The Irony of So-Called-Gaffes

Thursday, June 14th, 2012

When Eric Fehrnstrom said in explaining the “reset button” theory of the campaign season–“Everything changes. It’s almost like an Etch A Sketch. You can kind of shake it up and restart all over again.”–he was put through the wood shredder as having uttered a “gaffe.” The latest comes from Obama

The truth of the matter is that, as I said, we created 4.3 million jobs over the last 27 months, over 800,000 just this year alone.

The private sector is doing fine. Where we’re seeing weaknesses in our economy have to do with state and local government. Oftentimes cuts initiated by, you know, Governors or mayors who are not getting the kind of help that they have in the past from the federal government and who don’t have the same kind of flexibility as the federal government in dealing with fewer revenues coming in. (emphasis mine)

These are two instances where the tigers pounced and the ads come a pouring, the echo chambers shaking with reverb. But in a rational world both would simply be taken as points of debate.

In the first case, the speaker uses a perfectly fine metaphor. Reasonable people know that the “enemy” will become the “latest savior” once the winner is determined. “Oh, all those nasty things I said about Romney, they were just part of the game. You know how it goes. When I said he was a liar and a fraud, I meant he was just being colorful and creative with his toys.” In the second case, the speaker might have been asked to define what he meant by “private sector.” “Oh that, I meant all those people making money hand over fist, even as the middle class struggles and the unemployed or underemployed go about their business. You know, where a company can lose $3 billion and not even break a sweat. Or Industry lobbies can dump millions into a perfectly reasonable campaign to kill a bill. They’ll obviously doing fine enough for that sort of thing.”

I’m pretty sure the insurance lobby or J.P. M could’ve found other uses of those millions or billions. If their group members are defined as being part of the private sector, then we would have to conclude that they’re doing “pretty well” or, at least, “fine enough.”

Now would you just pass me my cards, please.


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