If you have "no place to go," come here!

Stay classy...

[Welcome, Whoviating readers. Please read the comments... --lambert]

[UPDATE And here's a classy response.]

[UPDATE Media Matters goes with "two fingers" and gives a second, non-network video, from a different angle. I have to say, that this year, I'd want to know more about the provenance of it, which Media Matters does not supply.]

Obama gives Hillary the finger. Classy!

Start at 1:20 and wait for 1:23, if you can't bear to listen to the whole thing.

The crowd cheers, too.

Juvenile? I'd say. Passive aggressive? Yeah, I'd call fleeing PA for NC to give Hillary the finger is passive aggressive. More frat boy antics? You bet. Is this petulance what we can look forward to whenever Obama loses? I'm betting yes--because up 'til now, he's had no experience losing. Cue another round of WORM!

NOTE Via the Swamp, a longer version of the same video posted here.

NOTE As I said in comments, back in the day, I was taught the option of adjusting my glasses during meetings using the same gesture Obama used here. No accident. Not innocent. If it were, the crowd would't have noticed and cheered.

UPDATE Here's the same video from a slightly different angle. Notice the reaction from the woman in red to the left, over Obama's shoulder, as she laughs and turns to explain to her neighbor.

As Riverdaughter says, he just can't stop himself. Its not just that he's not ready; he's out of control. Before, I've always felt that he wasn't the best Democratic candidate, not by a long shot, but he didn't worry me. This worries me. Please, can I have a return to the battles of the 90s?

UPDATE Jeralyn says it's nothing, positing that (1) Obama's not dumb, and (2) that he knows the camera's are on him, ironically mirroring Hillary's explanation on Bosnia. I guess, to me, not being dumb doesn't preclude arrogance; and then there's the crowd reaction.

No votes yet


Submitted by jawbone on

the sole of his shoe? And that leaves out the middle finger gesture entirely....

I'm trying to be restrained in my reaction--but, for right now, gobsmacked fits.

Immature, ugly, discourteous, unpresidential, juvenile, shows lack of judgement.

This is beyond the pale.

And, finally, just imagine if Hillary had done this about him at one of her rallies--want to take a stab at the reaction????

BDBlue's picture
Submitted by BDBlue on

The more I see of this video, the more convinced I am that this is another "likable enough" moment. Because he's just being a jerk.

bringiton's picture
Submitted by bringiton on

All the fun we had looking at photos of the reviewing stand for the May Day military parade, guessing what it might mean that some stocky guy with an unpronounceable name and a chest full of medals was this year standing twelfth from the left of Khrushchev when last year he had been eleventh from the right?

I watched this video five times now, and there is no there there. Much as I like gotcha, all he does is scratch an itch. It’s a nervous gesture; he does it all the time. First with a little finger to his right cheek, then with the right middle finger, then with his left index finger to his left cheek. No significance that I can see.

And forgive me in advance for the sexist misogynistic stereotyping but that Lady in Red just does not look the type to whisper to her neighbor “He just gave Hillary the bird” and her neighbor looks far to prim to laugh about it. Maybe I don’t give any of them enough credit for coarseness and crudity, but I’m doubting this interpretation.

It’s actually a half decent talk, considering how badly he got beat up the night before.

Sarah's picture
Submitted by Sarah on

been scrutinizing and criticizing HRC for far less significant gestures and turns of phrase for months now, and frankly I'm perfectly sick of the whole shooting match.

We can admit that we're killers ... but we're not going to kill today. That's all it takes! Knowing that we're not going to kill today! ~ Captain James T. Kirk, Stardate 3193.0

BDBlue's picture
Submitted by BDBlue on

But he's such an asshole in the entire video, the finger almost seems beside the point. Although maybe that's just me.

Aeryl's picture
Submitted by Aeryl on

Then why is the crowd cheering? If that scratch was totally taken out of context, then he just complimented her. "She was in her element." Why would they cheer for that? No, they saw it too.

Bill Clinton for First Dude!!!

Submitted by lambert on

1. Your Kremlinology analogy is cute, but off point. In fact, one way to think of the last eight years is as a seminar in frat boy body language: Bush's strut and the codpiece spring immediately mind. Perhaps if we'd given those little indications due attention sooner, we wouldn't be in such trouble today.

The_gesture022. The New York Hello is a well known, though mild, taboo. Generally, people in this country are careful to avoid it for that very reason--and certainly in public speaking!

2. Back in the day, way back in the day, when I was a debater, I was videotaped for feedback, made exactly that gesture -- albeit accidentally -- and was called out on it. Now, before you go all "Yours was an accident, why not his," I was a high schooler, very nervous, and had spoken in public rarely. Obama trained as a lawyer, has campaigned for public office at all levels of government, and is famed for his oratorical skills. Everything he's been taught and, indeed, achieved, mitigates against the possibility of violating this taboo being accidental.

