Friday, July 1, 2011

Gaffing the politicians

The presidential elections are a year and a half away, but we are well into the season of the favorite sport of American journalists—Gotcha. As one who plays Gotcha on a very small scale here at Wordcrank, perhaps I should not wag a finger at the big leaguers, but they seem to have lost all perspective in pursuit of a score, better known in journospeak as a gaffe.

Most of the recent scores have been fairly high on the OGG ("oh, good grief") meter. That means that players—journalists, pundits, comedians—are trying too hard to catch the hapless politician in a blunder.

The most recent high-OGG gaffe was President Obama's misstating his daughter's age. There have been hoots and shouts of laughter than the man does not know how old his firstborn is. If you missed the brouhaha, Obama said Malia is 13, when she's actually 12. He said this on June 29. Malia's 13th birthday is July 4. Maybe he should have said "about to be 13," but, really, does he have to be that precise? OGG.

Michelle Bachman got the same treatment for including John Quincy Adams as a Founding Father. No, he wasn't. He was a child in 1776, but he got a very early start on national affairs. He accompanied his father, John Adams, on his diplomatic missions to France and Holland beginning at the age of 11. He embarked on his own career at 14, when he served as secretary to the American envoy to Russia. I'd call him half a generation away from the founding and an important early national figure. He was just the sixth President of the United States. OGG.

I suppose politicians know this is part of the landscape they have chosen to enter, but it's a shame. Is it any wonder capable people decline to run for office? We voters and consumers of popular culture should remember that when next we encounter roving bands of gaffe-hunters looking for a little sport.

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