Working with someone for eight years can rub off on a guy — even if you’re that guy’s boss.
On Monday, former President Barack Obama delivered an address in Glasgow, Scotland, to the COP26 climate change conference — which hasn’t been going swimmingly for the United States or the West. Obama sought to rally the team and buttress the cause.
Instead, he managed to make a Biden-esque gaffe, calling Scotland the “Emerald Isles” — a title reserved for Ireland — and referring to William Shakespeare as the “bard” of wherever he thought he was, which wasn’t England.
We’ll get to the problematic nature of that last part in a little bit — but let’s look at the moment, which came during 64th minute of a 70-minute speech by Obama.
“That’s what’s required to meet this challenge: Gird yourself for a marathon, not a sprint,” Obama said. “For solving a problem this big, this complex and this important has never happened all at once.”
Then: “Since we’re in the Emerald Isles here, let me quote the bard, William Shakespeare.”
Obama went on to quote from “Othello:” “‘What wound,’ [Shakespeare] writes, ‘did ever heal, but by degrees?’” Obama said.
“Our planet has been wounded by our actions,” he went on. “Those wounds won’t be healed today or tomorrow or the next, but they can be healed by degrees if we start with that spirit.”
The obvious, Biden-esque gaffe: The Emerald Isle, singular, is solely a nickname for Ireland, a few hundred miles to the south of Glasgow.
If one wants to be cute and refer to Scotland as something other than, well, Scotland, “Caledonia” is usually the go-to. It’s never been called the “Emerald Isle” — or “isles,” for that matter. It’s one of three constituent countries on the island of Great Britain — England and Wales being the others — and one of four constituent countries that are part of the United Kingdom if one includes Northern Ireland, which is on the Emerald Isle.
You know, the island they weren’t on.
It didn’t take long for people to remember Obama’s 2008 “57 states” gaffe and the fact he mispronounced “Glasgow.”
Well, we do have 57 states.
— Jewhadi™ (@JewhadiTM) November 9, 2021
— Clarissa Reilly (@clarescastle) November 9, 2021
Obama raises eyebrows by saying he was on ‘Emerald Isles’ during COP26 speech – he is normally a great communicator. Unless it was an off the cuff addition, you would expect the speech writer to get this right, and teach him how to pronounce Glasgow! https://t.co/qJZ42aC2JH
— Dave Watson (@UnisonDave) November 9, 2021
A tiny bit of me died there when Obama said “we are here in the Emerald Isles” [we are in Glass Cow] #COP26
— mandy rhodes (@holyroodmandy) November 8, 2021
Furthermore, I imagine that’s not the only point which the Scots in attendance might be willing to raise that doesn’t have to do with Obama’s faceplant on the “Emerald Isles.”
While Americans will often generically refer to William Shakespeare as “The Bard,” he’s the bard of England, as the New York Post noted. In Scotland, that term is reserved for Robert Burns, the poet best known to Americans as the writer of the lyrics to “Auld Lang Syne.”
User @geori89 may have put it best:
Referring to Scotland as the “emerald isles” and quoting Shakespeare is like calling Boston the “Big Apple” and quoting Leonard Cohen.
— G Rice (@geori89) November 9, 2021
Leonard Cohen, the “Hallelujah” and “Suzanne” songwriter and performer, is intimately associated with Montreal.
Not that we should have expected much more. After all, you can get away with this and become president nowadays:
Joe Biden forgot what state he was in. Again.
While in New Hampshire he said: “I’ve been here a number of times… what’s not to like about Vermont…”pic.twitter.com/L7QLPb9u3T
— Trump War Room (@TrumpWarRoom) April 25, 2020
But remember, Obama is supposed to be the ultimate “adult in the room.” Furthermore, the COP26 conference in Glasgow has been anticipated for quite some time now. Getting the alternate title for Scotland right, getting who the bard in Scotland is correct — one would imagine Obama has advance people for that. Perhaps this was an isolated incident. Or perhaps the Biden blob is spreading.
Mind you, Obama had his own gaffes, but nothing this glaring in remarks that were apparently prepared in advance. In 2020, Politico reported Obama told another Democrat during the presidential primary process, “Don’t underestimate Joe’s ability to f*** things up.” Apparently, this even includes his own former boss’ reputation as a man of soaring rhetoric and precise language. Nice work.
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