3. Closer to our own day, I was taught the technique of mindfucking an opponent in a meeting by pushing up my glasses with my middle finger.

4. The "One Fingered Salute" comes in the midst of a host of other dismissive gestures.

5. The crowd reacts at this point; they know what's going on ("in her element" is hardly an applause line)

6. I don't see what stereotyping has to do with looking at the audience reacting. They're certainly reacting to something, and since the reactions come after the gesture, it's hard to see what else there might be.

[x] Any (D) in the general. [ ] Any mullah-sucking billionaire-teabagging torture-loving pus-encrusted spawn of Cthulhu, bless his (R) heart.

Fredster's picture
Submitted by Fredster on

They all got their marching orders and have been hitting No Quarter, Taylor Marsh, Talk Left etc. It's funny how the words (just words) are almost the same from them on each of these sites.

Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

"Obama trained as a lawyer, has campaigned for public office at all levels of government, and is famed for his oratorical skills. Everything he’s been taught and, indeed, achieved, mitigates against the possibility of this being accidental."

Also the deliberateness of the rest of his gestures: The brushing-off of the shoulders, rubbing something off his pants make it impossible to think that he wasn't in total control of his movements.

And you can see a barely restrained smirk.

OxyCon's picture
Submitted by OxyCon on

Read the lips of the aforementioned lady in the red shirt and glasses (top left). It sure looks like her friend says "what" after her initial reaction, to which she says "gave her the finger".

bringiton's picture
Submitted by bringiton on

Not at all being contrarian.

It has been an interesting exercise here. All I ever do is show up and speak honestly. In return I get all sorts of projections about my true intentions and speculations on an unrevealed background. I should write a book.

I just don't see anything but somebody trying to make light of having gotten his butt kicked. Sort of sorry I can't join in the fun, and a little bit sorry to rain on the parade - but not too much.

And it doesn't really matter if he actually did it or not? Diss him anyway, just for grins? Yeow. Wasn't there some argument being raised around here a while ago about being better than our enemies? Maybe I misunderstood. Never mind. I'll go back to writing about abortions and pig brains now.

bringiton's picture
Submitted by bringiton on

If you can really read lips on that grainy little video, there's a job waiting for you in the CIA - quick, your country needs you.

shakes head, wanders off

Submitted by lambert on

... about vengeance. I'll have to quote from it. (I imagine that one reason we evolved government around 5000 years ago was to eliminate blood feuds, or at least that was an effect. If we had a functional party governance structure, which we don't, maybe this wouldn't be happening.)

Not sure about the "better than" argument. I see what I see, adduce reasons to back up what I saw, and the response is to repeat that you don't see it. But I knew that already. If "better than" means I can't call bullshit when I see it, then I'd rather not be better. I imagine you feel the same way. Or not.

Oh, I agree with your point on the lipreading. However, if indeed the women are reacting -- which we agree on, I think -- then they're reacting to something ... That you can't see. I suppose.

NOTE I maintained your pig brains thread with a link, and gave you a song. Enjoy!

[x] Any (D) in the general. [ ] Any mullah-sucking billionaire-teabagging torture-loving pus-encrusted spawn of Cthulhu, bless his (R) heart.

bringiton's picture
Submitted by bringiton on

Sorry. I should keep to my own ethical concerns. On reflection I overreacted to what I saw as dismissal of an honest opinion. Sorry.

I just don’t see what you all see, that’s all there is to it, nothing more.

That is Sarah's pig brain thread - credit where credit is due.

whaleshaman's picture
Submitted by whaleshaman on

He wouldn't do it to her face with witnesses, or during the debate last night. Maybe he can stand and deliver this little performance to the convention delegates.

Wonder how he'd feel if someone behaved that way towards his loved ones. Is this the new harmony? Is this the new unity pony? Is this a new sort of politics he's been carrying on about, where he brings good folks together by giving them the finger?

No, it's abuse, not some harmless street entertainment like trash-talking, where everybody's in on the fun.

Btw, for you people on the west coast, watch John Stewart lift BO up, up, up, then drop him on his head, I think it was towards the end of the opening monologue. Here's a link -- -- the video isn't available yet, but it should be sooner or later.

Aeryl's picture
Submitted by Aeryl on

via Old Coastie at The Confluence he does it again at another rally. Here's the video. Different group behind him.

Sorry, BIO, this was scripted.

UPDATE: Upon closer scrutiny, it is the same rally, just different camera angles.

