In Beaverton, Oregon May 9, Barack Obama said he'd campaigned in 57 states, with two more to
go. Perhaps he was thinking of the 57 varieties of canned and processed foods the
H.J. Heinz corporation originally sold, or the 57 nation states in the Islamic
The goof is no big deal, the sort of thing someone says when he's tired. Sen. Obama
tends to get disoriented, said Mayhill Fowler, an Obama supporter who blogs for the
"Did Senator Obama know to whom he was speaking? Likely not. That's been his
problem lately on the campaign trail not knowing exactly where he was," Ms.
Fowler wrote in a blog post from North Carolina April 30. "Monday in Wilmington,
however, not only did he not seem to know Wilmington but the date and the time,
saying that it was 'March,' and 'nine months to November.'"
But exhaustion can't explain what Sen. Obama said in Cape Girardeau, Missouri May
13. Sen. Obama blamed a shortage of interpreters in Afghanistan on the war in Iraq:
"We only have a certain number of them and if they are all in Iraq, then it is
harder for us to use them in Afghanistan," he said.
"The vast majority of military translators in both war zones are drawn from the
local population," noted David Wright and Sunlen Miller of ABC News. "Naturally
they speak the local language. In Iraq, that's Arabic or Kurdish. In Afghanistan,
it's any of a half dozen other languages, including Pashtu, Dari and Farsi."
Agricultural specialists are needed in Afghanistan to help the locals develop crops
other than opium poppies, Sen. Obama said. "But if we're sending them to Baghdad,
they're not in Afghanistan," he added.
"Iraq has many problems, but encouraging farmers to grow food instead of opium isn't
one of them," noted Mr. Wright and Ms. Miller.
Sen. Obama has made the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan the principal issue in his
campaign. He really ought to know basic facts about those countries.
It is, however, undeniably true that the war in Iraq consumes resources that might
otherwise be used in Afghanistan, so the argument Sen. Obama was trying to make is
reasonable, even if his examples were ludicrous. But the impression that this isn't
a guy who works well without a teleprompter is reinforced.
Sen. Obama's most profound unforced error to date was his response to the speech
President Bush made last Thursday to the Knesset, the Israeli parliament.
"Some seem to believe that we should negotiate with terrorists and radicals, as if
some ingenious argument will persuade them they have been wrong all along," the
president said. "We have heard this foolish delusion before. As Nazi tanks crossed
into Poland in 1939, an American senator (Republican William Borah of Idaho)
declared: 'Lord, if only I could have talked to Hitler, all of this might have been
avoided.' We have an obligation to call this what it is the false comfort of
appeasement, which has been repeatedly discredited by history."
Conservatives have for many years argued that negotiation with terrorists is
appeasement, and this was a wholly appropriate thing to say to our Jewish allies,
who are threatened by terror groups (Hamas and Hezbollah) and terror supporting
states (Iran and Syria), and who applauded Mr. Bush enthusiastically.
Mr. Bush said not a thing about Sen. Obama, but that worthy rushed to say he
resembled the president's remark:
"It is sad that President Bush would use a speech to the Knesset on the 60th
anniversary of Israel's independence to launch a false political attack," Sen. Obama
said in a statement released by his campaign. "George Bush knows that I have never
supported engagement with terrorists, and the president's extraordinary
politicization of foreign policy and the politics of fear do nothing to secure the
American people or our stalwart ally Israel."
It's dawned on Sen. Obama's campaign that his "hug a thug" foreign policy is
electorally problematic. In an interview with the New York Times published May 10,
top foreign policy adviser Susan Rice denied that Sen. Obama had pledged to meet
without preconditions with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, even though Sen.
Obama had made that vow in a nationally televised debate last year, and has repeated
If you're trying to back away from a record of naive squishiness, it isn't a good
idea to call attention to it in so gratuitous and so dramatic a fashion as Sen.