Well, once again someone has come up with an explanation for another of Senator Obama’s statements that, on the surface, are rank falsehoods.
A few weeks ago, Obama got himself in a bunch of unnecessary hot water when he said that his uncle had helped liberate Auschwitz. Several of his detractors, who have access to such covert, sneaky, diabolical resources such as Google and Wikipedia, immediately called bullshit, based on two absolutely indisputable facts:
1) Obama has no uncles on his mother’s side;
2) Auschwitz (which is in Poland) was liberated by the Soviet Red Army.
But it turned out that Obama was not just making shit up out of whole cloth; his GREAT-uncle was apparently present at the liberation of Buchenwald.
Now Obama has done it again: speaking in Israel, Obama stated “This, this, uh, this past week we passed out of the U.S. Senate Banking Committee, which is my committee, a bill to, uh, call for divestment from Iran.”
It doesn’t take very long to Google up Obama’s committee assignments (when he bothers to show up in DC), and the Banking Committee isn’t among them. So here’s a clear-cut case of Obama making up shit and taking credit for something he had nothing to do with, right?
If you change the word “committee” to “bill,” then it actually makes sense: Obama was a sponsor (along with Representatives Barney Frank (D-MA) and the late Tom Lantos (D-CA) of the bill that the Banking Committee passed recently.
So we have two examples of Obama making some very simple, very common, very understandable verbal slips that convert what he wanted to say into absolute, verifiable, complete falsehoods.
No grand conspiracy, no out-and-out lying, no making stuff up, just simple verbal stumbles.
The problem is, verbal gaffes are becoming a major currency of the current election season. Every time McCain talks about the “Iraq-Afghanistan border” or confuses (and then corrects himself) Sunnis and Shi’ites, it’s touted by his detractors as yet another symptom of his senility and unfitness for office. And that usually prompts a bunch of counter-citations of similar gaffes by Obama, who — being 25 years younger — must be suffering an incredibly premature onset of Alzheimer’s.
So, here’s my suggestion for both candidates: JUST GET THE SHIT RIGHT THE FIRST TIME.
McCain, at least, seems occasionally amenable to being corrected and accepting his mistakes. Obama, on the other hand, goes to tremendous lengths to rationalize and justify and defend his blunders, even on occasion inventing whole new words to explain away his statements (we’re going to have to add “inartful” to the next edition of dictionaries).
Also, Obama tends to mess up details that ought to have a great deal of personal resonance to him. Just who his relatives are and what they did, what committees he’s on, even the geography of the state he represents in the Senate. (He once said that Arkansas is closer to Kentucky than Illinois, when Illinois and Kentucky share a border, while Missouri and Tennessee keep Kentucky and Arkansas from meeting.)
Running for president is exhausting. It’s not for the frail of health. It’s long months of long weeks of long days of long hours. With that kind of pace, verbal slips and stumbles are to be expected. Hell, it would be nothing less than miraculous if these two men went a week or two without some glaring gaffes.
It is the nature of the gaffes — and the way they handle them — that are the most telling. As I said, McCain accepts them, corrects himself, and moves on. Obama (or, more often, his surrogates) twist and spin and rationalize to show that it wasn’t a mistake — or, at least, a mistake on the part of the listener, not Obama himself.
And it’s the gaffes on Obama’s own life, own experiences, that make me wonder just how well the man knows himself.