Which gaffes stick

When a politician makes a mistake, sometimes it gets turned into a disqualification.  Sometimes it gets ignored.   Chris Cillizza explains which ones stick and which ones don’t:

Gaffes that matter are those that speak to a larger narrative about a candidate or a doubt/worry that voters already have about that particular candidate.

Take the gaffe du jour — Mitt Romney aide Erik Fehrnstrom’s reference to an Etch-a-Sketch when asked whether the former Massachusetts governor’s move to the ideological right in the primary would hurt him with general election voters.

The Etch-a-Sketch incident is likely to linger in the electorate because it speaks to a broader storyline already bouncing around the political world: That Romney lacks any core convictions and that he will say and do whatever it takes to win. (It IS worth noting that Romney didn’t say the Etch-a-Sketch line — making it less powerful and perhaps less long lasting.). . .

To that point, the Democratic National Committee released their second Etch-a-Sketch web video in as many days:

Contrast Fehnstrom’s gaffe with President Obama’s slip-up in May 2008 when he told a crowd in Oregon: “Over the last 15 months, we’ve traveled to every corner of the United States. I’ve now been in 57 states?”

Conservatives insisted that the reason that gaffe didn’t get enough attention was because of the media’s favoritism directed toward Obama. But, the truth is that the “57 states” comment didn’t become a defining moment in the 2008 campaign because there was no “Obama isn’t smart enough to be president” narrative out there. Democrats, independents and even many Republicans agreed that Obama had the intellectual goods to be president although there was considerable disagreement about whether his policies were the right fit for the country.

While Obama’s “57 states” gaffe never caught on, his comments about rural voters “clinging” to their religion and their guns — made at a fundraising event in California — became a huge problem for his campaign. Why? Because there was an “Obama as elitist” narrative already in the political bloodstream that his “cling” comments played directly into.

Recent (and even not-so-recent) political campaigns are filled with gaffes that prove our point.

* Massachusetts Sen John Kerry’s order of swiss cheese on his cheesesteak mattered because he was already fighting against the idea that he was out of touch with average Americans.

* Rick Perry’s “oops” moment mattered because from the second the Texas governor announced his 2012 candidacy for president there were questions about whether or not he was up to the task.

* George H.W. Bush looking at his watch during a presidential debate in the 1992 campaign mattered because there was a already a sense in the electorate that the incumbent president was aloof and uncaring.

* Edmund Muskie’s tearing up in New Hampshire during the 1972 presidential campaign mattered because it reinforced the idea kicking around in political circles that he was emotionally unstable and prone to burst of temper.

via The Etch-a-Sketch incident and the art of the political gaffe – The Washington Post.

But the “narratives” have to come from somewhere, usually from things candidates do and say, including other gaffes.  What turns a gaffe into a narrative, which then shapes which other gaffes are meaningful, seems to be a different process, with political spinners playing a big role.

And along this line, what do you think about President Obama’s latest gaffe, in which he gets caught on an open microphone telling the president of Russia to give him “space” until he is re-elected, whereupon he will be able to be more “flexible” in presumably giving the Russians what they want on a missile defense agreement.  Will that one stick?  Should it?

Oklahoma Democrats

I blogged earlier about the  political beliefs that characterize my beloved natal state of Oklahoma.   On Super Tuesday, Oklahoma also held its Democratic primary.  And Barack Obama only received 57% of the vote.  His main competitor for Oklahoma Democrats?  Anti-abortion militant Randall Terry!

See this, with its rather questionable analysis:   Why Oklahoma is so anti-Obama – The Washington Post.  The article begs the question of why Oklahoma urban areas don’t go for Obama the way other urban areas do.  Why does he lose in Oklahoma City while winning in Salt Lake City?  It isn’t because of race, as the article suggests.  Salt Lake City is 79.2% white, with only 1.9% black.  Oklahoma City is only 58.7% white, with 14.6% black.  The article also admits that Oklahoma is far from the most conservative state in the union, according to a recent study not even being in the top 10.  And lots of Democrats are getting elected to state offices, including a recent governor and a current Congressman.  For some reason, Oklahoma is extremely pro-life, including among Democrats.  But why Oklahoma is this way while other similar states are not remains a mystery.

 

Opposition research

How political campaigns are waged these days:

Rick Santorum’s surprising momentum at a critical stage in the presidential race has forced the Obama campaign to reassess its reelection strategy, which for months has revolved around the likelihood that Mitt Romney would end up as the president’s Republican rival.

Obama’s Chicago-based reelection team has begun digging into Santorum’s background, diverting opposition researchers who thus far had been focused on Romney. They also blasted an e-mail to supporters in Pennsylvania, asking them to submit their most damning recollections of Santorum, a former senator from the state.

via Obama campaign turns attention to Santorum – The Washington Post.

