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Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Obama Finds Out Words Have Meaning

Touchy. Touchy.

Our president is on trouble, it seems, for having constructed a sentence poorly. Well, not really poorly. Just not to the Polish government's liking.

This, it seems to me, is petty:
Obama 'misspoke' over Nazi death camp says White House
Yahoo News

The White House tried to head off a diplomatic spat with Poland after President Barack Obama mistakenly called a Nazi facility used to process Jews for execution as a "Polish death camp."

The linguistic faux pas overshadowed Obama's posthumous award of America's highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, to Jan Karski, a former Polish underground officer who provided early eyewitness accounts of the Nazi purge against Jews.

"Before one trip across enemy lines, resistance fighters told him that Jews were being murdered on a massive scale, and smuggled him into the Warsaw Ghetto and a Polish death camp to see for himself," Obama said.

The Polish government keenly watches the global media for descriptions of former concentration camps as "Polish" because it says the term -- even if used simply as a geographical indicator -- can give the impression that Poland bore responsibility for Nazi Germany's World War II genocide.

Tommy Vietor, a spokesman for Obama's National Security Council, said that the president "misspoke."

"He was referring to Nazi death camps in Poland. [link]
That's the sort of laziness that gets a politician in trouble.

But gimme a break.  Aren't we splitting hairs here?

It's worth noting that there's a good reason why the Polish government is sensitive to such talk.  Though it had nothing to do with the establishment of the extermination program there in the 40's that, for all intents and purposes, wiped out Poland's Jewish population, little was done at the end of World War II to return confiscated property to the heirs of the rightful owners.  To this day, the squatters still have possession of thousands of pieces of real estate that had been owned by Jews sent to Treblika and Sobibor and Majdenek and Belzek and Auschwitz, never to be seen again.  It's worth noting, too, that there were no "Poles" who made that journey into extinction.  So there's more than a little bit of a sense of guilt involved here.

Still, the Polish government needs to get a life.  Yeah, Obama got his adjective wrong.  Get over it.