I have to say I'm in wholehearted agreement with David Frum on this one. For Obama to refer to a "Polish death camp" is just ghastly. How in the world could that happen? Some callow kid in the speechwriting office didn't know the difference? His or her boss also didn't know? And what of Obama? I will assume that he does know better. But he said the words.
Assuming he knew it was wrong when it was coming out of his mouth, why didn't he just stop and say: "You know, Mr. Karski, it says here 'Polish death camp,' so that's what I said, but I want to correct that. We all know that these were German camps." That's all. Easy peasy. He really should have just taken charge of the moment there and shown some honesty and candor.
This probably won't matter much politically--I'm not sure how many Polish-Americans are Obama voters (although maybe in Chicago there's a fair number, just on the basis of going for the hometown kid; but of course they all live in a state he's carrying by 20 points anyhow). But it's important and it's embarrassing. Yes--it's the first time he's ever embarrassed me as president. He came kinda-sorta close when he called the Cambridge police "stupid," but that was more of a political thing, not a sin against history. This was just shameful; a shameful thing for a president to say. If you don't know why, read Frum's essay, linked to above.
If anyone in the big O's orbit reads these scribblings, I would beseech you people to encouarge the boss to correct this record. To take a moment to say at an upcoming event, "You know, I said something really terribly wrong last week, and I want to correct it." And go on to explain why it's important that he do so. That would actually play very well politically--for people to see a politician admit to an error, in public like that! But that is not why I propose it. I propose it because it's right.