Defining Moments

It’s as if President Obama climbed into a tank, put on his helmet, talked about how his foray into Cambodia was seared in his memory, looked at his watch, misspelled “potato” and pardoned Richard Nixon all in the same day. It’s fun to imagine the hand-wringing that must be going on within the White House as staffers try to figure out how to undo the damage their boss has done with his anti-entrepenurial riff. Defining moments in politics are strange beasts. Sometimes they’re only recognized in hindsight, while sometimes they throw the train off the tracks before a sentence has been completed. Sometimes their effect can be contained and minimized, while sometimes their effect on the political narrative mestastasizes. This one is very bad for the White House.

These defining moments take hold most devastatingly when they confirm what a large portion of the electorate already believes. Taken alone, it seems unfair that a single moment, an unguarded remark or a slip of the tongue can carry such weight. They’re often dismissed as “gotcha” moments, but when voters are able to nod and say, “I knew it,” these moments stick and do terrible damage. We have witnessed such a moment. 

  1. Bluenoser

    What will be truly telling, is when a vulnerable Democratic Senator facing a tough reelection challenge, not just distances himself, but actually denounces the President of this. 

  2. DrewInWisconsin
    Pat Sajak:

    . . . how to undue the damage . . .

    Pat bought too many vowels.

    (Sorry! Sorry! It was there! Low-hanging fruit! I’m duly ashamed of myself.)

  3. tabula rasa

    This “gotcha” moment is actually a moment when, as P. G. Wodehouse often said, the “scales fell from our eyes.”  

    We’re seeing the real Obama–he doesn’t understand business, but he still hates it, passionately.

    The a lot of scrambling going on in Chicago.  

  4. Fake John Galt

    President Obama’s problem is that he promised “Hope and Change”, but now the people have seen some of the “Change” they are starting to lose “Hope”. 

  5. EJHill

    Pat, you missed the one Presidential gaffe that this is really analogous to: Jimmy Carter’s “Amy is my nuclear deterrent adviser. ”

  6. Patrickb63

    Pat- (great name by the way) I sure do hope you’re right.  This President is a slow poison and we need to get him out of office before the damage is irreversible.  But there are days I despair of  this happening.

  7. Pat Sajak
    C
    DrewInWisconsin

    Pat Sajak:

    . . . how to undue the damage . . .

    Pat bought too many vowels.

    (Sorry! Sorry! It was there! Low-hanging fruit! I’m duly ashamed of myself.) · 6 minutes ago

    No apology necessary. Change has been made. Ironic, isn’t it? My own “gotcha” moment!

  8. tabula rasa
    Pat Sajak

    DrewInWisconsin

    Pat Sajak:

    . . . how to undue the damage . . .

    Pat bought too many vowels.

    (Sorry! Sorry! It was there! Low-hanging fruit! I’m duly ashamed of myself.) · 6 minutes ago

    No apology necessary. Change has been made. Ironic, isn’t it? My own “gotcha” moment! · 1 minute ago

    It’s not like you came out in favor the American Nazi Party or the like.  It’s why the Good Lord created the edit button.

  9. KC Mulville

    Agreed.

    James Taranto of the WSJ discussed Obama’s gaffe in his Best of the Web yesterday. The White House defenders are claiming that the quote was taken out of context. They’re claiming that when Obama said “you didn’t build that,” the [that] wasn’t referring to the business that entrepreneurs built, but the roads and bridges.

    To which I (along with others) reply: so what? The antecedent of that reference may be misplaced, but it hardly contradicts the meaning of Obama’s argument. Obama isn’t just tossing out random observations; he’s employing political rhetoric in favor of higher taxes, on the grounds that entrepreneurs owe more money to government, because the government provides public goods.

    The fact that entrepreneurs already pay the highest tax rate in the world contradicts the notions that they aren’t paying their fair share. The Left bases their calculation of “what’s fair” on how much debt they’ve racked up. We’re in the hole because they’ve spent what we’ve already gave them, not because what we gave them wasn’t enough.

  10. Rudolf Halbensinn

    Very true.  A defining moment, I’m sure.  Make it a national holiday too.

    Two years from now the books about Obama, the Ex-Pres, will start to appear and I’ll bet that the second week in July will be the Waterloo point in all of their analyses.

    Book excerpt from July 2014 :

    “After a series of stumbles there suddenly came the Supreme Court decision and Obama seemed to rise from the ashes and his previous errors all drifted away.  Then came July and his un-teleprompted remark about ‘not doing it yourself’ cooked his goose but good. 

