Things Obama Says When Famous People Die

Obama’s statement on George McGovern’s death seems awfully anodyne, begrudging, and brief:

George McGovern dedicated his life to serving the country he loved. He signed up to fight in World War II, and became a decorated bomber pilot over the battlefields of Europe. When the people of South Dakota sent him to Washington, this hero of war became a champion for peace. And after his career in Congress, he became a leading voice in the fight against hunger. George was a statesman of great conscience and conviction, and Michelle and I share our thoughts and prayers with his family.

There’s no mention of the fact that McGovern was the presidential candidate of Obama’s party. That he led the fight against the Vietnam War. There’s just some oblique reference to the life of a man whose presidential campaign, for all its flaws, was one of the most transformative in Democratic Party history and which helped set the stage for the campaign and presidency of none other than Barack Obama.

Now compare what Obama had to say when Neil Armstrong died.

Michelle and I were deeply saddened to hear about the passing of Neil Armstrong.

Neil was among the greatest of American heroes–not just of his time, but of all time.  When he and his fellow crew members lifted off aboard Apollo 11 in 1969, they carried with them the aspirations of an entire nation.  They set out to show the world that the American spirit can see beyond what seems unimaginable–that with enough drive and ingenuity, anything is possible. And when Neil stepped foot on the surface of the moon for the first time, he delivered a moment of human achievement that will never be forgotten.

Today, Neil’s spirit of discovery lives on in all the men and women who have devoted their lives to exploring the unknown–including those who are ensuring that we reach higher and go further in space. That legacy will endure–sparked by a man who taught us the enormous power of one small step.

Okay, that’s Neil Armstrong, about whom people in this country have strangely strong and sentimental feelings. But listen to what Obama had to say when Arlen Specter died.

Arlen Specter was always a fighter.  From his days stamping out corruption as a prosecutor in Philadelphia to his three decades of service in the Senate, Arlen was fiercely independent – never putting party or ideology ahead of the people he was chosen to serve.  He brought that same toughness and determination to his personal struggles, using his own story to inspire others.  When he announced that his cancer had returned in 2005, Arlen said, “I have beaten a brain tumor, bypass heart surgery and many tough political opponents and I’m going to beat this, too.”  Arlen fought that battle for seven more years with the same resolve he used to fight for stem-cell research funding, veterans health, and countless other issues that will continue to change lives for years to come.  Michelle and I send our thoughts and prayers to Joan and the rest of the Specter family.

I mean: Arlen Fucking Specter!

I get it: McGovern was a loser, and Obama’s heading into the final stretch of a close campaign; the last thing he needs is any reminder of McGovern’s defeat. But for God’s sake…Arlen Fucking Specter!

H/t Jordan Adam Banks for McGovern and Specter statements.


  1. Joanna Bujes October 21, 2012 at 11:31 pm | #

    I think it’s not so much that McGovern was a loser. I think it’s that he actually had the makings of a statesman, and Obama does not. In fact Obama has no class whatsoever.

  2. brahmsky October 21, 2012 at 11:44 pm | #

    Excellent point.

  3. Aidan October 21, 2012 at 11:46 pm | #

    I’m guessing I would have more to say eulogizing someone I knew and worked closely with, I don’t see why that would be a surprise. Obama and Specter were Senate colleagues and Specter was the deciding vote on a few of Obama’s most historic achievements. You’re just fishing for something to be outraged about.

  4. JG October 21, 2012 at 11:51 pm | #

    “In fact Obama has no class whatsoever” is bollocks; whatever you think of his politics, the man has plenty of class.

    He’s possibly being anodyne in his statement on McGovern because he doesn’t want to risk accusations of trying to make political capital out of the great man’s death.

    • PhilPerspective October 21, 2012 at 11:56 pm | #

      Risk political capital with whom? The GOP doesn’t give two shits about McGovern. And if they complained, it would be as phony as a $3 bill.

