What makes a gaffe?

Mitt Romney said, “Corporations are people.”  Newt Gingrich castigated “right-wing social engineering.”  Michele Bachmann claimed that she shared the same spirit as someone else born in Waterloo, Iowa, John Wayne.  But it wasn’t the movie star with whom she shared a birthplace but serial killer John Wayne Gacy.

These politically-damaging statements were heralded as “gaffes.”  But what makes a gaffe, as opposed to a forgivable misstatement or an inconsequential mistake?  Journalist Paul Waldman, a liberal, by the way, explains:

What makes an incident or gaffe “major” is the interpretation that journalists — and these days, the blogosphere and Twitterverse as well — give it. Some mistakes are largely ignored, while others are portrayed as enormously consequential and haunt the candidate for weeks or months. The difference reveals far more about journalistic biases than it does about the candidates themselves. . . .

All of these misstatements had something in common: They reinforced what many people — including reporters — already thought about the candidate in question. That’s why the incidents became “news.”

In Gingrich’s case, reporters have long believed him to be undisciplined and erratic. Romney is supposed to be not only a creature of big business but inauthentic as well, awkwardly trying to ingratiate himself with voters. (Sometimes derided as “Romneybot,” he’d be the one to see no difference between corporations and human beings.) Pawlenty is thought by some to be unprepared for the hardball of a presidential campaign, while Bachmann is considered an intellectual or policy lightweight — a “flake,” as Chris Wallace so ungraciously saidto her on “Fox News Sunday.”The politicians’ so-called gaffes don’t tell us anything new. Instead, they allow reporters to explain how what they’ve thought all along about a candidate is true. . . .

John McCain was a grumpy old man, George W. Bush was dumb, John Kerry was a stiff patrician, Al Gore was dishonest and self-aggrandizing. Every politician is defined by what is allegedly his or her biggest character flaw.

If the candidate’s misstep doesn’t hew to the stereotype, chances are it’ll be soon forgotten. During a 2008 stop in Oregon, then-Sen. Barack Obama noted that he had visited “57 states” during his presidential campaign. Despite the efforts of some GOP partisans, the mainstream media quickly moved on; most journalists assumed Obama knew the right number and had simply misspoken. Today, if Bachmann says something that sounds like an awkward attempt to ingratiate herself with voters, reporters won’t speed-dial their editors. If Romney makes a factual error about the founding fathers, it will be greeted with a yawn. He’s supposed to be the insincere one without a handle on human interaction, and she’s supposed to be the dolt.

The result is profoundly unequal treatment of candidates. Get branded as dishonest, and reporters will pore over your statements to see if you’ve ever strayed from the truth; if they find that you have, they’ll assume it was an intentional deception and not a mistake. (Just ask Gore, who never actually claimed that he invented the Internet.) Get a reputation as a fool, and the same error will be presented as yet more evidence that you lack the intellect for whatever job you’re seeking.

There’s nothing partisan about it. Think about the 2008 election. When McCain was unable to recall how many houses he owned, the stories about it were as good a mark as any that the character judgment reporters were making about him had shifted. No longer the much-admired “maverick,” McCain had become just another rich, out-of-touch Republican. But his opponent got off no easier: When Obama was secretly recorded saying that white working-class voters in the Rust Belt, in the face of their economic struggles, “cling to guns or religion,” it allowed reporters to place him in the stereotype of Democrats as cultural elitists. Both episodes became major stories.

These gaffes rarely concern substantive policy issues — in fact, the less they are about policy, the more likely they are to stick. Mischaracterize your opponent’s tax plan and observers will barely bat an eye, but pad your résumé, and your fundamental character will be questioned.

And of course, “character” is the primary theme of all campaign coverage — not what candidates will do once they take office, but who they are deep within. The gaffe is supposed to reveal this inner character, to strip away the carefully crafted veneer and show the real person. And sometimes it can.

via How candidates’ gaffes confirm reporters’ biases – The Washington Post.

Can you think of other gaffes?  Does this analysis apply?  What gaffes will the media be looking for from Rick Perry?  Ron Paul?  Barack Obama?

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • http://www.brandywinebooks.net Lars Walker

    For the record, John Wayne Gacy was not born in Waterloo. He spent about a year in Waterloo, as an adult.

  • http://www.brandywinebooks.net Lars Walker

    For the record, John Wayne Gacy was not born in Waterloo. He spent about a year in Waterloo, as an adult.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    Corporations are people in the sense that people make the decisions, and people do the actions and people make the money, etc. I don’t see that as a gaffe at all.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    Corporations are people in the sense that people make the decisions, and people do the actions and people make the money, etc. I don’t see that as a gaffe at all.

  • Rose

    Whoa–the 57 States slip signaled Obama’s familiarity with the OIC–Organisation of Islamic Cooperation.

  • Rose

    Whoa–the 57 States slip signaled Obama’s familiarity with the OIC–Organisation of Islamic Cooperation.

  • Steve Billingsley

    “But his opponent got off no easier: When Obama was secretly recorded saying that white working-class voters in the Rust Belt, in the face of their economic struggles, “cling to guns or religion,” it allowed reporters to place him in the stereotype of Democrats as cultural elitists. ”

    Does he actually believe this? Obama got off way easier. For most candidates Jeremiah Wright alone would have been a disqualifier.