Bill Clinton for First Dude!!!

kangeroo's picture
Submitted by kangeroo on

this election is seriously messing with my head. just a year ago, i couldn't even fathom the possibility of being this distraught, angry, and disgusted at one of the top contenders for my party's nomination.

today, i'm so angry that i could spit nails. obama is a fucking disgrace to the democratic party. a parasite that needs to get the fuck out of the primary and run like the covert INDEPENDENCE PARTY candidate he really is.

ross perot, michael bloomberg, colin powell, and joe lieberman--all rolled up into one nice, new, shiny trojan jackass. motherf'er!!!!

kangeroo's picture
Submitted by kangeroo on

this isn't an academic or clinical exercise, and analyzing it as such actually increases the probability of missing the point entirely. i've worked for enough pols, political strategists, campaign consultants, and spokespeople to have developed a good instinct for pols' subtle manipulations and machinations. you almost have to be a, er, commoner to get it. there's definitely there there.

Charles Lemos's picture
Submitted by Charles Lemos on

I am both angry at his condescenion yet sadden because he is looking rather bitter and pathetic.

It's like he is aiming to be a historical footnote.

Lambert et al if you remember my Crossing the Mara Mara piece, I argued that his appoach to politics reminded me that of Richard Nixon and that all such politicians tend to unravel. This is his unraveling.

Submitted by lambert on

... would really be worth a post, if you've got links.

I've posted more or less the same comments at multiple sites, though. Say it once, why say it in another way.

[x] Any (D) in the general. [ ] Any mullah-sucking billionaire-teabagging torture-loving pus-encrusted spawn of Cthulhu, bless his (R) heart.

manahmanah's picture
Submitted by manahmanah on

- From Aeryl's link we can see that the index finger is somewhat extended as well. I had the clip on my DVR and played it fram by frame last night and it looks to me that the index finger was mostly to fully extended through the duration of the scratch. Now, I don't know what the maximum angle of the index finger needs to be to still constitute the bird, but I don't think this qualifies.

- Crowd reaction. Perhaps some of the crowd did think he was flipping the bird and reacted to it. But that doesn't prove Obama's intent. He was delivering the applause line at that moment:

"I will tell you it does not get more fun than these debates. They are inspiring debates. I think last night we set a new record because it took us 45 minutes before we even started talking about a single issue that matters to the American people.

It took us 45 minutes — 45 minutes before we heard about health care, 45 minutes before we heard about Iraq, 45 minutes before we heard about jobs, 45 minutes before we heard about gas prices.

Now, I don’t blame Washington for this because that’s just how Washington is. They like stirring up controversies and getting us to play gotcha games and getting us to attack each other. And I’ve got to say Sen. Clinton looked in her element,"

-Crowd reaction II. He kind of flubbed the applause line. He delivered "Sen. Clinton looked in her element" kind of softly and with strange emphasis. I looks to me that some of the audience missed the line and were asking what he said.

Sure, all this is open to interpretation, but I think this is "Cheney's sunglasses" and "Snubgate" all over again.

myiq2xu's picture
Submitted by myiq2xu on

Jay-Z's Dirt off your shoulder lyrics.

I like this line best:

If you feelin’ like a pimp nigga, go and brush your shoulders off

I guess that's "post-racial"

"Real ponies don't oink" - Patrick McManus

zuzu's picture
Submitted by zuzu on

The fanboys over at Yglesias' are creaming themselves.

jeffazi's picture
Submitted by jeffazi on

I have to agree with Bringiton on this one. I think he scratched his face. A few moments before he scratched it with his pinky. I think his index finger was partially extended when he scratched with his middle finger. I think this is a non-issue. Reasonable people can disagree about it, but I just don't see it.

Submitted by lambert on

LA Times:

He pauses. He smiles slyly as the crowd begins to mumble and then he tries, somewhat distracted, to continue his remarks, smiling as the buzz spreads through the crowd.

He'll no doubt deny it later, but that mischievous smile seems to confirm plenty. And the crowd sure sees something.

Notice something interesting: Most of the people who don't see it, and all OFB, are focusing on detail: Was his index finger raised to? He scratches a lot! And so forth.

But the people who do see it are looking at the totality: Obama's body language, the words, his expression, and the crowd. And they also tend to back of their points with stories from their own lives.

[Then there's the crowd whose context is Jay-Z. We'll get to them later.]

Of course, one way to avoid seeing the obvious is to focus in on such a small detail that the obvious disappears.

[x] Any (D) in the general. [ ] Any mullah-sucking billionaire-teabagging torture-loving pus-encrusted spawn of Cthulhu, bless his (R) heart.

Aeryl's picture
Submitted by Aeryl on

The way I was taught to fly a proper bird, was with both ring and index finger bent at the second knuckle, at half mast to the middle finger.

That is what he's doing to me.

Bill Clinton for First Dude!!!

bringiton's picture
Submitted by bringiton on

Went so well upthread, may as well weigh in again.

Perhaps this is an exercise in belligerent push-back, retribution for all the faux-race accusations against Clinton supporters, and I'm just not getting how funny it all is. Perhaps you all really are in earnest. I can't say which I find more disturbing.

