|Flub – a mistake,
almost always innocent in nature. When Mitt Romney said, “I’ve been
married to the same woman for 25 – excuse
me, I’ll get in trouble – for 42 years,” it was a flub. If
Anne Romney doesn’t hold it against him, voters aren’t likely to
Gaffe – similar to a flub, but usually worse. In Waterloo, Iowa, where
she was born, Michele Bachmann said, “John Wayne was from Waterloo, Iowa.
That’s the kind of spirit that I have, too.” But the John Wayne
from Waterloo was John Wayne Gacy, the serial killer; the actor was born in Winterset,
Iowa. This gaffe may have signaled Iowans that Bachmann’s roots were shallower
than she claimed.
Freeze – a mental shutdown, a “brain freeze.” Few campaigns
have featured a more dramatic example than Rick Perry’s painful attempt
during a nationally televised debate to name the third of three federal agencies
he’d close if elected. A few days later he poked fun at himself in a campaign
ad, and then declared, “If you want a slick debater, I’m not your
guy.” However, it wasn’t the degree of slickness that troubled voters
about Perry; the freeze helped solidify the notion that he was underprepared
and ill equipped for the presidency.
Slip – an unplanned utterance, a “slip of the tongue.” If
it’s benign it’s a flub, but if it inadvertently provides insight
it’s a true slip. Romney’s spontaneous offer to bet Perry $10,000
(about what he said in his book regarding healthcare) was a slip because Romney
could have made his point by saying, “I’ll bet you 10 bucks.” By
placing the ante at 10 grand he heightened concern about whether such a wealthy
politician can relate to ordinary citizens.
Fib – a premeditated statement that is false, similar to a lie, but
crafted to qualify as truth on technical grounds. Newt Gingrich has been challenged
repeatedly about the work he did for Freddie Mac that paid him roughly $1.6 million.
Gingrich insists it wasn’t “lobbying,” according to the strict
legal definition of the term. But it’s a fib in the opinion of many on
Capitol Hill who know Gingrich exerted his influence, no matter what you call
Dodge – avoiding a question by giving an unrelated answer. In a CNN
debate, Ron Paul was asked if Gingrich and Romney should “return” money
they made from Freddie Mac (one for services, the other as a shareholder). Paul
said: “That subject really doesn't interest me a whole lot. The question
is, what are we going to do about Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. It should have
been auctioned off right after the crash came.” Moderator Wolf Blitzer
never demanded an answer, allowing the dodge to succeed.
Flip-flop – Changing one’s position, usually in a way that signals
political calculation rather than a true change of heart. Romney is branded as
a flip-flopper for revising his positions on abortion, healthcare, guns and immigration,
among others. But all the candidates have flipped and flopped at times. Gingrich,
for example, was an outspoken advocate of the so-called individual mandate for
health insurance – and now says he’s vehemently against it, presumably
because that’s what his voter base demands.
Misstatement – if it’s corrected immediately it’s likely
to be a slip, but if it’s corrected later it’s a misstatement. Romney
said repeatedly that he would end “Obamacare” by executive order
on his first day in office. After numerous challenges he finally conceded that
only Congress could repeal the law. Did he misspeak, or was he misinformed?
The worst political snafus come about when a candidate slips, dodges and then
claims to have misspoken – all on the same issue. Romney told CNN that
he was not concerned about the “very poor” because they have an ample
safety net. Asked to clarify, he repeated the slip, making it a gaffe. A few
hours later he tried a dodge by saying his remarks had been “taken out
of context.” The next day he claimed that he “misspoke.”
In the current campaign, the war of words is producing many casualties.
© Peter Funt. This column was originally distributed
by the Cagle Syndicate.