Named after journalist Michael Kinsley who introduced the concept, a “Kinsley gaffe” occurs when a speaker “accidentally reveals something truthful about what is going on in his or her head.” Last week, the New York Times Editorial Board Member Mara Gay made the season’s most notable Kinsley gaffe in her account on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” of a harrowing trip to New York City’s eastern suburbs on Long Island.
“I was on Long Island this weekend visiting a really dear friend, and I was really disturbed,” said Gay live on MSNBC, where she is a contributor. “I saw, you know, dozens and dozens of pickup trucks with explicatives [sic] against Joe Biden on the back of them, Trump flags, and in some cases just dozens of American flags, which is also just disturbing because essentially the message was clear: This is my country. This is not your country. I own this.”
After Gay had finished recounting how she found “just disturbing” the sight of “dozens of American flags,” co-host Mika Brzezinski chimed in, “Totally agree.”
The Babylon Bee responded with a story headlined, “New York Times Relocates Offices To Beijing So Reporters Won’t Have To See So Many ‘Disturbing’ American Flags,” but for people who fret about flags as Gay and Brzezinski do, the very anticipation of Flag Day, June 14, is no laughing matter.
Perhaps the most prominent of such thinkers—and the most anxious—is Barack Obama. As candidate and later as president, Obama had to pretend to care about the flag. It wasn’t easy. In his most recent memoir, A Promised Land, he spends an unseemly amount of time on an incident that most Americans had forgotten about but that apparently left the former president emotionally scarred—his failure to wear an American flag pin.
As Obama tells the story, he took to wearing a flag pin following 9-11, but after he “watched John Kerry get swift-boated and heard those who opposed the Iraq War have their patriotism questioned by the likes of Karl Rove,” he stopped. Given the Left’s control of the airwaves, Obama uses the term “swift-boat” knowing his audience will read it as a synonym for “smear.” It wasn’t. As to the cheap shot on Karl Rove, Obama provides no footnote.
Undeniable, however, is that the flag-pin issue got under his skin. “Soon enough,” he writes, “conservative talking heads were hammering on the purported meaning of my bare lapel. Obama hates the flag, Obama disrespects our troops.”
Writing his memoir in 2020, the memory still chafes. “Months later,” he adds, “they were still making an issue of it, which began to piss me off.” This is a rare outburst. The only other time in the memoir Obama reports being “pissed” is when he realized that an opponent in his first state senate campaign was using fake signatures to get on the ballot. Actually, all his potential primary opponents had done the same and would have gotten away with it had Obama’s team not demanded an audit. Election fraud? No, that’s a myth.
As he does throughout his memoir, Obama reads racism into just about any resistance to his unearned ascent. He writes, “Just why was it, I wanted to ask, that only my pin habits, and not those of any previous presidential candidates, had suddenly attracted so much attention?” The CRT-trained reader is expected to answer this rhetorical question, “Because you’re black, Barack, that’s why.”
No longer worried about electability, Obama writes in his memoir, “I told the truth, saying that I didn’t think the presence or absence of a token you could buy in a dime store measured one’s love of country.” Well, that is not exactly what he said when challenged on his pin wearing during an April 2008 primary debate with Hillary Clinton.
Conservatives were not the only ones badgering Obama about the flag pin. In the 2008 debate on ABC, moderator Charlie Gibson took a question via video from a female Pennsylvania Democrat. “I want to know if you believe in the American flag,” she asked, concerned that his seeming indifference would be a “vulnerability” in November.
Obama had a Pennsylvania problem. Just a week before the debate, in decoding rural Pennsylvanians to San Francisco metrosexuals, Obama had said, “It’s not surprising then that they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy toward people who aren’t like them, or anti-immigrant sentiment, or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.”
Given the precariousness of the moment, Obama told the ABC debate audience, “I revere the American flag.” He then rambled on for another 350 words tracing his family’s rise “from small towns in Kansas”—the Kenyan got edited out—to his own “run for the highest office in the land.”
Obama thought he was out of the woods, but then George Stephanopoulos asked perhaps the last hard question Obama would face before the election: “a follow-up on this issue, the general theme of patriotism in your relationships, a gentleman named William Ayers …” The media hammered Stephanopoulos for daring to ask about Ayers, last seen standing on an American flag to promote his book celebrating a life of terror against the government. No one in the media dared ask him about Ayers again. Nor, in his memoir, does Obama mention his terrorist pal.
It may seem easy being Barack Obama, but it is damned hard to remember what you said about anything, let alone the flag, when you mean so little of what you say.
Jack Cashill’s latest book, Barack Obama’s Promised Land: Deplorables Need Not Apply, is now on pre-sale. See www.cashill.com for more information.
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