April 20, 2007

What Obama said about Morgan Freeman: "This guy was president before I was."

He meant to flatter the actor (who has played a President), but oh, what slipped out!

ADDED: Does it make it better or worse that he goes on to say, "This guy was God before I was"? (Freeman played God in "Bruce Almighty.") This wasn't a planned comedy routine, but an ad lib. Maybe it would have been really funny if you heard it delivered. I think the "God" line was an attempt to save himself after the first line came out wrong. And if you look at it the right way, it's even kind of self-effacing, mocking the people who act like Obama is God. But candidates should probably avoid saying such weird things.

33 comments:

Jennifer said...

Ha! Well, the power of positive thinking and all that...

Of course, next he says "This guy was God before I was." so maybe it was all hyperbole.

XWL said...

"We are masters of the unsaid words, but slaves of those we let slip out."

(You can never go wrong quoting Churchill)

Revenant said...

This is a bit off-topic, but it strikes me that Morgan Freeman was probably the first black film actor whose race has no relevance to the viewing audience. His President role is a great example of this -- my immediate thought on seeing him in the trailers for "Deep Impact" wasn't "huh, I guess he must be the first black President or something", but "hey, Morgan Freeman's the President? Kick ass!". He seems like an obvious choice for President -- or God, for that matter.

I think he's the first black actor that's true for. I dunno, maybe Forest Whitaker or Yaphet Kotto.

BlogDog said...

If he's not careful, he'll be driving Miss Hillary to the White House. Or, to put it another way, not to chauffeur his campaign. (Sorry about that.)

rumtumtugger said...

oh ms althouse, mister kaus give the guy a break! it all seem so sourpuss, so reductive, so scolding. let a man make a joke when he's introducing an actor, or we are all ruined.

Zeb Quinn said...

I think he's the first black actor that's true for. I dunno, maybe Forest Whitaker or Yaphet Kotto.

Go find The Bedford Incident (1965) at your local video store and watch Sidney Poitier work.

joe said...

Anyone believe he really has a shot at winning? I don't.

Revenant said...

Go find The Bedford Incident (1965) at your local video store and watch Sidney Poitier work.

I'm not saying that Freeman was the first black film actor to credibly play roles that weren't explicitly black. I'm saying he's (probably) the first black film actor where viewers don't even really notice that he's black.

Poitier's a great actor, but 1960s audience were acutely aware of his race, I think.

AllenS said...

He seems to be losing his articulateness.

Internet Ronin said...

Politicians misspeak all the time [See Bush, George - either one.] Should anyone be surprised that he imagines himself as President of the United States? I mean, that's the reason he's running for the office, isn't it? The real quote of the day, as far as I am concerned, is the one Reader_Iam has posted over at Done with Mirrors. Joe Biden should be ashamed of himself.

XWL: Great quote!

Allens: Yes, that tends to happen when one hits the campaign trail day after day. Articulation goes out the window and rote recitation of stump speeches becomes the norm because anything spontaneous is either too dangerous or too tiresome.

Bissage said...

Speaking of articulateness, it’s been said that Obama is "Like a twinkie, . . . , like a twinkie."

Zeb Quinn said...

Poitier's a great actor, but 1960s audience were acutely aware of his race, I think.

The Bedford Incident came out when I was in high school. I saw it then in real time with a real live 1960s audience. The fact that Poitier and his character were black mattered not one whit to the story or to his role, and Poitier's race was totally forgotten, oh, about 30 seconds into it. That's why I referenced this particular film.

Meanwhile in Driving Miss Daisy, Morgan Freeman's breakout role, the race was central. I saw it in real time too, and the 1980s audience was keenly aware of his race.

C.C. said...

Sydney Poitier played a reporter in The Bedford Incident, not a President.

Sheesh.....

Revenant said...

The fact that Poitier and his character were black mattered not one whit to the story or to his role, and Poitier's race was totally forgotten, oh, about 30 seconds into it.

