In 1992, when Vice President Dan Quayle spelled the word "potato" wrong (he had been given a flash card with the word spelled with an extra "e" at the end), the media went into an absolute frenzy, the virulence of which is best illustrated by the fact that if you're over 35 you probably remember the incident.
I read this morning that Barack Obama, on his recent European trip, allowed as he didn't know how to translate a certain word "into Austrian." (There is no such language, Austrians speak German.) During his campaign Obama evidently said, "I've been in 57 states, [with] I think one left to go."
You probably haven't heard of those two incidents. Neither had I, until today. That's because there's been near complete media blackout on them.
It brings to mind the old adage, "If a tree falls in the woods but there is nobody there to hear it, does it make a sound?"
Evidently, only if a Republican chops it down.
What would have happened if Dan Quayle had made those gaffes? The news channels would have replayed the tapes of them endlessly. The late night comedians would have gone wild with jokes about how they were learning Austrian, or how Dan Quayle's Austrian lessons were progressing, or about hapless German tourists in Austria having to use sign language with the natives. The media barons would have commissioned polls to find out what percent of fourth graders know how many states there are, so as to make invidious comparisons with Dan Quayle. He would have been constantly referred to as "Dan Quayle, Vice President of the 58 United States of America." The gaffes would have become instant pop culture.
Yet it was Barack Obama who made them, so there is only a deafening silence.
If Obama had said 57 states, with three to go, you might be able to attribute the error to tiredness (campaigns are exhausting), and just assume that he knew there were 50 states, but made a slip. But to say 57, with one to go....yikes. (It's a lot harder to get both digits wrong.)
Which is the more egregious error -- misspelling "potato" when you've been handed a flash card with the wrong spelling, or thinking there are 58 states? You be the judge.
One more comparison. George Bush the Elder was practically crucified for going back on his "Read my lips -- no new taxes" statement. Obama said several times during the campaign that he was going to end the culture of entitlement in Washington and slash earmarks. Yet as soon as he got into office he eagerly signed the stimulus bill, which contained over 8500 earmarks. (In fact, the case can be made that the bill was nothing but earmarks.) Contrast his behavior to Bush's: Bush resisted raising taxes several times, but eventually, worn down by a Democratic-controlled Congress determined to raise taxes, compromised.
Yet how often do we hear the media excoriate Obama for this?