Verbal Sauce For the Gander

The ever-insightful Paul Waldman has a useful piece up at MSNBC today offering a personal typology of campaign “gaffes,” ranging from “The Head Scratcher” to “The Opinion Clearly Expressed, Then Later Retracted.” He goes out of his way to avoid partisanship, suggesting that Mitt Romney should get a mulligan for his “Corporations are people” remark, which, like Obama’s “You didn’t build that” riff, was taken far out of context. Waldman also suggests, a little less compellingly, that Tommy Thompson’s boast to a Tea Party audience that he was the perfect guy to croak Medicare and Medicaid was a “slip of the tongue” he should be forgiven on grounds that no pol is his or her right mind would say that deliberately.

But here’s the keeper in Waldman’s piece, in terms of who is responsible for the gaffe-a-ganza of Campaign ’12:

If Romney fails to recover from his current position, commentators and historians will point to the “47 percent” gaffe as the campaign’s key moment. That may be less than accurate, and it may not be fair. Yet it’s hard to remember a presidential candidate who has committed as many gaffes of as many different types as Mitt Romney and simultaneously spent as much time and effort trying to draw attention to what he claims are his opponent’s gaffes. For a while, the entire Romney campaign reoriented itself around “you didn’t build that,” which became the topic of speeches, campaign events, television ads, and most of the Republican convention. So Romney can hardly complain that people are paying too much attention to something he said when he thought nobody was recording him. He’s as responsible as anyone for this campaign’s obsession with the offhand remark. And there’s still a month to do before Election Day-who knows what statement will get him in trouble next?

True dat.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.