Hm, I'll take your word for it. I didn't see the film until the 1990s. My impression of his career, based on the films he's best known for today -- The Defiant Ones, Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, In the Heat of the Night, To Sir with Love -- is that he was Hollywood's go-to guy when they specifically needed a black actor.

And as "c.c." indirectly noted, I doubt that Poitier could have played the President without people thinking "huh? how come the President's a black guy in this movie?".

Meanwhile in Driving Miss Daisy, Morgan Freeman's breakout role, the race was central. I saw it in real time too, and the 1980s audience was keenly aware of his race.

If you're going to disqualify Freeman on the grounds that his race was important to his first big role, Poitier's breakout role in "The Defiant Ones" would disqualify *him*, too. Obviously viewers were keenly aware of Freemna's race in "Driving Miss Daisy". They were keenly aware of Jessica Tandy's race (and, for that matter, religion) too -- those were major plot points, after all.

Zeb Quinn said...

I'll agree that there's a big difference between playing a president and a reporter, and that Poitier playing a president in 1965 would have strained verisimilitude to the max.

But what I was responding to was this:

"This is a bit off-topic, but it strikes me that Morgan Freeman was probably the first black film actor whose race has no relevance to the viewing audience."

And my point is that that particular bee buzzed through my head in 1965. I thought that thought then, in 1965, and it was about Poitier. I remember sitting there in the theater thinking to myself, this guy is black in a part that is totally race neutral, and it doesn't matter a bit, and nobody cares. It was so unique that I couldn't help myself from noticing.

Jeff said...

One magic negro pays homage to another!

thinking said...

Actually, I think the comment was pretty funny. I think those who criticize it are parsing the words far too seriously.

It's a joke, people...pullease...

When the most you can do is criticize a candidate for a joke, then there must not be that much wrong with him.

And I'll still take Obama over Hillary any day...she is so polarizing as to rip America apart.

I'll take dumb jokes over someone that half the country hates any day.

Balfegor said...

ADDED: Does it make it better or worse that he goes on to say, "This guy was God before I was"? (Freeman played God in "Bruce Almighty.") This wasn't a planned comedy routine, but an ad lib.

Makes it better. The initial slip is just a little presumptuous, but not really a problem. With the follow-on, though, I think he mocks and distances himself from the whole personality-cult that's grown up around him, and that goes some way to neutralising what I think is currently his biggest negative -- the personality cult. It's a little creepy ("Help us, Obama, you're our only hope!"), but when he cracks jokes at his "worshippers'" expense, it's much less so.

I'll take dumb jokes over someone that half the country hates any day.

Look -- once he (or anyone else) is President, it would be kind of shocking if half the country didn't end up hating him. Half the country has hated the President with an unholy slavering passion for the past 15 years, after all, no?

Revenant said...

And my point is that that particular bee buzzed through my head in 1965.

My point is you could cast Freeman in any age-appropriate role that didn't explicitly call for him to be non-black and nobody would think it was weird. That wasn't true for Poitier in 1965. Poitier's race DID disqualify him from a lot of roles, in the public's eye, back then. Can there be any doubt that there would have been massive protests -- riots, even -- if he'd been cast as God in a comedy?

JimM47 said...

I had to read it through twice before I figured out what was amiss.

Gotta say, I think the second line was a pretty brilliant save. You speak in public often enough you are going to slip up. Unlike that guy who ran in 2004, he seems to be quick enough to tell when he has uttered a slipup.

Bissage said...

A year or two ago, Obama was on "Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me" and he seemed genuine in his quick-witted, self-effacing humor, very much unlike Christie Todd Whitman who recently came off all stiff and guarded.

Just saying.

bill said...

Morgan Freeman's breakout role was on The Electric Company. Correct that and everyone start over.

Ron said...

"Obama Almighty" has a better ring to it than either Carey or Carrell's foppish deities! Could one come up with a better campaign slogan?

Dennis Haysbert was president on 24. Wouldn't Obama have just been divine in Far From Heaven? No, not as Julianne Moore, you wags!

