Tag Archives: Sarah Palin

A President’s Day Book Review: Game Change: Obama and the Clintons, McCain and Palin, and the Race of a Lifetime

Game Change: Obama and the Clintons, McCain and Palin, and the Race of a Lifetime  (audiobook)
by John Heilemann and Mark Halperin
14.75 hours 
Narrated by Dennis Boutsikaris

“This shit would be really interesting if we weren’t in the middle of it.” 
 Barack Obama, September 2008 

I’m a bit of a political junkie. I find the personalities and the inner workings of politics fascinating, even though the closest I’ve ever come to being on the inside of any political campaign was a) when The Husband was running for Township Commissioner and b) when we helped out Bill Clinton’s ’92 campaign one evening by stuffing envelopes. 

(While doing so, our group gathered ’round the television – yes, back in the day people actually did such a thing as gather ’round the television for must-see-TV – to watch the ’92-’93 season premiere of “Murphy Brown.” Political junkies like myself will recall that this episode was historic: titled “You Say Potatoe, I Say Potato,” it was in response to Dan Quayle’s remarks on the fictitious Murphy choosing to have a baby as a single mother.  Ah, yes, the early ’90s.  Those were the days.)

Nearly 20 years later, both Clintons are still around and featured prominently (along with Obama, Edwards, McCain, and Palin) in Game Change, John Heilemann and Mark Halperin’s book that gives an eye-opening and detailed look at the 2008 presidential election campaign.

If any presidential campaign was made for political junkies, this one was it. 

But here’s the thing:  if you are into this stuff, regardless of who you supported or what party you affiliate with, chances are you’ve probably read other such chronicles about the 2008 campaign or heard tidbits from the book in various news clips.

Among the books I read in 2010 (and very much liked) were David Plouffe’s The Audacity to Win  and Anne Kornblut’s Notes from a Cracked Ceiling  (Links take you to my reviews.) That meant that, while I really liked Game Change, I had already read or heard of many of the more notable instances. 

That doesn’t mean Game Change wasn’t without its juicy moments. There are certainly enough of those. It’s just different than the Plouffe or Kornblut books because Game Change encompasses all the major players, rather than focusing in on just one or a few. (Although it did seem like Obama and Hillary got a bit more ink than McCain and Palin … not like I’m complaining about that.)

With all of them (with the exception of Palin), the first thing I noticed about each one of the candidates was their language. Now, I’m not a prude and I’ve certainly been known to drop a well-placed f-bomb on several an occasion. But for all the brou-ha-ha that was made about Joe Biden’s “big fucking deal” comment, that practically pales in comparison to what Obama, Hillary, Edwards, and McCain (especially McCain) seem to utter on an hourly basis. Yeah, I know the man should have been more … I don’t know, less Joe? given a live mike, but he who lives in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones and all that.

So, suffice it to say that he word fuck is used quite often in this book and if that’s offensive to you, you’ll probably want to refrain from reading this one. And if you’re listening on audio, as I was, it’s probably not the best audio to have playing in the car as a quick political science lesson for the younger set.

It is, however, a lesson in a look into the world of political campaigning on the presidential scale.
Having read the Plouffe book, there wasn’t much about Obama that was revealed in Game Change that I didn’t know or that was surprising.  But there were some intriguing revelations (spoilers ahead!) about the other characters, such as:

  • Hillary Clinton forming a covert Presidential transition team even before the Iowa primaries were over.
  • Chelsea Clinton was involved in more strategy and decision making with her mother’s campaign than I realized.
  • Elizabeth Edwards berating John’s campaign staff, even telling them at one point that until they (John and Elizabeth) had their new health insurance, then nobody was getting health insurance.
  • Elizabeth Edwards regularly calling John a monster, and a fight between the couple in an airport that had her ripping off her blouse.
  • John Edwards’s crowing, “They loooovvvvvvvvvvvvve  me!”  (I guess this isn’t much of a surprise.)
  • McCain and staffers gleefully watching and laughing at a YouTube video of John Edwards preening over his hair, and playing the video over and over again
  • Sarah Palin’s catatonic-like breakdown during debate preparations, sitting in a hotel with half-eaten meals strewn about and hundreds of index cards with facts written on them (like flash cards), and her handlers having to educate her on everything from the Spanish Civil War to the situation in Iraq, to who the various news personalities were and how to pronounce nuclear. 

