“The White House will apologize for the outrageous mistake. It’s a pity that ignorance and incompetence overshadowed such a momentous ceremony.”
— Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski, May 29
“Yesterday’s words by President Obama offended all Poles. We always react the same way when ignorance, lack of knowledge, or ill will lead to such distortions of history.”
— Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk, May 30
Oops! Who was minding the Teleprompter?
President Barack Obama’s remarks that so offended the Polish government Tuesday, made while presenting a posthumous U.S. Presidential Medal of Freedom to a Polish resistance leader, seem harmless enough to those unaware of Poland’s extreme sensitivity to anything linking it to the horrors of the World War II German occupation. What the president meant, or should have meant to say, was that the death camp was Nazi, not Polish. It should have been taken by all as a harmless mistake. But obviously it wasn’t.
Someone — a White House speechwriter, researcher or media consultant most likely — fouled up big time. Whoever it was may soon be joining the ranks of the unemployed.
Where was Joe Biden when all this was going down? Can’t you just imagine him trying to lighten things up a bit in the awkward silence following the president’s gaffe by recycling an old Polish joke or two? How about the one that asks how many Poles it takes to screw in a light bulb? (No, that wouldn’t do. The Greens wouldn’t like it. Now it’s all about screwing light bulbs out, not in …)
And can’t you just imagine, too, President Obama fulminating over who the klutz was who scheduled Tuesday’s presentation ceremony anyway? What do I have to do, he might wonder, bone up on world history, economics, vampire capitalism, the Federalist Papers, the Constitution — all that stuff myself?
Is the Polish-American vote that important?
Wait, don’t let anybody quote me on that.
And don’t let anybody tell you there’s nothing political about Presidential Medals of Freedom.