  • Steve Billingsley

    “But his opponent got off no easier: When Obama was secretly recorded saying that white working-class voters in the Rust Belt, in the face of their economic struggles, “cling to guns or religion,” it allowed reporters to place him in the stereotype of Democrats as cultural elitists. ”

    Does he actually believe this? Obama got off way easier. For most candidates Jeremiah Wright alone would have been a disqualifier.

  • Kirk

    @3

    Apparently, the sort of gaffe Rose is looking for is something that would expose Obama for the secret muslim that his is

  • Kirk

    @3

    Apparently, the sort of gaffe Rose is looking for is something that would expose Obama for the secret muslim that his is

  • Dennis Peskey

    Where would Chevy Chase and SNL be without President Gerald Ford? He did not proport himself as “presidential” yet he was precisely the man this country needed after the Watergate debacle.

    My saddess memory is Ross Perot’s 1992 running mate, Vice-Admiral James Stockdale. Given only a week to prepare for the vice-presidential debate with Gore and Quayle, he did not fare well in the process. The press vilified him for seemingly being “inept” yet no journalist took the time to verify his hearing aid problem. Perhaps if the press would have made the effort to research the man instead of focusing on his “gaffes” we would have benefitted from a very intelligent, dedicated and direct man whose life was dedicated to serving our great country.

    I would direct those interested in our current budgetary problems to the direction Perot and Stockdale attempted to lead our country in 1992a.d. I’m less than convinced we were better served by the Clinton/Gore presidency. We, as a country, would be far better served by our “free” press if they did indeed focus on the true character of the men and women who seek the presidential office as opposed to the current laziness demonstrated by so many journalists willing to pounce on occasional “gaffes” while ignoring the deeper issues of what these candidates have dedicated their lives.
    Pax,
    Dennis

  • Dennis Peskey

    Where would Chevy Chase and SNL be without President Gerald Ford? He did not proport himself as “presidential” yet he was precisely the man this country needed after the Watergate debacle.

    My saddess memory is Ross Perot’s 1992 running mate, Vice-Admiral James Stockdale. Given only a week to prepare for the vice-presidential debate with Gore and Quayle, he did not fare well in the process. The press vilified him for seemingly being “inept” yet no journalist took the time to verify his hearing aid problem. Perhaps if the press would have made the effort to research the man instead of focusing on his “gaffes” we would have benefitted from a very intelligent, dedicated and direct man whose life was dedicated to serving our great country.

    I would direct those interested in our current budgetary problems to the direction Perot and Stockdale attempted to lead our country in 1992a.d. I’m less than convinced we were better served by the Clinton/Gore presidency. We, as a country, would be far better served by our “free” press if they did indeed focus on the true character of the men and women who seek the presidential office as opposed to the current laziness demonstrated by so many journalists willing to pounce on occasional “gaffes” while ignoring the deeper issues of what these candidates have dedicated their lives.
    Pax,
    Dennis

  • Carl Vehse

    Can you think of other gaffes?”

    For a start, Obozo screwing up his 35-word oath of office (no teleprompter, I guess). And then there’s Hussein’s gaffe about “my Muslim faith”… oops, maybe that’s not a gaffe. Anyway here’s a list of Top 10 Obama Gaffes. (So many gaffes, so little time.)

    And don’t forget the 66,882,230 idiotic gaffes made on November 4, 2008.

  • Carl Vehse

    Can you think of other gaffes?”

    For a start, Obozo screwing up his 35-word oath of office (no teleprompter, I guess). And then there’s Hussein’s gaffe about “my Muslim faith”… oops, maybe that’s not a gaffe. Anyway here’s a list of Top 10 Obama Gaffes. (So many gaffes, so little time.)

    And don’t forget the 66,882,230 idiotic gaffes made on November 4, 2008.

  • John C

    Obama is a Muslim?
    Are you sure?
    If anything, I thought he would have been an athiest.

  • John C

    Obama is a Muslim?
    Are you sure?
    If anything, I thought he would have been an athiest.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Dennis said (@6):

    The press vilified [Vice-Admiral James Stockdale] for seemingly being “inept” yet no journalist took the time to verify his hearing aid problem.

    I’m sorry, Dennis, but that’s simply not true. At all. Here, look at the results for a Google News search from 1992 on [Stockdale debate hearing aid]. I see articles from the San Jose Mercury News, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, New York Times, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, USA Today, etc.

    I have to wonder if your feelings about the outcome of that election (as well as your potential sympathy to a fellow service member) have caused you to unfairly slam the media.

    After all, you admit that he only had a week to prepare for the debate — he likely wasn’t going to come out of it looking stellar, even with perfect hearing. And, come on, having hearing-aid difficulties doesn’t exactly make you look more vice-presidential, even if they’re a fact of life.

    That said, from what I remember of that campaign (I was still in high school and couldn’t vote), it was Saturday Night Live‘s portrayal of Stockdale that really cemented the “slow and confused” meme in the public mind. Of course, that’s a comedy show, and not really the news, so it still seems unfair to slam the news media for that.

    I’ll almost never challenge anyone who wants to lambast the news media as lazy or ignoring important issues, but I still think your complaint doesn’t ring true.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Dennis said (@6):

    The press vilified [Vice-Admiral James Stockdale] for seemingly being “inept” yet no journalist took the time to verify his hearing aid problem.