Now, I know Game Change‘s critics say that the interviews and unnamed sources are disgruntled campaign employees and aides, and maybe they are and maybe they aren’t.  Whatever.  The point is, most of these instances do sound somewhat plausible, don’t they? 

As I mentioned, I listened to this on audio and loved the narration by Dennis Boutsikaris.  He has the perfect voice for this one – a wonderful combination of egomania, smugness, suspense, and drama that was so very much a part of the 2008 presidential campaign.  I really liked Boutsikaris’s narration in Anita Shreve’s All I Ever Wanted so I was glad to have the opportunity to listen to him again.  My only quibble with the narration was the mispronunciation of Malia Obama’s name.  Bousikaris kept saying “MAHL-yuh” instead of “mah-LEE-uh” (of which I believe the latter is the correct version), and that kind of irked me.  But, that’s only on a few occasions in the book so it is forgivable.  The audiobook definitely held my attention and was actually a great listen for me since the material was familiar. 

If you’re a political junkie like me, Game Change offers a very good glimpse of the wild and crazy ride that was the 2008 presidential campaign and the various Mr. (and Mrs.) Toads that were driving the cars.  Just know that if you’ve read other similar books (like the ones by Plouffe or Kornblut), that you’ll probably be in for some repetition here.  But if you haven’t, then Game Change would be a good one to start with. 

copyright 2011, Melissa, The Betty and Boo Chronicles If you are reading this on a blog or website other than The Betty and Boo Chronicles or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.

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Book Review: Notes from the Cracked Ceiling: Hillary Clinton, Sarah Palin, and What It Will Take for a Woman to Win, by Anne E. Kornblut

Notes from the Cracked Ceiling: Hillary Clinton, Sarah Palin, and What It Will Take for a Woman to Win
by Anne E. Kornblut
270 pages

Let me start by saying this: if you care at all about women’s issues, politics, and the future of our country, you need to read this book.

Anne Kornblut is a White House reporter, and has covered “from start to finish” the three most recent Presidential campaigns. Her reporting background shows, as this is an extensively researched and detailed book – but, make no mistake, it is exceptionally readable and riveting. In some places, it reads like a novel. (Maybe that’s because there were some aspects of the 2008 Presidential campaign that did seem stranger than fiction, no?)

I have a lot to say about this one, so let’s get to it.

In the beginning, back in the good old days of 2007, I was a Hillary supporter. Unbeknownst to me, I was somewhat in the minority demographically. Kornblut explains why.  (Although, I don’t think I meet the standard for “young woman,” but just play along with me here, ‘kay?)

“[Young women] considered themselves postfeminists, to the extent they thought about it, and preferred not to view the world in terms of gender. Supporting Barack Obama was proof of their liberation: they were free to choose whomever they favored for president, unburdened by any old-fashioned notions of loyalty or sisterhood, a sign that women were now diverse and evolved enough to disagree.

And if young women felt fully liberated – or were even totally oblivious to the barriers that had once existed, in many cases before they were born – it was hard to blame them. Nothing in 2008 felt unequal. Women had worked alongside men as peers in every profession for decades, with discrimination and sexual harrassment laws on the books. Women were heads of corporations and universities, as senators and governors and chiefs of police …. Every year seemed to bring a new achievement, making the next one less remarkable.” (pg. 82-83)

In regards to Sarah Palin, Kornblut has done for me what no other writer I’ve read has been able to: she has succeeded in making me sympathetic to Sarah Palin. (Just a leeettle, teensy-tiny bit.)

But before I get into that, what was most eye-opening about Notes from the Cracked Ceiling was the lack of women advisors and strategists who weren’t part of key decisions in either the Clinton or McCain campaigns. Writes Kornblut:

“[Clinton’s] women’s outreach division was a separate unit, cordoned off from the rest of the campaign and not involved in many of the core message decisions. The head of outreach to women, Ann F. Lewis, was not on the important strategic phone call each morning.” (pg. 39)

Well, duh. If we have any hope of getting behind the desk of the Oval Office, we’ve got to first get in the room. Or, for starters, on the damn phone.

Some of the strategies intended to capture more of the women’s votes went unheeded – even when proposed by men.

