Last night while appearing on the Jon Stewart’s The Daily Show, President Obama should have considered how to phrase his feelings on the deaths of four Americans in Libya a bit more carefully. Here is the exchange in full context:
Stewart: I would say, even you would admit, it was not the optimal response, at least to the American people, as far as all of us being on the same page.
Obama: Here’s what I’ll say: If four Americans get killed, it’s not optimal.
“Not optimal” is, obviously, an understatement, when discussing the deaths of four Americans, including the first American ambassador to die in the line of duty since 1979. It’s clear from the context of the interview, however, that the president is using Stewart’s phrase to make clear that he agrees that what happened in Benghazi on September 11 of this year was unacceptable.
What this exchange showcases, however, is the lack of scrutiny Obama’s gaffes seem to elicit from the media.
Let’s specify that Mitt Romney probably would have been better off keeping any doubts about London’s preparations for the Olympic Games to himself. The British press jumped on the supposed insult to the United Kingdom implied in Romney’s description of the preparations being “disconcerting” and his question about whether the event would be embraced by the people of London. Prime Minister David Cameron, whose desire to emulate Barack Obama has at times bordered on the embarrassing, was just as quick in firing back at Romney by claiming that it was harder to organize an Olympics in London than “in the middle of nowhere,” which no doubt will not endear him to the people of Utah (where the GOP candidate headed up the 2002 Winter Games).
While the American media following Romney is declaring his trip a disaster even before it has gone on for one day, there’s no reason for Republicans to panic. Though the remark must be acknowledged as a gaffe, those claiming Romney has sunk the special relationship between the two countries seem to forget that supporters of a president who gave Cameron’s predecessor a set of movie DVDs that can’t be played on British systems are in no position to squawk too much about minor diplomatic errors. Yet, even if we acknowledge that Romney has once again shot himself in the foot, his gaffes are tribute to his awkward personal manner, not ignorance or incapacity. So while they are embarrassing and may get him off message, they are not the sort of thing that can do him serious political damage.