There is a web video making the rounds. According to the YouTube counter it has been up for five years and received 31 million views. Its title is "Americans are not stupid—WITH SUBTITLES."
Perhaps you've seen it. An interviewer stumps people on the street with questions such as: "Name a country whose first name begins with the letter U". Or, holding up a world map on which Australia has been mislabeled France, "Show me where France is," leading people to put the pin in Australia.
This week, White House press secretary Jay Carney gave us some footage to add to the online hit. A reporter asked him: What is the capital of Israel? Carney couldn't answer.
How about Jerusalem or Tel Aviv? Perhaps reporters should have held up a map and handed him pins. In any event, like the "Americans are not stupid—WITH SUBTITLES" subjects, Carney couldn't come up with a name.
I shouldn't ridicule Carney. After all, he works within an administration that in (some say) a secret attempt to agitate for stronger federal gun laws apparently couldn't identify our southern border. At least, that is my only explanation of how they accidentally committed what in other circumstances would be considered an act of war against our neighbor Mexico.
I say our neighbor just to demonstrate that I, at least, know where Mexico is.
But with the attorney general's permission, the administration gave Mexican drug cartel goons vast numbers of guns. These high-powered weapons were subsequently used for fighting in what can only be described as an ongoing insurrection in Mexico's northern states.
For geographic cluelessness, the Fast and Furious gun running scheme trumps what I had previously considered the administration's championship display. That was when, at the D-Day commemorative ceremonies in 2009, President Obama stood in front of the United Kingdom's prime minister and the heir to the British throne and spoke of all America's heroic battles, starting his list with Lexington and Concord.
Now, I am descended from a Minute Man, a soldier in the militia that fired the shot heard round the world. But I would not have cluelessly cited battles of our revolution against Britain at a ceremony marking our heroic 20th century alliance to defeat one of history's most horrible tyrannies.
I suppose it is only fair to drag from myself a moment of bipartisanship and note that Republican presidential nominee-in-waiting Mitt Romney had his own "where am I" moment last week. In London, he was asked a softball question, "Are we [the British] ready for the Olympics?" The answer of this former Olympic organizer reminded me of an elderly aunt who showed up at the house one day during my childhood in a complete huff. On the street, she had encountered a local merchant long in disfavor with the family. "I asked him how he was," she fumed, "and the damned fool told me."
One of the prices of cluelessness is that you are so often surprised. In conversations around Washington this week, I have heard talk of surprises coming our way before the election. The administration, in particular, appears to have no idea what is coming—and no plans to deal.
First on the list is the final meltdown of the European Union. European visitors having been telling audiences that the collapse of the Euro could come within weeks. Greece cannot make its debt payments and will need another debt restructuring. The German and other northern European publics are fed up with bailouts. Meanwhile Spanish unemployment is about to hit 25 percent and unable to meet its obligations much longer. Spain, many say, is too big to bailout.
Meanwhile, with the international economy as unstable as it has been since the Great Depression, this is the moment that the president picks to make his big campaign theme and focus of attention trashing global trade and finance, in the figure of Bain Capital.
Perhaps the president doesn't have any more idea where Europe is than the "Americans are not stupid—WITH SUBTITLES" interviewees.
Then, too, there is talk in town of a certain law that requires companies that do business with the U.S. government to give 90-day notices before a layoff. With defense sequestration looming as part of the fiscal cliff, defense contractors have figured out that they must layoff tens of thousands of employees on or about New Years Eve. As they can't know yet which employees will have to go, they will have to give notice somewhere around October 1 to anyone who might conceivably lose a job. And one of the nation's biggest pools of defense contacting employees is in Virginia—at the top of anyone's list of critical swing state.
But the president and Democratic Senate majority leader Harry Reid absolutely refuse to talk about modifications to the poison challis act of Congress that mandates the cuts. Maybe, like those Internet fools searching for France, they can't find Virginia on a map.
Here is my conclusion—Americans are not stupid. That doesn't go for the Obama administration.