Campaigns/Elections

Barack's Uncle Problem

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The Wash Post reports this bit from a campaign speech by Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) yesterday:

"I had a uncle who was one of the, who was part of the first American troops to go into Auschwitz and liberate the concentration camps," Obama said, slowly and methodically. "And the story in my family is that when he came home, he just went into the attic, and he didn't leave the house for six months. Alright? Now, obviously something had affected him deeply, but at the time, there just weren't the kinds of facilities to help somebody work through that kind of pain."

That may be a fact, the RNC noted gleefully—but only if Obama's uncle served in the Red Army of Joseph Stalin, which liberated Auschwitz Jan. 27, 1945.

Obama's campaign said that the candidate misspoke and that his uncle actually was involved in the liberation of Buchenwald.

More here.

As we learned yesterday at Hit & Run, uncles really cause more trouble than they're worth.

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  1. So he’s a liar, like Hilary is a liar, like George Bush and Rumsfeld and Tony Blair are liars. Where is the news here? That he thinks, like many Americans brought up on Hollywood, that it is only the USA that fights and wins wars, that the only good things done by human beings have to have been done by Americans? That he is after the Jewish vote? That he will lie to get into office?

  2. For my uncle in Red Army, concentration camps you!

  3. technomist, I seriously hope you’re kidding. Mistaking which concentration camp was liberated elides that in the speech the point was not which but rather that it was liberated at all and that his uncle was a part of that. If mixing up two names of things (never mind people) is lying, then we are all guilty many times a day.

  4. Hillary actually has Nazi bullets in her ass!

  5. Obama’s campaign said that the candidate misspoke and that his uncle actually was involved in the liberation of Buchenwald.

    I don’t suppose anyone has ever fact-checked that one?

    And the story in my family is that when he came home, he just went into the attic, and he didn’t leave the house for six months.

    Or that one?

  6. And the story in my family is that when he came home, he just went into the attic, and he didn’t leave the house for six months.

    Or that one?

    Or was that the bathroom?

  7. ‘Misspeaking’ is an American euphemism for not telling the truth while trying to lie to the public in order to get elected. This is not the kind of white lie where you tell your wife her bum isn’t big. It may be fine on your side of the pond but it is not acceptable to me.

    When politicians deliberately draw on others’ experiences and associate themselves with them, in order to get into elected office, it seems entirely acceptable in America to lie about those experiences, either their own or other people’s. Its not a new thing, it seems your whole political class have been doing it for so long you all think its normal in the States. Ever wondered why the world doesn’t trust your nation’s leadership as much as they used to? There used to be men of integrity in the Oval office, but that is a long tome ago.

    Lets say Obama is just ‘innocently’ trying to express something about the traumatisation that conflict creates in its participants and trying to express his sympathetic and empathetic nature. Apparently, however Obama could not be bothered to talk sufficiently with his uncle to be able to understand and proudly remember what his uncle’s experiences actually were. Moreover, if Obama knew any history at all, he would know that Auschwitz was liberated by the Russian army and this kind of ‘mispeaking’ would not have been possible. He is supposed to be an educated man. These were epoch defining events he is displaying his ignorance and lack of interest in the truth about. His blunder is as stupid as saying that the Japanese destroyed the American Fleet in a sneak attack at San Diego.

  8. And the story in my family is that when he came home, he just went into the attic, and he didn’t leave the house for six months.

    Or that one?

    I think “the story in my family is” = “this is not really true, but I can put the responsibility for the lie on someone else”.

  9. That’s pretty forgivable. I can see how Buchenwald would become Auschwitz after decades of family legend.

  10. You chumps have all been deceived by Obama’s evasions. You’re so concerned with Buchenwald/Auschwitz that you all failed to notice that it was in fact his great-uncle! See how easily he misdirects you from his even greater blunders?

  11. Trevor – I don’t know what your family’s history is, so can’t know how reasonable your point seems to you in the light of that experience. However, I am betting that such a mistake would be more likely if a family did not have a family member who was traumatized by entering Buchenwald concentration camp, than if it did.

    I suspect that in most families that have an uncle who had been into Buchenwald, the details of this would not be something a member of that family would be ignorant about if they had asked any questions about it at all.

    Buchenwald was the first camp liberated by American forces. Auschwitz was not. Would no-one in a family which had a legend that had morphed into one that an uncle or great uncle for that matter had liberated Auschwitz rather than Buchenwald have not noticed the error? Wouldn’t the person concerned have corrected it? Wouldn’t Barrack Obama have shown an ounce of curiosity and checked some of the details? I think that a man who is a politically motivated type and interested in his family’s origins, his place in the world, historical events and how his family history had shaped his world, would have been keen and proud to have found out the truth about it.

