When potential Republican presidential contender Mike Huckabee incorrectly made reference this week to President Obama “growing up in Kenya,” the Left howled.

Once again, as the president’s defenders saw it, the Right was spreading lies about him, casting doubt on whether he is really a natural-born American and whether he can be trusted — and reminding voters: Oh by the way, he’s black.

Mr. Huckabee’s staff scrambled to say their man simply misspoke, that he has not bought a ticket on the birther bandwagon. He fully accepts that Barack Obama is an American, and he meant to talk about the president growing up in Indonesia.

Now, I’ve known a few bass players in my life, so I expect mistakes from them. (That’s a band joke. If you don’t get it, ask a guitar player.) Still, I’m having troubling buying this explanation. If Mr. Huckabee meant to say Indonesia, it seems to me that a reasonable slip of the tongue might be “Indiana,” or “India,” or “in a quaint little town just outside of Rapid City, South Dakota.” But not “Kenya.”

And if it were just a slip, it seems unlikely that he would have expanded upon it by talking about how this geographically specific personal history had shaped Barack Obama’s views on colonialism. (Note to campaigners: Probably the first mistake is even getting into a discussion about colonialism. I mean, is this going to fix the economy?)

I don’t want to be unfair. People who are even flirting with running for office have to talk an awful lot, and it is understandable that now and then they will make mistakes. I suspect this was not a slip of the tongue, but a slip of the brain. Somewhere along the way, I imagine, Mr. Huckabee allowed the fact that President Obama’s father was from Kenya to morph into the erroneous idea that the president himself lived there. That’s not a crime. It is even understandable.

Still, it is unfortunate for President Obama, who has battled more than his fair share of arched eyebrows and skepticism over his history. And while some conspiracy-minded foes of the president may be tittering over the mistake, I’m not sure this is the best way for anyone to slip into the Oval Office.

–CNN’s Tom Foreman is a regular on “AC360°”/www.ac360.com and “The Situation Room.”

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