Obamateurism of the Day

posted at 8:05 am on June 26, 2009 by Ed Morrissey

Barack Obama seems to have a lot of problems with proper research, and in this case, with proper credit on borrowed philosophy. At the end of this week’s press conference, President Obama offered words of wisdom about the “moral arc of the universe,” and not for the first time failed to credit the original author:

And I think it’s important for us to make sure that we let the Iranian people know that we are watching what’s happening, that they are not alone in this process. Ultimately, though, what’s going to be most important is what happens in Iran.

And we’ve all been struck by the courage of people. And I mentioned this I think in a statement that I made a couple of days ago. Some of you who had been covering my campaigns know this is one of my favorite expressions, was Dr. King’s expression that “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.” We have to believe that ultimately justice will prevail. All right. Thank you, guys.

Some of “you guys”, meaning the reporters on his campaign and now in the White House press corps, should have called Obama on this error when it first happened.  It’s not like no one does research, after all.  Reverend Matt Tittle in Houston not only did his homework, he mailed it to the Obama campaign:

In April, during the presidential primary season, I perked up from the usual din of campaign rhetoric when I heard then-candidate Barack Obama say (referring to Dr. Martin Luther King’s words):

“The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”

I perked up because over a year earlier, in January of 2007 on MLK weekend, I wrote and delivered a sermon titled, Keepers of the Dream, in which I researched the origin of that very phrase, which Dr. King did use often, but which was not original to him.

Unitarian Universalists have long known that the original author of “the arc of the moral universe” was nineteenth-century Unitarian minister, Theodore Parker.

In fact, Parker wrote it in 1853.  Tittle assumed that Obama simply didn’t know the difference, and set out to inform him:

Fast forward to April 2008, when I heard Barack Obama attribute the quote to Dr. King…I immediately emailed the Obama Campaign the actual citation in the interest of accuracy. Just a point of information.

I have no way of knowing if the Obama Campaign ever attended to my email. I’d like to think so. What I do know is that I cannot find an instance of Barack Obama using “the arc of the moral universe” after April 2008.

Well, now he does, and now Rev. Tittle knows that it’s not that Obama doesn’t know, it’s that he doesn’t care.  Fortunately, the moral arc of research is as long as the Internet, and as immediate as YouTube.

Thanks to PattyAnn for her research on this Obamateurism.

Got an Obamateurism of the Day? If you see a foul-up by Barack Obama, e-mail it to me at obamaisms@edmorrissey.com with the quote and the link to the Obamateurism. I’ll post the best Obamateurisms on a daily basis, depending on how many I receive. Include a link to your blog, and I’ll give some link love as well. And unlike Slate, I promise to end the feature when Barack Obama leaves office.

Illustrations by Chris Muir of Day by Day. Be sure to read the adventures of Sam, Zed, Damon, and Jan every day!


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Convenience trumps truth for many a politician.

Tonus on June 26, 2009 at 8:10 AM

This is kinda weak. Let’s remember that the VP is an actual plagerist, not just a guy who can’t differentiate between King’s original words and those he (Dr. King) borrowed from 19th Unitarian Universalist.

highhopes on June 26, 2009 at 8:11 AM

The doctrine of revisionism.

the_nile on June 26, 2009 at 8:12 AM

Obama’s mistakes do disturb me, but the thing that is beginning to really get on my nerves is his incessant need to reference himself. Rarely does he give a speech or talk without noting something else he has said in another speech or talk.

This is why tyrants will walk all over him. He really believes that talking is all it takes. That is all he has ever done and it won him the Presidency. Unfortunately, it doesn’t solve anything.

He’s professor Harold Hill in the Music Man. At the end of the play, just by thinking, the kids are able to play their instruments.

MagicalPat on June 26, 2009 at 8:12 AM

I’ve apparently had this one misattributed in my son’s copybook for a year now. Learn something new every day.

DrSteve on June 26, 2009 at 8:14 AM

MagicalPat on June 26, 2009 at 8:12 AM

well, he is the ONE…don’cha know….

cmsinaz on June 26, 2009 at 8:15 AM

moon walker.

moonbatkiller on June 26, 2009 at 8:15 AM

It’s also interesting to note how the ‘moral arc’ works.

when it comes to electing Obama for president: you need to be active about it.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ABdDSxI6eSY
You know, Dr. King once said that the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends towards justice. It bends towards justice, but here is the thing: it does not bend on its own. It bends because each of us in our own ways put our hand on that arc and we bend it in the direction of justice; because we organize and we mobilize and we march, we vote, we parent, we’re active in our community, we’re active in our schools.