    This explanation, that Obama is an unwitting recipient of an inaccurate legend, seems unlikely to me.

  12. at any rate, I think we can all agree that this is not the same thing as when Hilary lied about sniperfire. It’s not like we all went “Oh, it was only Buchenwald? That couldn’t have been traumatic at all!”

  13. My Republican co-worker just turned to me and said “They’re making a big deal out of this? What douchebags.”

    And he’s on their team, fer chrissakes.

  14. There is a story in my family that I have ancestors from the Crow Tribe. Given that I have no family from Montana or any western state in that area the story is probably not true. The story originated around some ceremony regarding corn husking and finding a colored kernel. Interesting stuff, but most likely bravo sierra. I supposedly also have Amish ancestors. That legend is probably true – I actually do have ancestors from Holmes County, Pennsylvania.

  15. Uncle, shmuncle.

    I’m trying to decide if I can vote for someone who says “Alright?”

    Let’s just call it a transcription error.

    Aiiight?

  16. Actually, I just asked two of my coworkers who were stationed in Germany a few years ago. Seems the information at Buchenwald was heavily Soviet participation when both the American 6th Armored Division, 3rd Army (commanded by GEN Patton) and the Soviets arriving at about the same time.

    This account credits the Communist prisoners for leading a revolt and killing the guards prior to the Allied arrival and liberation. It makes no mention of Soviet Red Army participation.

    So, if Sen. Obama’s relative was in the 3rd Army, especially with any of the units mentioned in the link (including the 80th ID), it is plausable. If he was not evn in the 3rd Army, then the myth is busted, but the Sen. can not be assumed to be at fault for passing on a story he believed as true.

    YMMV

    PIRS,

    Perhaps they are talking about the Crow tribe from MST3K?

  17. joe –
    I was confused by the “alright” as well. Is it being used in this context like an “mmmkay?”

  18. The U.S. Holocaust Museum confirms that Obama’s great uncle’s unit liberated a concentration camp at Buchenwald.

    http://www.ushmm.org/wlc/article.php?lang=en&ModuleId=10006140

    Obama’s Great Uncle (His Grandmother’s Brother) Served in the 89th Infantry Division that Liberated Ohrdruf, a Subcamp of Buchenwald, the First Camp Liberated by Americans, on April 4, 1945; It Was Visited by Eisenhower, Patton and Bradley on April 12th. “Formed in 1917, shortly after the United States entered World War I, the 89th Infantry Division participated in several major military battles. In World War II, the “Rolling W” division landed in France in January 1945 and quickly advanced to the German front. In March 1945, it joined the Third Army’s assault on the Rhineland, crossing the Sauer, Moselle, and Rhine rivers that same month. On April 8, the 89th captured the town of Eisenach and subsequently advanced farther into Thuringia and into neighboring Saxony, where it took the city of Zwickau on April 18, 1945. On April 4, 1945, the 89th overran Ohrdruf, a subcamp of the Buchenwald concentration camp. Ohrdruf was the first Nazi concentration camp liberated by U.S. troops in Germany. A week later, on April 12, Generals Dwight D. Eisenhower, George S. Patton, and Omar Bradley visited Ohrdruf to see, firsthand, evidence of Nazi atrocities against concentration camp prisoners.” [United States Holocaust Museum]

  19. Reinmoose,

    Whatev.

  20. The U.S. Holocaust Museum confirms that Obama’s great uncle’s unit liberated a concentration camp at Buchenwald.

    See? SEE?!? Obama lied, Jews cried!

    / right-wing nutcase mode off

  21. This is the difference between Obama and Hillary; Hillary would have gotten caught making up details. She would have told a story about being given some object by somebody she never met. Or it would have turned out that she didn’t have an uncle. Or that he spent the war on a ship.

  22. Damn, Eplisiarch’s raining threes all over this thread.

  23. PIRS – There is no Holmes County, Pa. What office are you running for?

  24. There are no dead jews here. The negro is trying to misdirect you from his muslim ways.

  25. I can’t seem to get too worked up over the fact that Obama is ignorant of both WW II and his family history. This really does seem like more of a fuckup due to poor memory or ignorance than a deliberate attempt to lie.

  26. You folks are missing the point. How many of you know or even care what your uncle (or great uncle) did in his bygone years? Conservatives should be kissing Obama’s ass right now for being such a nonpareil role model.

