Barack Obama’s attempt to insert himself into the history of his predecessors got a rousing reaction yesterday — consisting mainly of scorn and ridicule. The entire effort qualifies as an Obamateurism simply for its naked narcissism and obvious self-centeredness. But even within the overall effort were a couple of gems worth mentioning, not the least of which is the odd argument that the Department of Energy isn’t part of the Obama administration, but works “with” the White House. One might think that a President would know that Cabinet departments in the executive branch are very much a part of any administration, which is why their leaders (the Secretaries) sit on his Cabinet. There’s also the already-debunked claim that Ronald Reagan endorsed Obama’s “Buffett Rule” surtax on high-income earners, which runs aground on the fact that Reagan lowered tax rates for the upper income level.
But for sheer amateurishness, let’s take another look at the entry for John F. Kennedy:
President John F. Kennedy famously suggested the American people: “Ask what you can do for your country.” In 1961, the Peace Corps was created, facilitating service among citizens working toward peace in developing countries. In 2011, President Obama celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Peace Corps with a Presidential Proclamation.
As I noted yesterday, the apparent lesson here is that JFK created the Peace Corps while Obama created … a proclamation. That’s practically a self-indictment. On top of that, though, Obama’s staff bowdlerized one of the most famous presidential quotes in modern American history, from Kennedy’s Inaugural Address. The full quote is, “And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country.”
Why not get the quote right, especially since it is so well known? Maybe Obama feels threatened by Kennedy. That seems to be what Caroline Kennedy thinks these days, too.
Got an Obamateurism of the Day? If you see a foul-up by Barack Obama, e-mail it to me at [email protected] 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!