Selwyn Duke
Can Obama spell "failure"?
By Selwyn Duke
July 15, 2009

There actually was a time when an "e" ended a political career. Or, at least, the misuse of an "e." I refer to that fateful day in 1992 when Vice President Dan Quayle told a 12-year-old schoolboy that "potato" was spelled with an "e" at its end. While the reality is that a flash card Quayle had been given bore the misspelling, the mistake was seized upon by the media and used to cement the eye-candy-and-air image of the boyishly good-looking vice president. It was a silly way to measure a man, but image is everything in politics.

So now it's time for the gander's sauce. If it was justifiable to write off Quayle as a dolt for stumbling over the spud, how should we react to frequent misspellings in press releases issued by the White House? Michael O'Brien at The Hill's Blog Briefing Room reports on this story, writing, "Misspellings continued to plague the Obama administration on Thursday [9/9], after two more releases containing errors were sent to reporters in the last 24 hours."

First the White House staff misspelled Obama's first name, writing it as "Barak." Then, O'Brien reports, there were two more examples. They are, " Version 2.0 $18 Million Contract Awarded" and, referring to U.K. leader Gordon Brown, "The Prime Minister wlecomed the President's plans for a nuclear security conference in 2010."

Now, while sweating the small stuff can get you branded as punctilious today, a person's failure to attend to detail tells you much about him. And this is not at all like the Quayle potato blunder. Not only had the former vice president been given that flash card bearing the misspelling, it's also understandable that he wouldn't have spotted the error, since the plural form of the word does end in "oes." Second, unless you're an Idaho farmer, you probably haven't written the word "potato" in a very long time. Lastly, it's simply impossible for an individual to make continual public appearances without making some mistakes. Hey, just ask Al Gore about how "a leopard can't change his stripes."

But what the Obama administration exhibits is quite different: Institutional sloppiness. It's one thing for an individual to sometimes make mistakes; it's quite another when a large organization repeatedly churns them out. And let's place this in perspective.

Some may note that Internet news and commentary websites are rife with mistakes as well, and this is true. However, this is often a function of manpower. Most e-zines simply do not have the staff necessary to achieve near perfect presentation, as they usually operate on a shoestring budget. In contrast, if you write for even a small magazine, their superior finances allow for tremendous oversight. A piece will be filtered through a number of different editors. It then may be returned to the writer for review, allowing him to assess the editorial changes and make a few more alterations before the work ever makes it into print. The result of this collaborative process is that you really can cross all your t's and dot all your i's.

Now, the fact that the Obama administration isn't achieving quality even approaching that of a small magazine is striking. This is the White House, remember, with the endless resources government provides. Hasn't the person or people writing Obama's press releases ever heard of a spell-check program? Wouldn't it be reasonable to have at least two different individuals proofread the material before disseminating it to the whole world? Such institutional sloppiness is inexcusable.

Some may say I'm being picayune, that this is much ado about nothing. But if you think this sloppiness somehow magically limits itself to the issuance of press releases, then you'd probably believe that Michelle Obama buys her sneakers at Wal-Mart. In point of fact, it tells us something about those at the helm of our listing nation.

It's not that they're stupid. A genius, even a responsible one, can transpose letters while typing just as he can fail to spot the misspelling of a type of starchy tuber. But when such errors are consistently made by large groups of people working together — that institutional sloppiness — it bespeaks of a lack of conscientiousness and attention to detail, to an absence of the desire to uphold standards.

This is characteristic of liberals; it is part of their world view. These are the people who don't trouble over standards in morality because, their relativism informs, Truth doesn't exist anyway. They don't worry about the standards prescribed by the Constitution or, for that matter, any inconvenient law of man because, without Truth, laws can be based on nothing transcendent. And, of course, if these greater matters can be ignored, why worry about language? (I'd bet that the too-cool-to-care leftists in the White House are the type of people who, in personal emails, replace "you" with "u" and don't capitalize the first letter in a sentence. I bet they can spell "socialism" and "social decay" just fine, though.)

This is the modus operandi of the situational values set, of those who have contempt for standards. After all, if standards are ever and always negotiable, why worry much about them? Without Truth to use as a yardstick for determining them and making moral decisions, you might as well just use the only guide you have left: emotion. This is why liberals are so feelings-oriented.

So, in the case of the press releases, spelling errors are minor problems but a major indicator. With such institutional sloppiness, why should we think that the Obama administration is meticulous about anything? Why would we think that they'd pay attention to the details of where stimulus money is going? How could we expect them to iron out all the details of managing national health care? Why should anyone trust that these liberals could, as they purport to be able to, regulate an economy involving millions of minor details? We have a bull in the china shop of policy.

Yet, what is worse is liberals' failure to attend to detail in their own minds. I often quote G.K. Chesterton, and one reason I like him so much is that he was a "complete thinker." That is, he would analyze a matter from every angle, thereby peeling away the layers of illusion and uncovering Truth. But this is uncommon among normal people — and unheard of among the left. This is one reason why they can embrace nonsensical, illogical ideas. Some of them may entertain communism, completely ignoring the simple fact that if people were good enough to make a communist government work, we wouldn't need government. They embrace multiculturalism, oblivious to the plain fact that nations without a unifying culture descend into disunity. They will say that man is just a highly evolved animal, but then insist that, in the violent animal kingdom, this animal's children must be "taught" to be violent (when arguing against spanking). They will aver that homosexuality is inborn while just as passionately averring that sex roles must be taught. They will insist that relative are right and wrong while also insisting that the right is absolutely wrong. And just recently, Obama cited California as an example of a state that is energy efficient yet economically healthy. He ignored two minor details, however: bankruptcy and rolling blackouts.

Barack Obama is an urban rube. And he surrounds himself with likeminded — or, I should say, like-impassioned — urban rubes. Some fancy these people sophisticated, but while they give the illusion of sophistication, they possess none of its substance. They were simply raised wrong and rendered bereft of logic, as they never learned to subordinate emotion to reason so that the former wouldn't cloud the latter. They are people who don't cross their t's and dot their i's in anything, be it philosophy, personal life or policy. They are ruined souls. And they are bringing us to ruin.

As for Dan Quayle's potato problem, if an onus belonged anywhere, it was on the institution that printed an incorrect flash card. And we should note that this institution was a school, one of those great bastions of liberal unthought.

© Selwyn Duke


The views expressed by RenewAmerica columnists are their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of RenewAmerica or its affiliates.
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