Obama: I’m been civil to tea-baggers

So we’ve got President Obama using the phrase “tea-bagger” — a grotesque sexual slur aimed at Tea Party members — on White House letterhead now. Ironically, it’s in a letter explaining that he’s always been civil to them:

I do have to challenge you, though, on the notion that any citizen that disagrees with me has been “targeted and ridiculed” or that I have “made fun” of tea-baggers.

Obama was responding to a letter complaining about references to “tea baggers”. In his short, 1-page letter he used scare quotes four times — twice in that very sentence — but did not use them for the phrase in question.

Does Obama understand that the term is offensive? If so, then he’s just being a jerk; delivering an in-your-face insult while pretending to tout his civility. It’s possible, but it seems unlikely that the president would bother to pen an ironic insult to a private citizen of no particular importance.

The other possibility is that Obama forgot that the term is offensive. How can one forget that a term, invented for the purpose of giving offense, is offensive? I can’t think of a better theory than Mary Katharine Ham’s, that he hears the term so often in the White House that he’s forgotten its vulgarity.

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