    I’m sorry, Dennis, but that’s simply not true. At all. Here, look at the results for a Google News search from 1992 on [Stockdale debate hearing aid]. I see articles from the San Jose Mercury News, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, New York Times, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, USA Today, etc.

    I have to wonder if your feelings about the outcome of that election (as well as your potential sympathy to a fellow service member) have caused you to unfairly slam the media.

    After all, you admit that he only had a week to prepare for the debate — he likely wasn’t going to come out of it looking stellar, even with perfect hearing. And, come on, having hearing-aid difficulties doesn’t exactly make you look more vice-presidential, even if they’re a fact of life.

    That said, from what I remember of that campaign (I was still in high school and couldn’t vote), it was Saturday Night Live‘s portrayal of Stockdale that really cemented the “slow and confused” meme in the public mind. Of course, that’s a comedy show, and not really the news, so it still seems unfair to slam the news media for that.

    I’ll almost never challenge anyone who wants to lambast the news media as lazy or ignoring important issues, but I still think your complaint doesn’t ring true.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Vehse (@7), I know you’re just an angry troll with a spelling impediment, but as to “Obozo screwing up his 35-word oath of office”, you might want to review the facts (oh, who am I kidding?).

    As Fox News reported:

    Chief Justice John Roberts stumbled slightly over the 35-word constitutionally prescribed oath of office as he swore in Barack Obama

    Not that I expect you to be able to use reason — or, again proper morphology — when discussing President Obama. But, you know, for others who might be misled by your spittle-flecked typing.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Vehse (@7), I know you’re just an angry troll with a spelling impediment, but as to “Obozo screwing up his 35-word oath of office”, you might want to review the facts (oh, who am I kidding?).

    As Fox News reported:

    Chief Justice John Roberts stumbled slightly over the 35-word constitutionally prescribed oath of office as he swore in Barack Obama

    Not that I expect you to be able to use reason — or, again proper morphology — when discussing President Obama. But, you know, for others who might be misled by your spittle-flecked typing.

  • Jon

    While Bachmann’s Iowa county mistake was a gaffe, Gingrich’s “right wing social engineering” and Romney’s “corporations are people” comments were not. Those were intentional statements that expressed a point of view. Also not gaffes are Perry’s comments about what he believes is unconstitutional (social security) and “almost treasonous” (Fed Reserve’s intervention). I suspect, by the way, that we will tire of Perry very, very quickly.

  • Jon

    While Bachmann’s Iowa county mistake was a gaffe, Gingrich’s “right wing social engineering” and Romney’s “corporations are people” comments were not. Those were intentional statements that expressed a point of view. Also not gaffes are Perry’s comments about what he believes is unconstitutional (social security) and “almost treasonous” (Fed Reserve’s intervention). I suspect, by the way, that we will tire of Perry very, very quickly.

  • Tom Hering

    Given what Perry said about Bernanke yesterday, I think the press will be watching for anything that further suggests Perry is an unhinged cowboy. Six-gun in one hand and noose in the other.

  • Tom Hering

    Given what Perry said about Bernanke yesterday, I think the press will be watching for anything that further suggests Perry is an unhinged cowboy. Six-gun in one hand and noose in the other.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Veith asked, “Does this analysis apply?” To which I’d reply that it most certainly does.

    Unfortunately, “conservatives”, with their ingrained loathing of the “mainstream media” are rarely able to see what the article’s talking about in media coverage of Democratic candidates. So it is that when a Republican’s “gaffes” are covered, it’s just a confirmation of the presupposed “liberal media bias”, but when a Democrats flaws are covered, the media is “only beginning to scratch the surface of the truth”, or something like that.

    This, of course, is part and parcel of the problem that the article is describing: seeking confirmation for that which we already believe, and ignoring the rest of the data that doesn’t fit our preconceived notions.

    Romney is already set up with the Al Gore template (robotic, fake, stiff, an uber-politician). Ron Paul, to the degree the media pays any attention to him at all, will pretty much get the Ross Perot treatment (annoying gadfly who says craaaaazy things and should otherwise be ignored). Bachmann is clearly getting the Palin treatment (attention-seeking, ignorant, fundamentalist). I expect Perry will largely get the George W. Bush treatment, both for good and ill (good governor, normal guy you’d like to have a beer with, makes lots of gaffes — I just found that link while I was looking for something else, a little redneck). We do love our archetypes, after all.

    If I had one quibble to raise with Waldman’s analysis, it would be when he says:

    You know a gaffe has made its mark when it becomes the subject of late-night monologues.

    I often wonder if journalists actually don’t take their cues from our pop culture’s reading of politicians. Or maybe it all keeps ouroborically reinforcing itself, journalists to comedians, back to journalists, and so on?

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Veith asked, “Does this analysis apply?” To which I’d reply that it most certainly does.

    Unfortunately, “conservatives”, with their ingrained loathing of the “mainstream media” are rarely able to see what the article’s talking about in media coverage of Democratic candidates. So it is that when a Republican’s “gaffes” are covered, it’s just a confirmation of the presupposed “liberal media bias”, but when a Democrats flaws are covered, the media is “only beginning to scratch the surface of the truth”, or something like that.

    This, of course, is part and parcel of the problem that the article is describing: seeking confirmation for that which we already believe, and ignoring the rest of the data that doesn’t fit our preconceived notions.

