The phrase “I misspoke” didn’t make Dan’s political glossary, but it could be there right alongside “to spend more time with my family.” Everyone knows that when politicians say they misspoke, what they really mean is “I would like to take back what I said and I would like the public and the media to pretend I didn’t say it.” There are plenty of examples of this from both Democrats and Republicans.
Every now and then, a politician tries to use “I misspoke” to cover a statement that is so far from what misspeaking actually means that it becomes even more laughable. That’s what happened today when Elizabeth Warren’s campaign had to trot out “she misspoke” after Warren called on Scott Brown to release more of his tax returns, when he has already released more years than Warren herself has. So hours after Warren said “I think Scott Brown should release his tax returns for all the years he’s been in public service,” her campaign backtracked to “both Elizabeth and Senator Brown have released multiple years of tax returns that she believes give voters an understanding of each candidate’s financial circumstances.” From insufficient to sufficient in less than a day – nothing to see here, she simply misspoke!
This incident also reveals how meaningless the word “transparency” has become in politics (as demands to see tax returns are always about transparency, never about scoring political points!). The word is wielded by partisans (on both sides) as a political weapon and defined however is most advantageous for the one using it. Thus, we get arguments that Mitt Romney should have to release many years of tax returns, but Harry Reid shouldn’t have to release any. Four years is sufficient for Elizabeth Warren, but Scott Brown owes the public twenty years of returns. Ted Kennedy never released any tax returns but that’s not relevant, stop trying to change the subject.
I will say, the Left seems more often guilty of changing the ground rules as they go, but maybe it’s just that the media lets them get away with it more than they do the Right.
This gaffe of Warren’s will surely be quickly forgotten, but stay tuned – another politician is sure to misspeak any day now!