Spelling Failure

29Nov09

Much of the fantasy and excitement over the Obama candidacy was that his ascendancy might mark a return of America to excellence. A young new leader with no experience seemed the right place to turn to many very educated people because the tried and true had failed.

The White House pulled out all the stops in preparation for President Obama’s first state dinner on Tuesday night, hiring a new florist, selecting a renowned guest chef and even inviting a number of high-profile musicians to perform.

Little things loom large in the symbolic world of leadership, so seeing photographs of univited guests shaking hands with the President at a big state dinner diminishes faith in our decision to turn to the untried and untrue.

But one person the White House apparently neglected to hire was a spell checker.

The granting of a Nobel Peace Prize to a president who had done exactly nothing to promote world peace simply because he seemed so new and different struck many as a slap in the face to our country.

The special dinner menu — a lavish mélange of Indian and American favorites as well as several excellent wines — was rife with typos.

Taking months to decide what to do about Afghanistan when the commander there says we’ve only got 12 short months to turn things around seems odd.

The second course of the evening was paired, for example, with a delicious 2006 Brooks Riesling, which, the menu noted, was bottled in “Wilamette Valley, Oregon.”

Flying over to Copenhagen with Oprah only to receive a slap upside the head by the Olympic Committee certainly wasn’t stature enhancing for the president, or the country.

A diligent copy editor would have changed that to the proper spelling, “Willamette Valley.”

Doesn’t the constant bowing to foreign dignitaries by the leader of the free world feel diminishing to the notion of democracy?

For their third course, the 320 guests were offered a dish that, according to the menu, included potato dumplings with tomato chutney and “chick peas,” which should in fact have been “chickpeas.” That course, the menu noted, was paired with an excellent red wine, a “2007 Granache” from Beckmen Vineyards. The correct spelling of the popular varietal, one of the most widely planted types of red grape in the world, is actually “Grenache” with only one “a,” not two.

And wasn’t blowing the opportunity to achieve long sought reform by overreaching on health care legislation a mistake of transformational proportions?

The last bottle of the night was equally impressive, a sparkling chardonnay from Virginia. It was listed as a “Thibaut Janisson Brut,” missing a hyphen between the first two words. And last but not least, the dessert may have been free of error in taste, but not so in spelling. It included, according to the menu, passion fruit and vanilla “Gelees,” the French word for “gelled,” which, when written correctly, includes an acute accent on the second “e.”

Assembling a staff that can put together a proper menu – even for a nation that isn’t concerned with Grenache or French accents – is one of those simple tasks that assumes symbolic significance when the inability to do so is possessed by the president who was supposed to be the turnaround expert.

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One Response to “Spelling Failure”

  1. 1 Brian

    The present Administration is a collection of conceited doofuses. They are arrogantly, absurdly devout to the notion of their supercompetence, which is a classic characteristic of the incompetent. Every time these fools take a pratfall, the gulf between false image and appalling reality takes center stage. The ridiculousness of the Nobel award points up the Potemkin village nature of this President’s operation: has the vast gulf between Obama’s achievements and worship of this mediocrity ever seemed greater than when one first heard the news from Oslo?


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