    Romney is already set up with the Al Gore template (robotic, fake, stiff, an uber-politician). Ron Paul, to the degree the media pays any attention to him at all, will pretty much get the Ross Perot treatment (annoying gadfly who says craaaaazy things and should otherwise be ignored). Bachmann is clearly getting the Palin treatment (attention-seeking, ignorant, fundamentalist). I expect Perry will largely get the George W. Bush treatment, both for good and ill (good governor, normal guy you’d like to have a beer with, makes lots of gaffes — I just found that link while I was looking for something else, a little redneck). We do love our archetypes, after all.

    If I had one quibble to raise with Waldman’s analysis, it would be when he says:

    You know a gaffe has made its mark when it becomes the subject of late-night monologues.

    I often wonder if journalists actually don’t take their cues from our pop culture’s reading of politicians. Or maybe it all keeps ouroborically reinforcing itself, journalists to comedians, back to journalists, and so on?

  • Jon

    Tom, why wait? Read Perry’s book “FED UP!”, issued last year. Perry’s like Carl Vehse, though with better hair. He can’t just say he disagrees with Obama or with a federal agency; his opponents are committing treason! Programs long found constitutional by the courts are suddenly “Unconstitutional!” because they weren’t around in 1799. No reasoned discouse; just simplistic sloganeering. He’s beginning to make Michelle Bachmann look like Tom Paine.

  • Jon

    Tom, why wait? Read Perry’s book “FED UP!”, issued last year. Perry’s like Carl Vehse, though with better hair. He can’t just say he disagrees with Obama or with a federal agency; his opponents are committing treason! Programs long found constitutional by the courts are suddenly “Unconstitutional!” because they weren’t around in 1799. No reasoned discouse; just simplistic sloganeering. He’s beginning to make Michelle Bachmann look like Tom Paine.

  • Cincinnatus

    I’d just like to pop in and state that “ouroborically” is quite possibly most cromulent neologism I’ve read in quite some time. I say this as someone who spends his days reading humanities “scholarship.”

  • Cincinnatus

    I’d just like to pop in and state that “ouroborically” is quite possibly most cromulent neologism I’ve read in quite some time. I say this as someone who spends his days reading humanities “scholarship.”

  • Cincinnatus

    Jon, you may be correct that we’ll tire of Perry soon (indeed, I was tired of him before he even announced), but I think you’re underestimating the power of sloganeering. A certain major election in 2008 comes to mind.

    Also, slogans are not facially untrue simply because they are slogans. I’m inclined to agree, for example, that Social Security is, at best, questionably constitutional (depending upon what we mean by “constitutional”). Meanwhile, Democrats and Republicans alike have been hurling the “treason!” insult at one another for years. Nothing to see here; move along.

  • Cincinnatus

    Jon, you may be correct that we’ll tire of Perry soon (indeed, I was tired of him before he even announced), but I think you’re underestimating the power of sloganeering. A certain major election in 2008 comes to mind.

    Also, slogans are not facially untrue simply because they are slogans. I’m inclined to agree, for example, that Social Security is, at best, questionably constitutional (depending upon what we mean by “constitutional”). Meanwhile, Democrats and Republicans alike have been hurling the “treason!” insult at one another for years. Nothing to see here; move along.

  • Jon

    @16
    Which Republican has, for example, Obama accused of treason?

    The constitutionality of New Deal programs like social security was settled long ago. It’s one thing to reasonably critique the program or call for its abolition, for that matter, but to call its constitutionality questionable is simply wrong.

  • Jon

    @16
    Which Republican has, for example, Obama accused of treason?

    The constitutionality of New Deal programs like social security was settled long ago. It’s one thing to reasonably critique the program or call for its abolition, for that matter, but to call its constitutionality questionable is simply wrong.

  • Cincinnatus

    Jon@17:

    I said “Democrats,” not “Obama” specifically. All I meant was that in this unfortunately polarized environment, insults like “treason” are certainly not exclusive to Perry. In fact, they seem par for the course (again, unfortunately) in primary season.

    As for constitutionality of Social Security, I highly doubt this is the place to indulge such a debate. Nonetheless, you are simply incorrect that an argument for its unconstitutionality cannot be made. It’s quite common to make such an argument from various originalist grounds: original understanding, original meaning, original interpretation, etc. Such arguments have been made before and since Social Security’s inception. In fact, I have books from highly respected legal scholars currently reposing in my library that make exactly these arguments. While such arguments will probably never gain popular traction in the near future, they are far from marginal or extremist.

  • Cincinnatus

    Jon@17:

    I said “Democrats,” not “Obama” specifically. All I meant was that in this unfortunately polarized environment, insults like “treason” are certainly not exclusive to Perry. In fact, they seem par for the course (again, unfortunately) in primary season.

    As for constitutionality of Social Security, I highly doubt this is the place to indulge such a debate. Nonetheless, you are simply incorrect that an argument for its unconstitutionality cannot be made. It’s quite common to make such an argument from various originalist grounds: original understanding, original meaning, original interpretation, etc. Such arguments have been made before and since Social Security’s inception. In fact, I have books from highly respected legal scholars currently reposing in my library that make exactly these arguments. While such arguments will probably never gain popular traction in the near future, they are far from marginal or extremist.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Cincinnatus (@15), thanks and +5 Simpsons. But it’s not really my coinage.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Cincinnatus (@15), thanks and +5 Simpsons. But it’s not really my coinage.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Okay, I’ll call, Cincinnatus (@18). Which Democrats, then, have accused Republicans of “treason”? I’m assuming you’re referring to someone of at the federal level of national prominence, a counterpart to Perry.

