October 23, 2014


Obama's White House Can't Take a Joke (Stephen L. Carter, 10/23/14, Bloomberg View)

According to news articles, Obama gave the crowd this report on his visit to his pre-White House home: "Because Michelle and I and the kids, we left so quickly that there's still junk on my desk, including some unpaid bills. I think eventually they got paid -- but they're sort of stacked up. And messages, newspapers and all kinds of stuff."

The official transcript, issued by the White House press office, read this way: "We left so quickly that there's still junk on my desk, including some -- newspapers and all kinds of stuff." A later "corrected" transcript described the remark about unpaid bills -- heard clearly by more than one reporter present -- as inaudible.

To which one wants to say: seriously?

The president was obviously telling a joke, and the joke works pretty well. The administration has struggled to find a way to demonstrate Obama's sympathy with the struggles of the middle class, and the joke does at least a little to soften the president's edges at a time when many Americans report significant financial stress.

So why the deletion? The claim that the tape is inaudible barely passes the giggle test. My suspicion -- impossible to prove -- is that the decision was made by a panicky White House political team so worried about nasty ads from their opponents that they wound up brushing away the very warmth they desperately wanted their boss to convey.

Posted by at October 23, 2014 6:42 PM

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