Of the two awkward attempts at humor during President-elect Barack Obama's first press conference, his reference to not talking to dead presidents is the one that has received most of the attention.
"I didn't want to get into a Nancy Reagan thing about, you know, doing any seances," Obama said Friday. Within hours, he had called the former first lady to apologize for what his spokeswoman called a "careless and off-handed remark."
But over the weekend, parts of the blogosphere also commented on the other joke, which he made in regard to choosing a puppy for his daughters.
"We have two criteria that have to be reconciled. One is that Malia is allergic, so it has to be hypoallergenic. There are a number of breeds that are hypoallergenic," he said. "On the other hand, our preference would be to get a shelter dog, but, obviously, a lot of shelter dogs are mutts like me."
During the campaign, Obama celebrated his biracial heritage as the son of a white mother from Kansas and an African father from Kenya -- and many biracial Americans celebrated with him.
But now on some message boards and blogs, some are saying they were offended by his self-deprecating description of himself as a "mutt."
One of the most thought-out is from a woman who runs a blog for Korean-American mothers. "I've heard mixed-race people use that term to describe themselves before, usually in the same ha-ha way Obama did. I've also heard it thrown around as an insult, a pejorative, a slur. I've felt the slap of that word across my face and it is not a word I can 'reclaim,' she wrote.
"My fear, however, is that Obama, as the first mixed-race president, will shape the way most Americans view people of mixed race for at least a generation. And will Obama calling himself a 'mutt' -- with humor, as if the word is nothing, nothing at all -- make it socially acceptable for people to start calling me a mutt? My kids?
"Because not only does the word have a history as a slur, but there are reasons that that word makes such an easy slur. It allows people to rhetorically reduce us to animals -- people 'bred' like dogs are bred. For all our 'mutts are better!' talk (it is, as Obama knows, better to adopt a dog from a shelter, right? Rejected, but nonetheless in need of love), it still comes from a place where 'purebreds' are better."
About Political Intelligence
Glen Johnson is Politics Editor at boston.com and lead blogger for "Political Intelligence." He moved to Massachusetts in the fourth grade, and has covered local, state, and national politics for over 25 years. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.