I wear reading glasses, and have used the middle-finger-push-up-glasses move to great effect. Watching this video again and again, from every angle presented, the move everyone’s so focused on just doesn't qualify - IMNSHO.

Don't actually care how many other people suffering under the same delusion get cited, including an opinion peice in the LA Times. My eyes, observing both detail and action, see a man distractedly scratching one cheek, then the other, then the other; a nervous tic, and nothing more.

The more it gets repeated, however, the more the feedback loop amplifies and those at the start begin to cite those who just now are propagating it as proof that the assertion was right all along; amplify, amplify, a viral mini-meme.

I'll put up a post about how these kinds of misperceptions occur and how they propagate, maybe tomorrow. Until then, just keep in mind that what we think we see and hear isn't always what actually happened. As an example, it is well known that eye-witness accounts of criminal acts can be the most unreliable of all forensic evidence.

As Marvin Gaye says: Believe half of what you see....

Aeryl's picture
Submitted by Aeryl on

used to scrunch his face up in weird ways, to bring his glasses up to his bridge. Everyone has their tics.

I've watched him speak(until recently, now it's almost as bad as Bush), and I never noticed these small gestures, usually his arms are expansive, to go with his message.

If he had a tic that involved using his fuckfinger, I think a body language coach would have pointed this out(he's not that authentic).

I can understand that for you, there is no there there, but there was something there for a lot of other people, especially for the ones in that room.

Bill Clinton for First Dude!!!

Submitted by lambert on

You mean, like YouTubes?

[x] Any (D) in the general. [ ] Any mullah-sucking billionaire-teabagging torture-loving pus-encrusted spawn of Cthulhu, bless his (R) heart.

amberglow's picture
Submitted by amberglow on

you'd have to then believe the shoulder brushing was unrelated to jay-z too, even tho we've never seen that either from him--like the middle finger thing-- and that he's never had media coaching (which they all obviously have had).

kangeroo's picture
Submitted by kangeroo on

eyewitness account analogy and consider it inapplicable here because that pertains to an individual's memory--single source, past tense, unique and can't be replicated--you can't untangle the (faulty) perception/interpretation from the source (witness) of information. here we have multiple moving images shot from different angles and its contents can be replicated over and over again, in the present tense and indefinitely into the future, for all to see. now, as to the perception/interpretation of those contents, reasonable people can certainly differ. and that's where you get into social/pop-cultural knowledge that's probably endemic to certain groups, etc. i actually find it kinda encouraging that you don't see it because it suggests you haven't been exposed to this particular variant of obnoxiousness.

bringiton's picture
Submitted by bringiton on

but none come quickly to mind.

I have another method, an explanation of how once a viewpoint is suggested it both spreads and is reinforced by repetition until it is established. Once you think you see something, you keep seeing it whether it is real or not. Manana.

He does touch his cheek with his middle finger; I see that. He does not curl his other fingers, especially not his index finger, anywhere near enough to constitute giving the finger. I understand some people perceive the gesture that way. I do not, and it isn’t because I’ve been preserved from exposure to crudeness. I think it’s as likely as not – in my view much more likely than not, that he just touched his cheek and nothing was meant by it.

Aeryl, what you say the crowd perceived is so far as I am aware unsubstantiated by any testimony from anyone who was actually in the crowd. As with the visual, all we have are the perceptions of people watching a video; until I hear from folks actually there I’m afraid I’ll have to hold back on accepting supposition about what they were thinking.

Amber, no I don’t have to make that choice. He can easily be taking a cue from the JayZ lyric with the brushing himself off – not a new gesture, I know that routine from my childhood in the 50’s and it was old hat then – and also quite innocently touched his cheek.

kangeroo's picture
Submitted by kangeroo on

consider this The Bird 2.0. it's the (compared to the 50's) relatively new, not-so-stealth-for-those-who've-been-on-the-receiving-end version. and as a person who was born in 1980, i can assure you i'm riiiight in that age group that would recognize this sort of thing best. it's a dog-whistle for the emotionally immature.

kangeroo's picture
Submitted by kangeroo on

those who are familiar with the bird 2.0 and have a modicum of decency will see him for what he is: an emotionally immature, spoiled brat.

kangeroo's picture
Submitted by kangeroo on

if this is indicative of who he is at his core, the unraveling is inevitable. at the very least, he has some issues to work out in the therapist's office.

i read a commenter over at larry johnson's place citing his nephew's (who's an m.d.) assessment that obama has narcissistic personality disorder. heh, now i'm no psychiatrist, but from what i saw he sure does meet the diagnostic criteria.

bringiton's picture
Submitted by bringiton on

I've heard the "you're old and out of it" riff before, I've got teens; doesn't faze me.

An advantage of having been around the block more than once is that I'm not unfamiliar with mass hysteria; seen it before.