Deeper into Jeopardy! II: Obama-Rama – $200

Welcome to the second week of Deeper into Jeopardy! here at Three Roads Trivia. I’m going to muck with the layout a bit from last week. There’ll now be three sections for each clue. In “the gist,” I’ll give a brief background to the clue’s subject matter to try to put it in some context. In “the clue,” I’ll discuss the clue itself – how it’s phrased, what sorts of tricks and hints the writers put into it, things like that. Finally, “in Jeopardy!” will be where I look into how the clue and its correct response have been used in the show in the past using the J!Archive. So with that out of the way, this week we’ll be looking at…

Jeopardy! category: OBAMA-RAMA (21-01-2014)

$200 clue: (Robert Gibbs reading) From 2009 to 2011 I served as President Obama’s press secretary; in 2008, while our families were vacationing together in this, his native state, he served as babysitter for my 5-year-old son.

Correct response (highlight to see): HAWAII

The gist: Obama was, of course, born at Kapiʻolani Maternity & Gynecological Hospital in Honolulu, Hawaii. Although a prepared Jeopardy! contestant ought to be familiar with the birthplaces of the U.S. presidents, Obama might be the most well-known of all because of the proliferation of “birther” conspiracy theories, claiming he was actually born in his father’s native Kenya. Obama’s parents met at the University of Hawai’i at Manoa, where they were both taking Russian classes. They got married in early 1961 and Obama was born in August of the same year – in 1964 the two would divorce and Barack Obama, Sr. returned to Kenya (more on that tomorrow). The Hawaii vacation the President apparently took with (at the time) future Press Secretary Gibbs took place in August 2008, a few months before that year’s election. One can imagine it would be a stressful time, and the President apparently spent most of it golfing and lounging on the beach – an extremely boring photo gallery can be seen here, if you’re into that sort of thing.

The clue: A $200 clue about a current American president is likely to be a softball, and this one doesn’t disappoint. So long as you can toss out the junk about Gibbs and the family vacation and hone in on what the question is actually asking (“this, his native state”), it shouldn’t present a problem to most viewers or contestants. Certainly, though, the birther conspiracies and the absurd amount of coverage they received from the American press contribute to this clue being so easy. If the same clue was asked ten years ago about George W. Bush, I suspect that far fewer people would give the correct response of “Connecticut,” especially with that president’s carefully manicured “Texan everyman” image.

In Jeopardy!: Amazingly, Obama and Hawaii only show up in clues together three times, and in one of them it’s a passing mention on the road to Illinois, where he worked after attending Columbia University and would eventually be elected senator. Must be that the writers found asking about Obama’s birth state too easy even for previous $200 clues, although I’m surprised they couldn’t have found ways to mask it into a bit more of a thinking clue. In general, though, knowing Presidents’ birthplaces is one of the more important lists to memorize to succeed in Jeopardy! (here‘s a Sporcle quiz to help out), so keep on knowing the answer to this one. One fewer to memorize.

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