VIDEO: Obama Mouths Off

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Remember during the campaign, when then-candidate Obama was perfectly poised and careful to stay on message? Be it climate change, social issues, or foreign policy, Obama and his campaign lackeys clung to their message for dear life. Not even Sarah Palin’s repeated insinuation that Obama is either a terrorist or secretly in love with terrorists could faze them.

So where did that ninja-like focus go? In each of this week’s divisive issues, President Obama swerved from the important goal of moving health care reform through Congress to give his critics the unrelentless, shameless platform that is 24-hour news networks. When it came to the arrest of Henry Louis Gates Jr. and proving his own citizenship, President Obama just could not avoid commenting.

Whether you think that the Cambridge police department, as President Obama put it at his health care press conference Wednesday night, “acted stupidly,” in arresting the prominent Harvard professor breaking into his own house, or if you think that Gates blew it with his response, it’s clear that Obama should have steered clear of the issue. The next day, instead of debating health care, the MSM focused on the President’s Gates remark and its implications for race in America. Obama backpedaled today and even invited Gates and Officer Crowley to the White House for a beer. 

Jon Stewart mocked Obama and the MSM response last night on The Daily Show (skip to 6:00 minute mark). “I think it’s fair to say that Obama handled that question… oh what’s the word I’m looking for…stupidly?”

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Crazies across the country this week were all abuzz about the tired claim that Obama was not born in the United States and is therefore not fit to be President (and might eat your babies, too!). The politically skilled campaign trail Obama would have ignored these claims, letting them fester in the radical right-wing fringes of the country. But Obama caved, providing his birth certificate for all to see.

NBC White House coorespondent Chuck Todd recognized the error. “The biggest mistake the Obama folks made was deciding to post their birth certificate online. It only fed the conspiracy theory,” he said. “The internet can be destructive on this end of things.”

Let’s hope Chuck realizes that the news media must shoulder some of the burden for blowing this issue out of proportion. But he raises a good point: Weighing in on the issue only gave the story legs to dominate the news cycle for the remainder of the week.

But health care was floundering, due to congressional bickering and claims that the White House was rushing the process, even without President Obama’s media distractions. So come to think of it, distractions might be exactly what the politically savvy Obama wanted to take the focus away from the all-important health care bill, which is still struggling to find support in Congress.

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is the first thing despots go after. An unwavering commitment to it is probably what draws you to Mother Jones' journalism. And as we're seeing in the US and the world around, authoritarians seek to poison the discourse and the way we relate to each other because they can't stand people coming together around a shared sense of the truth—it's a huge threat to them.

Which is also a pretty great way to describe Mother Jones' mission: People coming together around the truth to hold power accountable.

And right now, we need to raise about $400,000 from our online readers over the next two months to hit our annual goal and make good on that mission. Read more about the information war we find ourselves in and how people-powered, independent reporting can and must rise to the challenge—and please support our team's truth-telling journalism with a donation if you can right now.

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