“One especially creative idea came from outside Clinton headquarters, from Joe Trippi [former campaign manager for Howard Dean] …. Very early in the 2008 campaign cycle, Trippi met with the Clinton campaign … to pitch the idea of an online fund-raising drive to draw in one hundred dollars apiece from 5 million women – half a billion dollars, in other words, with the imprimatur of Web-smart female contributors.” (pg. 42)

The idea was flatly rejected, quickly. Two weeks later, in a meeting with David Axelrod of the Obama campaign, Axelrod said, “You know, I read in a book somewhere that if you raised a hundred dollars apiece from five million contributors, you’d have a broad network of future support.” (pg. 42)

Look how that one worked out for the Obama campaign.

Similarly, “[n]ot one female strategist was involved in the [Palin] selection process – not out of hostility but because the already bare-bones McCain campaign had very few women on staff. Nor were there senior advisors with experience running women’s campaigns.” (pg. 93)

Had there been, Kornblut writes, “they might have cautioned McCain that women are usually held to a higher standard, especially on questions of toughness and competence – and that women won’t switch party affiliations just to vote for a woman. Female candidates also have to remember that women can be deeply suspicious and critical of one another. Palin’s appearance was another obvious red flag: a group of female advisors could have gently reminded the McCain men that women are not always thrilled to see a young, attractive woman step into the limelight, and they might need to prepare for the long knives.” (pg. 93)

The McCain camp didn’t think any of this was critical, and when people like Republican governor of Massachussetts Jane Swift (who had twins while in office) shared with the campaign some of her experiences as a female candidate, it appeared to have been dismissed.

So, if we as voters are rejecting Hillary and Sarah, the question remains if there are, in fact, any women who might be potential candidates and what characteristics, what background, what persona do they need to have in order to crack the ceiling of the Oval Office once and for all?

Kornblut gives us glimpses into several women and their qualifications, noting that there are several commonalities among them. She points out that many have a background in law enforcement as well as having battled breast cancer – and Kornblut shows that these are characteristics that are viewed as strengths in the light of a potential Presidential run.

What I’ve written here barely scratches the surface of Notes from the Cracked Ceiling; in fact, I have 17 additional passages Post-Marked that I didn’t even mention.  This book is chock-full of insider political baseball and reading it makes you feel like you have a front row seat to history.

Which, if you think about it, is what we had.

More information about the book:

The Washington Post has a special page on its website about the book and the issues raised.
Anne Kornblut’s website is here.

copyright 2010, Melissa (Betty and Boo’s Mommy, The Betty and Boo Chronicles) If you are reading this on a blog or website other than The Betty and Boo Chronicles or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.

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Book Review: The Audacity to Win: The Inside Story and Lessons of Barack Obama’s Historic Victory, by David Plouffe

The Audacity to Win: The Inside Story and Lessons of Barack Obama’s Historic Victory
by David Plouffe. Campaign Manager, Obama for America
390 pages

We know how this story ends. 

It is the beginning and the middle chapters, some of which we know and some of which we’re just learning, that David Plouffe shares with us in his recounting of the Obama campaign, The Audacity to Win. 

“When we entered the race, we talked a lot about trying to run a different kind of campaign. The odds of our electing a president were against us: our only hope of success depended on breaking free of the standard political paradigm and becoming a movement. … Above all, it meant a change in tone. We wanted to avoid engaging in the snarky tit-for-tat that had consumed our politics for years, and to put the grassroots – the people – before interest groups and endorsement politics. We wanted to reach voters individually rather than expect some group or person to deliver them.

“Our dogged refusal to be led around by the nose by insiders and interest groups was driven by a few factors: We had no margin for error; We knew we wouldn’t run the perfect campaign, and we didn’t, but we could not be cavalier in making decisions on resource allocation – whether time, money, or message. We had none of them to waste.” (pg. 68-69)

The Obama campaign strategy, as conceived and executed by “the Davids” (Plouffe and Axelrod) and their team, was many things.  It was a break from the conventional ways of campaigning, from the focus on grassroots organizing to the embrace of online fundraising.

What David Plouffe shows his reader is that while there were many successes (and rightfully so), there were mistakes and missteps. He is forthcoming about many of these, about Obama’s (“I don’t want this to happen again” stern reprimands when they did) and shoulders the blame often. Plouffe reminds us of the facets of this campaign that one either forgets just 18 months after the election or that we didn’t know about. For instance, I never knew how indecisive Obama was about running for President (even after he had decided to do so – a hesitancy shared by Plouffe as he contemplated becoming his Campaign Manager.)

