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  • irishtimes.com - Posted: April 1, 2009 @ 10:32 am

    Rush to judgment on Cowen-Obama ‘incident’

    Deaglán de Bréadún

    He’s a big name in the US but little-known on this side of the Atlantic. Talk-radio broadcaster and kingpin of the right Rush Limbaugh recently took a passing interest in Irish affairs but got the story entirely wrong, as far I can make out.


    Having the craic at the Teach Bán (White House): Brian Cowen and
    Barack Obama (Reuters photograph from  Irish Times)

    Essentially, during  his White House visit, Taoiseach Brian Cowen began reading a speech from the teleprompter but quickly realised that he was reading a script intended for President Obama.

    He informed the President of this, to uproarious laughter and applause and quipped that he thought these machines were “idiot-proof”. Responding in kind at the end, Obama pretended to read a line from a Cowen script and jokingly thanked “President Obama”.

    It was all a bit of fun and craic but Obama’s political opponents seized on it, with the aid of some ambiguous reporting, and made it part of their case that the White House incumbent is “TOTUS” (Teleprompter of the United States) and not “POTUS” (President of the United States).

    Rush Limbaugh was well to the fore and a YouTube of his radio broadcast is featured in a blog by my former colleague on the Belfast beat, Toby Harnden of the Daily Telegraph, who has analysed the incident in detail. It’s well-worth reading, so click here.  The “Begorra” headline in the AP report he refers to is quite depressing: one would have thought that kind of Paddywhackery had died away.

    • The Dog Warden says:

      Some idiot even started a TOTUS blog


    • Harry Leech says:

      The sort of Paddy-whackery that was displayed on the AP site is depressing, but hardly surprising. There are a small but significant proportion of the UK population who have had their noses put out of joint that the colonials have apparently being doing quite well without them for the last few years. The amount of (especially young) people who casually drop into conversation “oh that’s so Irish” as a euphemism for stupidity is quite shocking and disturbing. If you point out to them that if you inserted any other minority into that sentence instead of Irish that they would be considered racist they can find it hard to process. It’s that ingrained.

      As for Rush Limbaugh, he’s essentially a right-wing “shock jock” and if the Democrats and others in the US would just ignore him he would spin himself out. Obama made the mistake in his first few weeks in office of mentioning him in a speech and he ended up sending people to the website to see what all the fuss was about.

      What’s quite telling about Rush’s audience is that in that clip he took almost 7 minutes to spin a tale that could be told to someone of average intellect in about 30 seconds, true or not.

    • Betterworld Now says:

      Are you suggesting that we should be surprised that the US media bends reportage to suit a right-wing political agenda?

      Those of us who have been reading about Cuba from US media sources know that US print media reporting is little more than – in the words of a recent F.A.I.R study – “a system in which editors seemed to have internalized U.S. strategic thinking, subordinating human rights commentary and reporting to politics, where a given country’s human rights record is held to greater or lesser scrutiny based on how friendly the country is with the U.S.”

      That is why US print media reporting it is so often misleading, particularly on human rights issues.

      Much of the reporting of Cuba that appears in the Irish print media is lifted verbatim from US media sources, including AP. Their Anita Snow, who was based in Cuba for much of the last decade, has been long regarded in Cuba as politically-blinkered.

      At least in the US case the process is clear. It is decidedly more difficult to untangle the local historic, cultural and ideological reasons which ensure that all attempts to have the Irish record corrected as a result of contamination from the US media are censored.

      This is not the case for President Obama who, as your link shows, still enjoys a few champions in the European media. For now.

      *FAIR (Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting) Study: “Human Rights Coverage Serving Washington’s Needs” – February 2009

    • eamonireland says:

      Most of the coverage I’ve seen from the US has been incorrect, reporting, as you say, that Obama made a gaffe by not realising it was the wrong speech and thanking himself. Lazy reporting.

    • Patrick Hennessy says:

      Harry you say that “Obama made the mistake in his first few weeks in office of mentioning him (Limbaugh) in a speech and he ended up sending people to the website to see what all the fuss was about.”

      That was no mistake. A great Obama move. Rush Limbaugh should be heard by all Americans and the world so that they can judge just how far off-base hardline Republicans are. Keep Rush Limbaugh right up there in the news and moderate Republicans will be seeking ways to assassinate him come 2012. This man sums up the level of tunnel vision, cultural myopia, and venemous self-righteousness which has taken over large swathes of the mid-States and the Republican party.

      By the way in all my travels I have never met a single ex-pat American who does not find him a huge embarrassment. Outside of the boondogs of the mid-West this man is a total laughing stock.



