When I was working in the U.S. Senate back in the 1980s, the junior senator from Indiana was a fellow named Dan Quayle. He had a reputation as a bright, serious, earnest young up-and-comer, and then an unfortunate thing happened: He was elected Vice-President of the United States. I say "unfortunate" because few people come out of the office looking better than when they went in. (Although it's hard to see how we could think any less of Joe Biden in four years than we do now.)
The media and the left-wingers (forgive the redundancy) didn't like the thought of a bright, articulate, rising young conservative star, and they spent the next four years attacking him at every turn.
At one point, VP Quayle was visiting an elementary school. He was brought into a class that was conducting a spelling bee that day, and the teacher asked the Vice President if he would like to read a few of the flash cards he had selected and give the kids a chance to spell the word. The VP agreed.
One of the cards the teacher had selected had the word "P-O-T-A-T-O-E." That's "potato" with an "E," an older, less-common spelling. Up stepped a young man, and VP Quayle asked the young man to spell the word "potatoe." Which the young man did, writing it out on the board, except he didn't add the "E" on the end. Not wanting to undermine the teacher in whose classroom he was a guest, the VP had to tell the young man that the spelling "P-O-T-A-T-O" was incorrect and that it should have an "E" on the end of it.
The geniuses in the Washington press corps jumped on the story: "Look at this" they said. "The Vice-President can't even spell potato." Then Leno told a joke, and Letterman told a joke and before you knew it, it had become a "fact:" Dan Quayle couldn't spell potato. I have a friend - a committed Commie, but that's another story - who still loves to say "Dan Quayle was so stupid he couldn't even spell potato."
But of course, the whole story was a lie, an urban myth. Quayle was simply following the spelling on the flash card the teacher provided.
So, why bring this story up, almost 20 years later? Well, here's why:
Because the other day, while speaking in Austria, the President of the United States said this:
"It was also interesting to see that political interaction in Europe is not that different from the United States Senate. There’s a lot of — I don’t know what the term is in Austrian — wheeling and dealing..."
(The video clip is here.)
That's right, folks, the President - the guy with the big Harvard education plus all those alleged "street smarts" - thinks Austrian is a LANGUAGE. Any dummy who ever sat through 'The Sound of Music" knows that Austrians speak German - and have been doing so for several centuries - and that there has never been an "Austrian" language.
And yet, I'm willing to bet that most of you never saw this clip or heard the story before today. Why is that? Gee, it couldn't be because the media buried the story, is it? It couldn't be because "Saint Obama" could never make a mistake in the media's eyes, is it? Why isn't Keith "Bonehead" Olberman cackling about this? Hmm, I wonder....
Go to the New York Times web site and search for the terms "Obama" and "Austrian" and you won't find a story about the incident. Then imagine for a moment the media frenzy that would have ensued if Sarah Palin or George W. Bush or Ronald Reagan had said "I don't know what the term is in Austrian."
So, now I have a line to use for the next 44 months whenever someone mentions Obama. I'm simply going to say "You mean the guy who is so stupid he thinks Austrian is a language?"
Perhaps on future trips he'll try to say something in "Australian" or "Canadian." Or maybe this week he'll try to speak "Mexican" while he's down there. Then later, in Latin America, he can try some of the Latin he learned at Harvard Law School.
Consider it Dan Quayle's revenge.