They suggest that among presidents, he ranks as the most learned since
Yet, remarkably, he is frequently misunderstood. How can this be?
After the June 8 news conference in which he said "the private sector is doing fine," he, responding to the public's strange inability to parse plain English, held another news conference in which he said: "It's absolutely clear the economy is not doing fine; that's the reason I had a press conference."
That clarified everything, but then on July 13 the public, which Obama really must regard as a disappointment, again failed to comprehend him. In Roanoke, Va., he gave what any reasonable person must admit was an admirably pithy and entirely clear distillation of his political philosophy: "You didn't build that." The public's obtuseness forced his campaign to run an ad saying "my words about small business" had been taken "out of context." Ah, context.
In late October 1980, as
As Obama tries to cope with the public's inability to discern his meanings, perhaps he can take comfort from similar difficulties of another candidate for national office. On Aug. 18, 1920, the
Then, referring to his days as assistant secretary of the Navy, the vice presidential candidate said: "You know I have had something to do with running a couple of little republics. The facts are that I wrote Haiti's constitution myself and, if I do say so, I think it a pretty good constitution." He added: "Why, I have been running Haiti or San Domingo for the past seven years."
As David Pietrusza writes in "1920: The Year of Six Presidents," Haiti and the
When, inevitably, the candidate's words caused consternation, he insisted he never said them. But the controversy continued, so on Sept. 2, he added: "I should think that it would be obvious that one who has been so largely in touch with foreign relations through the Navy Department ... could not have made a deliberate false statement of this kind."
Idaho's Republican Sen. William Borah dryly said: "I am willing to admit that he didn't say it, though I was there and heard him say it." Thirty-one witnesses signed an affidavit attesting that the candidate had said what he was reported to have said, but public attention had wandered.
Far from being injured, the vice presidential candidate went on to become one of the three presidents whose achievements in their first two years are, Obama says, "possible" to compare to his. The candidate was Franklin Delano Roosevelt.