Lighten Up on Presidential Gaffes

Media blowing up slips is harming political discourse: Kinsley
By Jason Farago,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 31, 2009 9:12 AM CDT
Lighten Up on Presidential Gaffes
Barack Obama appears on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno in Burbank, Calif. Thursday, March 19, 2009. He made a notorious comment about the Special Olympics during that appearance.   (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

Saying the Cambridge police acted "stupidly" wasn't Barack Obama's first or even worst gaffe; as president-elect he mused about Nancy Reagan séances, and he still hasn't lived down his awful joke on Jay Leno. But gaffes are okay, writes Michael Kinsley in the Washington Post—we want a president who speaks honestly, even if that means slip-ups every so often. Better that than an over-scripted bore. And that's what we'll get if the talking heads don't cut out the over-the-top outrage.

Whether it's phony offense à la "lipstick on a pig" or legitimate anger like the Special Olympics incident, the "rituals of umbrage" we force politicians to go through does serious harm to public discourse. Obama and others need to be able to speak with substance, Kinsley writes. "But that can't be done in a thin-skinned political culture obsessed with gaffes, and with a citizenry overly quick to take offense." (More Barack Obama stories.)

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