July 22, 2008

McCain refers to "the situation on the Iraq-Pakistan border."

Is that a horribly embarrassingly revelation of ignorance or what the language experts recognize as "the common type of speech error that replaces an intended word with another that is semantically close and contextually relevant"?

Must we be principled about this? Can't we just mock the people we don't like when they make a gaffe?

ADDED: Politico says:
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said “Iraq” on Monday when he apparently meant “Afghanistan”, adding to a string of mixed-up word choices that is giving ammunition to the opposition.

Just in the past three weeks, McCain has also mistaken "Somalia" for "Sudan," and even football’s Green Bay Packers for the Pittsburgh Steelers....

The McCain campaign says Obama has had plenty of flubs of his own, including a reference to "57 states" and a string of misstated place names during the primaries that Republicans gleefully sent around as YouTube links.
The problem with McCain's gaffes is that they augment fears that he is too old for the job. Obama's gaffes resonate with concerns we have about him too, but they are different concerns, and they are not as hard to overcome as McCain's age.

37 comments:

paul a'barge said...

Dan Rather called Barak Obama "Osama bin Laden".

You first.

Maguro said...

Who cares what McCain says? Obama will be President for the next 8-10 years no matter what the old geezer does.

Trevor Jackson said...

57 states! 57 states! Pearl Harbor bomb!

It's the new "first" in comment threads on any McCain misstatements and I just pwn3d it. Though I admit Maguro beat me to the 8-10 year presidency.

sean said...

"Obama will be President for the next 8-10 years no matter what the old geezer does."

Indeed, President of all 57 states.

sean said...

O, rats! trevor jackson beat me.

Seriously, it's kind of a silly that there's a whole group of people (the left-wing blogosphere) who devote time to publicizing McCain's verbal gaffes, and another group (the right-wing blogosphere) that does the same for Obama. It's a good reminder of why most Americans (myself included) think politics is stupid and pointless. I guess it's better than if the two groups were blowing each other up, though.

Balfegor said...

It's the new "first" in comment threads on any McCain misstatements and I just pwn3d it. Though I admit Maguro beat me to the 8-10 year presidency.

Come on! You forgot the Arabic translators who are desperately needed in Afghanistan!

We have two confused narcissists running for President at the moment. Unfortunately, neither of them seems to realise that he does, in fact, need to study for the exam. Possibly the low quality of the competition lulls each into a sense of false security.

Roger J. said...

Well--what IS the situation on the border there? My attention has been focused on Obama's recent trip to Turkmenistan--or wherever.

Bissage said...

Enough of this silly partisan bickering!

Powers Boothe for President!

kengoodsmith said...

I think the "gotcha" mentality is infantile. If a statement shows a fundamental misunderstanding of an issue it's fair game, but "57 states" and this one demonstrate nothing. I saw this interview, and McCain had just spoken at length on Afghanistan. If you were having a normal conversation with the guy you'd correct him and he'd say "oops, I mean Afghanistan, not Iraq." So, Ann, I'd answer "no" to your question, if we want to avoid debasing the electoral process any more than we already have.

Revenant said...

I'm open to the idea that neither McCain *nor* Obama really knows what the hell they're talking about. Just because the Democrats are running a guy who shouldn't be allowed near foreign policy doesn't mean that the Republican candidate necessarily has a clue either.

Kirby Olson said...

Is the hyphen necessarily there? What if it's a comma, or a pause?

Cedarford said...

The problem with McCain is that while at other times his constant verbal gaffes and sloppy language might have been considered positive signs of "authenticity" and "A good old home boy" - he wants to follow a President noted as a poor communicator. The country doesn't want that. They want an articulate leader. Plus, the less-educated Southern Christian Base that might have rallied 'round the verbally bumbling rube - has decades of grudges over McCain betrayals to chew through..

kengoodsmith said...
I think the "gotcha" mentality is infantile.


Worse than infantile - aimed at freezing leaders minds and warning them that thinking long and hard about an issue or problem is a very bad thing if they change their mind on reflection (Flip Flop!! Flip Flopper!!), show any doubt that they are 100% right on a matter (Weakness! Weakness! Mealy mouther!) or speak on an issue on their own rather than on script.

