Remember when it was sort of a big deal for people to mix up Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama and noted terrorist Osama bin Laden? Late last year, it was major news when CNN confused them in two different segments — the network apologized in print, on air and personally via telephone. When Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney did the same, a Huffington Post blogger wrote, in commentary typical of the moment, that "the fear of terrorism makes the Obama-Osama name mix-up anything but off-color camp." The news media has had seven months to clean up its act, but hardly seems to have learned a thing. The cable news networks tallied three Osama-Obama slip-ups in the past week alone, TVNewser noted, including a third-time offense from MSNBC's Chris Matthews. After the most recent, by Dan Rather on MSNBC Friday morning, none of the four people on camera even bothered to correct the gaffe, even though Rather actually went whole-hog and called Obama "Osama bin Laden." Where's the outrage?
Buried under all the honest mistakes. Obama-Osama mix-ups have become so commonplace that viewers are willing to cut TV personalities some slack. Even Chris Matthews, who gets physically aroused by Obama, is calling him Osama, so it seems plausible that these really are just bloopers rather than calculated swipes, as some critics once hypothesized.
Also, Obama, once the presumed underdog against Democratic rival Hillary Clinton, won the nomination and is leading his Republican rival in the polls. He is in a position of strength, so it will take more to get people outraged on his behalf.
That still doesn't excuse tongue-tied TV news anchors. If they haven't been able to get Obama's name right by now, one can only conclude there will be at least one serious gaffe during the Democratic convention. And, if Obama wins election, still more during White House press conferences. In which case, the abject humiliation alone will be enough to stop these slip-ups cold. Awkward!