Truth Meets the Gaffe Factory
Political gaffes, catnip for heat-seeking media, are showing up increasingly in the form of what I call pseudo-gaffes. That's a truthful and seemingly inoffensive statement that, taken out of context, reinforces the worst impressions voters may have about the candidate.
The leading recent example comes from a July speech in
Sure, Obama could have done a better job of phrasing and framing his remarks. But there's also no question that, in context, he was talking about government-funded programs like schools, infrastructure and research that help businesses and the rest of us.
"The point is," he concluded, "that when we succeed, we succeed because of our individual initiative, but also because we do things together." In a perfect world, that would be a good jumping-off point for a serious debate about the role of government. Instead, the Romney campaign released an ad that made the remark sound hostile to businesspeople.
Romney himself claimed Obama's remarks suggested that "
Even so, the Romney ad must have touched a nerve because Obama produced a response ad to knock down the "You didn't build that" distortion. As I mentioned, the truthfulness of a pseudo-gaffe is less important than its effectiveness in reinforcing widely held perceptions.
Democrats know, based on their response after Romney answered a
"I like being able to fire people," soon turned up in
But in politics, does truth matter? Quite often, it's less significant than "truthiness,"
Ariely, author of "The Honest Truth About Dishonesty: How We Lie to Everybody, Especially Ourselves," also noted, "by the way, for Democrats this was a slightly more endorsed position than for the Republicans." Or, in fairness, maybe the Democrats were more honest about their biases.
Either way, we Americans are well accustomed to being lied to by politicians, but that doesn't mean we like it. Both candidates have suffered in public approval after a summer of brutal campaigning, a new
Overall, polls have hardly budged. Obama has led Romney by a mere one- to two-point margin since last October, according to an average of major polls by Real Clear Politics, a political aggregation website. Tight polls only heighten the ferocity of campaigns.
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Truth Meets the Gaffe Factory | Politics
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