March 20, 2009

Rookie Mistakes

I've got no TV. I didn't watch the President on the Tonight Show.

I'm not entirely sure if it's beneath the dignity of the office to go on the show. But it seems President Obama flubbed a joke and wound up tastelessly referencing the Special Olympics.

And he (or rather his staff) sent a gift package of DVDs to UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown. A nice enough gift between two heads of state, and apparently PM Brown is something of a film buff, so that's especially good. Only someone forgot that DVD players made for the European market use a different encrypting protocol than those made for the North American market. So Brown can't watch any of his new DVDs.

While doing speeches on St. Patrick's Day with the Prime Minister of Ireland, the teleprompters got mis-programmed and the PM wound up delivering a part of President Obama's speech, and then the President got some of the PM's speech thanking him(self) for the nice remarks. PM Cowen spotted the problem after a few lines, and pointed it out, but Obama delivered part of Cowen's remarks afterwards anyway. Like I tell my students on the Mock Trial team, it's not enough to be prepared -- you have to pay attention to what's going on around you so you can react appropriately. Just coasting on your prepared remarks can and often will get you in trouble.

And the First Lady has decided to plant a vegetable garden in the White House lawn. "Good for her!" was my first reaction -- but then there's the fact that they're going to grow arugula, playing into the political card of elitism that, although I think it's pretty silly, seems to have some legs to it. Well, I like the vegetable garden idea and I like arugula, too, so to me this isn't a big deal. But someone might have suggested to the First Lady to avoid arugula in particular. There's plenty of other leafy greens they could be growing.

Political missteps. One suspects that as the Obamas become more comfortable with how the world views their statements and behavior, they will sidestep these sorts of land mines. I guess this sort of thing is inevitable when we're breaking in a new President. Learn from your mistakes, Mr. President -- and more importantly, White House staff! Your job is to make your boss look good, and these sorts of mistakes don't help that.

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