Saturday, August 01, 2009

"Darling, I could have calibrated words differently"

Obviously the three little words that matter most in a marriage are "I was wrong". In that context they lead to forgiveness, sooner or later. In politics on the other hand they are the inevitable precursor to weeks of public scorn and wounding criticism, which is why politicians seldom utter them. They approach the press conference lectern intending to say them but at the last minute they can't bring themselves to do it and retreat instead into a tongue no man other than a politician ever used. They "mis-spoke". Or in the case of Obama's clarification over what he said about the Henry Gates case they "could have calibrated words differently".

This is a very subtle way of putting things, as befits a very subtle man. It suggests he should have said things in a different way while also, by employing a term often used in the world of artillery, implying that had he known the impact his words would have had, he would have pointed them at somebody else. How he must yearn for the days when Presidents weren't expected to have a quotable reaction to every small convulsion in the nation's daily life.


  1. The other alternative to the "I was wrong" admission that always tickles/infuriates me is "there was an error of judgement". By expressing it in the third-person, not only do they instantly place the indiscretion at arm's length, but they also create the idea that it was kind of visited upon them from above. They suggest that they actually played no part in it, and were merely the recipients of a piece of wayward misfortune.

  2. If we could dispense with the services of the cynical spin docs on one side and the hair-trigger tabloids desperate to have their shrieking headlines on the other our world would be a better place.

  3. Paul K9:07 am

    The political statement which always fascinates me is the bold declaration by each leader during an election that they will win. I remember John Major continually stating that he would win, that he would lead the next government, "when we return to power" etc, even when it was patently clear that he would lose. Now, confidence is one thing, but this either represented something bordering on insanity - or it was a lie. I wonder now if he would admit which it was?

    Did he GENUINELY believe at that point that he would win - in which case he was a deluded madman and should not have been elected? Or did he actually know, from all his internal polling, that he hadn't got a hope, in which case it was a lie - and he should not have been elected.

  4. Obama's most subtle phrase I can recall, from listening to Dreams from My Father, is his reference to the 'sheen' that the news media gives to stories. His implied message gets across, without offending any media outlets. And this was way before he was running for President.