    Because, while I could hardly take issue with your observation of our “unfortunately polarized environment”, I think calls of “treason” mainly fit in the prescribed Republican/”conservative” narrative. You know, the same one in which Republicans are the only “real Americans”, all Democrats are Communists (secretly or otherwise), and all that — the Vehse narrative, we could call it.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Okay, I’ll call, Cincinnatus (@18). Which Democrats, then, have accused Republicans of “treason”? I’m assuming you’re referring to someone of at the federal level of national prominence, a counterpart to Perry.

    Because, while I could hardly take issue with your observation of our “unfortunately polarized environment”, I think calls of “treason” mainly fit in the prescribed Republican/”conservative” narrative. You know, the same one in which Republicans are the only “real Americans”, all Democrats are Communists (secretly or otherwise), and all that — the Vehse narrative, we could call it.

  • Cincinnatus

    tODD, I’m not going to both researching because I think you’re probably right. Ascribing the crime of treason to Democrats fits the current Republican party’s identity as a quasi-populist, quasi-nationalist, quasi-nativist party. It’s only natural to accuse cosmopolitan Democrats of the rhetorical crime of treason. On the other hand, it’s only natural for contemporary Democrats to accuse Republicans of racism, bigotry, extremism, religious zealotry, etc. I submit that it is difficult to determine which insult is “worse.”

    Point being, I don’t think there are really grounds upon which to disavow a particular candidate from the other party simply because they’ve employed an insult you consider unacceptable. Logs in eyes, etc. Find me a viable candidate from any party who hasn’t dived into the muddy waters of our current political environment and not come out…muddy.

    Maybe my feelings here stem from my general distaste for both parties, and my inclination to vote third-party, etc., but potshots of the kind Joe is lobbing–”zomg Perry said [something attention-getting that panders to a certain base of voters]!!!”–just don’t strike me as all that interesting. Fill in the blank with every other candidate for anything in the last thirty years.

  • Cincinnatus

    tODD, I’m not going to both researching because I think you’re probably right. Ascribing the crime of treason to Democrats fits the current Republican party’s identity as a quasi-populist, quasi-nationalist, quasi-nativist party. It’s only natural to accuse cosmopolitan Democrats of the rhetorical crime of treason. On the other hand, it’s only natural for contemporary Democrats to accuse Republicans of racism, bigotry, extremism, religious zealotry, etc. I submit that it is difficult to determine which insult is “worse.”

    Point being, I don’t think there are really grounds upon which to disavow a particular candidate from the other party simply because they’ve employed an insult you consider unacceptable. Logs in eyes, etc. Find me a viable candidate from any party who hasn’t dived into the muddy waters of our current political environment and not come out…muddy.

    Maybe my feelings here stem from my general distaste for both parties, and my inclination to vote third-party, etc., but potshots of the kind Joe is lobbing–”zomg Perry said [something attention-getting that panders to a certain base of voters]!!!”–just don’t strike me as all that interesting. Fill in the blank with every other candidate for anything in the last thirty years.

  • Cincinnatus

    I have no idea what happened to the first sentence of my post. I meant to say I wasn’t going to research whether Democrats had accused anyone of treason.

  • Cincinnatus

    I have no idea what happened to the first sentence of my post. I meant to say I wasn’t going to research whether Democrats had accused anyone of treason.

  • Jon

    @18, Cin, I’m speaking practically; the Supreme Court decides, in the main, what’s constitutional, and social security’s status has not been in doubt since our grandfather’s day. That’s not to say that someone could not argue that the Court got it wrong, but such an assertion needs lots of support as well as recognition of the practical results of overturning 70-80 years of reliance on the Supreme Court decision.

    So many US Christians seem oddly to think that the constitution is equivalent to Holy Writ: just get back to what the apostles/founders (which founders?) REALLY meant and all will be well. It doesn’t work that way and never has. Ask John Marshall. (I agree with you that this is off Veith’s topic, though tangentially related to ‘gaffe’ nonetheless.)

  • Lou

    The Romney gaffe may be more telling than the press has even noticed. Remember, in the 1886 case Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad, 118 U.S. 394, the Supreme Court ruled that corporations were to be recognized as persons for purposes of uphold various rights. More recently, claims of a Constitutional right to contribute to political campaigns (even anonymously) have been granted based on supposed corporate personhood and the accompanying constitutional protections therein.
    Of course, Romney didn’t mean it this way, but the press could have just as easily seized on this much debated aspect of corporate personhood.

  • Jon

    @18, Cin, I’m speaking practically; the Supreme Court decides, in the main, what’s constitutional, and social security’s status has not been in doubt since our grandfather’s day. That’s not to say that someone could not argue that the Court got it wrong, but such an assertion needs lots of support as well as recognition of the practical results of overturning 70-80 years of reliance on the Supreme Court decision.

    So many US Christians seem oddly to think that the constitution is equivalent to Holy Writ: just get back to what the apostles/founders (which founders?) REALLY meant and all will be well. It doesn’t work that way and never has. Ask John Marshall. (I agree with you that this is off Veith’s topic, though tangentially related to ‘gaffe’ nonetheless.)

