Tuesday, August 7, 2012

You misspoke? Inconceivable!

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!


  1. It's laughable to say that someone mispoke when they actually deliver a grammatically correct,unprompted statement. How is it even possible to misspeak in such a way? Saying Steve Grogan when you clearly meant to say Tom Brady is misspeaking, saying Steve Grogan was a better QB than Tom Brady is simply being a moron. Warren's statement clearly falls into the later category.

  2. Thanks for commenting, Anonymous. It really is laughable. Warren is asking us to believe that when she said Brown should release 20 years of tax returns, she really meant to say that what he's already released (6 years) is enough. Of course, I can see how she'd mix those two positions up!

  3. Though the campaign (as all campaigns on both sides of the aisle will not infrequently do when their candidates spew verbal diarrhea) claimed she misspoke, it's very clear that she simply made a moronic mistake - I think any even barely astute observer can glean that from her statements.

    The story here is why campaigns feel the need to feign otherwise, rather than just simply admit the mistake and move on (rule #1 - never admit a mistake, followed closely by #2: do not utter one positive - or even remotely neutral - thing about your opponent).

    It'd be funny if her campaign (or Elizabeth) simply apologized under the (entirely plausible) auspice that Elizabeth simply had been under the impression that Scott Brown had released very few years of his tax returns. Actually there's no need to apologize because she didn't even provide any misleading information. She just made a gaffe, so she admits to it, and then moves on. Doesn't that simply nip the story in the bud?

    But would that cause her to take a dive in the polls?

    Then, if it did: what would it say about our electorate?

  4. This is one of those total and complete non-stories that only political hobbyists and reporters care about. If there is a single soul on the planet who would seriously change his or her voting plans because Elizabeth Warren (or Scott Brown, or whoever) said something stupid, I'd be shocked. I wish just once the Brown campaign (or any campaign) would resist the urge to pretend to be shocked/aghast/outraged and just say, "so what? Let's keep talking about the fact that she's to the left of those nutballs who wrecked the Greenway last fall."

  5. What she meant to say was "You disclosed your tax returns? Good for you. God bless. But let me be clear: you disclosed those tax returns on paper that the REST OF US paid for."


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