      • JG October 22, 2012 at 12:23 am | #

        Risk political capital with whom?

        With the Beltway punditocracy and with the right-wing noise machine, of course. You may think the latter are idiots who should simply be ignored, and in an ideal world I’d wholeheartedly agree with you, but in the real world voters actually pay attention to what they’re saying — and many of the Beltway stenographers do too. Just look at the “you didn’t build that” farrago as an example of how careful Obama has to be with every single word he says in election season.

        As for the Arlen Specter comment, remember that Obama’s still trying to be bipartisan. Much good it’s done him so far, but . . .

  5. Phil Perspective October 21, 2012 at 11:55 pm | #

    I get it: McGovern was a loser, and Obama’s heading into the final stretch of a close campaign; the last thing he needs is any reminder of McGovern’s defeat. But for God’s sake…Arlen Fucking Specter!

    What do you expect? PBO served in the Senate with Snarlin’ Arlen. And he’s from the wing of the party that detests McGovern.

  6. Frank Moraes October 22, 2012 at 12:31 am | #

    Obama is a “new” Democrat. That means he’s not too keen on what the Democratic Party believes in. Regardless of Obama (Is anyone still capable of being disappointed by him?) it was a sad day.

  7. Jeremy October 22, 2012 at 2:41 am | #

    Over at Salon, Joan Walsh has a pretty good obituary for McGovern (, perhaps oversimplifying things to cast George Meany as a more substantial villain than he really was, but that subject could fill books, so whatever. Basically, a good airing of Rick Perlstein’s take on the election, which is the best take I know of. But then she throws in this as the last paragraph, out of frickin’ nowhere:

    “Yet the small, true-blue McGovern coalition ’72 became the Obama coalition 36 years later. The president owed some of his primary victories to rule changes pioneered by the McGovern committee, even as he defeated a woman who got her start in the 1972 campaign. This time around, a smaller, wiser AFL-CIO is a cornerstone of Obama’s ground game, just this week promising it would knock on 5.5 million doors in swing states over the last four days of the campaign. It would be a great tribute to McGovern if Obama sticks to his fighting, populist campaign and defeats the pro-business, plutocratic backlash against liberalism represented by Mitt Romney.”

    And then I had to wonder if I lived on the same planet as her.

    • John Gulick October 22, 2012 at 4:05 pm | #

      Well, on this planet “drill, baby, drill” is populism of a sort.

  8. Angus Johnston October 22, 2012 at 8:07 am | #

    Forget it, Jake, it’s Chinatown. If you think the Specter thing is bad, check out McGovern’s shout-out to George Wallace, then recently paralyzed by a would-be assassin, at the 1972 DNC:

    “And I was as moved as well by the appearance in the Convention Hall of the Governor of Alabama, George Wallace. His votes in the primaries showed clearly the depth of discontent in this country, and his courage in the face of pain and adversity is the mark of a man of boundless will, despite the senseless act that disrupted his campaign. And, Governor, we pray for your full recovery so you can stand up and speak out for all of those who see you as their champion.”

    This is what these people do. Even the best of them.

  9. Stephen Zielinski October 22, 2012 at 8:06 pm | #

    Why did Obama damn McGovern with faint praise? It is because McGovern was tainted by his icky-poo left liberalism. Obama, an opportunist, a tool of capital and a war criminal, would find nothing in common with a man like McGovern.

  10. Custom tailored suits los angeles October 25, 2012 at 4:51 am | #

    I am not a very big fan of Obama too but man your views are way too aggressive! By the way who gives much ear to what Obama says when people die when the country is faced with so many other problems.

    • 911 October 25, 2012 at 1:24 pm | #

      Obama golfs, Rome burns.

  11. Corey Robin October 25, 2012 at 2:40 pm | #

    Guys, the name-calling and nastiness around here is getting to be a problem. It’s fine to disagree; it’s really not fine to call people idiots, stupid, etc. This is supposed to be a blog, not a fucking elementary school. Oops!

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