Hailed for his engagement with the online world and being cutting edge for hosting a Twitter town hall, President Barack Obama made quite the gaffe at his town hall yesterday, calling the internet, "internets," the same mistake for which former President George W. Bush was widely mocked following a 2004 presidential debate.
The flub, which Obama quickly corrected, came while he was discussing the importance of bringing the internet to classrooms, but the president has received little media flack for his slip-up.
Obama's use of the word "internets" came after a question on the failure of public school systems.
We do have to make sure that there are computers in a computer age inside classrooms and that they work and that there's Internets that are actually -- there are Internet connections that actually function.
Bush's use of the term came during a debate with Sen. John Kerry. During a discussion on military policy, Bush said,
I hear there's rumors on the Internets that we're going to have a draft. We're not going to have a draft, period.
CNN subsequently ran an entire story mocking Bush for his supposed ignorance of the technology.
While certainly every president misspeaks at some point, there is a clear difference between the media's lambasting of Bush for mangling the word internet, compared to barely any acknowledging that Obama misspoke. In fact, the only outlet to regularly point out Obama's verbal gaffes is Hot Air's Obamateurism feature.
Bush's occasional verbal mistakes turned into comedic fodder as so-called Bush-isms, but Obama-isms still don't exist in mainstream outlets, despite the fact Obama has previously misspoken about a technology he supposedly embraces.
Last year, during a news conference with Russian president Dmitri Medvedev, Obama referred to Twitter as "Twitters." As Obama spoke of Medvedev,
And during his visit to Silicon Valley this week, he visited the headquarters of Twitters, where he opened his own account. I have one as well, so we may be able to finally throw away those 'red phones' that have been sitting around for so long.
Mangling a word is one thing when a president, like Bush, makes no claim to have an affinity for technology. When technology is how a president, like Obama, won an election, though, it's much more important to have the vocabulary correct if he plans on winning over the same young audience as he did in 2008.
Update 19:10 | Matthew Sheffield. On a related note, it seems that Obama actually isn't a fan of Twitter. I'm not expecting that this report will get much media circulation:
President Obama’s decision to hold a Twitter Town Hall was an about-face for the commander-in-chief who only months ago in private conversations with aides would scoff at the 140-character social media format for its lack of depth and sophistication, according to sources with knowledge of those conversations.
In particular, Obama would get miffed at the news media for picking up the Twitter comments made by ex-GOP vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin. “He complained that ‘They hang on her every word and report it without even questioning her directly,’” one informed source said this morning, quoting the President.
Obama, who fashions himself to be an accomplished writer of high-minded ideas and observations, began to warm up to Twitter as he saw the success his own aides and other politicians in Washington were having with the Internet medium.