By most accounts, President Obama had a pretty successful maiden voyage to Europe this past week. But it was not without its gaffes.
But relative to the era of George W. Bush, this one seems pretty minor.
In response to a question from an Austrian reporter about his impressions of European leaders, President Obama said that in fact the interaction between European lawmakers was really not all that different than the way in which the US Senate operates (it’s unclear whether he meant to draw the comparison between the two sides as examples of people who can’t seem to get things done).
Elaborating, President Obama said on both sides of the Atlantic “there’s a lot of — I don’t know what the term is in Austrian — wheeling and dealing — and, you know, people are pursuing their interests, and everybody has their own particular issues and their own particular politics.”
Of course, there is no such language as Austrian, though if you’re a speaker of high German hearing a Viennese speak can seem like you’re hearing a different language. But that’s more of an issue of dialect. Austrian German is certainly night and day more intelligible than Swiss German, which can be nearly impossible to understand even for native German speakers.
Anyway, my guess is most people missed this little misstatement, and just as well as in the scheme of things it matters not ounce.