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Obama's Cinco, Bush's Dieciséis

May 5, 2009

As his unfortunate joke to Jay Leno about his meager bowling skills revealed, impromptu humor is not Barack Obama's strong suit. On Monday, to laughter from attendees and the press alike, President Obama flubbed his day-early White House celebration of Cinco de Mayo by proclaiming it, "Cinco de cuatro." And that, the right-wing blogosphere insists, demonstrates that "our genius president" is the beneficiary of a fawning media that would have savaged President Bush for the same slip-up.
Unlike George W. Bush, whose rhetorical incontinence not only helped define the man but spawned a cottage industry of Bushisms, Barack Obama's periodic gaffes are the exceptions that prove the rule. But to Mary Katherine Ham of the Weekly Standard, "if Bush had made such a blunder, it would have been the basis of a four-part MSNBC investigative series on the malapropism's deleterious effects on the Republican Party's attempts to woo Hispanic voters, Mexican-American relations, and our 'place in the world.'"
Over at Townhall, Jillian Bandes suggested Obama's stumble showed that, at least in one respect, the 44th president could not hold a candle to the 43rd:

Yesterday, he decided to not only flaunt the actual day Cinco De Mayo was occurring and celebrate it early, but completely botch the name:
"Bienvenidos. Welcome to Cinco de Cuatro -- (laughter) -- Cinco de Mayo at the White House. We are a day early, but we always like to get a head start here at the Obama White House."
Uh, sorry. That would be "Cuatro de Mayo," not "Cinco de Cuatro." At least Bush could get the Spanish thing down.

As it turns out, not so much. Because when he was wasn't making wisecracks at the expense of the disabled, children, blacks, soldiers in Iraq and so many other Americans, George W. Bush was butchering Spanish and English alike.
During the 2000 campaign, then Governor Bush showed why Americans came to misunderestimate him in both languages. Appearing on Hardball with Chris Matthews on May 31, 2000, Bush offered a Mexican history lesson that lost something in translation:

Bush: "First of all, Cinco de Mayo is not the independence day. That's dieciséis de Septiembre, and ..."
Matthews: "What's that in English?"
Bush: "Fifteenth of September."

Actually, that's the 16th of September. Like Obama, Bush was a day off. Mercifully, we can all be thankful that similarities between the two presidents end there.

3 comments on “Obama's Cinco, Bush's Dieciséis”

  1. "Cinco de Mayo"
    Why do people, who are mostly of Indian descent, living in in the USA, presumably because they prefer living in the USA to living in Mexico, calibrate a holiday that reinforces the history of their national and racial destruction and suppression at the hands of the Spanish?
    Even granting that Mexico became an independent country, it was and is ruled by people of Spanish descent and the suppression of the indigenous people continued and still continues.

  2. A fairly good counter to the tag "Liberal Media" and accusations that the media is in the tank for Obama is the coverage of this flub (cinco de quatro?).
    Olbermann named Obama bronze-medalist in "Worst Person in the World" that day for the malapropism. And when was the last time O'Reilly named a conservative and/or Republican a "pinhead" on HIS show?


Jon Perr
Jon Perr is a technology marketing consultant and product strategist who writes about American politics and public policy.

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