- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 22, 2009

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Just because President Obama’s Special Olympics joke on the Tonight Show Thursday was not great humor or good politics doesn’t mean he deserves the minor thrashing he is getting from the forces of political correctness and by some in the media.

Mr. Obama described his attempts to improve his renowned poor bowling skills on the White House lanes as “like (the) Special Olympics or something.”

With prophetic recognition of the coming moral outrage and lectures, the White House press shop immediately scrambled to explain away the comment and the president called Special Olympics Chairman Tim Shriver to apologize before the segment even aired.

Los Angeles Times television critic Robert Lloyd lamented that the comment is the sort of remark that “sadly has become commonplace in contemporary humor” and “nothing you’d want your president to say, or even think.”

Really?

Mr. Obama’s offhand comment earlier this year at someone’s expense about séances in the White House wasn’t great humor, either. He apologized to former first lady Nancy Reagan for that supposed gaffe. Should he have apologized to the tarot card readers of the nation as well?

Even after Mr. Obama’s apology, Shriver told ABC’s Good Morning America, “It’s important to see that words hurt, and words do matter and these words can in some way be seen as humiliating or [a] put-down to people with special needs.” But Mr. Obama showed no clear pejorative intent. Context matters in speech, and the offended in society often fail to recognize that.

Furthermore, none of this ginned-up controversy is really the point. The fundamental right of freedom of speech in this country applies to presidents as much as anyone. Obama is allowed as to say impolitic things as long as they don’t hurt the country. It also lent humanity to Mr. Obama, something rarely displayed by presidents in public and that certainly would not have been on display had he stuck with the canned responses he surely discussed with his White House handlers in advance.

Most importantly, the President has real problems to address beside hurt feelings. The PC police need to relax and learn to take a joke.

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