The Gaffe Heard Round Poland

There are gaffes that expose prejudices, gaffes that reflect ignorance, and then just plain gaffes that represent a misplaced word or two in an otherwise unobjectionable statement. There’s not much question the president’s reference to “Polish Death Camps” in the midst of a ceremony honoring heroic Polish resistance to the Holocaust falls into the last category.

In Obama-hating circles, of course, there will be multiple efforts to claim otherwise: that Obama should have known that Poles are unusually sensitive to this particular term, and has embarassed America deeply. I wonder how many of them knew of this sensitivity themselves, or knew much of anything about the geographical location of Nazi death camps, or would have mocked the whole reaction as “political correctness” if it hadn’t served their immediate political purposes. And moreover, how many commenters who want Obama to apologize have in the past raged at him for apologizing too much?

Yes, it was a gaffe heard round Poland, and that’s unfortunate. But it doesn’t need to be heard again and again in the United States.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.