The Washington Post Fact Checker awards three “Pinocchios” to Barack Obama for his inaccurate family tale about World War II and liberation of a concentration camp by his uncle (actually, his great-uncle). In words strangely familiar, Michael Dobbs explains:
The candidates are tired, and prone to making silly mistakes. Many Americans might have problems distinguishing Buchenwald and Ohrdruf from Auschwitz. But should we not expect more from a Harvard-educated presidential candidate? Is it too much to ask that an aspiring commander-in-chief knows (1) that Auschwitz (like many of the other Nazi death camps) is in Poland, and (2) that the eastern advance of the U.S. Army in World War II stopped on the river Elbe?
This is really no worse than some of his other history gaffes. So why the strong reaction to this mistake? As some have pointed out, this came in the context of Obama’s attempt to bolster his familial ties to the military and his push to reach out to the Jewish community. So in addition to any errors born of ignorance this one smacked of puffery. (Sort of like claiming a direct relationship with Robert Kennedy.) Also, he’s about to become the Democratic nominee. He should know this and other stuff, especially if he is going into a campaign in which his experience and knowledge are going to be at issue. And he did, after all, beat Hillary Clinton over the head with her lies about Bosnian sniper fire. If Obama now proves to be less than accurate on his own credentials, or if his personal narrative has a way of changing, that creates yet another problem: hypocrisy, a favorite media target.
Although it was not a huge error, the the gaffes are beginning to pile up. And the reaction tells us that Obama’s free ride with the media may soon be getting bumpier.