Wednesday, March 26, 2008

On Gaffes And Misspeaking

The recent firestorm over Senator Clinton's description of her Bosnia trip lead her to explain that she had misspoken. When Senator McCain incorrectly associated Iran with Al Qaeda in Iraq the national media were quick to term it as a gaffe. The media covering the McCain campaign were even disposed to term the mistake a gaffe after the McCain campaign reiterated their belief in the tie between Al Qaeda and Iran the day after McCain was called on his mistake in front of the cameras by Senator Lieberman.

The two statements which caused the Clinton and McCain campaigns such embarrassment are very similar. Both claims are demonstrably wrong, but both candidates did not make the mistaken claim one time with immediate correction. The claims were made over the course of several appearances. How can it be that a talking point used multiple times is shrugged off as a misstatement or a gaffe?

If we are honest with each other, these statements are proof that the candidate which uses them is forwarding a known lie in order to further their own political ends. I contend that knowingly promulgating a falsehood is not misspeaking or a gaffe. It is an attempt to deceive the American people and it would be refreshing if the electorate were considered adult enough to be able to hear this unvarnished truth. Hillary lied about her Bosnia trip. And John lied about Iran backing Al Qaeda in Iraq.

There was motivation behind each of these lies. The war in Iraq has a long and rich history of the people who supported the invasion and support a continued occupation using deceit to further their ends. John McCain is surrounded by people who think it would be in our best interests to strike Iran... his spiritual advisor goes so far as to believe that doing so will bring on Armageddon which would be a grand thing from his perspective. If past experience is an indicator for those who care about such things, Senator McCain has just sent an unmistakable signal that he is willing to twist the facts and distort reality in such a way as to give the worst impression of Iran possible. He is signalling his embrace of Bushism and all of the deadly, bellicose and deceitful mannerisms which Bush has come to define. I suppose the major possible difference between McCain and Bush would come down to a question of competence at this point.

Senator Clinton's deceit was based upon the fact that she has founded her campaign upon her experience. The Bosnia lie was a classic case of resume embellishment but for the fact that it was also very stupid in concept. Usually an embellishment on a resume can not be disproved by simply going to the video archives of any of the major news networks. The fact that Senator Clinton thought she could add such vivid embellishment in this case demonstrates a contempt for the electorate. It's like she was expecting to simply have her story accepted at face value and her word is so trusted that no one would even bother to check the archives. I think it demonstrates incompetence. She thought she could get away with something which really blew up in her face and anyone who thought about it for more than ten seconds could have seen the outcome. The Bosnia embellishment may not disqualify her from the office, but it does remind me... again... of the current president because of the audacious creation of an alternate reality, incompetence, and dishonesty.

But it is time for the media to start treating us like adults when it comes to long used "gaffes" and a candidate repeatedly "misspeaking". Just be honest and call it what it is: a lie.

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