June 20, 2010

That's no gaffe, that's a philosophy

Steve Benen disagrees with Josh Marshall and his staff at TPM (below);

Rand Paul opposes the Civil Rights Act? A rookie "gaffe." Sharron Angle is speculating about the armed overthrow of the United States government. "Gaffe." Joe Barton is apologizing to BP? "Gaffe."

This is a misguided way to help politicians out of a jam. As Jon Chait noted the other day, the radicalism of today's Republican Party is covered poorly by many outlets, "in part because [the media] insists upon viewing this new brand of radicalism through the lens of a 'gaffe' ... rather than explaining it in ideological terms."

When political extremists share their radicalism with the public, that's only a mistake to the extent that they're generally better at hiding it. Barton, Angle, Paul, Palin, and others aren't just misspeaking -- they're saying what they actually believe. "That's not a political gaffe."

"Oh, it's just semantics," I hear you say. Well, no. "Gaffe" implies a mistake. Michael Kinsley had it right back in 1992: "A gaffe is when a politician tells the truth." I'd modify that to read ". . .the truth as he sees it," because I don't believe politicians' "truths" are always borne out by facts. Nonetheless, it's worth bearing in mind that when you hear one of these people say something completely outrageous to your own sensibilities, sometimes they really do believe that, no matter how nonsensical it sounds.

Posted by Linkmeister at June 20, 2010 08:18 AM | TrackBack