It’s about as close as you can get to A Game Of Thrones in America. Tricks. Political feints. Lies. These elections bring out all of it. While the stuff that gets play on the television is already enough to make us long for an emperor, the truly wicked remains largely unknown. Yes, now and then there are twitter scandals, but most of the nasty stays out of the public eye.
So when I heard one Todd Akin let slip his actual feelings about rape and it’s impact on the abortion issue I had the same reaction everyone else had.
Really? Really? What does legitimate rape mean?
And then I promptly went back to my day. I mean who has time for this when there are way more important things. For starters, have you ever seen an aircraft carrier? It’s like a million tons of metal, sits about 80% out of the water, and carries billions of dollars in military aircraft? HOW DOES IT FLOAT?!?!?! I mean, yeah, I get the theoretical mechanics, but that’s probably just scientific flim flam.
Anyway, I thought Akin would quit, but he’s decided to double down and make the race about abortion. Truly this will be a most entertaining election, but I don’t vote in Missouri, so what I think about the matter doesn’t carry much weight and I can’t do worse than the court of public opinion. So instead I started thinking about gaffes and how truly petty they are. All of them.
Remember when Barack Obama said small business owners don’t earn their money?
How about when Mitt Romney said corporations are people?
Didn’t Joe Biden say something about chains last week?
All of these comments became 10 second sound bites for the talking heads to analyze. Politicians blather on and on about all kinds of stuff, but the pundits like to pick the most incendiary (and often least important) parts to explain to us. While I always appreciate being told how I should feel about something I can clearly hear myself, I’m at the point where I mistrust all television news.
All these comments are taken out of context. Most “gaffes” are. Many of them, like Mr. Akin’s, seem awful in their full context. Others are more… complicated. Not that it matters because we’re trained to pass up the entire message in exchange for our own visceral reaction.
Obviously I’m not talking about the well-read politicos that argue the finer points of international policy or even those folks that read THE ENTIRE ARTICLE of more than one site when learning about an issue. This is reserved for the “heard it in the background while watching FOX/MSNBC and cleaning my gun/vegetable garden” crowd.
Am I defending Mr. Akin? Absolutely not. Any way you slice that statement, he either said some rape isn’t actually rape or he implied women lie about rape at least some of the time. And the stuff about women’s bodies doing whatever he thought they did to stop unwanted pregnancy was bananas.
No, I’m saying that the reason we have so many gaffes, so often, is because people are fallible, cameras are everywhere and the internet makes sure that all secrets are just funny things waiting to be discovered.
Imagine, if you will, that you have one 3×5 notecard to relay to the world the most important thing you’ve ever had to say. You’ve been given a single black sharpie and been informed that you have 10 minutes to write it and whatever is on the card is what everyone in the world will find out about.
That’s about the size of public speaking in politics. Whatever you say, whether you accidentally cough mid-sentence or have low blood sugar, is what the people will hear.
When I consider how often I misspeak or even incorrectly fill out paperwork I’m not so surprised that candidates actually say the wrong thing from time to time. Now throw in the pressure of party leadership, media demagogues, and a news cycle that sways from side to side like a WVU student.
No soundbite, no matter how damning, can tell you everything about a candidate or his position. Odds are the politician is more nuanced than whatever 20 words were picked up by the media machine.
So I guess what I’m saying is make sure you look into that condemning quote before you make your judgement… or just ignore it altogether and pay attention to something that’s actually important.
For instance, can anyone tell me why this is happening? I’ve brought it up before, but can someone actually explain to me how this headline is possible? If the GOP figures it out there will be a titanic shift in politics. And if you didn’t feel like clicking on the linky-link I’ve posted the funniest thing I’ve seen today below.