    • I’d suggest your ex-pat Americans’ embarrassment stems as much from the fact that Mr Limbaugh appeals greatly to and represents the thinking of a very large number of their fellow US citizens. Kind of the way some of us used get very embarrassed at the mention of Charles J. or the sound of Bartholomew A.

    • Deaglán says:

      In case it’s too subtle, Bartholomew is Bertie’s proper name.

    • citizen girl says:

      Go to http://www.freerepublic.com for some amusing but ultimately frightening and depressing views of Republican conservatives who listen to the idiot racist that is Limbaugh. One would laugh until you realise millions of them voted for McCain and Palin

    • Declan martyn says:

      Paddy-bashing patronising tone in the Guardian also on this minor humorous incident, also referred to Obama’s Irish blood as if it was some manufactured gimmick cooked-up by the press room, oh those silly Paddys sort of slant. It’s tiresome, not as bad as so-called Julie Burchill’s xenophobic racist anti-Irish ravings in the Observer a few years ago but ignorant nonetheless. How is this stuff still allowed when crap lunged at the Muslims or black community is heavily condemned and why did Fintan O’Toole get in on the act by making a joke of Obama’s Irish connection? That was until Obama himself, educated man as he is, showed his interest in his roots, and his awareness of the historical ties between black abolitionist writer and campaigner Frederick Douglass and Daniel O’Connell during the Famine period.

    • Makl says:

      haha just read that Burchill quote …

      “In 2002, Burchill was investigated for incitement to racial hatred over her criticism of London mayor Ken Livingstone’s spending on St Patrick’s Day in London, when she criticised Ireland and described the country’s flag as “the Hitler-licking, altar-boy-molesting, abortion-banning Irish tri-colour”.

      top-class racial hatred.

      “However, the Crown Prosecution Service said there was insufficient evidence to pursue the case and the Metropolitan police dropped the charges.”

      defo cant see any evidence at all…

      that use of the phrase ‘a bit Irish’ is well annoyin’ too. check out this serbo-english dictionary translation:



      e.g glup = irish, stupid, libberly, dense, thick-witted… like wha??!

    • Deaglán says:

      This is the full Burchill quote from the Guardian, 2002:

      ‘Oooo, a football fan!” said the nice lady at the M&S cash desk as I stepped forward with some £75-worth of Union Jack towels the day before the England-Brazil match. “Oh no,” I replied pleasantly. “That’s a game played by imbeciles for the benefit of cretins. No, I’m just a patriot who’s taking advantage of the fact that, for the first time in more than 30 years, we’re allowed to display the flag of our country without being visited by the touchy-feely thought police and accused of incipient fascism. Of course, if one had during that time shown the flag of a country that really did support fascism when it was a threat, such as Japan, Germany, Eire or most Arab countries, not only would one not be called upon to pull it down, one might also be given a local government grant and congratulated on ‘celebrating diversity’.

      “Who can forget the recent example of Mayor Livingstone, who contributed hundreds of thousands of pounds of Londoners’ money to celebrate Irishness last St Patrick’s Day? To celebrate, that is, almost compulsory child molestation by the national church, total discrimination against women who wish to be priests, aiding and abetting Herr Hitler in his hour of need, and outlawing abortion and divorce. What a hero of socialism!”

    • During the Eighties Burchill was a big fan of old Joe Stalin and his enlightened Gulag policy.She wasted a lot of newsprint in painting the Soviet Union as a paradise where everyone was walking around in a perfect proletarian state, this was just when the Berlin Wall collapsed and Burchill was left holding her sickle. Burchill was been propagating her anti-Irish Racist garbage and far worse examples are available than what she has written in the Guardian. How did she get away with it?

    • Duine gan Ainm says:

      Just a small technical point.. If you were asked to translate “Yes, we can” into Irish how would you do it? “Is féidir linn” translates “We can”, but not IMHO “Yes, we can”. Literally “Is amhlaidh is féidir linn” could translate “Yes (or indeed) we can”, but doesn’t quite convey the meaning of the phrase as used during the Obama 08 campaign. “Go deimhin dearfa is féidir linn” gets the meaning, but unfortunately, does not trip off the tongue. “Sea, is féidir linn”, perhaps.. Any suggestions, anyone?

    • 12345678910 says:

      Obama is clearly a bore, he nevered offered the Prime Minister Tony Blair a State Dinner. Surprisingly, the city of San Francisco criticised him.

    • Deaglán says:

      Surely you mean Gordon Brown, or did I miss something?

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