Imagine that John McCain named a young running mate to campaign with him, and this national rookie suggested America had 58 states, repeatedly used the wrong names for the cities he was visiting, and honored a Memorial Day crowd by acknowledging the "fallen heroes" who were present, somehow alive and standing in the audience. How long would it take for the national media to see another Dan Quayle caricature? Let's raise the stakes. What if it was the GOP presidential candidate making these thoroughly ridiculous comments? This scenario is very real, except it isn't McCain. It's the other fellow.
ABC reporter Jake Tapper follows politicians around for a living. On his blog, he suggested Barack Obama has a problem: "The man has been a one-man gaffe machine."
Just in the last few days, in Sunrise, Fla., Obama said, "How's it going, Sunshine?" He did the same thing in Sioux Falls, S.D., calling it "Sioux City." Some of his geographic struggles seem calculated. When asked why Hillary Clinton trounced him in Kentucky, Obama claimed "I'm not very well known in that part of the country ... Sen. Clinton, I think, is much better known, coming from a nearby state of Arkansas. So it's not surprising that she would have an advantage in some of those states in the middle." But Obama's home state of Illinois is more than "near" Kentucky -- it borders Kentucky.
In Oregon, there was a doozy. Obama said of his long campaign, "I've been in 57 states, I think, one left to go." No one in the press made much of this. As former ABC political reporter Marc Ambinder, now with the Atlantic Monthly magazine, admitted: "But if John McCain did this -- if he mistakenly said he'd visited 57 states -- the media would be all up in his grill, accusing him of a senior moment." If you doubt him, remember how most media outlets noted, then underlined McCain's error about al-Qaeda being trained and funded by Iran.
In New Mexico, Obama suggested he was like a young Haley Joel Osment in "The Sixth Sense," with the ability to see dead people: "On this Memorial Day, as our nation honors its unbroken line of fallen heroes -- and I see many of them in the audience here today -- our sense of patriotism is particularly strong." Fallen heroes in the audience? Is this Barack Potatoe Obama? This is precisely the kind of misstatement that Dan Quayle-bashers would run ad infinitum.