President Barack Obama made his difficult week worse Thursday by saying his poor bowling skills are “like the Special Olympics or something,” an athletic competition for people with disabilities. His spokesman quickly said Obama hadn’t intended any offense.
Appearing on “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno” in California, Obama sought to mock his lackluster bowling skills by saying that he recently bowled a score of 129 in the White House bowling alley.
After the show’s taping and en route back to Washington on Air Force One, Deputy Press Secretary Bill Burton told reporters that Obama had “made an offhand remark making fun of his own bowling that was in no way intended to disparage the Special Olympics.”
“He thinks that the Special Olympics are a wonderful program that gives an opportunity to shine to people with disabilities from around the world,” Burton said.
Aside from the regrettable appearance of a president even implicitly poking fun at the disabled, Obama’s comments came on the same day that he had appeared with California First Lady Maria Shriver, an early supporter whose mother founded the games.
U.S. President Barack Obama (L) speaks to host Jay Leno on the NBC late night comedy show “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno” in Burbank, California March 19, 2009.REUTERS/Larry Downing (UNITED STATES POLITICS ENTERTAINMENT SOCIETY)
Eunice Kennedy Shriver, Maria Shriver’s mother and the former president’s sister, founded the athletic competition for the disabled in 1968.
Obama used much of his appearance on the comedy show to discuss the economy but sought to get in some light-hearted quips toward the end of the taping.
He said he had been working on his bowling game just below his new residence and recently rolled a 129.
“That’s very good, Mr. President,” cracked host Jay Leno
It’s “like the Special Olympics or something,” the president replied.
Obama’s bowling skills, or lack thereof, have been a running joke since he fared poorly during an impromptu game at a Pennsylvania bowling alley during the Democratic primary last year.
Obama’s line on Leno was reminiscent of a crack at Nancy Reagan he let slip last year.
“I didn’t want to get into a Nancy Reagan thing about, you know, doing any seances,” he said at a press conference days after being elected last November, a reference to the former First Lady‘s consultation with an astrologer during her time in the White House.
Obama called the elderly Reagan after his comment and apologized about what an aide described as “a careless and off-handed remark.”
From the Washington Times:
St. CLOUD, Minn. | To hear his camp tell it Thursday, President Obama has been in the dark on his administration’s controversial efforts to force veterans to use their private insurance for treatments and to clear the way for large bonuses to be paid to the executives of the failed insurance giant AIG.
Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. was the latest to offer the president-didn’t-know defense, suggesting to a Minnesota audience that Mr. Obama was “unaware” of the veterans plan until the president floated it to veterans groups leaders this past Monday and stirred a major controversy.
Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner joined the bandwagon, saying it was he and not the president who deserved the blame for letting the bonuses to American International Group Inc. proceed.
“It’s my responsibility,” Mr. Geithner said, taking the blame just days after the White House leaked reports that it didn’t know about the bonuses until after they were issued.
The efforts to shield the president from the fallout of early administration missteps has opened a door for Republicans to cast doubts on the competence, credibility and discipline of the new White House.
“We have the president saying he takes full responsibility and then saying it’s not his fault,” said Sen. Jon Kyl, Arizona Republican.
Mr. Kyl and other top Senate Republicans tweaked the president for finding the time to fill out an NCAA basketball tournament bracket and appear on Jay Leno’s “Tonight Show” while anger was boiling over in Washington over revelations of the bonuses and while the nation’s credit markets remained in crisis.
“This administration seems to have disdain or very little time for the hard work of governing,” said Sen. John Cornyn, Texas Republican.
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