When it comes to the people of Iran.. well, it’s just nice to know it exists.

Phoenician on June 26, 2009 at 8:17 AM

Anything that can tie Ogabe to King, even if its fiction, will be utilized. I wouldn’t be surprised if Ogabe made the claim that he sits on the crapper and reads the NYT…just like MLK!

Bishop on June 26, 2009 at 8:18 AM

Man never falls so low that he can see nothing higher than himself.

– Theodore Parker

Obviously, Mr. Parker could not have imagined there would some day be a Barack Obama.

Loxodonta on June 26, 2009 at 8:19 AM

“The arc of the moral universe is long, but the arc of my Taepodong-2 is longer. Happy 4th of July!”

- Kim Jong Il

BPD on June 26, 2009 at 8:19 AM

Theodore Parker:“The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”

The One: Do not try to bend justice; that’s impossible. Instead only try to realize the truth: There is no justice.

doriangrey on June 26, 2009 at 8:19 AM

Hell, I’m surprised Obama attributed it to anyone. He could have just said it and the press would have gone gag over it’s profundity.

Having said that, the quote is as Unitarian Universalist as anything could be. “Moral arc of the universe..”

BigD on June 26, 2009 at 8:20 AM

For such a short statement on Iran,

120 words total, “I” and “my” appeared 5 times (not counting the ‘WE’ part), “Iran” and “Iranian” one time each.

Fortunately, this is not one of the worst examples of President Obama’s ‘deep concern’.

Sir Napsalot on June 26, 2009 at 8:20 AM

Obama’s moral arch is so long and convoluted that he can say anything and have it ring true in the great cathedral of his ego.

In other words, he makes up his own rules of “moral” geometry as he goes along — and you’d better not challenge him on it.

RandyChandler on June 26, 2009 at 8:21 AM

Arch should’ve been arc. Not that the O man would care.

RandyChandler on June 26, 2009 at 8:23 AM

BPD on June 26, 2009 at 8:19 AM

LOL

cmsinaz on June 26, 2009 at 8:24 AM

I’m totally confused.

Is it “the arc of the moral universe”?

Or “the moral arc of the universe”?

The first asserts that the universe itself is moral, which doesn’t make sense. The second is closer to the legitimate Christian understanding of the moral law.

Unitarian. The word itself means philosophical confusion.

jeff_from_mpls on June 26, 2009 at 8:27 AM

…the thing that is beginning to really get on my nerves is his incessant need to reference himself. Rarely does he give a speech or talk without noting something else he has said in another speech or talk.

MagicalPat on June 26, 2009 at 8:12 AM

Absolutely. His mis-statements could easily be called on by the press – nobody has the balls – but these “I, me, my” references every time he speaks are annoying as can be.

tru2tx on June 26, 2009 at 8:28 AM

That ‘pretty figure of speech’ is nonsense. Moral arc of the universe?
God is the one who wrote His moral code on our hearts, letting us know justice and injustice.
For the record:
Bankrupting the country, destroying the global economy in the name of ‘fairness’ is unjust. Protecting Abortion, calling it a ‘right’ is the worst kind of evil. So I don’t need to be lectured on the moral arc of anything by an immoral fraud like Obama.

Doug on June 26, 2009 at 8:28 AM

What really gets me steamed is the fact that his thugocracy seems to be working. He and his dog (Rahm, not BO) have made it clear to all that you cross him at your on peril.
Therefore, he can pretty much do and say whatever he pleases.

HoustonRight on June 26, 2009 at 8:32 AM

That ‘pretty figure of speech’ is nonsense. Moral arc of the universe?
God is the one who wrote His moral code on our hearts, letting us know justice and injustice.

Doug on June 26, 2009 at 8:28 AM

See Doug, you’re being sucked in by Unitarian confusion.

If he had said “the moral arc of the universe” — the author would be talking about the moral dimension that transcends the physical universe. This is good Christian philosophy.