  27. Reading the third generation of wingnut denunciations on this thread is funny.

    OK, he didn’t lie, he didn’t make up the story, his uncle really did liberate a German concentration camp, the guy did suffer problems after the war, but…well…there must something wrong with his character, if he got the name of the camp wrong.

    It’s the mirror image of the pony/manure story. With all of these ponies, there must be some manure in here somewhere.

  28. Just a lill’ mistake. But, Buchenwald or other camp, no problem.

  29. Well, I had an uncle, by marriage, who was a POW camp guard for a good part of WWII. The part where he was not fighting in the Pacific theater. He spoke fluent German and Italian, so I guess that is how he got assigned to camps with Germans and Italians.

    Another uncle, by marriage, was in the 82nd and jumped during the D-Day invasion.

    If you asked me to recall any of their adventures, I would be hard pressed to come up with much as they did not mention much of what they did directly to me, even after I enlisted or after I got commissioned.

    The uncle who served in the Pacific theater had a cool story of messing with plastic explosives when they first got them, but that was about it.

    This nonsense about Sen. Obama’s statement is about as relevant/irrelevant as Mrs. Clinton’s statement about Bobby Kennedy. The criticism of both has been about as irrelevant as it gets.

  30. Getting slightly off topic, as a Russian I find this label – “The Red Army of Joseph Stalin” pretty insulting. I know the Washington Post has a pretty strong anti-Russian bias but this is ridiculous. It was not the fucking Army of Stalin, it was the Soviet Army. No one was fighting for fucking Stalin either, they were fighting to kick the Germans out of Russian and punish them. There’s a reason why most recruiting posters said “The Motherland calls you”, and not “Stalin calls you.” Even at the worst point of the Soviet dictatorship most people had no desire to give their lives for Stalin. Suck my hairy Russian balls, Weisman.

  31. [uber-Leftie voice]

    I can not believe that I am the only person defending Obama on this thread while everybody else makes up lies and exagerations of what was said.

    This is a den of dittoheads!!!

    [/uber-Leftie voice]

  32. vanya,

    But isn’t “The Soviet Red Army” correct? As opposed to what you mentioned from the Post, of course.

  33. Maybe cousin Cheney could correct him on his uncle’s history.

  34. The fact that people are making a fuss about this shows how badly Obama will crush McCain. Basically, if this is all you’ve got, you will lose.

  35. Take your pills, Guy, and those voices will go away.

  36. The U.S. Holocaust Museum confirms that Obama’s great uncle’s unit liberated a concentration camp at Buchenwald.

    Well, there’s the setup confirmed, at least. I doubt any professional journalists went to the trouble that joe did, however.

    Now, how about the point of the story? Did his uncle really hide in the attic for six months?

  37. Sorry joe, did not notice that you beat me to the uber-dooper wackjob Left statement about the third generation wingnuts on this thread.

    Sometimes my psychicness is not quick enough to beat your predictible statements.

  38. This nonsense about Sen. Obama’s statement is about as relevant/irrelevant as Mrs. Clinton’s statement about Bobby Kennedy. The criticism of both has been about as irrelevant as it gets.

    Well, yes and no. The veracity of and judgment behind these kinds of statements are relevant, I think.

    Republicans get held to higher standard than Dems for their personal lives because they espouse conservative values for people’s personal lives. Why shouldn’t Obama get held to a higher standard for his campaign if he holds himself out as a new kind of politican, etc.?

  39. Not a lie, but screwing up the details (I will give him a free pass on the uncle/great uncle bit) shows that he didnt really care about the family history until he needed it politically. If he was the kind of guy who deeply cared about his uncle’s story and did school reports on it and read extra books about it and etc. he wouldnt have screwed up the details.

  40. The news cycle is going to be dominated by the new McClellan book I imagine.

  41. RCD,

    Well, yea I was wondering what would happen if something like this came from Sen. McCain or Pres. Bush. I suspect the MSM would be echoing it longer and louder.

    Almost as if Pres. Carter and Pres. Bush pronounced “nuclear” in the same manner, but different than the way folks in NYC and DC normally do, if there would be a difference in how that was reported.

    Ooops, I just gave a perfect example, didn’t I 😉

  42. RC Dean, yes. He was working on a batch of untitled poems.

  43. I honestly cannot believe that anyone is really taking this Obama character seriously. I personally think Hillary hit the nail on the head with her comment the other day. I dont think he’ll last a week if elected.

    JT
    http://www.fireme.to/udi

  44. Guy, do you think your great-nephews will screw up the story about the time you were an extra in the cafeteria scene in Gigli?

