‘You Can Sign the Machine?’ Obama Meets Retail Technology


President Obama had his Dan Quayle moment last week when he misspelled the word “respect” during a tribute to Aretha Franklin, so this week it’s apropos that he should have his H.W. Bush moment.

People who are old enough may recall back in 1992 when the first President Bush went to a grocer’s convention and was shown some checkout scanner technology that the New York Times made fun of him for allegedly being amazed by technology that was commonplace in grocery stores at the time.

In a story that was picked up by media across the nation, the Times painted a picture of Bush as a backwards, near-Luddite who had never personally been to a grocery store. As the Times put it, “This career politician, who has lived the cloistered life of a top Washington bureaucrat for decades, is having trouble presenting himself to the electorate as a man in touch with middle-class life.”

On Tuesday, man of the people President Obama hopped on Air Force One with his staff of aides, sycophants and bodyguards to come to a Gap store in New York so he could rant against income inequality to a bunch of retail workers in one of the most overpriced areas of the country.

At some point, Obama decided to shop for some sweaters for his daughters. When he handed the cashier his credit card, though, she handed it back and said to swipe the card through the machine in front of the register. “Oh wow,” he said, “so you can sign the machine?”

He caught himself and quickly said he was kidding, that he’d seen credit card readers before.

He probably was. Obama leads the same “cloistered life” that Bush did, but if there’s anything he knows how to do, it’s how to sign things with his pen, even when he shouldn’t. In fact, it would be a surprise if Barry wasn’t hanging from light poles autographing street signs back in his “choom gang” days.

But this is another story that’s really about the media.

When Bush had his grocery moment, he was made a figure of fun around the world. But the story, it turned out, was false, created by Times staff writer Andrew Rosenthal almost entirely out of whole cloth. Rosenthal wasn’t even there, he just wrote the story based on a two-paragraph brief by a pool reporter who mentioned that Bush had a “look of wonder” on his face as he viewed the grocers’ technology.

While the Times made it seem like Bush had never seen a checkout scanner, what he was actually shown was a then-new type of scanner that could accurately read prices even when the tag was torn or folded, and could weigh the groceries. It’s run-of-the-mill now, but back then it was brand new.

While Bush was made into a caricature by a mainstream media outlet that concocted (and continued to defend) a story woven out of the biases of its own reporter, Obama today gets a pass by the same media outlet, which wrote about the trip to the Gap but skipped over the credit card gaffe-slash-joke.

The New York Times editors still fancy themselves to be America’s newspaper, but they’ve lost most of their business over the years because they’ve become more and more the White House’s propaganda outlet.

If they’re so afraid of, or in love with, Obama that they can’t even report a funny story like the Gap incident, how can the public expect the Times to ever report the truth about anything like Benghazi or the IRS scandal?

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