“I called Obama in Hawaii to tell him. ‘Against my better judgement,” I said, “I’ve decided to accept and manage this nutty enterprise. All-in. I’m yours until we win or lose.’
‘I am very grateful,’ he responded. ‘I’ll do my best to make sure you don’t regret it.'” (pg. 26)
In looking back on the Obama campaign with The Audacity to Win, it would have been easy for Plouffe to simply remind us of the good stuff, the feel-good moments of the campaign. He does this, absolutely, but his is a surprisingly more critically candid view of the campaign than I originally anticipated, especially knowing that Obama supported the writing of the book.

As just one example, Plouffe is honest about the campaign’s failings to fully research Jeremiah Wright. There were issues with the man beginning literally from Day 1 when Obama announced his candidacy. Plouffe fully owns that these issues should have prompted a thorough internal review in order to stave off the crisis that erupted in April 2009 – which would, ironically, prompt one of the campaign’s best moments, the speech on race at the National Constitution Center (a truly incredible place to spend some time, by the way) in Philadelphia.

There’s a lot of talk about political strategy in The Audacity to Win (the reader is along for the ride through every single state – in Audacity, nearly every state gets a full analysis, from delegates to ad strategy) and enough inside baseball stories of the Obama campaign to satisfy the most fervent political junkie. The reader almost feels part of the staff, privvy to conference calls and campaign emails. (Maybe that’s somewhat intentional, given the campaign’s strategy of reaching out to donors directly.)

The Audacity to Win takes a much more complimentary view (understandably so) of the Clinton campaign than Anne Kornblut’s book, Notes from the Cracked Ceiling, while Plouffe’s view of the McCain campaign (particularly in regards to the Sarah Palin pick) is one of eyebrow-raised puzzlement and perplexity. Palin was barely on the Obama campaign’s radar, and where he could have had opportunity in his book to take different shots, Plouffe doesn’t, preferring to stick to discussions of the strategic nature.

Plouffe illuminates the more humorous moments of the campaign – the fact that the campaign bus was always tuned to ESPN instead of the pundits on the cable news channels and how many of the late-night conference calls were conducted by Plouffe from the bathroom of the small Chicago apartment that he shared with his wife and son.

Plouffe is at his best in The Audacity to Win when he marries the personal and the political. Anyone who has ever lost a beloved pet can empathize with Plouffe’s heartbreak and helplessness when his wife calls from across the country with news of their dog’s decline and death. With this simple anecdote – and others, like a Cat’s in the Cradle type of moment with his young son, and the announcement that he and his wife were expecting their second child on November 2, 2009 – he poignantly illustrates the demands that campaigns require of their staff and the dichotomy of not being there for many of life’s significant moments.

At times, Plouffe also connects his early pre-Internet political experiences as a staffer on Tom Harkins’ 1990 campaign with those of the ingenues he supervises on the Obama campaign. On the eve of the release of the influential Des Moines Register poll in December 2007, Plouffe writes of days gone by when he was charged with going to the Register building at midnight to persuade a deliveryman for a copy of the paper to learn Harkins’ poll results.

“Since then I have never seen a Register poll without thinking of that night and of how seemingly insignificant moments like that can have an outsized impact on your professional trajectory.” [Oh, how very true, David!]  “Now I got to play the old hand: I told our mostly under thirty staff about how we used to get the Register poll down at the docks because there was no Internet, and they would roll their eyes and look at me like I had escaped from the set of Cocoon.” (pg. 116)

(As a peer of yours age-wise, David, I know that look so very well.) 

The Audacity to Win is a book with great appeal to political junkies like me, but also for people interested in organizational communication, the culture of the workplace, and management.  Plouffe writes of the “no drama” rule of the Obama campaign and how establishing basic rules from the get-go allowed them to build an organization – and an organizational culture – worthy of a model for many other businesses.

I finished this book this morning, spending a few hours reading the final 100 or so pages.  Doing so on the eve of this momentous vote on health care reform lends itself to a bit of irony.  Regardless of what position you have on healthcare reform, and however tomorrow’s vote comes out, this issue (and this historic vote) will come to define the Obama presidency.

A presidency that so many worked so hard for and sacrificed so much to achieve. 

What Other Bloggers Thought:
Books ‘N Border Collies

FTC disclaimer: Borrowed from the library.  Will need to take out second mortgage to pay the overdue fees.

copyright 2010, Melissa (Betty and Boo’s Mommy, The Betty and Boo Chronicles) If you are reading this on a blog or website other than The Betty and Boo Chronicles or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.