  45. Disclosure: I prefer Obama to McCain.

    Obama may have many problems, but this ain’t one. I know he is a good speaker and all, but to me this sounds like what “misspoke” actually means. I misspeak all the time. Not like 99% of politicians misspeaking, which is just getting caught in a lie, but confusing two words?

    C’mon – there’s all sorts of credible problems conservatives can pick on with Obama, this is just sad.

  46. “PIRS – There is no Holmes County, Pa. What office are you running for?”

    Aha! Someone caught that! Holmes County is actually in Ohio. But it IS Amish Country. So that is OK. Right?

    http://www.visitamishcountry.com/

  47. Aha! Someone caught that! Holmes County is actually in Ohio. But it IS Amish Country. So that is OK. Right?

    Is that where the hawkish Amish who support Mrs. Clinton live?

  48. Hawkish Amish? AM I missing something?

  49. If you train hawks to attack the “English,” you don’t actually have to engage in violence.

  50. I can see why this is such a big deal. If it turns out that McCain was a POW in the Saigon Sheraton instead of the Hanoi Hilton, I’m totally not voting for him.

  51. “If you train hawks to attack the “English,” you don’t actually have to engage in violence.”

    Actually you could just hire someone to attack the English for you. They hire bus drivers to take them shopping.

  52. If you train hawks to attack the “English,” you don’t actually have to engage in violence.

    Chock full of win.

    If he was the kind of guy who deeply cared about his uncle’s story and did school reports on it and read extra books about it and etc. he wouldn’t have screwed up the details.

    Unless he was repeatedly, through the family grapevine, given incorrect details.

    In either case, I don’t think it a reasonable requirement to thoroughly fact-check every bleeding anecdote that one might use that doesn’t involve you personally. If McCain or Obama want to tell stories about their great aunt or uncle or whatever, simply to illustrate a point, who the hell cares if every name lines up? It’s supposed to be about the point, not the trivia.

  53. If he was the kind of guy who deeply cared about his uncle’s story and did school reports on it and read extra books about it and etc. he wouldn’t have screwed up the details.

    And who.t.f cares whether he cared a lot about his uncle’s story? If you’re using something to illustrate a point, it could have been “I knew a guy who’s uncle…” and it wouldn’t have made a shred of difference.

  54. I wonder if his uncle had to dodge any snipers?

  55. Plant Immigration RIghts Supporter,

    Hawkish Amish? AM I missing something?

    Was from one of the Democrat Primary threads when PA was voting, I think.

    IIRWIW it was something like the hawkish Amish are descended from the Amish Knights of the Quaker/Amish wars. They use wooden guns carved into the shape of Amazon Princesses, that they cling to as they sleep.

  56. “IIRWIW it was something like the hawkish Amish are descended from the Amish Knights of the Quaker/Amish wars. They use wooden guns carved into the shape of Amazon Princesses, that they cling to as they sleep.”

    Thanks, I guess my schooling skipped over that part of history. Thanks, I guess my schooling skipped over that part of history. This should be made an entry in Uncyclopedia

  57. I would guess that the majority of people, even educated ones, would only be able to name Auschwitz if they even could name one concentration camp. It’s close the the Kleenex(TM) or Frisbee(TM) of nazi evil.

  58. The uncle/great-uncle thing probably isn’t even an error. My grandnephews and grandniece know me as Uncle Syd and if Obama knew his great-uncle, he would have called him Uncle, too.

    This is the sort of thing that happens when people jump on candidates’ every word instead of listening to the meaning of what they say.

  59. This is the sort of thing that happens when people jump on candidates’ every word instead of listening to the meaning of what they say.

    Yep, it sure does.

    Now, someone on this thread will take that as a Rightwingnut attack on Sen. Obama anyway.

  60. This ,misspeaking’ on this topic is not a one-off, off the cuff remark. Obama seems to have form on this topic, if the following source is correct:

    http://www.talkleft.com/story/2008/5/27/1719/01583

    ‘… in a speech in West Virginia in April: [Historic Obama speech Charleston Gazette (West Virginia) April 8, 2008, Tuesday, Lexis.com]

    “My grandfather signed up for a war the day after Pearl Harbor was bombed, fought in Patton’s army. He saw the dead and dying across the fields of Europe; he heard the stories of fellow troops who first entered Auschwitz and Treblinka. He fought in the name of a larger freedom, part of that arsenal of democracy that triumphed over evil, and he did not fight in vain.”

    So, in April Obama said his grandfather heard stories from American soldiers who were the first to enter Auschwitz and Treblinka. Yesterday, he said an uncle of his helped liberate Auschwitz.’

    Using this material twice in public speeches is not insignificant: Obama is clearly a man willing to peddle tales about his family with no interest in the historical accuracy of his accounts.

