Sunday, March 22, 2009

Editorial: Barack's too immature to apologize

August 11, 2006, George Allen campaigning for re-election to the Senate uttered a word that was a racial slur. There was no talk of 'teachable moments' nor was there any benefit of the doubt given for Allen. In fact, they continued to call out George Allen as the idiots at Think Progress' thread demonstrate -- going so far as to suggest that "yellow shirt" might also have been racist because the idiots -- none of whom, including the writer of the Think Progress blog, can be bothered with mentioning the name of the man who was insulted by Allen (it was S.R. Sidarth) -- are unaware that "yellow shirt" referred to the, yes, yellow shirt that S.R. Sidarth was wearing.

The term (which we're not using) was not in US usage. Some speculated Allen must have learned it from his mother raised in Tunisia. If so, "monkey" (a translation of the term we're not using) -- even used negatively by his mother -- might have been picked up by Allen without him knowing its roots. But no latitude was given to Allen then or since. In fact, in 2008 at Think Progress, a commenter would insist, "Allen knew EXACLY what" [censored word] "meant when he used the term. He just expected that the rest of us wouldn't." Because that's what politicians do? They appear at campaign events using terms that they hope people don't know? That's how you campaign?

We never wrote about the issue in real time because (a) we don't know where George Allen picked it up and (b) if it was from his mother, he might have learned the term and not the history. Meaning, he may have been called that by his mother when he did something wrong or upset her and never known the racial history. We don't know. We've never been in his head.

We still don't know and we only bring the incident up now to underscore the differences in how some people get treated. To believe George Allen was attempting to grievously insult Sidarth, as opposed to just mock him for his video 'stalking,' most Americans had to (a) learn a new term, (b) forget that they just learned a new term and pretend that they always knew it because if they admitted otherwise, they couldn't be so sure that Allen didn't know the meaning and (c) scream and holler non-stop.

We're happy to call out racism (and to have discussions about race). Don Imus made racist remarks and we called them out. We called him out. We have no problem out racism, sexism or homophobia. We do try to be clear (increasingly after the lessons of 2008 from The Cult of Barack -- lessons they didn't mean to teach but were very telling) about opinion and fact. As a general rule, the stronger case results in a piece of group writing and things that might be open to various interpretations will be roundtabled so that everyone can weigh in individually.

So that details George Allen and it details our process. Which leads us to Barack Obama and his insulting remarks on The Tonight Show last Thursday. Appearing on the longest running celebrity chat show, Barack wanted to be loved and what better way to be loved by a crowd than to pick on a group of people?

So Barack decided to make an insulting crack about those who participate in Special Olympics in order to yuck it up. Barack Obama was born in 1961. He is not 14-years-old. His remark would have been offensive at 14, but being a child might have mitigated some of the offense (as in, "He's not old enough to know better"). He was not cornered by the press, he was not confronted. He was being thrown soft balls, puff questions and comments, by Jay Leno who is not known for indepth or probing exchanges. Leno is the man who (finally) came to national fame schilling for Cool Ranch Doritos. He is not a journalist nor a noted thinker. He and his guests engage in silly patter that doesn't even rise to the level of banter.

After he made his offensive statement, Barack didn't apologize. He never said, "Jay, I want to apologize for that joke . . ." He never said a word, he just kept grinning and funnin'. It was all a big joke to him.

According to Tim Shriver, appearing on Friday's Good Morning America (ABC), before The Tonight Show aired Thursday night, after the taping, Barack called him and said he'd made an ill-chosen comment about Special Olympics and he regretted it. On the basis of that, many idiots began running with "Barack apologized!"


More Chicken Sop for the Soul. He did not apologize.

Special Olympics, as C.I. pointed out Friday morning, has no personhood and Tim Shriver is not challenged/disabled/handicapped. That group of people, over 40 million Americans, were the ones insulted by Barack's remark. An apology would have to go to them and not Tim Shriver.

Pretend for a moment that Barack had made a racist remark. (We won't use sexist because Barack was always given a pass on sexism.) Pretend he'd yet again attacked African-American fathers and, this time, real offense took hold in the MSM. Who would Barack an apology to? The people he insulted. And if he made this insult on TV, he would be expected to make a televised apology.

Barack's made no apology. His friend Tim Shriver has rushed around to the press saying, "It's cool, he apologized to me." No, it's not 'cool,' and, no, it's not fine.

He goes on national television and he insults over 40 million Americans, mocks them. He is the president of the United States and he's damn old enough to know that his actions require an apology in his own words, not something Tim Shriver or any other Barack apologist wants to relay to the American people.

Are we adults living in a democracy or are we little kids in study hall? "Barack wanted me to tell you . . ." He's a grown man, if he's got something to say, he can say it to the American people.

He certainly didn't hesitate when insulting a huge segment of them on The Tonight Show. But somehow an apology is too much for Barack to manage. An apology admits wrong doing. An apology is made by an individual, not made on behalf of one.

That is among the most troubling and telling points of this entire story: Barack's refusal to apologize.

Friday's White House press conference ended with this exchange:

Q And is the President going to take the advice, after understanding the gravity of what he said about the issue of Special Olympics, is he going to take the advice to hire someone from the Special Olympics, to bring them here to work here?

MR. GIBBS: I have not seen that. I know that the President believes that the Special Olympics are a triumph of the human spirit, and I think he understands that they deserve a lot better than -- than the thoughtless joke that he made last night, and he apologizes for that. Thanks, guys.

When did Barack apologize? When did Americans hear their president say "I'm sorry" or "I apologize"? They never did. He has refused to apologize. He can go on Jay Leno and yuck it up, but he can't apologize?

So the American people are being told that he apologized to his friend Tim Shriver and Tim Shriver's relaying the apology, and that's good enough, right?

The president of the United States of America is too much of a little wimp to apologize for his words. The president of the United States of America has to hide behind Tim's pants legs and peep out at America between them because he is not adult enough to apologize publicly. That's the message being sent.

Another message being sent is noted by Kate Riley (Seattle Times):

The most startling thing on that video is that everybody laughed -- President Obama, Jay Leno, the studio audience. Two generations ago, you could maybe see the same thing happening if somebody made fun of African Americans, Catholics, Jews, or Native Americans.
But that wouldn't happen today.
People with disabilities remain an easy target. Just last year, some of today's best comedic actors starred in a move that makes fun of egotistical actors. In the movie, "Tropic Thunder," characters razz actor Ben Stiller's character for his effort to win acclaim by playing a character with developmental disabilities. Repeatedly, the movie uses the word, "r[****]d."
I wrote then on this blog: "As the mother of a child with disabilities, I can't help but wonder why the R-word still does not have the same stigma as the N-word. Can you imagine a movie that uses the N-word in a similar way and the producers defend is use as 'satire?' No. Such a movie would not be made."

With Barack's appalling comment you have another Don Imus moment. There's no need to decipher, it's just wrong. It's a real shame so many are rushing to rescue Barack and minimize his actions. It makes you wonder about the parenting in this country.

Ourselves? As children we were taught how to make an apology and it was never you tell someone to tell someone that you apologize. Barack insulted over 40 million Americans and did so on national television. He's yet to make an apology. What he's offered as an 'apology' (someone says he apologized!) wouldn't cut it with any parental figure. It's a shame so many Americans want to play dumb and insist, "He's apologized!"
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