And though it was bad for his family, and NBC - perhaps it might be good for politics and the nation that the lead journalistic purveyor of "Gotcha!", Tim Russert, dropped dead.

Senator, you say the economy is the most important thing, yet in 2001 you said it was terrorism and in 1997 you said it was restoring faith in the integrity of government. Why do you have this disturbing pattern of feckless flip-flopping, compared to your opponent who has not changed an opinion or belief since he was 6 years old??


Balfegor - We have two confused narcissists running for President at the moment. Unfortunately, neither of them seems to realise that he does, in fact, need to study for the exam. Possibly the low quality of the competition lulls each into a sense of false security.

A classic! The two feed off adulation, adulation they see as their #1 job to promote and cultivate.

bill said...

I prefer the policy and fun of mocking a misstatement while acknowledging it's nothing more than an honest mistake and no big deal.

bill said...

Age of Scrutiny

Today, we are in the Age of Scrutiny. A public figure must withstand the scrutiny of the media. The President is the ultimate public figure and must stand up under ultimate scrutiny; he is like a man stretched out on a rack in the public square in some medieval shithole of a town, undergoing the rigors of the Inquisition. Like the medieval trial by ordeal, the Age of Scrutiny sneers at rational inquiry and debate, and presumes that mere oaths and protestations are deceptions and lies. The only way to discover the real truth is by the rite of the ordeal, which exposes the subject to such inhuman strain that any defect in his character will cause him to crack wide open, like a flawed diamond. It is a mystical procedure that skirts rationality, which is seen as the work of the Devil, instead drawing down a higher, ineffable power. Like the Roman haruspex who foretold the outcome of a battle, not by analyzing the strengths of the opposing forces but by groping through the steaming guts of a slaughtered ram, we seek to establish a candidate's fitness for office by pinning him under the lights of a television studio and counting the number of times he blinks his eyes in a minute, deconstructing his use of eye contact, monitoring his gesticulations--whether his hands are held open or closed, towards or away from the camera, spread open forthcomingly or clenched like grasping claws.

Chip Ahoy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Paul Snively said...

This is exactly why I have never commented, anywhere, on the more goofy stuff that either Obama or McCain have said: because, if you've ever done public speaking, you've been there. If you've ever done it jet-lagged after taking the red-eye in the night before, well, pretty much everyone else gets a free pass after that.

Besides, Althouse is quite right to link to the information that this particular example is more an example of how the human mind handles language than anything else. To not see how Iraq is semantically and "availability"-y related to Afghanistan in this context is to believe that the human brain is some kind of infallible automaton—a belief that not even a die-hard agent materialist like myself holds.

Joe said...

Like Obama's 57 states, this is a slip of the tongue. Unfortunately, as in the last two elections, both men are empty suits who seem willing to say anything to get elected.

I say flush em both along with all of congress. We then pick candidates by random drawing and we'll probably get better choices.

Trooper York said...

"Just in the past three weeks, McCain has also mistaken "Somalia" for "Sudan," and even football’s Green Bay Packers for the Pittsburgh Steelers...."

That's an easy mistake to make because both the Packers and the Steelers are losers. The New York Giants are the world champions.

Did I tell you lately that the Giants won the Super Bowl?

Trooper York said...

Once a bunch of us at work were sittin around talking about where we were born and one of the accountants said he was born in the Sudan.

One of secretaries asked "You were born in a car?"

OldGrouchy said...

"My wife called me Henry, My name's Jack!" But, I still love her!

We'll teach Johnny Mac to look at the globe before talking about Iraq.

However, it is more difficult to force feed thoughts into BHO. Barry has a great voice but listen to the words; a collection of vapid and/or senseless statements.

Barry has "Beliefs he can believe in."

vbspurs said...

When he starts calling Ahmenidijad "sweetie", let me know.

Cheers,
Victoria

Hoosier Daddy said...