But if a fellow refers to “the arc of the moral universe” the word moral seems to be a quality of universe, which is some weird pantheist crap. And can we expect much more than weird crap from Obama and the Unitarians from whom he pinches his lines?

jeff_from_mpls on June 26, 2009 at 8:35 AM

I can’t get too het up about this one. Rev. Tittle “emailed the Obama campaign” … and who probably took that email, some lowly intern? Probably his message was ignored long before it could reach Obama. At least Fearless Leader credits MLK with it.

Rosmerta on June 26, 2009 at 8:40 AM

Obama keeps looking things up in the Kenyan fact book.

tarpon on June 26, 2009 at 8:40 AM

According to Unitarian Universalist Rev. Susan Manker-Seale, the original quote is:

I do not pretend to understand the moral universe; the arc is a long one… And from what I see I am sure it bends toward justice.

– Theodore Parker

Loxodonta on June 26, 2009 at 8:45 AM

“The arc of the moral universe is long, but the arc of my Taepodong-2 is longer. Happy 4th of July!”

Same here, Mr. Il.

Ampleforth on June 26, 2009 at 8:45 AM

Same here, Mr. Il.

Ampleforth on June 26, 2009 at 8:45 AM

So that’s where your handle came from! ;)

Rosmerta on June 26, 2009 at 8:47 AM

Typical faux-intellectual liberal poseur. The “moral arc” phrase is beautiful, and no doubt our wannabe-despot-in-Chief uses it frequently in a vain attempt to give himself a patina of sophistication.

Lead won’t shine, however, and no matter what airs and graces Obama adopts, it will always be apparent to all but the press and the pathologically shallow that he’ll never rise to any measure of greatness, but will always wallow in his own mire of mediocrity.

mr.blacksheep on June 26, 2009 at 8:54 AM

the thing that is beginning to really get on my nerves is his incessant need to reference himself

Both he and the Lieutenant do it in their speeches. Surprises me though that they would get married; sitting at the dinner table and constantly talking about themselves, you think they would get annoyed with one another.

Bishop on June 26, 2009 at 8:54 AM

I do not pretend to understand the moral universe; the arc is a long one… And from what I see I am sure it bends toward justice.

– Theodore Parker

It’s Unitarian clap-trap whose translation is transparent as hell: “a specter is haunting Europe, the specter of Communism.”

You have to understand that, to a Leftist, the word justice doesn’t mean “every man receives his due”, which is what it meant in the classical tradition. To the Leftist, the word justice means that the “working people” (= Democrat Party) get to confiscate the property of the bourgiose because that property secretly belongs to the “working people”.

Leftists don’t believe in justice. They’re small, envious thugs who believe in nothing more than legitimizing theft.

jeff_from_mpls on June 26, 2009 at 8:55 AM

I do not pretend to understand the moral universe; the arc is a long one… And from what I see I am sure it bends toward justice.

– Theodore Parker

Loxodonta on June 26, 2009 at 8:45 AM

What a pretty way to say that payback is a bitch.

highhopes on June 26, 2009 at 8:58 AM

I don’t know why Obama bothers with these high-sounding statements. It exposes him for the pretentious phony that he is (do you think he really talks like that behind closed doors with that large hind-quartered spouse of his?). Plus, the average Obama supporter thinks that a “moral arc” is a type of rainbow.

EMD on June 26, 2009 at 9:03 AM

King was not only a plagiarist, but gets credit for other people’s ideas beyond the grave. How’s he do that?

Akzed on June 26, 2009 at 9:11 AM

It is not what he says that counts. It is the destruction of his actions that should compel us to fight back against this soft tyranny. Man this president sucks.

Americannodash on June 26, 2009 at 9:11 AM

Plus, the average Obama supporter thinks that a “moral arc” is a type of rainbow.

EMD on June 26, 2009 at 9:03 AM

You give the average Obama supporter too much credit. They are more likely to think you are talking about a town in Arkansas or wondering what alarc is and why the filthy liar in the White House wants more of it.

highhopes on June 26, 2009 at 9:14 AM

Oh, come on. You could hardly expect Obama to attribute the quote to Theodore Parker. Parker was a white guy, not even a wise Latina.

Daggett on June 26, 2009 at 9:21 AM

Leftists don’t believe in justice.

jeff_from_mpls on June 26, 2009 at 8:55 AM

They talk a lot about justice, but what they really mean is equality — and not equal opportunity, but equal outcomes.

Daggett on June 26, 2009 at 9:22 AM

Oh, come on. You could hardly expect Obama to attribute the quote to Theodore Parker. Parker was a white guy, not even a wise Latina.

