Wednesday, May 18, 2011
Watching Republicans embrace and then backtrack from supporting Paul Ryan's budget proposal has been kind of like that scene from The Shining when Jack goes into Room 237 and starts making out with that beautiful woman in the tub.
Now Newt Gingrich evidently wants everyone to forget that on Sunday, he pointed out that the beautiful woman was actually a rotting corpse and and suggests she's a beautiful woman after all. It's almost like the kid who noticed the emperor wasn't wearing any clothes suddenly cheering about the daring design of the new threads.
Newt Gingrich's walk back tour reached its zenith Tuesday night, as Gingrich personally apologized to Paul Ryan for dismissing his Medicare plan as "right wing social engineering." In an added twist, Gingrich claims that the merest mention of his extensive condemnation of Ryan's budget from Sunday's Meet The Press by Democrats is now out of bounds as a result.
"Any ad which quotes what I said on Sunday is a falsehood, because I have said publicly those words were inaccurate and unfortunate," he told FOX's Greta Van Susteren. ""When I make a mistake, and I'm going to on occasion, I'm going to share with the American people that was a mistake because that way we can have an honest conversation."
Democrats have been giddy — and Republicans terrified — at the prospect of new ads and messaging featuring Gingrich's attacks on the Ryan budget as "radical change from the right" and "too big a jump" for America. Newt's comments to FOX suggest that he's well aware of what's coming.
We're reminded about what Michael Kinsley said about gaffes:
A gaffe is when a politician tells the truth. According to Google, this observation was first made in the London Guardian in 1992. By me. Which is pretty cool—my little bit of immortality—except that I also wrote it back in 1984. (A great one: presidential candidate Gary Hart told a California rally that he’d rather be in California than New Jersey. Rival Walter Mondale rose to the defense of New Jersey and this actually became a big issue for a week or so.) Not only does the 1984 example make me a self-plagiarist, but the fact that Google missed this previous citation raises the disturbing possibility that it also missed someone else saying the same thing even earlier.
And not only that: I put it badly. A gaffe is not necessarily when a politician tells the truth. It’s when a politician says what’s really on his or her mind, which may or may not be the truth. A typical gaffe is an insult to some portion of the electorate, which an opponent can indignantly exploit, misinterpret, or, if necessary, invent. The reduction ad absurdum example would be the McCain campaign’s attempt to make an issue of Barack Obama using the phrase “Lipstick on a pig,” in reference to some McCain policy proposals. The McCain campaign declared that this was an insult aimed at Sarah Palin and, by extension, all women, even though Obama had not mentioned or referred to Palin. Furthermore, it took all of five minutes for a video clip to pop up on the Internet of McCain using the same expression.
A gaffe is not necessarily when a politician tells the truth. It’s when a politician says what’s really on his or her mind, which may or may not be the truth.
The process has hardened into routine, or even ritual. A candidate commits a gaffe—or rivals find some remark that can be misinterpreted, taken out of context, exaggerated, or otherwise morphed into a gaffe. Then the rival or rivals react with umbrage. Gaffe etiquette requires that even though opponents are thrilled by the opportunity the gaffe has created, they cannot give the slightest hint of that. Outrage and indignation are essential. And extra points are available if you can suppress your delight enough to actually express “sadness” or “disappointment” that your opponent has said whatever it is you accuse him or her of saying. You lose points for any suggestion of gloating.