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The Obama Russian Wink: Will Mainstream Media Focus on This Authentic Gaffe?

Barack Obama was recorded saying there was a position he would take before, and there was a position he would take after, the presidential election. Oops.

I have written here and there on political “gaffes,” arguing that they are exaggerated in detection and exaggerated in significance, if not always in effect.

A genuine meaningful gaffe is a premeditated statement of opinion that reveals something substantively deficient about a principal actor; it is not an error, not a Freudian slip, and not a misspeaking.

President Barack Obama made today what I would call a genuine gaffe:  he said to Russian President Dmitry Medvedev regarding missile defense positions he could take only after the presidential election: "This is my last election.  After my election, I have more flexibility."

This would be comparable to presidential candidate Mitt Romney -- not his advisor Eric Fehrnstrom -- saying that his current rhetoric is misleading because "I think you hit a reset button for the fall campaign; Everything changes. It's almost like an Etch-A-Sketch. You can kind of shake it up, and we start all over again."

The Obama statement, made with full intent, is not ambiguous: it means that President Obama will make strong protestations regarding the crucial need for a U.S.-led NATO missile defense system in Europe, but that after the election, he will let it languish as an issue.  Thus Russia should not take umbrage.

What will the mainstream media make of this? Ambiguous what the president meant?  How could it be ambiguous that he was saying that Russia should ignore as empty political posturing his more strongly stated policy positions now?

Will Brian Williams narrate a segment for his nightly news or for “Rock Center?”  Will the Etch-A-Sketch coverage be matched by the coverage of “The Obama Russian Wink?”

We shall see.

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Professor Vatz teaches political rhetoric and communication at Towson University.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Max Obuszewski March 27, 2012 at 12:33 PM
The major problem this country faces is the Pentagon, which consumes fifty percent of the federal budget. While rec centers close in Baltimore, and poverty deepens. U.S. soldiers continue to kill civilians in foreign lands. As Maryland and Baltimore City struggles with balancing budgets, the U.S. is wasting taxdollars on an offensive missile shield. This is destabilizing, not necessary. And the Pentagon is #1 for destroying Mother Earth's ecosystem. Why doesn't Professor Vatz focus on these real problems? Take the blinders off and write about Lockheed Martin seeking tax breaks in Montgomery County.
Able Baker March 28, 2012 at 03:31 PM
It pretty clearly means "This is not an issue I want to take up right now. We'll negotiate after the election." Romney tried to make political hay out of it, claiming that Russia was our #1 opponent on the world stage, which pretty much demonstrates that Romney is still stuck in 70s Cold War mode.
ALan Z. Forman April 01, 2012 at 05:17 AM
Didn't think it would be necessary to have to defend Prof. Vatz for pointing out the obvious, the duplicity of our president. If Obama were a Republican, no doubt the mainstream media would be all over this. So much for mendacity at the highest level... AL Forman Managing Editor VoiceOfBaltimore.org

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