Daggett on June 26, 2009 at 9:21 AM

When Obama says it, it is clear that while the moral arc may bend toward justice it does so only with an extended middle finger to anybody who doesn’t share the filthy liar’s vision of justice.

highhopes on June 26, 2009 at 9:26 AM

Unfortunately, I think the “arc of the intellectual universe bends towards stupidity.”

Logic on June 26, 2009 at 9:30 AM

Ha! Good one, Logic.

you think they would get annoyed with one another.

Bishop on June 26, 2009 at 8:54 AM

You’re assuming they’re listening to each other.

Rosmerta on June 26, 2009 at 9:41 AM

Unitarian minister?
What do you get when you cross a Mormon with a Unitarian?
……………….
Someone who knocks on your door…then doesn’t say anything.

right2bright on June 26, 2009 at 9:46 AM

A student of history, ladies and gentleman. Despicable, angry, misguided and ahistorical, but a student of history nonetheless.

cyclown on June 26, 2009 at 9:50 AM

What do you get when you cross a Mormon with a Unitarian?
……………….
Someone who knocks on your door…then doesn’t say anything.

right2bright on June 26, 2009 at 9:46 AM

Lotta Hitschmanova will get you for that.

mr.blacksheep on June 26, 2009 at 9:54 AM

If King was reading Unitarian Universalists’ writings, it’s no wonder he had no problem with serial adultery & hanging out with commies.

jgapinoy on June 26, 2009 at 9:57 AM

King beat his girlfriend the morning of his death, according to his best friend Ralph Abernathy’s book.

No surprise that King was reading Unitarian stuff.

The Unitarian Creed: “There is, at most, one god.”

Akzed on June 26, 2009 at 10:06 AM

1853? Don’t you know that history did not begin until Obama’s birth, the march on Selma notwithstanding? Soon, we will renumber the years like we did when the last messiah showed up.

Kafir on June 26, 2009 at 10:13 AM

Eh, he’s at liberty to say whatever he wants, no one will call him on it, and the sheeple will naturally just go along thinking how wonderful he is.
Actually, the only ones that will call him on it are the “racist, radical right-wingers”. That’s the way I feel about this sort of thing anyways.

4shoes on June 26, 2009 at 10:18 AM

When Obama speaks, what he says becomes “truth”.

GarandFan on June 26, 2009 at 10:19 AM

He rewrites history every day…

ladyingray on June 26, 2009 at 10:44 AM

Was he Kathleen Parker’s great-grandad? (I only used one “great” because I figure Kathleen’s, what? about 150 years old.)

andycanuck on June 26, 2009 at 11:44 AM

Hussein:

And I think it’s important for us to make sure that we let the Iranian people know that we are watching what’s happening, that they are not alone in this process.

I’m sure that it’s reassuring to the Iranians to know that we’re standing by and watching silently as they get slaughtered in the streets.

And I mentioned this I think in a statement that I made a couple of days ago. Some of you who had been covering my campaigns know this is one of my favorite expressions, [....]

It always ends up being about him, doesn’t it? Me, me, me, I, I, I, my, my, my.

What a schmuck.

UltimateBob on June 26, 2009 at 11:59 AM

When Obama speaks, what he says becomes “truth”.

GarandFan on June 26, 2009 at 10:19 AM

That’s right. BHO won, dontcha know! Anything he says must be right.

Snidely Whiplash on June 26, 2009 at 12:06 PM

It always ends up being about him, doesn’t it? Me, me, me, I, I, I, my, my, my.

What a schmuck.

UltimateBob on June 26, 2009 at 11:59 AM

The filthy liar in the White House is far more than just a schmuck. I truly think he and the people around him are evil and I don’t use that word lightly.

highhopes on June 26, 2009 at 12:48 PM

highhopes on June 26, 2009 at 12:48 PM

Oh, I wholeheartedly agree, this administration is evil. Evil in heart, mind, and intent.

But when you look at just the personalities, what shows at the surface, they are nothing but a bunch of schmucks (which I believe is the German or Yiddish word for dick).

UltimateBob on June 26, 2009 at 1:07 PM

But he’s so. . . eloquent!

The dupes that got roped in to voting for this empty suit have to feel guilty/stupid/silly by now, right?

RIGHT??

:(

RedNewEnglander on June 26, 2009 at 3:43 PM