I would like to apologize in advance over the use of the word “ass” in this article. Unfortunately, it is used in a quote that I would like to examine today. During an interview with NBC host Matt Lauer, President Obama said the following in regards to the environmental disaster in the Gulf of Mexico:
I was down there a month ago, before most of these talking-heads were even paying attention to the Gulf. A month ago I was meeting with fishermen down there, standing in the rain talking about what a potential crisis this could be. And I don’t sit around just talking to experts because this is a college seminar; we talk to these folks because they potentially have the best answers, so I know whose ass to kick.
Let’s examine this quote to identify what the President is actually saying. In his first sentence, he claims he was down there before “these talking-heads were even paying attention to the Gulf.” He traveled to the Gulf on May 1st, nine days from the time of the accident. Doing a quick Google search, I found articles where Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and Glenn Beck were discussing the crisis on April 30th. It is possible that it was Obama’s decision to make his visit that caused these three individuals to discuss the oil spill before his visit, which might mean Obama is correct in his assertion.
The second sentence is a statement of fact, since he was meeting with some fishermen while in Louisiana. In the last sentence, however, there is a question of what he is trying to say. Is the President talking with these individuals to find a solution to the spill (as noted with “these folks … have the best answers”) or to place blame (as noted with “these folks … know whose ass to kick”)? One would have to assume he’s meeting with these people to find solutions, so why did he add in the last seven words?
The “talking-heads” he is referring to would say that he was trying to make himself sound tough or emotionally charged over the issue. While Obama is a skilled orator, he doesn’t have the ability to express empathy, especially when it is forced. In the quote above, if you listened to the video clip, he delivers the line “I know whose ass to kick,” he’s delivering it as if it is one of his Health Care Reform talking points, rather than if it is a source of genuine ire.
This quote is a perfect example of the problems associated with unscripted interviews. The President shares a similar problem that most people do when speaking in public. You are trying to consolidate your thoughts while processing the question asked, all while replying quickly enough to demonstrate you have a grasp of the topic. This is generally why you see the President with his teleprompter wherever he goes. Now I could get into a discussion over the use of the word “ass” by a President, or his decision to use it in an interview he knew that would be aired in the morning (when there is a greater chance for children to be home watching TV) but I might save that for a later day.