The problem with McCain's gaffes is that they augment fears that he is too old for the job. Obama's gaffes resonate with concerns we have about him too, but they are different concerns, and they are not as hard to overcome as McCain's age.

Translation: McCain is senile and Obama is just a dumbass.

Either way this election goes, its going to be a long frigging four years.

Ruth Anne Adams said...

It would be [*gleefully*] all over YouTube now but there's no press following McCain.

One pool reporter can't do it all, especially when it's the shallow end of the pool.

El Presidente said...

The Iraq-Pakistan border runs right down the middle of Iran, six months after McCain is elected.

Henry said...

It's a really thick border.

The situation on the Mexico-Canada border hangs in the balance.

OldGrouchy said...

Are the Colts on the Mexican side or the Canadian side of the border?

Eli Blake said...

Honestly,

Even when it isn't my guy, I still think we make too big a deal over gaffes. Politicians are always under the gun and everybody misspeaks once in awhile.

I've said it before and I'll say it again--

Unless it was well-thought out and reveals some deep personality trait that would otherwise be hidden (i.e. 'macaca') I don't really care about gaffes. I'd rather hear about plans and ideas.

Balfegor said...

Unless it was well-thought out and reveals some deep personality trait that would otherwise be hidden (i.e. 'macaca') I don't really care about gaffes. I'd rather hear about plans and ideas.

Yeah, neither of them is too strong with plans and ideas. They have advisers who have come up with some, but neither of them seems to pay much attention to them. After all, why spend time actually thinking about a plan, when you can just wing it, and have teams of smart people try to explain how your gibbering is really part of a vast coherent policy later on? Or reassure people behind the scenes (like poor Austan Goolsbee or Samantha Power) that really, you're not as dumb as you sound.

Beth said...

I think it's good to mock people who are on the path to holding great power. They need daily reminders that they're schmos, just like anyone else.

blake said...

El Presidente wins the teh thread.

Balfegor said...

I think it's good to mock people who are on the path to holding great power. They need daily reminders that they're schmos, just like anyone else.

Remember you are only a man.

knox said...

It would be [*gleefully*] all over YouTube now but there's no press following McCain.

really. At this point, it's practically "McCain who?"

Pogo said...

The country may survive four years of Carteresque ineptitude in foriegn affairs. Maybe.

But the major newspapers will not survive 4 years of slavish bootlicking (after 8 years of slavish 40-pages-of-hate).

Weird how the leftiest Democrat ascends, but the house organ papers are becoming extinct.

I don't quite understand it myself.

dick said...

Blogger Beth said...

I think it's good to mock people who are on the path to holding great power. They need daily reminders that they're schmos, just like anyone else.
2:52 PM

Someone should remind the NYT, the Boston Globe, the San Jose Mercury News, the Sacramento Bee and the Miami Herald that the election for president has two major candidates and both should be held up for their misstatements. Those newspapers seem to forget it daily. Anytime McCain misspeaks, it is headline news; for Obama, it is disregarded totally or barely mentioned at all as a throwaway.

vbspurs said...

I still think we make too big a deal over gaffes. Politicians are always under the gun and everybody misspeaks once in awhile.

Astonishingly, I have to disagree with you, Eli (!) even though you were going easy on McCain.

I think we can all forgive flubs, but we have to watch out for repeat patterns.

Bush may well be the last president who could get away with the bone-head slips of the tongue.

No one wants another 8 years of that.

Cheers,
Victoria

Palladian said...

"Bush may well be the last president who could get away with the bone-head slips of the tongue.

No one wants another 8 years of that."

No, so we're going to get 8 years of bone-headed policies, all uttered with a perfect silver tongue. Great. Meet the new boss, same as the old boss. But hey, he sure do talk purty!

vbspurs said...

But hey, he sure do talk purty!

Palladian, I could care less if a man is inarticulate, so long as he has the balls to defend this country to the death.

But I'm pragmatic, and I know that when the pendulum swings so far to one side, it goes to the other side just as fiercely.

Back in January, people were voting for him in large part because Obama spoke purty.

That's a fact.

Cheers,
Victoria