Diary

True origin of a lame Obama joke ("To go forward, put it in D"), and its logical answer

I’m in today’s New York Times on the origin of Obama’s lame “To go forward, put it in D” joke:

August 10, 2010, 10:20 am
Obama Delivers a Clunker
By RICHARD S. CHANG
For months, President Obama has said he doesn’t want to hand the keys to the economy back to the Republicans. At a fund-raiser in Austin, Tex., on Monday, he repeated a punch line he’s begun using recently, comparing the political parties to the gears on a car.

“You want to go forward, what do you do? You put it in ‘D.’ When you go backward, what do you do? You put it in ‘R,’ ” he said, according to the Washington Post.

He added, “I’m just sayin’ that’s not a coincidence.”

The comparison seemed so obvious, perhaps even too obvious. In fact it was so ripe for the picking that it’s hard to believe that no Democrat had used it before — or had they?

Back in May Iowa’s Democratic governor, Chet Culver, told the same joke, reported Yahoo News. Mr. Culver said that “all you need to know about who to vote for you learned in driver’s ed: Put the state in ‘D’ to go forward or in ‘R’ to go backwards.”

But the joke goes even further back. BarryPopik.com traced it to the 2000 election, when the driving analogy was an oft-used battle cry for Al Gore’s presidential bid.

During the Democratic National Convention that year, Senator Tom Harkin, Democrat of Iowa, said “All you ever needed to know about this election, you’ve learned from driving. If you want to go backward, you put it in R. But if you want to go forward, you put it in D.”

Obama’s lame joke is at least ten years old, and has been used by Tom Harkin, Joe Lieberman and even Hillary Cllnton. There’s nothing wrong, I suppose, with repeating a bad joke again and again and again. Obama, is that the best you’ve got?

Here’s the story (with a clearly incorrect joke origin) from the Washington Post:

Obama’s latest joke: Republicans and cars
Update 5:15 p.m.
By Michael D. Shear
AUSTIN — If President Obama loses his reelection bid in 2012, maybe he can find some work as a stand-up comedian.
(…)
f Obama quits his day job, he might want to credit his friend, Democratic Gov. Chet Culver of Iowa, who apparently came up with the quip a few months ago.

According to Yahoo News, the governor joked in mid-May that “all you need to know about who to vote for you learned in driver’s ed: Put the state in ‘D’ [Democrat] to go forward or in ‘R’ [Republican] to go backwards.”
By Washington Post Editor | August 9, 2010; 2:20 PM ET

The Washington Post story was picked up by Weasel Zippers, resulting in this unfortunate headline:

Obama Plagiarizes Joke From Iowa Dem Gov. Chet Culver…

I wrote to the Washington Post’s Michael Shear to correct his story. He never wrote back.

I wrote to the Washington Post’s ombudsman. He wrote back:

Thanks,
Andy Alexander
Washington Post Ombudsman

And no correction. I wrote to Weasel Zippers that they repeated the Washington Post’s error. No one responded at all. (You use the New York Times as evidence and no one believes you, I guess.)

The blog Question the Culture has a good answer to the “joke”:

Monday, August 9, 2010
Obama’s Joke
President Obama’s latest dig at Republicans goes like this:

“You want to go forward, what do you do? You put it in ‘D.’ When you go backward, what do you do? You put it in ‘R.'”
Then, with another chuckle, he added: “I’m just sayin’ that’s not a coincidence.”

Well sir, if you’ve driven to the edge of a cliff, R is exactly the gear you want to be in. And no, it’s not a coincidence and it’s not funny.

Maybe Obama should stick to Snooki jokes that are written for him and that he doesn’t understand?