Steve Russell: A voter's guide to gaffes on the campaign trail

"Michael Kinsley, writing in The New York Times, famously defined a gaffe as “when a politician tells the truth—some obvious truth he isn’t supposed to say.” I leave it to others whether Kinsley nailed it, but I’m here to suggest that all gaffes are not equal, or even equally interesting.

Some gaffes in our time would not have been so historically. Before the Internet and the 24-hour news cycle, candidates routinely told different audiences what they wanted to hear even if the statements were flatly contradictory. In our times, those contradictions quickly become gaffes that are circumstantial evidence of dishonesty, as Thoreau would say, “very strong—as when you find a trout in the milk.”

Let’s set aside panders, spins, and puffing—which is to say, normal politics.

A pander is when Gov. Romney chooses his speech to the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce to let out his belt a notch on his opposition to the DREAM Act by going along with kids brought here by their parents and serving in the US military not being deported. Never mind that active duty soldiers are never deported, it’s still a serviceable pander."

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Steve Russell: A Voter’s Guide to Political Gaffes (Indian Country Today 9/26)

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