President Obama either came out strongly against Big Labor, a key part of his political base, or he committed a stunning political gaffe on Oct. 4.
It was probably the latter, not that it matters much: The incident received scant media coverage outside of the Washington Examiner and a few conservative blogs.
It is yet another example of the president’s charmed political life where his mistakes are minimized or simply ignored by his many friends in the traditional media.
The incident happened when Obama was delivering a speech at a Rockville, Md., business.
The president riffed on a House Republican's comment that the GOP had been “disrespected” in the shutdown negotiations.
Obama then said:
If you [Republicans] are being disrespected, it is because of that attitude you got. That you deserve to get something for doing your job. Everybody here just does their job, right? If you are working here and in the middle of the day you just stopped and said, 'You know what? I want to get something, but I don't know exactly what I'm going to get. I'm just going to stop working until I got something. I'm going to shut down the whole plant until I get something,' You'd get fired, right? Because the deal is, you've already gotten hired. You've got a job. You are getting a paycheck. And so you also are getting the pride of doing a good job and contributing to a business and looking out for your fellow workers. That is what you are getting. Well, it shouldn't be any different for a member of Congress.
It apparently never occurred to Obama that he was describing a classic organized labor strike, a cornerstone of both workers' rights and the Democratic liberal movement.
Intended or not, Obama was, in effect, calling for repeal of the 1935 National Labor Relations Act, which guarantees the right to strike. It was one of the crown jewels of President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal.
Something comparable on the Right would be like Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., remarking that the federal tax code should ensure that American success is distributed evenly.
Now Obama, a liberal Democrat, probably doesn’t really oppose the right to strike. In all likelihood, he just did not grasp the implications of his own argument.
That is damning in its own way, though. Obama is supposedly an exceptionally smart guy. He was formerly a Harvard Law Review president and a University of Chicago constitutional law lecturer, so this should be area of expertise.
Then again, maybe Obama's mind isn't quite as exceptional as America has been led to think. As my Washington Examiner colleague Richard Pollock reported last year, contrary to claims of him being a “rock star” law lecturer, Obama was the school's third-lowest-ranked speaker in 1999. In 2003, only a third of student evaluators recommended his classes.
Faculty colleagues described him as “disengaged” and doing only what was “minimally required.” He wrote no law review articles, either.
That he isn’t a legal whiz after all would explain why he was blindsided by the Supreme Court’s decision to examine Obamacare’s constitutionality.
It would also explain his ever-shifting domestic spying policy, his use of recess appointments when the Senate isn’t in recess and his insistence that he doesn’t need congressional approval to wage war — even as he seeks it.
Those issues at least got noticed. Obama has not had to explain his strike comments.
Although outlets like the New York Times, the Washington Post, USA Today and the Wall Street Journal all covered the speech, they ignored the strike comments. (A White House spokesman declined to comment on the record to me.)
It is easy to look smart when nobody points out when you say something dumb.