    He seems to me to be just another liar.

  61. And who.t.f cares whether he cared a lot about his uncle’s story?

    Not caring a lot about his uncle’s story is the manure under the pile of ponies.

  62. I skipped the latter half of the comments. Consensus appears to be, an honest minor mistake. Who here really knew the differences between Buchenwald and Auschwitz? I’m not =historically ignorant, and all I could have told you was that Auschwitz was the champ at genocide.

    Much ado about nothing.

  63. I can’t blame Obama too much for not knowing the difference between Buchenwald and Auschwitz. I’m sure Yasser Arafat got them confused too.

  64. And who.t.f cares whether he cared a lot about his uncle’s story?

    No one. I made the comment and I dont care. My point, which I made badly is that I find it odd he isnt more a history buff. If I had a great uncle with a story like that, I would have known all the details.

    I think he used the story to make a political point, which is okay, but he didnt really care enough about the uncle’s story to remember all the details, which is also okay. I just dont understand it.

  65. Yeah, but Yassir Arafat could totally tell the difference between Sunnis and Shia.

  66. robc,

    It’s probably easier to make a mistake like that involving a family story than something you learn from research or reading.

    First of all, it’s a lot more likely to be wrong, as the story got handed down. Second, who fact checks their momma?

  67. When he is President and turns up in Europe to lay wreaths at these historic places, (as he will almost certainly be required to do on your nation’s behalf when he visits Germany or Poland, now he’s claiming a family interest) he’d better have his stories straight.

  68. joe,

    Second, who fact checks their momma?

    Really, Im not supposed to be doing that? (I did it over the holiday weekend, in fact)

  69. I fact check my Mom because she is a democrat. 🙂

  70. Really, Im not supposed to be doing that? (I did it over the holiday weekend, in fact)

    Not OK!

  71. Here’s the real issue: Obama is attempting to use his great uncle’s experience in response to McCain’s barb over his lack of military service.

    Heck, my recently deceased great uncle was a crew member on the USS Indianapolis who spent a couple of weeks floating in the Pacific after the ship was sunk in the last days of WWII–and he one of the handful who survived. Maybe I should be elected King.

  72. Doesn’t everyone already know that all politicians and most especially presidential candidates are full of shit up to their eyeballs and minor inaccuracies like this are meaningless? No wait, that’s cynical. We have to pretend that we believe that we should be able to believe anything these people say.

  73. Here’s the real issue: Obama is attempting to use his great uncle’s experience in response to McCain’s barb over his lack of military service.

    The complete quote seems to indicate that Obama was using this, rather, to continue the debate about John McCain and the Republicans’ stance towards veterans’ care and benefits.

    “I had a uncle who was one of the, who was part of the first American troops to go into Auschwitz and liberate the concentration camps, and the story in my family is that when he came home, he just went into the attic, and he didn’t leave the house for six months. Alright? Now, obviously something had affected him deeply, but at the time, there just weren’t the kinds of facilities to help somebody work through that kind of pain. That’s why this idea of making sure that every single veteran, when they are discharged, are screened for post-traumatic stress disorder and given the mental health services that they need – that’s why it’s so important.”

  74. Technomist —

    I have to ask, is that “tech”- “nomist”, as in, person who studies the rules governing technology (something you should be doing right now rather than filling your posts on this thread with utter fail)…

    …or is that “techno”- “mist”, as in the barely believable creation of some sci-fi author who has jumped the shark and now believes that everything “nano” is cool by default (I’m looking at you, Michael Crichton)?

  75. I think the Republicans thought they had another “landing under sniper fire” incident, pounced, then when they saw it was just a minor screwup they’re trying to back down and save face.

    No way this lasts more than a couple news cycles.

  76. Elemenope, thanks for asking. As for posts being ‘utter fail’: it got a rise out of you, so ‘utter’ would not be completely accurate, would it?

    What I liked about this particular nom de blog was that the conflation has more than one possible ambiguity in its meaning, especially if you know a bit of German. Not everything I write is all that serious- its mainly just a pass-time I enjoy.

  77. I love it.

    The GOP is just reinforcing that Obama’s family helped Jews in WW2 (presumably, at least, if there were any left alive at the camp).

  78. Heck, my recently deceased great uncle was a crew member on the USS Indianapolis who spent a couple of weeks floating in the Pacific after the ship was sunk in the last days of WWII–and he one of the handful who survived. Maybe I should be elected King.

    No, but we’ll keep your name on the short list if there are any shark attacks. (You may need a bigger boat though.)

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