  • Lou

    The Romney gaffe may be more telling than the press has even noticed. Remember, in the 1886 case Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad, 118 U.S. 394, the Supreme Court ruled that corporations were to be recognized as persons for purposes of uphold various rights. More recently, claims of a Constitutional right to contribute to political campaigns (even anonymously) have been granted based on supposed corporate personhood and the accompanying constitutional protections therein.
    Of course, Romney didn’t mean it this way, but the press could have just as easily seized on this much debated aspect of corporate personhood.

  • Kirk
  • Kirk
  • Jon

    What makes a gaffe?

    Today is the anniversay of Elvis’ death. Michelle Bachmann wished him a happy birthday.

    http://tpmdc.talkingpointsmemo.com/2011/08/all-shook-up-bachmann-wishes-happy-birthday-to-elvis—-on-anniversary-of-his-death.php?ref=fpb

  • Jon

    What makes a gaffe?

    Today is the anniversay of Elvis’ death. Michelle Bachmann wished him a happy birthday.

    http://tpmdc.talkingpointsmemo.com/2011/08/all-shook-up-bachmann-wishes-happy-birthday-to-elvis—-on-anniversary-of-his-death.php?ref=fpb

  • Jon

    Wouldn’t have posted if I’d seen Kirk’s in time.

  • Jon

    Wouldn’t have posted if I’d seen Kirk’s in time.

  • Lou

    Can you think of other gaffes?
    How about Joe Biden, “The Gaffe Machine”?
    Granted, sometimes he just sort of says what everyone else is thinking. [Like when he said, "I don't think they(AIG) should be bailed out by the federal government."] But more often than not, he’s just making unconfirmed statements. Examples: FDR being on T.V, Jindal’s state losing 400 jobs a day when LA was actually gaining jobs.

    And how about Sarah Palin: “America’s ally, North Korea”?

    Does this analysis apply? Yes, I think so. The media is always looking to invent, generate and twist the news for various reasons. Mostly to appease its advertisers though.

    Barack Obama? I think the trickiest thing for Obama to do is not lie and not exaggerate his record. He’s going to be tempted to sugar-coat his time in office (like he did during his candidacy in2008). But people aren’t under his spell anymore.

  • Lou

    Can you think of other gaffes?
    How about Joe Biden, “The Gaffe Machine”?
    Granted, sometimes he just sort of says what everyone else is thinking. [Like when he said, "I don't think they(AIG) should be bailed out by the federal government."] But more often than not, he’s just making unconfirmed statements. Examples: FDR being on T.V, Jindal’s state losing 400 jobs a day when LA was actually gaining jobs.

    And how about Sarah Palin: “America’s ally, North Korea”?

    Does this analysis apply? Yes, I think so. The media is always looking to invent, generate and twist the news for various reasons. Mostly to appease its advertisers though.

    Barack Obama? I think the trickiest thing for Obama to do is not lie and not exaggerate his record. He’s going to be tempted to sugar-coat his time in office (like he did during his candidacy in2008). But people aren’t under his spell anymore.

  • Kirk

    @Jon

    Boom

  • Kirk

    @Jon

    Boom

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Cincinnatus (@21) said,

    On the other hand, it’s only natural for contemporary Democrats to accuse Republicans of racism, bigotry, extremism, religious zealotry, etc.

    At the level of individuals, bloggers, and pundits, sure. But, again, other than “extremism” (a common taunt, likely due to its incredible vagueness), I can’t recall a prominent, national-level Democrat accusing a Republican of “racism, bigotry, extremism, [or] religious zealotry”. Can you?

    Of course, maybe his sloppy use of the word “treason” is simply an indication that Perry isn’t fit to rise to the national level?

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Cincinnatus (@21) said,

    On the other hand, it’s only natural for contemporary Democrats to accuse Republicans of racism, bigotry, extremism, religious zealotry, etc.

    At the level of individuals, bloggers, and pundits, sure. But, again, other than “extremism” (a common taunt, likely due to its incredible vagueness), I can’t recall a prominent, national-level Democrat accusing a Republican of “racism, bigotry, extremism, [or] religious zealotry”. Can you?

    Of course, maybe his sloppy use of the word “treason” is simply an indication that Perry isn’t fit to rise to the national level?

  • Cincinnatus

    Does Obama’s gaffe-tastic description of Pennsylvania voters not count?

    As an example from the top of my head, Barney Frank has called Republicans racists. Anyway, Democrats have been hurling offensive invective at Republicans at the state level in Wisconsin since February, at least.

    But I don’t really see the point in pissing matches of this nature. Debates about which party uses the most radical insults and which party is the “fairest” in its rhetorical tactics are always doomed to impasse, at best. Both parties are full of liars, thieves, frauds, charlatans, panderers, and demagogues. Do you honestly wish to press the claim that Democrats don’t accuse Republicans of faults as horrible as those of which Republicans accuse Democrats?

    Maybe next we can debate whether Rachel Maddow is less biased than Sean Hannity.

  • Cincinnatus

    Does Obama’s gaffe-tastic description of Pennsylvania voters not count?

    As an example from the top of my head, Barney Frank has called Republicans racists. Anyway, Democrats have been hurling offensive invective at Republicans at the state level in Wisconsin since February, at least.

    But I don’t really see the point in pissing matches of this nature. Debates about which party uses the most radical insults and which party is the “fairest” in its rhetorical tactics are always doomed to impasse, at best. Both parties are full of liars, thieves, frauds, charlatans, panderers, and demagogues. Do you honestly wish to press the claim that Democrats don’t accuse Republicans of faults as horrible as those of which Republicans accuse Democrats?

