This presidential campaign cycle can be measured by gaffes; they are becoming a way of marking time. Something could be said to have happened between the Holocaust survivor phone calls in Florida and “I’m not concerned about the very poor.”
Obama senior adviser David Plouffe went on the air last weekend and, rather than answering the question put to him about specific remarks from Newt Gingrich regarding the president’s use of a teenager’s killing for political gain, simply did what he was more comfortable doing: name-calling. Mr. Plouffe, with the arrogant sneer that has become so characteristic of this administration, and of the Democratic Party with each day, compared the Republican primary race to a “clown show.”
The real story is not the frequency of gaffes, but what now constitutes a gaffe. Dan Quayle’s incorrect spelling of “potato,” something that had almost nothing to do with his political beliefs or qualifications, was a generous gift to the left, about which they are still no doubt snickering at their lavish campaign fundraisers for Class Warfare Inc. It was not a proud moment, but since, in most industries, one rarely must spell potato, it was inconsequential.
Fast-forward to 2012 and suddenly it’s a gaffe simply to be rich. Mitt Romney said while campaigning in Michigan that his wife drives multiple Cadillacs - and this was said to be somehow obtuse, or out of touch with the common man. The man is worth hundreds of millions of dollars and has multiple homes, and somehow it shocks people that his wife has more than one car?
It’s an example of the manufactured gaffe, the non-mistake that, when told to the innocent, bystanding public with the appropriate suspicion and Plouffian snobbery, takes on a sinister appearance. Mr. Romney’s crime - and we’re going to be told this thousands of more times before the former Massachusetts governor beats President Obama in November - is that he is rich. But Mr. Obama is no “warrior for the middle class” himself: He’s an Ivy League-educated millionaire who made most of his wealth from two books he wrote about himself. All Mr. Romney did was grease the wheels of the American economy; all he did was get rich the same way Warren Buffett did. But it wasn’t greed when Mr. Buffett made billions, because he’s a liberal and wants to raise your taxes.
Fellow Republican presidential hopeful Rick Santorum’s vulgar outburst last weekend against a New York Times reporter is another manufactured gaffe.
Mr. Santorum’s words really were being twisted, and not innocently, but by the Paper of Record, by the Smartest Newspaper in the World, a newspaper so smart that when you read it online, you can click on words you don’t understand and it will tell you the definition. And who could forget that it is based in the most cultured, greatest city in the country. Mr. Santorum’s use of profanity is indeed beneath him, but no one who actually listened to the speech could deny the accuracy of his description of the question.
Ah, but the real gaffe was what came afterward, you say. Mr. Santorum joked that “you’re not really a real Republican” until you’ve sworn at a New York Times reporter. It’s a funny line and, indeed, nearly all of us swear about New York Times reporters.
Notice how much more attention such a faux pas gets compared with some of the downright destructive words and actions of Democrats, such as the president’s cryptic message to Russian President Dmitry Medvedev that after his re-election he would have “more flexibility.” What exactly does that mean? And why was this mumbled at such a time and place? Surely, Mr. Obama wanted to be overheard - he surely had plenty of other opportunities to communicate that mysterious sentence for Mr. Medvedev to “transmit to Vladimir.”
The president must explain what he meant. Why let us overhear it and not tell us straight out what he was talking about? If he wants us to re-elect him, I would hope that he would tell us what he is actually going to do, in what ways he is going to be “more flexible” in such a case.
My point is that the media should focus more on, say, the North Koreans’ testing of long-range missiles and less on trivia such as who got stage fright at the beauty contest called electoral politics. We have real problems, real crises. Transmit that instead.
• Armstrong Williams, author of the 2010 book “Reawakening Virtues,” is on Sirius Power 128 from 7-8 p.m. and 4-5 a.m. Mondays through Fridays. Become a fan on Facebook at www.facebook.com/arightside, and follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/arightside. Read his content on RightSideWire.com.