Nerds strike back as Obama gets mind tricks star-crossed


WASHINGTON — U.S. President Barack Obama couldn’t bring two battling political parties together to forestall steep budget cuts Friday, but he did manage a feat of more cosmic proportions.

The president brought two universes together, and he did it by boldly going where no politician should ever go: confusing “Star Wars” and “Star Trek.”

Obama’s mixing of science-fiction metaphors crossed a final frontier, setting the nerdiest corners of the Internet ablaze.

The president was answering reporters’ questions Friday in the White House briefing room, shortly after a last-minute meeting with the Democratic and Republican leaders of the House of Representatives and Senate. The meeting failed to ward off automatic budget cuts that will begin carving US$85 billion of government spending by day’s end.

Obama rejected the idea of using burly Secret Service agents to keep lawmakers from leaving until everyone agreed on a budget.

“I am not a dictator. I’m the president,” he said, explaining that he wouldn’t do a “Jedi mind meld” with Congress’ top two Republicans to persuade them “to do what’s right.”

Jedis are from “Star Wars,” while mind melds happened on “Star Trek.” Obama might as well have joined the Dark Side.

The reaction from Yoda-quoting nerds, Washington insiders and even Hollywood heroes was swift, as the presidential mishmash of sci-fi references went viral. Obama turned off geeks who had considered the president to be one of them with a slip of the tongue that was almost as bad as confusing Klingons and Ewoks, or even Democrats and Republicans.

Even Mister Spock of “Star Trek” weighed in.

“Only a Vulcan mind meld would be effective on this Congress. LLAP,” Leonard Nimoy emailed after The Associated Press sought his reaction. Nimoy signed off with the abbreviation for his “Live long and prosper.”

As for the situation that led Obama to the briefing room in the first place, the president tried to downplay the epic battle that has gripped Washington, saying it was no “apocalypse.”

He could have mentioned the kinds of deals that Republicans and Democrats were able to reach in the past, when Washington was a less partisan place.

But that was a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away.