    Maybe next we can debate whether Rachel Maddow is less biased than Sean Hannity.

  • Tom Hering

    “… Democrats have been hurling offensive invective at Republicans at the state level in Wisconsin …”

    Did you mean to say “in Walkerstan”? :-D

  • Tom Hering

    “… Democrats have been hurling offensive invective at Republicans at the state level in Wisconsin …”

    Did you mean to say “in Walkerstan”? :-D

  • Cincinnatus

    Isn’t that “Fitzwalkerstan”?

    And hey, tODD, don’t tell me calling someone a “fascist” isn’t as offensive as traitor. If I hear it one more time, I’m moving to another state.

  • Cincinnatus

    Isn’t that “Fitzwalkerstan”?

    And hey, tODD, don’t tell me calling someone a “fascist” isn’t as offensive as traitor. If I hear it one more time, I’m moving to another state.

  • Tom Hering

    “Isn’t that ‘Fitzwalkerstan’?”
    Among the natives, yes. But almost no one outside of Walkerstan is familiar with our full and proper designation.

  • Tom Hering

    “Isn’t that ‘Fitzwalkerstan’?”
    Among the natives, yes. But almost no one outside of Walkerstan is familiar with our full and proper designation.

  • http://nateduffy.blogspot.com Nathan Duffy

    I’m not a Romney supporter, but how his comment can be construed as a ‘gaffe’ is beyond me. It was an incident which he handled deftly, and everything he said is exactly true. Corporations — when it comes to who pays taxes which is what he was talking about — are people. At most he should modify it to ‘collections of people’. Not only that, but the vast majority of his base would agree with this.

  • http://nateduffy.blogspot.com Nathan Duffy

    I’m not a Romney supporter, but how his comment can be construed as a ‘gaffe’ is beyond me. It was an incident which he handled deftly, and everything he said is exactly true. Corporations — when it comes to who pays taxes which is what he was talking about — are people. At most he should modify it to ‘collections of people’. Not only that, but the vast majority of his base would agree with this.

  • Tom Hering

    Oh goody. Can I be a legal fiction too? Please?

  • Tom Hering

    Oh goody. Can I be a legal fiction too? Please?

  • Cincinnatus

    Tom and Nathan: I think considering corporations as persons, with the rights (but apparently not duties) appertaining thereto, is intensely problematic from many perspectives. But let’s not pretend, as Democrats have recently been wont to do, that such regard for corporations is either new or unprecedented. It dates from the nineteenth century.

  • Cincinnatus

    Tom and Nathan: I think considering corporations as persons, with the rights (but apparently not duties) appertaining thereto, is intensely problematic from many perspectives. But let’s not pretend, as Democrats have recently been wont to do, that such regard for corporations is either new or unprecedented. It dates from the nineteenth century.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Cincinnatus (@31), I’ll grant your Barney Frank example. Forgot about that one (as I have with most things Barney Frank). And I’m really not paying attention to Wisconsin goings-on, nor are the discussions thereof on this blog really inviting me to learn more.

    As to the rest of your point, I really don’t understand your apparent desire to create a catch-all tu quoque argument, by which it is understood that both parties are equally at fault, neither one worse or better when it comes to political invective. Do you really believe that?

    To me, it seems dangerously naive and/or cynical. “Maybe next we can debate whether Rachel Maddow is less biased than Sean Hannity.” Sure, or, hyuk hyuk, which is the better pundit, Glenn Beck or George Will. Freakin’ talking heads, how do they work?

    Do you see what I’m going for here? Would you equally concede that a discussion over who is less biased/better reasoned, Beck or Will, is a pointless “pissing match”? Because if so, your cynicism has almost certainly overwhelmed your ability to think straight. They’re both pundits, yes, with their own biases, yes, but George Will is painfully, irrevocably superior as to his punditry.

    Now, is the difference between Democrats and Republicans in general that severe? No. (Though if I could match up a particular Democrat and a particular Republican, I could come up with something approaching the previous comparison.) Still, to claim that there’s no difference between the parties is no different than burying your head in the sand. And I know you think there are differences — you’ve discussed them in other areas, on other threads. Even if you think both parties are stoopid, you think the Republicans have the better economic argument right now, on average. Well, even if I think they’re both stoopid, I think the Democrats have the upper hand when it comes to invective. For the moment. It’s not a fair comparison, of course, because the Republicans are all busy for the next year (!) pandering to their base. But there you go.

    As to “fascist” vs. “traitor” (@33), you really should move to another state, as much as you seem to get heartburn from your current one (though, let’s be honest, you’d probably be equally grumpy — and therefore, I surmise, secretly happy — in any other state). And no, I have no opinion as to which is more “offensive”.

    I do, however, think that someone running to be head of the executive branch of the federal government should not be in the business of sloppily tossing out references to actual crimes delineated in the Constitution. That’s an incredibly flippant remark for someone in his position.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Cincinnatus (@31), I’ll grant your Barney Frank example. Forgot about that one (as I have with most things Barney Frank). And I’m really not paying attention to Wisconsin goings-on, nor are the discussions thereof on this blog really inviting me to learn more.

