Like all elected leaders, President Barack Obama has experienced his share of gaffes and mistakes. For instance, the time he talked during the 2008 campaign about having visited all 57 states or the clumsy way he inserted himself into the controversy involving the Cambridge police and a well-known member of the Harvard faculty, calling the police “stupid.”
The latest gaffe came Monday during a trip to Philadelphia when, according to the Associated Press, “he picked up four apples from a fruit stand,” for which he handed the vendor the princely sum of $1.
Now, in the infinite scheme of things it’s really not all that important that Obama didn’t realize that the last time you could get four apples for a dollar might have been when Herbert Hoover was in the White House. Nobody lives or dies because he doesn’t know, or didn’t think, that he was underpaying. The point is that, had it been either President Bush or House Republican Leader John Boehner or former Speaker Newt Gingrich who had done such a thing, the networks would have put the story upfront in their evening newscasts while the cable channels would have been given over to commentators and experts who would intone, in desperate seriousness, that this was proof of just how out of touch they were. [See who supports Boehner.]
Not Obama. No sir.
The AP reporter who mentioned the apple incident all but gave him a rhetorical pass when she wrote, parenthetically, that the president “doesn’t do much grocery shopping these days.”
Lest anyone accuse me of picking nits, recall back in the days when George Herbert Walker Bush was president and was shown a new type of grocery scanner that appeared to amaze and impress him. The fact that it was a new technology was no excuse; his amazement was proof that Bush, who at the time was presiding over a flagging U.S. economy, was just completely out of touch with what average Americans experience on a daily basis.
We chuckle when Vice President Joe Biden explains he is second in line to the presidency. We don’t see it as a threat to our democratic institutions, as we apparently did when former Vice President Dan Quayle misspelled potato.
We shrug when Georgia Democratic Rep. Hank Johnson talks about the possibility of Guam becoming “so overly populated that it would tip over and capsize” but no one seems to be too concerned about it. The same is not true for many of the so-called Tea Party candidates like Delaware’s Christine O’Donnell or Sharron Angle in Nevada, who are routinely portrayed as being so far out of it to be dangerous.
With disparities like these it’s easy to see why so many people believe the media has taken up sides in the political life of the nation--and why they are subjected to almost as many complaints as the politicians who are running things in Washington. They’ve made it easy.