Jack-In-The-Box Politics: Obama's Uncle

Call it Jack-in-box-politics. Each day, campaigns and national parties spin and spin and spin and spin and wait to see which story pops, making a loud noise, getting everyone's attention. Today's Jack-in-the-box story is Sen. Obama's misremembered recollection of an uncle who, in his words, "was part of the first American troops to go into Auschwitz and liberate the concentration camps." Russian troops, of course, liberated Auschwitz, and Obama doesn't have an uncle; his mother was an only child. The discrepancies "demand an explanation," according to an RNC spokesman. Late today, the campaign, after getting with the candidate, figuring out what he meant, and then checking with his family, said that Obama's great uncle -- the brother of his mother's mother -- had served in the 89th Infantry Division, which, in April of 1945, liberated Buchenwald. What accounts for Obama's misstatement? It's hard to see how it could have been an intentional distortion of history. On the other hand, it's certainly a reminder that, in talking about, or bragging about, how your family relates to certain historical events, precision matters, and some historical happenings and more sensitive than others.