    As to the rest of your point, I really don’t understand your apparent desire to create a catch-all tu quoque argument, by which it is understood that both parties are equally at fault, neither one worse or better when it comes to political invective. Do you really believe that?

    To me, it seems dangerously naive and/or cynical. “Maybe next we can debate whether Rachel Maddow is less biased than Sean Hannity.” Sure, or, hyuk hyuk, which is the better pundit, Glenn Beck or George Will. Freakin’ talking heads, how do they work?

    Do you see what I’m going for here? Would you equally concede that a discussion over who is less biased/better reasoned, Beck or Will, is a pointless “pissing match”? Because if so, your cynicism has almost certainly overwhelmed your ability to think straight. They’re both pundits, yes, with their own biases, yes, but George Will is painfully, irrevocably superior as to his punditry.

    Now, is the difference between Democrats and Republicans in general that severe? No. (Though if I could match up a particular Democrat and a particular Republican, I could come up with something approaching the previous comparison.) Still, to claim that there’s no difference between the parties is no different than burying your head in the sand. And I know you think there are differences — you’ve discussed them in other areas, on other threads. Even if you think both parties are stoopid, you think the Republicans have the better economic argument right now, on average. Well, even if I think they’re both stoopid, I think the Democrats have the upper hand when it comes to invective. For the moment. It’s not a fair comparison, of course, because the Republicans are all busy for the next year (!) pandering to their base. But there you go.

    As to “fascist” vs. “traitor” (@33), you really should move to another state, as much as you seem to get heartburn from your current one (though, let’s be honest, you’d probably be equally grumpy — and therefore, I surmise, secretly happy — in any other state). And no, I have no opinion as to which is more “offensive”.

    I do, however, think that someone running to be head of the executive branch of the federal government should not be in the business of sloppily tossing out references to actual crimes delineated in the Constitution. That’s an incredibly flippant remark for someone in his position.

  • Cincinnatus

    tODD: In general, you do make a fair point. As I noted earlier, I think the current fervor of Republican invective has something to do with the fact that they are currently the party which is quite successfully bearing the populist mantle. That, and they are the outparty, at least with reference to the Presidency. They “need” to be loud.

    But yes, I am cynical. An actual discussion into which party is “worst” in terms of rhetorical ploys would inevitably devolve into a reductio ad absurdum chock full of tu quoque‘s and ridiculous comparisons (really? George Will vs. Glenn Beck?). I simply don’t perceive the purpose. Shallow demagoguery is inevitable in a mass democracy, which is why I loathe mass democracy. While I do not condone Perry’s pandering and flippancy, I find them neither unsurprising nor unique for any politician, particularly at the primary stage. Given the menagerie of evils we currently call the Democratic and Republican parties, I don’t see the point. One may as well argue over whether the elephant or the donkey represents a more threatening animal. On the whole and for all meaningful purposes, I simply can’t find it in my heart to agree that the Democratic party is “less polarized” or pandering of whatever than the Republican party. Perhaps recent events in Wisconsin have colored my perceptions of the contemporary political environment. But shallow sloganeering is, again, endemic in mass democracy.

    And, while I think certain Republicans are currently proffering more viable economic ideas than the other party, I don’t know what that has to do with my views in this case. The average voters, such as myself, will be fleeced regardless of who wins next year. This sounds stereotypically cynical, of course, but I defy you to demonstrate that it is exaggerated.

    [/grump]

  • Cincinnatus

    tODD: In general, you do make a fair point. As I noted earlier, I think the current fervor of Republican invective has something to do with the fact that they are currently the party which is quite successfully bearing the populist mantle. That, and they are the outparty, at least with reference to the Presidency. They “need” to be loud.

    But yes, I am cynical. An actual discussion into which party is “worst” in terms of rhetorical ploys would inevitably devolve into a reductio ad absurdum chock full of tu quoque‘s and ridiculous comparisons (really? George Will vs. Glenn Beck?). I simply don’t perceive the purpose. Shallow demagoguery is inevitable in a mass democracy, which is why I loathe mass democracy. While I do not condone Perry’s pandering and flippancy, I find them neither unsurprising nor unique for any politician, particularly at the primary stage. Given the menagerie of evils we currently call the Democratic and Republican parties, I don’t see the point. One may as well argue over whether the elephant or the donkey represents a more threatening animal. On the whole and for all meaningful purposes, I simply can’t find it in my heart to agree that the Democratic party is “less polarized” or pandering of whatever than the Republican party. Perhaps recent events in Wisconsin have colored my perceptions of the contemporary political environment. But shallow sloganeering is, again, endemic in mass democracy.

    And, while I think certain Republicans are currently proffering more viable economic ideas than the other party, I don’t know what that has to do with my views in this case. The average voters, such as myself, will be fleeced regardless of who wins next year. This sounds stereotypically cynical, of course, but I defy you to demonstrate that it is exaggerated.

    [/grump]

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    One may as well argue over whether the elephant or the donkey represents a more threatening animal.

    Elephant. Definitely the elephant. I could take down a donkey, if I had to.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    One may as well argue over whether the elephant or the donkey represents a more threatening animal.

    Elephant. Definitely the elephant. I could take down a donkey, if I had to.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    Donkey takedown:

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    Donkey takedown:

  • Pete

    Do Yogi Berra-isms qualify as gaffes? He made it into an art form.

  • Pete

    Do Yogi Berra-isms qualify as gaffes? He made it into an art form.


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