April 10, 2011

Obama’s Condescension at Pa. Town Hall Disappears in AP Updates

Back in mid-2008, as gas prices approached $4 a gallon and the first inklings that a real recession would soon be under way were appearing, George W. Bush told a town hall audience questioner who wondered when gas prices might start coming down that it might be time for owners of gas-guzzling SUVs like the questioner to “think about a trade-in.” He also laughed at the questioner’s indication that he had ten children and told him that “you definitely need a hybrid van.”

… Well, of course George W. Bush didn’t say these things. Readers here and anyone else who understands the establishment press know that if Bush or any other well-known Republican or conservative had said these kinds of things, the nation would have been alerted to it quickly and repeatedly. Reporters would have solicited comments from Democratic Party officials, who would have dutifully told the world that such remarks were proof of how uncaring and out of touch the person who made them must be.

President Barack Obama said the exact things mythologically portrayed in the opening paragraph above at a town hall meeting in Fairless Hills, Pennsylvania on Wednesday.

Here are relevant excerpts from the White House web site’s carriage of Obama’s remarks (bolds are mine throughout this post):

Q. My name is Jazz (ph). You were talking about the rise of gas prices. … Is there a chance of the price being lowered again?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, let me go over what I said a little bit earlier.

But I’m just going to be honest with you, there’s not much we can do next week or two weeks from now. What we can do is, for example, increase oil production here in the United States. …

… the second thing we can do is increase efficiency on cars and trucks, which is where most of our oil is used. (Applause.) Now, I notice some folks clapped, but I know some of these big guys, they’re all still driving their big SUVs. You know, they got their big monster trucks and everything. You’re one of them? Well, now, here’s my point. If you’re complaining about the price of gas and you’re only getting eight miles a gallon — (laughter) — you may have a big family, but it’s probably not that big. How many you have? Ten kids, you say? Ten kids? (Laughter.) Well, you definitely need a hybrid van then. (Laughter.)

None of that is going to help you this week, though. So, like I said, if you’re getting eight miles a gallon you may want to think about a trade-in.

Of all the potentially controversial content above, only the following made it into the 4:39 p.m. version of the report on the event by the Associated Press’s Darlene Superville, whose narrative was clearly supportive of the President’s handling of the question (HT Instapundit; also noted at several other sites):

Obama needled one questioner who asked about gas prices, now averaging close to $3.70 nationwide, and suggested that the gentleman consider getting rid of his gas-guzzline vehicle.

“If you’re complaining about the price of gas and you’re only getting 8 miles a gallon, you know,” Obama said laughingly. “You might want to think about a trade-in.”

Though Superville’s narrative differs slightly from the White House’s (which among other things, doesn’t have the words “only” or “you know” in the transcript), her “Obama said laughingly” observation is crucially and painfully instructive. It wasn’t just the crowd which was laughing at the questioner; it was our president, who was thereby exhibiting clear condescension towards a citizen he is supposed to be serving. Combine this with Obama’s reaction to the fact that the questioner has ten children and his derision of “these big guys” and their “monster trucks,” and his response steps right up to the line of contempt. In my opinion, it clearly crosse that line.

If a conservative or Republican were to say such contemptible things, it would be big news. Not even the most hardened defender of the establishment press would disagree that at a minimum, replies such as Obama’s if made by a conservative or Republican would make their way into subsequent revisions of AP reports.

Not this time. The AP reporter’s 7:33 p.m. update, less than three hours after the report excerpted above, moved on to Obama’s meeting with Al Sharpton in its first two-thirds, but retained coverage of Obama’s Pennsylvania visit in the final third. In what may be a sign that Superville or her editors recognized the toxicity of the portion of Obama’s remarks she originally reported, the final third’s content seemed to overcompensate for what was previously reported:

“I’m just going to be honest with you. There’s not much we can do next week or two weeks from now,” the president told workers at a wind turbine plant outside Philadelphia.

It’s a theme Obama’s struck before as he tries to show voters he’s attuned to a top economic concern with gas prices pushing toward $4 a gallon.

Gee Darlene, Obama didn’t seem very “attuned” when he was ridiculing a fellow citizen with 10 kids who happens to own a vehicle popular with “monster truck” guys which is getting poor mileage, where the cost of a fill-up has doubled for reasons totally out of that citizen’s control.

Now of course material from previous wire service reports drops out in subsequent revisions and updates all the time; that’s the nature of news (though it should be a journalistic standard that all previous renditions of reports that are revised and updated are retained and made accessible). But decisions as to what stays and goes overboard can be pretty clear indicators of bias, as can failures to follow up. I don’t see the press asking Republicans or conservatives what they think of a guy who basically told a fellow citizen, as Mark Steyn characterized it in his column yesterday, that “It’s your fault.” That would extend the life cycle of comments which reflect really badly on Obama. Apparently, we can’t have that.

It’s obvious that if Obama’s arrogant and condescending comments were more widely known, they would be hurting him with voters. But Darlene Superville and her employer did what they could to minimize the damage. This is the way of the state-compliant media as it moves into campaign mode.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.



  1. [...] Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com. [...]

    Pingback by Obama’s Condescension at Pa. Town Hall Disappears in AP Updates, Gets No Follow-up « PA Pundits – International — April 11, 2011 @ 6:05 am

  2. First of all…8 gallons a mile? Since when are there vehicles that only get 8-9 miles a gallon? If there are any, they are damn few. All the SUV’s I’ve seen get at least 15.

    Also, a hybrid van…really? A regular van won’t hold ten children, let alone the smaller hybrid ones. And what large family wants to screw around with those expensive, takes forever to charge batteries?

    Obama, what a joke. I wonder what his vehicles mileages are?

    Comment by zf — April 11, 2011 @ 9:21 am

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