Perhaps Barack Obama should just avoid World War II altogether in his rhetoric — you know, in the same way he avoided mentioning the anniversary of D-Day last week. He just doesn’t have much luck with it. During the campaign, he recalled how his uncle helped liberate Auschwitz, which would have meant that either Obama’s uncle served in the Soviet Army or that Obama didn’t have the first clue where Auschwitz was located. Obama later talked about how Japan dropped “the bomb that fell on Pearl Harbor,” when in fact Japan dropped a whole lot of bombs on Pearl Harbor on December 7th, in an attack that galvanized this nation into a war footing. Of course, Obama doesn’t quite remember it that way, as he noted in his speech last night:
But the one approach I will not accept is inaction. The one answer I will not settle for is the idea that this challenge is too big and too difficult to meet. You see, the same thing was said about our ability to produce enough planes and tanks in World War II. The same thing was said about our ability to harness the science and technology to land a man safely on the surface of the moon.
No one questioned our ability to produce planes and tanks in World War II. We had already opened mass production lines as part of the Lend-Lease program, which had started nine months earlier. The US was already known as “the arsenal of democracy,” a status promised to the British and Soviets by FDR in a public speech from almost a year prior to Pearl Harbor. More to the point, no one questioned whether we could do it because we literally had no choice but to do it, having been attacked by the Japanese and war declared on us by the Germans. Our ability wasn’t in question; the only debate was over how we would get the job done.
There may have been naysayers about the technical ability to get a man onto the Moon, so Obama may be technically correct on his second point, but that wasn’t the main point of contention in the debate. What people questioned most was the cost involved in engaging in a space race with the Soviets, and whether it was a good investment regardless of the eventual success of being first to step on the Moon. That’s a debate we’re having to this day, and Obama arguably has taken the side of the skeptics in his decision to eschew a return to the Moon.
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!