‘Star Wars,’ ‘Star Trek’ play tricks on Obama’s mind


President Barack Obama speaks to reporters in the White House briefing room in Washington, Friday, March 1, 2013, following a meeting with congressional leaders regarding the automatic spending cuts. (Carolyn Kaster/AP)
March 1, 2013

President Obama on Friday urged cooperation between Democrats and Republicans on automatic budget cuts.

But the only things that seemed to be mixing were science-fiction metaphors.

During a news conference at the White House, Obama said some people unfairly expected him to force Republicans to accept his terms in order to head off the spending cuts.

“Even though most people agree . . . I’m presenting a fair deal, the fact that they don’t take it means that I should somehow do a Jedi mind meld with these folks and convince them to do what’s right.”

The phrase “Jedi mind meld,” which he uttered during the briefing’s question-and-answer portion, appeared to combine elements from two distinct worlds of science fiction. A “Jedi mind trick” is a power exercised by Jedi Knights in “Star Wars,” usually accomplished by verbal ma­nipu­la­tion. (Perhaps the most famous example is from the original “Star Wars” movie in 1977, when Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi seems to hypnotize the evil Stormtroopers with the phrase: “These aren’t the droids you’re looking for.”)

But “mind meld” is a phenomenon from the television and movie series “Star Trek.” It’s a method of communication used among Vulcans, such as the main character Spock. The technique was also used to extract information and control others.

Unsurprisingly, the Twitter reaction to the gaffe came faster than a trip through hyperspace. Before the president was finished with his remarks, clever fans of the movies and shows had already created the Twitter hashtag in which users fused quotes from both sci-fi franchises. Others, among them #jedimindmeld, followed.

Demonstrating the administration’s social-media savvy, the White House joined in a few hours later with a knowing tweet: “We must bring balance to the Force. #Sequester #JediMindMeld.” The tweet linked viewers to a sci-fi-themed Web page showing a picture of Obama. Above the photo was a “Star Wars” riff: “These cuts aren’t the solutions Americans are looking for.” And below the picture, a nod to “Star Trek”: “To deny the facts would be illogical.”

The page directed users to wh.gov/jedimindmeld, a fact sheet on the sequester that included a breakdown of the president’s plan. It was a reminder that the incident was only a bit of theater, while the real battles were taking place in a reality far, far away.

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Emily Heil is the co-author of the Reliable Source and previously helped pen the In the Loop column with Al Kamen.
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