President Barack Obama's much talked about bowling gaffe on Thursday's "Tonight Show" was good according to CNN's Larry King because it focuses attention on the Special Olympics.
Although it was predictable that such rationalizations would be heard from the Obama-loving media, one really has to wonder whether King and his ilk would have seen any upside if former President Bush had made such a disgraceful comment on national television.
While you consider the unlikelihood of such, as well as the double standard it implies, take a gander at the pained look on the face of Special Olympics Chairman Timothy Shriver when King on Friday's program played him the tape of Obama's comments (video embedded below the fold with partial transcript, link available here for Internet Explorer users):
LARRY KING, HOST:We begin with Tim Shriver, the chairman of the Special Olympics.
He joins us in Washington.
I was telling Tim that I remember when it began. I had his father and mother, who began all of this 41 years ago, on my shows back then in Miami. Tim is -- he was just a little tyke then, going to Oriole games.
He's now chairman of the Special Olympics. President Obama, as we all know, made a controversial offhand remark about the Olympics last night while on "The Tonight Show."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JAY LENO," COURTESY NBC)
LENO: Are they going to put a basketball -- I imagine the bowling alley has been just burned and closed down?
OBAMA: No, no. I've been prac...
LENO: Oh, you're going to keep it?
OBAMA: I have been practicing bowling.
OBAMA: I -- I bowled a 129.
OBAMA: I had...
LENO: Oh, no. That's very good. Yes.
OBAMA: I (INAUDIBLE) it was like...
LENO: No, that's very good, Mr. President.
OBAMA: It was like Special Olympics or something.
LENO: Oh, that's -- no, that's very good.
OBAMA: The -- no, listen, I -- I'm making progress on the bowling.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Tim, I understand he called you.
TIMOTHY SHRIVER, CHAIRMAN, SPECIAL OLYMPICS: He did, shortly after the appearance from Air Force One. He, I think, understood immediately that -- that his choice of words that he said was the wrong choice of words. He expressed his regret. He used the word apology and he said he had not intended to cause any pain or any humiliation to anyone.
And he committed to -- to opening the door to more engagement with our movement. And, you know, the president, I think notwithstanding this situation, has opened the door for a teachable moment here. I think -- I can't brush aside the pain and the sadness this caused a lot of people.
My e-mail traffic today and phone traffic today was just overwhelmed by parents who felt a certain sense of betrayal and a certain sense of sadness in this moment, not because they attributed malice to the president, but because they attribute a certain pain on behalf of their own children from these kinds of remarks -- remarks that, even in a subtle way, are somewhat humiliating and putdowns of people with special needs.
So I think we're on a new trajectory now to talk about what we can do as a country, what he can do as the leader of the country to awaken us to the needs and the gifts of this population.
KING: In a sense, then, a bad occurrence -- or an occurrence that was in poor taste -- can turn out good because it now focuses attention on what you do.
SHRIVER: I think that's right. I think, you know, if you look to even today, Larry, we saw a huge spectrum of responses. We had a lot of people writing to us saying how offended they were by these remarks. We had an equal number of people writing to us saying, what was the problem?
Why don't we have a sense of humor?
Get over it.
And I think it reflects, again, what -- what we've been trying to discuss through our movements over 40 years, which is there's still a gap in understanding. There's still a misunderstanding of the needs of this population, of their dignity, of their aspirations, of their feelings. Still, most people think there's nothing wrong with using the word retard, there's nothing wrong with making a joke about Special Olympians.
KING: Were you shocked -- by the way, were you watching the show?
SHRIVER: Well, I ended up watching the show, but he called me before the show aired.
KING: Oh, I see.
Were you shocked when you watched it?
SHRIVER: I was -- I was just -- you know, I have to say I was a little heartbroken...
SHRIVER: Again, not because of -- not because of -- that I attribute malice to the president. And, you know, I think all of us, as Americans, are respectful of the office and respectful of the leader that we have in these kinds of situations.
But it hurt. And I think he knows that. And he understands it. And I think he -- you know, he's challenged this country to change in so many ways. And we're all embarking on so many different changes. This is one of those changes that where he can be the role model of how to do it.
SHRIVER: And the first step is to say you're sorry. And then from there to find the new patterns where we can find new ways to get along.
They sure are forgiving, aren't they?
Of course, none of this is at all surprising, for Shriver is Ted Kennedy's nephew, and Caroline Kennedy's cousin.
Think he could possibly say anything bad about Obama?
On the flipside, would he and King have been so forgiving if Bush had made such a comment?
Yes, that's rhetorical.