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Inside Blogotics

- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 14, 2009

'Ich bin ein Austrian'

First, President Obama commits a foot-in-mouth Bushism, then the liberal mainstream media doesn't notice.

It's a script that never ceases to provide fodder for conservative blogs. Here's the latest, from an April 4 press conference in Strasbourg, France, in which Mr. Obama took a question from Sonja Sagmeister of Austrian TV and made up a language that doesn't exist.

"It was also interesting to see that political interaction in Europe is not that different from the United States Senate. There's a lot of — I don't know what the term is in Austrian — wheeling and dealing — and, you know, people are pursuing their interests, and everybody has their own particular issues and their own particular politics," he said.

Joked the Final Minority Report: "I am unsure how [Mr. Obama's] other language skills are, but his American is much better than his English." There is no such language as "Austrian"; the official and dominant language is German (indeed Austria was a united country, albeit not in its current form, before Germany was).

Not only did the mainstream media not report on the gaffe (or Mr. Obama's previous use of "England" to mean the United Kingdom earlier in the tour), the Associated Press even ran a White House notebook repeating the quote, with the mistake unnoted and so apparently unnoticed.

Two other conservative bloggers noting what happens when other prominent politicians stick a foot in the mouth.

"George Bush's critics rightly roasted him for his tortured syntax and waterboarded grammar, and used it to make the claim that the graduate of both Harvard and Yale was an idiot. … [But] it takes a highly esteemed intellect, it seems, to miss the fact that Austrians mainly speak German," wrote Ed Morrissey at Hot Air.

Josh Painter at Red State even cited for comparison an unsourced rumor that was later debunked, that Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin didn't know Africa was a continent, versus something said on camera and the official White House transcript.

"You probably recall the howls from the drive-by media and the leftosphere … a 'dubious grasp of geography,' sniffed HuffPo's Nicholas Graham. Wonkette, dripping with superiority, posted, 'And did we mention that she thought Africa was a country, and not a continent? Wait until she hears about Australia: it's both.' Salon's Anthony Freed wrote: 'Stunningly, but not surprisingly, the gal who was 3% of the vote and an old man's heart beat away from the presidency thinks Africa is a country in and of itself.' … So where are the Obama-worshippers on this? They are curiously silent."

Mamma mia!

Even when he orders pizza, President Obama creates a stir.

He invited the chefs from Pi restaurant in St. Louis to the White House to prepare a pizza lunch feast for about 140 people on Friday. Mr. Obama had Pi pizza while in St. Louis for an October campaign stop, and, according to Pi's proprietor, Ryan Mangialardo, called it "the best pizza I've ever eaten."

Marc Ambinder caught one angle at the Atlantic politics blog — jealousy from Mr. Obama's hometown, which has given its very name to a distinctive pizza style, dryly noting in a post titled "Obama: Dissing Chicago Deep-Dish?" that "It is yet unclear precisely how betrayed Chicago's pizza chefs will feel."

Sure enough, Chicago pizza-chain owner Marc Malnati, told the Chicago Tribune that "I like his economic policy … I like his foreign policy … His pizza policy is going to have to change."

Others noted that Mr. Mangilardo and Pi owner Chris Sommers had to be flown in bringing packages of dough, cheese and pizza pans, and conservatives bloggers smelled a bit of self-indulgence and environmentalist hypocrisy, and made comparisons to Evita Peron and Marie Antoinette.

Doug Powers, one of the co-bloggers keeping Michelle Malkin's site hopping while the proprietress cuts back her time,found from Pi's Web site that the restaurant sells more than food.

"Pi is committed to environmentally benign success. Doing good while doing well is fundamental to our work, and is manifested in our commitment to create an ecologically sustainable restaurant. Today, this concept is hardly relegated to the realm of an obscure few; it resonates with our customers, and they become enlightened and aware, acting as environmental stewards and leaders of change," it reads.

"It's as if a bus carrying members from ACORN and the Alliance for Climate Protection crashed into a Little Caesars and set up shop," Mr. Powers chuckled before going on to exhort readers to "go plant some trees so the Obamas and their staff can enjoy the environmentally-friendly meal free from the carbon footprint guilt that a 1,600 mile round-trip pizza delivery might normally bring."

Tapping out?

The religious right is becoming like Mark Twain — the reports of its death have been greatly exaggerated.

Ryan Powers at the liberal site Think Progress was crowing triumphantly over the weekend that "[Focus on the Family founder James] Dobson concedes that the far right has 'lost' the culture war," focusing on Mr. Dobson's farewell speech to the group's staff.

"Attributing the right's recent failures to the 'Internet' and the election of Bill Clinton, Dobson said, 'Humanly speaking, we can say that we have lost.' He added that the nation is now 'absolutely awash in evil,'" Mr. Powers wrote.

Though she wasn't as convinced that the religious right hadn't won many battles, Pam Spaulding at her popular liberal site Pam's House Blend managed to work in a shot at Christians. "Ah, some good news from the Telegraph (UK) on this Easter (or as I call it, Sunday)," she wrote.

Not so fast, wrote "Kyle" at People for the American Way's Right Wing Watch blog. The Telegraph report that made its way through the liberal blogosphere didn't quite "get" what Mr. Dobson was saying.

"I have already written a few posts this week trying to beat back the notion that the Religious Right is on the verge of collapse, pointing that that such declarations are made every few years and noting that right-wing leaders have repeatedly declared that they have no intention of giving up the fight," he wrote, before going on to say that "contrary to the Telegraph's interpretation, Dobson was not so much conceding defeat as he was vowing not to give up."

"Kyle" quoted from Mr. Dobson's speech extensively and noted an applause line. Here's the key part:

"And the battle is still to be waged. And we are right now in the most discouraging period of that long conflict. Humanly speaking, we can say that we have lost all those battles, but God is in control, and we are not going to give up now, right? (Applause) The world has turned colder for the family in recent years, and there is such hostility to anyone who holds to a faith, and we're going to take the heat. But I have been assured by the board and by many of you that we're not going to cow, we're not going to be discouraged."

"That seems to be rather different than how the Telegraph portrayed it," "Kyle" wrote. "If people want to write articles claiming that the Religious Right is conceding defeat and on its way to irrelevance, they ought to try and do so without misquoting statements in which the movement's leaders are vowing not to give up."

Victor Morton can be reached at