Ron said...

Maybe Obama could be a high-tech Larry Fishburne to Al Gore's "Neo"!!!
Gore gets the part partly because who wouldn't want to see Keanu explain the enviroment to us, and partly because Gore invented The Matrix, er, ah Internet!

McCain as Agent Smith? You know it's right! "Me me me," sez McCain...

Ron said...

Obama's Iraq policy could emulate Morgan Freeman in Unforgiven; used to be a killer, hangs around with killers, but now...too much the gentleman farmer with the Native American spouse to empathize with Nixon...er, Clint! (Let's face it, Nixon only looks slightly worse than Clint, with the advantage of death and all, and is still probably a more emotive actor)

Oh, wait it doesn't work out too well for Morgan in this one, does it? W "decorated his saloon with him!"

Annie said...

Denzel Washington and (in action movies) Wesley Snipes have also transcended race that way.

I wanted Morgan Freeman to play God in this even before I knew he actually had played God.

Zeb Quinn said...

I like Morgan Freeman as much as anyone. Most everyone likes Morgan Freeman. He's a likeable person. That's why people accept him.

That said, six years at PBS on Electric Company was a career trap for a fledgling actor in his mid-30s. Even Morgan says that. It took the racially charged role of Hoke Colburn in Driving Miss Daisy to break out from that trap, and to jumpstart his way to becoming an A-list actor.

And when it comes to being a black actor who transcends race, yes Morgan does that, but by the time he got there Sidney Poitier had already long since been there, done that, and had worn that t-shirt to tatters.

Jeff said...

Gen X loves Easy Reader and would vote for him in a heartbeat!

F15C said...

I'm not an Obama fan, but this was a politician's attempt at self deprecating humor gone not so right. It was not funny but also not so at the expense of our troops or one of America's protected classes. No big deal.

I think the real issue is Obama's running out of articulative juices. He is too green as a statesman to maintain an articulate persona over the long haul. He is becoming over-exposed and demonstrating his lack of experience. And it is only going to get worse for him and while his starry-eyed true believers will not care or even notice, the rest of the nation's voters will.

The Exalted said...

ms. althouse loves crying over spilt milk

politicians should avoid saying "weird things"? really? is this your analysis?

they talk all day, of course some things will come out wrong. if you want to see "weird things," watch any ad lib of our president, any single one.

Eli Blake said...

IMO, he should have quit after the first comment. What is wrong with expressing a degree of confidence? He says he's running to win, after all. But by saying the second one, he in effect deflates the first.

Had Bill Clinton made the same slip, he'd do exactly what I just said, and follow it up about how 'we will win.' Even when he was in trouble, he exuded confidence, and to a large degree voters like that.

Consider that millions of voters voted for Bill Clinton and also voted for George W. Bush. For such voters it is clear that they are not voting on partisan or ideological grounds, but they are voting for the more confident candidate with the 'can-do' attitude. They are also (clearly) 'swing voters' who could go in any direction so Obama had a great chance to make them his own with a show of confidence. I think his second comment prevented him from seizing the moment.

But I'll still take it over John McCain's desperate rendition of 'bomb Iran.' For sure, Obama is smart enough to realize that continuing to beat the drums of war is a guaranteed loser in this election.

Cyrus Pinkerton said...

When I posted here yesterday there were 54 comments. Today there are 31 (now 32). How does that work?

pat said...

As many narcissists do, Obama often twists things to blame others for things that are attributable to him.

There is no way he has not given considerable thought to what his own polarizing presence as President would do to this country, and he is, because of race, far more polarizing than Hillary, first because race has always been more polarizing in public, and second, because Hillary has already been in the White House once, but not officially in charge.

If the nation will be ripped apart, it will be Obama, not Hillary, who does it. But Americans are likely to vote McCain anyway for that reason.

If America was ready for either black or woman, they would be much more prevalent at the upper echelons of government, business, and the professions.