Spinning is a deceiver’s art, the craft of persuading suckers they didn’t really hear what they just heard. It’s what modern politics is all about.
President Obama has put his best spinners to work to “clarify” what he meant with his remarks in confidence to the Russians that once past November he’ll have the “flexibility” to alter the American missile-defense system in a way that will please Moscow.
This was no gaffe by a dispensable aide, but a straightforward assurance straight from the horse’s mouth, given when Mr. Obama and Russian President Dmitri Medvedev were caught unaware by an open microphone at the end of a 90-minute conversation at the terrorism summit in Seoul. This exchange was reported by ABC News:
“On all these issues, but particularly missile defense,” Mr. Obama is heard telling Mr. Medvedev, “this can be solved, but it’s important for [incoming President Vladimir Putin] to give me space.”
“Yeah, I understand,” the Russian replied. “I understand your message about space. Space for you … .”
“This is my last election,” Mr. Obama said. “After my election, I have more flexibility.”
Replies Mr. Medvedev: “I understand. I will transmit this information to Vladimir.”
And thus was transmitted remarkable information unintended for the ears of ordinary Americans. The artists of the spin explained lamely that the president didn’t actually mean what he said. What he meant, his deputy chief spinner said, “is that there is a lot of rhetoric around this issue, there always is, in both countries … .” And blah, blah, blah.
It’s not yet April, and all our politicians are making mistakes, gaffes, blunders and errors we usually don’t hear or see until everyone is exhausted in late summer. President Obama did not commit a gaffe, which is an inconvenient public blunder of candor, but was trapped by the failure of a technician to kill a live mike. The president’s spinners were instructed to avoid panic and make the best of a monstrous mistake. It could be costly because it affirms what many Americans fear is the reckless Obama agenda for an unshackled second term.
Panic is all Rick Santorum has left for his tattered pursuit of Mitt Romney, and panic is not much of a strategy. The blunderbuss attacks on Mr. Romney will only further marginalize Mr. Santorum, stealing whatever clout he otherwise might have had when the Grubby Old Party staggers, sweaty, unshaven, unwashed and exhausted, into Tampa, Fla., late this summer.
A panicked candidate with all hope gone, like an army in helter-skelter retreat, is never pretty. Frustration and anger are only human, but employing a blunderbuss only transforms a retreat into a rout.
Rick Santorum might well believe that Mitt Romney is “the worst Republican in the country to put up against Barack Obama,” as he told a rally in Wisconsin. Breaking out the blunderbuss becomes tempting. It goes off with a lot of smoke and noise and frightens magpies out of the trees. But a blunderbuss is never accurate at long range, and it can blow up in the shooter’s face - and often does. When Mr. Santorum tried to explain - “clarify” is the word spinners prefer - he accused the man from the New York Times of “distorting my remarks.” He even described the “distortion” with a naughty word, which left several reporters prostrate with shock.
Romney spinners, weary after a weekend of repairing the damage done by their own blabbermouth armed with an Etch-A-Sketch and a blunderbuss, could not contain their glee. “Rick Santorum is becoming more desperate and angry and unhinged every day,” said one of them. “He sees conservatives coalescing around Mitt Romney, and he’s rattled by the backlash caused by his suggestion that keeping Barack Obama would be better than electing a Republican.”
It’s time to take this campaign out and shoot it. A luckless technician who forgot to push the button to kill the microphone has no doubt been efficiently beheaded (with a warning that he can expect more severe punishment next time). President Obama’s agenda for his second term is revealed past all spinning, and the Republican challengers are trudging from state to stage, cafe to church basement to lodge hall, waving a child’s toy and crippling the man every Republican knows is their last (if not best) hope to defeat Mr. Obama.