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Cold as Ice

Did I miss something here?

Is it National Make an Offensive Comment About People with Disabilities Month?

No? Well, damn, you fooled me.

Maybe it’s me, but it sure seems as if the climate has gotten pretty chilly of late, and I don’t mean in regards to the Artic temperatures and six feet of snow outside my door. I’m talking about the icy comments spewing from people’s mouths about people with special needs.

I mean, seriously, I need an Excel spreadsheet or a scorecard to keep up. No sooner do I compose a blog post in my head about one of these politicians celebrities talking heads holier than thou assholes saying something stupid about people with disabilities, or casually tossing off the “r” word, or what have you, than the next one comes along, with an even more egregious comment or scenario.

In a matter of weeks, we’ve had the Rahm “fucking r—–ed” Emanuel fiasco, followed by Rush’s whole schtick, the Family Guy episode, Sarah Palin getting her two cents in (and, I know this will come as a shocker, but I actually found myself agreeing with the woman on that one), and that wacky-minded professor espousing some sort of academic bullshit about why the r-word should not be banned.

Add to this State Delegate Bob Marshall of Manassas, Virginia who appears to have quite the extensive knowledge about reproduction, Mother Nature, and theology. That’s quite the trifecta there, big shot bobby-boy. According to The News Leader, a paper serving Virginia’s Central Shenandoah Valley, here’s what this rocket scientist (maybe he’s that, too) had to say last Thursday:

“The number of children who are born subsequent to a first abortion with handicaps has increased dramatically. Why? Because when you abort the first born of any, nature takes its vengeance on the subsequent children,” said Marshall, a Republican (my note: wow there’s a shocker) “In the Old Testament, the first born of every being, animal and man, was dedicated to the Lord. There’s a special punishment Christians would suggest.”

And what would that special punishment be, Theologian Bob? Because I’m willing to go out on a limb and venture a guess here and say that you, sir, don’t know the first goddamn thing about the mental punishment one inflicts on oneself when your kid has a disability. You question EVERY. THING. You dissect every morsel of food you ever ate in your life and every sip of alcohol that ever passed your lips. You re-create with the precision of a forensic scientist every step you ever took and you second guess every dirty look. You get punished by yourself, by the friends who quietly disappear when getting together with you gets too depressing or sensory intensified, by your own kid who hits you.

You get punished day after day after fucking day from the likes of holier than thou know-it-alls like you. And we don’t need you to punish us even more, State Delegate Marshall, because most days? We’re doing just fine in that department all by ourselves, thanks.

I don’t even want to comment on the abortion issue with this, because that’s just ludicrous to insinuate that a previous abortion had any bearing whatever on a subsequent child being born with “handicaps.” It defies logic to even speculate that an abortion could be the cause of a disability. Care to share where you got your medical degree from, Dr. Marshall?

Bottom line is I’m tired of the rhetoric surrounding all this, I really am. I’m tired of making the same points, of people asking me what I think about this one saying this and that one saying that. I’m tired of the trite apologies. I’m tired of fighting this battle on top of all the other battles I have to fight every day.

But there’s a little boy at stake, who is being punished by people who don’t even know him but are regarding him and so many others like him as second class citizens. He’s my son, and he has autism, and he doesn’t deserve for his life to be this hard nor – because of the likes of you – it to be any harder than it already is.

None of our kids deserve this.

So for their sake, can’t we just all get along? Can’t people who don’t know what the hell they’re talking about just agree to just shut the fuck up when you have nothing better to say than to espouse some insult about people with disabilities?

Can’t we agree to end this Cold War against people with disabilities and tear down this wall of hatred for once and for all?

copyright 2010, Melissa (Betty and Boo’s Mommy, The Betty and Boo Chronicles) If you are reading this on a blog or website other than The Betty and Boo Chronicles or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.

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Finally, a PR Firm That Lives Up to Its Name

God, you gotta love that Palin family. They are the gift that keeps on giving. A blogger’s dream come true.

According to Politics Daily, young Bristol Palin has launched her own PR firm. At 19, I have no doubt that she has a wealth of experience in the business.

She’s certainly showing her marketing savvy with the name she chose for her new venture.

BSMP, LLC. Which stands for Bristol Sharon Marie Palin, of course.

