Barack Obama, the Not-So-Great American Storyteller

A dog walks into a bar...


President Obama said today that the biggest mistake of his first term was not being a good enough storyteller…

– ABC News 

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A dog walks into a bar and orders a beer. I don't remember what kind of dog it was. Maybe it was a Portuguese water dog like our dog, Bo. But it doesn't have to be. It could be a collie, or a German shepherd, or even a greyhound I guess. Anybody here have a greyhound? No? Okay. It's not really important to the story. 

Anyway, the dog orders a beer, and the man on the next stool says, "I don't want to drink in a place that serves dogs." And you can't blame him, am I right? Unless it's a seeing-eye dog or other type of service animal, most states have pretty strict health regulations about the presence of live animals in food establishments – and for good reason, I might add. Take it from me, dogs are not the most sanitary animals.

Even so, the dog takes offense and they get into a fight. The man pulls a gun and shoots the dog in the foot – this was probably in Virginia, where they let you take your gun into the bar instead of securing it safely in the trunk of your vehicle –  and the dog runs off. 

The next week the dog goes into the bar again. This time he's wearing a black hat, a black vest, black boots, and a pair of Colt .45s. The dog goes up to the bartender and says, "I'm looking for the man who shot my left forefoot." No, wait – that's not it. . . . How does it go again?

– Barack Obama: Speech to the National Education Association.

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One fish, two fish, red fish, blue fish. We've all heard that before, haven't we? You always hear these arguments that somehow, you know, some are thin, and some are fat – there are even those who say the fat one has a yellow hat. We've heard it from the spin masters and the negative-ad peddlers who practice the politics of division, the pundits who like to slice and dice our country into red fish and blue fish: red fish for Republicans, blue fish for Democrats. But I've got news for them: There's not a red aquarium and a blue aquarium, there is a United States of Aquarium. And I say to you tonight that at the end of the day, we are all one fish. And in the end, that's what this election is all about.

– Speech to the Democratic National Convention.

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Once upon a time there was a grasshopper jumping around in the summer sun in a field, somewhere or other.Probably Kansas. They have fields in Kansas, right? Or maybe it was Iowa. One of those states in the Midwest, anyway. So this grasshopper, he's just jumping and chirping and singing to his heart's content when this ant comes along, sweating and huffing and puffing and carrying an ear of corn. 

So the grasshopper says, "Hey, Mr. Ant – what are you doing with that ear of corn?" And the ant says: "I'm going to take it home and store it for the winter, and I suggest you do the same." But the grasshopper doesn't pay any attention, and when winter comes the grasshopper doesn't have anything to eat, so he dies. 

Now there are those who say – and my opponent is one of them – there are those who say this story shows the need to be fiscally conservative. And you can believe that if you want to. But I'm always struck by those insects who think they are so smart, who think they work harder than everybody else. Well, let me tell you something: There are a whole lot of hardworking bugs out there. 

Where do you think that ear of corn came from that that ant was carrying? Somebody else planted that ear of corn. Somebody else tilled the field and laid the irrigation pipes and planted the seeds and put up scarecrows and all of that. And they probably did it with some help from the local extension agent and maybe a start-up grant from the Department of Agriculture. So if you've got an ear of corn, just remember you didn't grow that – somebody else did. So what I think what we need to do is, we need to sort of spread the corn around. And that's what I've been trying to do these past four years: spread the corn around. 

— Campaign speech, Dothan, Ala.

A. Barton Hinkle is a columnist at the Richmond Times-Dispatch, where this article originally appeared.