio. Because I am feeling residualy sexist from title IX grievances, and because I never liked Palin...I will agree with her and disagree with you.

"By the way, these athletes can outperform many of us..." --- (sorry, I don't think so.)"
Case in point Arizona State wrestler Anthony Robles

If you want an explanation for why politics is getting radical and extreme in the down market...which I have a rather extensive explanation for... One might even think that this gaffe by Obama wasn't a gaffe(albeit I don't buy that it was premeditated)...but the end result of blog bantering and the aftermarket conversation is that some folks are going to make comments that offend the disabled, and that in return comments like those of DN are going to surface(like clockwork/a law of nature)...the end result is more money for the Special Olympics and the NAACP. When money is short these political interest groups are hurting therefore they must magnify and accentuate and exagerate the cultural problems to a greater degree to get the same amount of cash. In a down economy with the prospect of higher taxes on the rich this is even more likely...funding is drying up...everything has to be RADICALLY IMPORTANT...any misstep has to be spun out and MAGNIFIED...the WORLD has to END, and the world ends best and most definatively in the exaggerations posted on blogs, and the aftermarket comments therein(taken as a reflection of the culture at large)

Because I think at the end of the day the special olympics and disabled lobby(a lot injured of veterans(from both political parties) is marginally tilted democrat, and the NAACP certainly so...I declare the aftermarket on the Obama "gaffe" to be a clear victory for the democrats.

This is the cultural universe the Left has created in this country. Obama, a valued member of the Left, can't create the rules and then break them on a whim. Since any conservative politician would take a shellacking for this off-colored remark, turnabout is fair play.

Yes, Redwald, that's something to think about. Alternately, those who would give a (fellow) conservative a free pass for uttering such a thing should consider doing the same for Obama, right?

I think that Obama deserves a pass based on simple justice. He slipped into a kind of private guy talk. There is a reason why it is guy talk and not public rhetoric and it is not wrong or mere hypocrisy that we draw a distinction between the two. Still, no one is perfect.

But conservatives might also not give Obama too hard a time for more self interested reasons. The public generaly likes Obama. This is a huge edge for him because the public will need a good reason to turn on him and almost any reason at all to tune out his critics. There is no faster way to get tuned out than coming across as humorless or censorious. Liberals have it a little easier. Conservatives dominate media that have mostly conservative audiences (talk radio, the conservative blogoshere). Liberals dominate media that gets the attention of the mostly apolitical public (the major networks including both their news and entertainment programming, the wire services which set the agenda for the internet frontpages). This means that liberal messages, both effective and ineffective will get out to the apolitical. Conservatives are in a much weaker position in these other formats. This doesn't mean that conservatives should be "nicer" exactly, but it does mean that they have to make the most of their fewer oppurtunities, and sometimes it means showing grace where liberals would show malice.

The first paragraph of Pete's comment in 12 is right-on. We cannot punish even a president, even a bad president, for a bit of "guy talk" -- or indeed for being human. If we do, we contribute to the creeping soft despotism that every reader of NLT should recognize, despise, and oppose. Palin scored a cheap point. While Julie's right that one cannot blame her, given the way she was treated last year, it's still a cheap point.
It's all well and good to enforce the liberals' own rules against them, but there are times when, as Pete says, "simple justice" forbids it. In addition, we should think about the wisdom of lending additional credence to the liberals' rules. That is always a hazard, seems to me.

It ain't no one-off. A one-off in public? Sure. But anybody who makes an off-the-cuff remark like that on national television, talks like that ALL THE TIME off camera. That's what I think, anyway.

This is the very life blood of the Left -- double-standards. One of our own flubs, and he/she is either evil or a moron (or both). One of theirs flubs, and, hey, let's not lower ourselves to their standards. Nonsense! Slipping into "guy-talk" on national TV is a moron-move, so let's call it what it is -- a serious lapse of judgment (just one of many to come, I'm thinking).

We're not inclined to cut him slack given that his greatest regret is not voting to starve the handicapped Miss Schiavo even sooner. He just tried to tax handicapped vets, too.

Yes, it's 'normal guy' talk--but when you volunteer to be Prez, you give up some things, such as giggling like a schoolgirl on 60 Minutes.

McCain cut him enough slack already.

So lets add up the reasons why we as conservatives should not extend to Obama the same courtesy that we would in the same situation extend to Jindal or Cheney. There is the treatment of Palin and the Schiavo case. I'll add my own. His vote on the Illinos born alive law, the Dan Quayle potatoe thing and the Daisy ad during the Goldwater campaign. But all that these add up to are rationalizations for making more of this than we know it is worth on its merits (I exclude people who would have been equally offended and vocal if it had been a figure belooved of the Right). This is oppurtunism fueled by partisan and ideological passion.

And it is not even effective oppurtunism. What would a nonconservative who is persuadable think of this? Would they be impressed by the bitterness and resentment of past slights and defeats and the unconcealed cynicism of demands that Obama be loudly and widely condemned while admiting that they refuse to extend charity for political and ideological purposes?

The most important point in Pete's above is that it is not effective opportunism. This makes us look dumb. I'm glad that enough Americans still know that calling someone out on a stupid non-PC slip is not good sport. I wish they would apply the standard across the political spectrum . . . but failing that, I don't want to see it applied in an equally stupid way to Dems.

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