Now, I don’t know about you, but if I was in need of a PR firm, I would definitely choose one with a name that begins with BS.

For a public relations firm.

Yes, indeed. The gift that keeps on giving.
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As I Was Saying …

In my previous post (“Obama: Bowling for Dummies“), I wrote these words:

Can you just hear Sarah Palin now? I’m sure she’s ready for her close-up, just dying to sink her manicured claws into this one.

And, right on cue, four hours later at 6:14 p.m., CNN posted this on their Political Ticker from you-know-who:

WASHINGTON (CNN) – Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin said she was “shocked” to hear President Obama’s offhand comment referring to the Special Olympics in an appearance on the Tonight Show on Thursday night.

“This was a degrading remark about our world’s most precious and unique people, coming from the most powerful position in the world,” Palin said in a statement released Friday. “These athletes overcome more challenges, discrimination and adversity than most of us ever will. By the way, these athletes can outperform many of us and we should be proud of them. I hope President Obama’s comments do not reflect how he truly feels about the special needs community.”

Well, dare I say that I actually agree with something Sarah says. You heard it here first.

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Obama: Bowling for Dummies

President Obama might as well have told Jay Leno that he bowled like a insert the insulting word beginning with R that refers to a person with developmental disabilities.

But, to his credit he didn’t. Give him a point for that much. Instead, he referenced his bowling inepitude by telling Leno, “It’s like the Special Olympics or something.” (You can read the whole account of the incident here.)

Make no mistake, there is no mistaking what the President meant by that sorry attempt at humor. He meant that he bowled like someone with physical challenges, like someone who was not in control of his or her body.

Which clearly Obama was not, when denigrating the Special Olympics and the athletes who work so hard and achieve so much.

One only needed to listen to callers on the morning drive talk-show program that I listen to religiously who called up this morning to justify and defend Obama’s remark. It was harmless, they said, an unmalicious comment. Cut him some slack already.

Which I am usually one to do. (Full disclosure time: I voted for the guy, I support the guy, I like most of what he’s done thus far).

But here’s why this is a problem – because when people are unaware of why this is a problem, that means it’s a problem.

When the President of the United States needs to do a mea culpa for offending people with disabilities, that’s a problem. I don’t give a shit how tired he is, how pre-occupied he is, how much the weight of the economic mess is on his mind. If those factors are present, then don’t go on “The Tonight Show.” We’ve had our fill of Presidents as Entertainers-in-Chief, thank you very much. But more than that, it is deeply troubling to me that a comment so offensive can slip so easily out of our Commander-in-Chief’s mouth.

(Can you just hear Sarah Palin now? I’m sure she’s ready for her close-up, just dying to sink her manicured claws into this one. This isn’t change we can believe in, she’ll say. This isn’t what Ameeer-rica needs at this time. John McCain and I would have been true friends to people with disabilities in the White House. You betcha!)

As I was listening to the account, my mind went into PR/crisis communication mode (as, apparently, did Obama’s press secretary, who from Air Force One quickly got Tim Shriver, the head of Special Olympics, on the horn to give him a heads-up on the faux-pas. Keeping in mind, of course, that the Shrivers and Kennedys were beaucoup backers of Barack’s back in the campaigning day.) Just you watch, I said to myself and all the other northbound drivers on the expressway. By the end of the morning, Obama will have invited some of the Special Olympians to The White House for bowling.

And indeed, it seems that exactly such a photo opportunity is in the works.

To his credit, Shriver accepted Obama’s “very moving” apology by saying, “These words in some respect, can be seen as humiliating or a put-down to people with special needs,” Shriver said. “This language needs to be a teachable moment, I think, for our country.”

Indeed. Obama has a better opportunity here than a chance to improve his dismal bowling score or to host a photo op with the Special Olympians. He’s center-stage with a generation of Americans who, aside from being awake enough to watch The Tonight Show, commonly and routinely use the r-word in daily conversation. I know this to be true as I see it on a regular basis from my own under-30-something co-workers (and sadly, even some who are in their 40s) who hurl the r-word while in my direct presence and who also know damn well that my son has autism.

Obama can seize this teachable moment to say that what he said was wrong and symptomatic of a culture that accepts insulting language being directed towards people with disabilities. Doing so won’t change everyone’s verbal diarrhea tendencies on this issue, but if it gets through to even one person, then maybe – maybe – we can begin to topple the mentality that this is OK.

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