Did Obama Just Take Another Swipe at Romney’s Riches? 

Who's winning, who's losing, and why.
April 19 2012 4:36 PM

At Least He Didn’t Call Him Moneybags

When Obama said he wasn’t born with a silver spoon in his mouth, he wasn’t talking about Romney. He was just talking.

U.S. President Barack Obama
Should Mitt Romney take umbrage when President Obama reminds voters that he wasn't born wealthy?

Win McNamee/Getty Images.

Yesterday President Obama said he "wasn't born with a silver spoon in his mouth." This line was widely interpreted as a not-so-subtle dig at Mitt Romney, the wealthy son of a wealthy father. At first glance, that seemed plausible, though perhaps too subtle. The president's campaign would like you to think Romney was born with silver tea, soup, demitasse, grapefruit, and runcible spoons—not to mention that funny silver ladle we use just on Thanksgiving—in his mouth. But upon second look, the president wasn't talking about his Republican challenger. He was just talking. The "silver spoon" construction is a standard Obama cliché. He's used it herehereherehere and here, long before Romney was the nominee. His wife has used it. (The press has even used the cliché  when talking about the president.)

This was not a new chapter in the protracted battle over which candidate is out of touch. Instead, it is another frivolous but unimportant campaign moment as defined by our easy-sort campaign coverage system. Proof of this verdict is that Mitt Romney quickly took successful umbrage with Obama’s comment when a helpful news personality placed the ball on the tee and handed him the bat. "I'm not going to apologize for my dad's success, but I know the president likes to attack fellow Americans. He's always looking for a scapegoat, particularly those that have been successful like my dad, and I'm not going to rise to that." 

Perfect: media misinterpretation and umbrage, two of the key ingredients necessary for the political silly season. And it’s only April. 

John Dickerson is Slate's chief political correspondent and author of On Her Trail. Read his series on the presidency and on risk.

TODAY IN SLATE

Politics

The Irritating Confidante

John Dickerson on Ben Bradlee’s fascinating relationship with John F. Kennedy.

My Father Invented Social Networking at a Girls’ Reform School in the 1930s

Renée Zellweger’s New Face Is Too Real

Sleater-Kinney Was Once America’s Best Rock Band

Can it be again?

The All The President’s Men Scene That Captured Ben Bradlee

Culturebox

The Simpsons World App Is Finally Here

I feel like a kid in some kind of store.

Technology

Driving in Circles

The autonomous Google car may never actually happen.

The Difference Between Being a Hero and an Altruist

How Punctual Are Germans?

  News & Politics
Politics
Oct. 22 2014 12:44 AM We Need More Ben Bradlees His relationship with John F. Kennedy shows what’s missing from today’s Washington journalism.
  Business
Moneybox
Oct. 21 2014 5:57 PM Soda and Fries Have Lost Their Charm for Both Consumers and Investors
  Life
Quora
Oct. 22 2014 9:51 AM What Was It Like to Work at NASA During the Challenger and Columbia Disasters?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 22 2014 10:00 AM On the Internet, Men Are Called Names. Women Are Stalked and Sexually Harassed.
  Slate Plus
Working
Oct. 22 2014 6:00 AM Why It’s OK to Ask People What They Do David Plotz talks to two junior staffers about the lessons of Working.
  Arts
Culturebox
Oct. 22 2014 9:54 AM The Simpsons World App Is Finally Here I feel like a kid in some kind of store.
  Technology
Future Tense
Oct. 22 2014 8:43 AM Thunderstruck: Rock Out With Mother Nature’s Evil Side
  Health & Science
Wild Things
Oct. 22 2014 9:39 AM Gertjie and Lammie, a Magical (and Bizarre) Friendship
  Sports
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 5:09 PM Keepaway, on Three. Ready—Break! On his record-breaking touchdown pass, Peyton Manning couldn’t even leave the celebration to chance.