Obamateurism of the Day

Sometimes, one has to wonder whether Barack Obama ever bothered to interact with anyone outside his ivory-tower inner circle … or buy a car in the last 40 years. Last Friday, while trying to commiserate with Americans suddenly hammered by skyrocketing gas and food prices, he offered this analysis of the American auto market:

“You may want to buy a fuel-efficient car,” quoth Obama, “but you may not be able to afford it. And so you’re stuck with the old clunker that’s getting 8 or 10 miles a gallon.”

Er, sure … if you’re “stuck” with a classic 1956 Ford Thunderbird, or something of that vintage, when American auto muscle meant big tailfins, solid steel construction, and gas guzzling supreme. If you’re fortunate enough to own a running vehicle of that type, you’re likely feeling pretty proud rather than stuck, too. Other than the original Hummer (again, hardly a choice for cost-conscious consumers in the first place), what was the last mass-market car to have an MPG even close to only getting 10 MPG?  Even my 1973 Buick Century Luxus, which had to be one of the heaviest sedans ever made and came with a 350 V8 (optional to a 455 V8), got 14 MPG in the city.

Debra Saunders was less than impressed with this clunker of an argument:

Eight to 10 mpg? Which clunker would that be? I wondered. An old Hummer? Your father’s father’s Oldsmobile? A late-model Lamborghini? It takes a luxury brand, a boat-sized machine and/or a few decades to approach those dismal mileage numbers.

An 11-year-old Pontiac minivan, for example, gets 17 mpg in the city, 24 mpg on the highway. You have to go back to the Carter administration years or earlier to find Obama’s idea of a gas-guzzling family car – and even that vehicle would have been a van, light truck/SUV or luxury model. And yet he is behind the wheel of Washington’s energy policy.

Can you blame me for believing Team Obama was pushing the pedal to the metal in a rush for higher gas prices?

Besides, as Debra hints in this passage, it wasn’t the economy models that were the gas guzzlers, not 40 years ago and certainly not in any of the cars still on the road.  The more fuel-efficient cars that cars get, the lower on the price scale they tend to be as well, usually because you get less car: smaller engines, smaller frames, less carrying capacity.  The gas guzzlers tend to be larger, more expensive vehicles — although these days, to get to the 8-MPG range, you’d have to drive a fairly large commercial truck.  Or a half-track.

Does Obama know anyone who actually bought a car?  Or drove one himself?

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!