Instead of arguments about policies and positions, much of our political discourse today consists of revelations of embarrassing things that opposing candidates once said or did.  To what extent is that valid and to what extent is it just the ad hominem fallacy?

In the meantime, if you know anything bad about Rick Santorum, tell the Obama campaign team.

Taxmageddon

What awaits us, no matter who wins the elections:

On Dec. 31, the George W. Bush-era tax cuts are scheduled to expire, raising rates on investment income, estates and gifts, and earnings at all levels. Overnight, the marriage penalty for joint filers will spring back to life, the value of the child credit will drop from $1,000 to $500, and the rate everyone pays on the first $8,700 of wages will jump from 10 percent to 15 percent.

The Social Security payroll tax will pop back up to 6.2 percent from 4.2 percent under the deal approved Friday by Congress. And new Medicare taxes enacted as part of President Obama’s health-care initiative will for the first time strike high-income households.

The potential shock to the nation’s pocketbook is so enormous, congressional aides have dubbed it “Taxmageddon.” Some economists say it could push the fragile U.S. economy back into recession, particularly if automatic cuts to federal agencies, also set for January, are permitted to take effect. . . .

The tax shock is set to occur after the Nov. 6 election but before the new Congress — and potentially a new president — take office two months later. While the outcome of the contest is likely to color the tax debate, Obama will either be freshly reelected or on his way out and, therefore, free to play hardball with Congress.

White House officials say Obama will not sign another full extension of the Bush tax cuts, as he did in December 2010. Obama is demanding a partial extension that would preserve the cuts for middle-class taxpayers but permit rates to rise on household income over $250,000.

via ‘Taxmageddon’ looms at end of payroll tax holiday – The Washington Post.

This will be decided by the lame duck Congress and the potentially lame duck President (unless he is re-elected, which I still think is likely).  Doing nothing or being deadlocked means the tax cuts will all expire.

Obama, Henry VIII, and tooth-level surveillance

Mark Steyn compares President Obama’s religion policies to those of Henry VIII, whose “Act of Supremacy” gave him sole authority over his subjects’ faith and practice.  You need to read what he says.

But I draw your attention to just two parts of that essay.  The first, where he quotes a provision of Obamacare that gives Secretary of Health & Human Services Kathleen Sibelius authority over our teeth:

“The Secretary shall develop oral healthcare components that shall include tooth-level surveillance.”

The second is his conclusion, which is a strikingly-phrased statement of the dangers of big government:

The bigger the Big Government, the smaller everything else: First, other pillars of civil society are crowded out of the public space; then, the individual gets crowded out, even in his most private, tooth-level space. President Obama, Commissar Sebelius, and many others believe in one-size-fits-all national government — uniformity, conformity, supremacy from Maine to Hawaii, for all but favored cronies. It is a doomed experiment — and on the morning after it will take a lot more than a morning-after pill to make it all go away.

via The Church of Obama – Mark Steyn – National Review Online.

Christianity & taxes

At the National Prayer Breakfast, President Obama suggested, as some have put it, that Jesus would tax the rich:

President Barack Obama on Thursday tied his proposal to raise taxes on wealthy Americans to his faith, telling leaders gathered for the National Prayer Breakfast that Jesus’s teachings have shaped that conclusion.The rich should pay more not only because “I actually think that is going to make economic sense, but for me as a Christian, it also coincides with Jesus’s teaching that ‘for unto whom much is given, much shall be required,’” Obama said at the Washington Hilton, delivering remarks at an annual event that every president has attended since Dwight D. Eisenhower.

via Obama: Jesus would tax the rich – Jennifer Epstein – POLITICO.com.

I like the response by Mary Theroux of the Independent Institute:

Yes, that Jesus was always looking for ways to make Rome more powerful!

Here we see two different ways of looking at taxes and at government:  Liberals think taxation is virtuous because the government is always helping people, so in order to help people more we need to give the government more money.  Conservatives think government basically exerts power over people, so giving it more money makes it even more powerful and lessens the liberty of its citizens. 

The text that the president cites (Luke 12:48), in context, does not refer to taxes, but it can apply to money as to everything else.  A person who has received much FROM GOD has much that is required BY GOD.  Not the federal government!   The president here is putting the federal government squarely in the place of God!

A person who has been blessed with lots of money should indeed do good with it, including helping those who lack money.  But it isn’t necessary to go through the federal government to do that.  The wealthy person can and should help people and organizations directly.

At the same time, Christians should remember that just about every time the New Testament teaches something about our obligation to our governments, including that of the Roman Empire, it includes an exhortation to pay our taxes.  I worry that our anti-tax rhetoric may sometimes violate the spirit of those teachings, which impose upon us a cross and a discipline that we must submit to, whether we like it or not.

 


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