    “A year later in his Kenyan mountain retreat he was heard to mutter, ‘Joe Biden did it to me.’”

  11. tabula rasa
    KC Mulville: Agreed.

    James Taranto of the WSJ discussed Obama’s gaffe in his Best of the Web yesterday. The White House defenders are claiming that the quote was taken out of context. They’re claiming that when Obama said “you didn’t build that,” the [that] wasn’t referring to the business that entrepreneurs built, but the roads and bridges.

    To which I (along with others) reply: so what? The antecedent of that reference may be misplaced, but it hardly contradicts the meaning of Obama’s argument. Obama isn’t just tossing out random observations; he’s employing political rhetoric in favor of higher taxes, on the grounds that entrepreneurs owe more money to government, because the government provides public goods.

    The fact that entrepreneurs already pay the highest tax rate in the world contradicts the notions that they aren’t paying their fair share. The Left bases their calculation of “what’s fair” on how much debt they’ve racked up. We’re in the hole because they’ve spent what we’ve already gave them, not because what we gave them wasn’t enough. · 1 minute ago

    What KC said.  Beautiful argument.

  12. EJHill
    KC Mulville: They’re claiming that when Obama said “you didn’t build that,” the [that] wasn’t referring to the business that entrepreneurs built, but the roads and bridges.

    Then wouldn’t he have said the plural “those” instead of the singular “that?” No. He stepped in “that.”

  13. Brasidas
    Pat Sajak:  They’re often dismissed as “gotcha” moments, but when voters are able to nod and say, “I knew it,” these moments stick and do terrible damage. 

    Yes, this is one of those moments where we’re shocked by something we already knew.  

  14. BrentB67

    I thought a gotcha moment was when somebody asked a question to set you up to look bad e.g. “have you stopped beating your wife yet?” type quesiton. Nobody was asking Obama anything, that was him unfiltered without benefit of a teleprompter.

    Looking at his campaign staff it is doubtful there is much hand wringing going on. I imagine there is more conversations like ‘yeah, that’s right, what’s the big deal?’.

  15. Albert Arthur
    KC Mulville: 

    To which I (along with others) reply: so what? The antecedent of that reference may be misplaced, but it hardly contradicts the meaning of Obama’s argument.· 9 minutes ago

    Exactly. Not much changes when you put “you didn’t build that” in the context of the rest of what he was saying, which consisted of (and I paraphrase), “You think you succeeded because you’re smart? Lots of people are smart. You think you succeeded because you worked hard? Lots of people work hard.” His basic point is that individuals owe their success to the government.

  16. Albert Arthur
    BrentB67:  I imagine there is more conversations like ‘yeah, that’s right, what’s the big deal?’. · 9 minutes ago

    That’s Elizabeth Warren’s reaction.

  17. KC Mulville
    EJHill

    Then wouldn’t he have said the plural “those” instead of the singular “that?” No. He stepped in “that.”

    I also happened to read in the HuffPost that the Obama Team is considering a demotion for the teleprompter. 

    But as the Washington Examiner reported:

    Judging from video and photos of the event, Obama wasn’t using his teleprompter.  According to the video footage posted below, Obama pulled a folded sheet of paper out of his front shirt pocket at the beginning of his speech, and slowly unfolded it. [...]

    According to a senior administration official, who spoke to the Hill, the missing teleprompters at recent campaign events are part of a strategy that is “less to do with image and more to do with upping the tempo” at campaign events, creating more unscripted moments.

    He’s off his meds … I mean, teleprompter.

    I’m sorry, but the idea of Axelrod and his crew furrowing their brow because the Smartest Human Ever can’t survive without a teleprompter … and Jay Carney saying that his Jobs Council hasn’t met with Obama because Obama has a full plate …

    Are we on Candid Camera?

  18. with me where I am
    EJHill: Pat, you missed the one Presidential gaffe that this is really analogous to: Jimmy Carter’s “Amy is my nuclear deterrent adviser. ” · 31 minutes ago

    EJ, when I search for your Carter quote, all I find is your post. Please provide background. I know a joke that has to be explained isn’t funny, but this sounds interesting.

  19. with me where I am

    KC Mulville : Are we on Candid Camera?

    No, but I think we got a peek behind the curtain.

  20. Paul Erickson
    KC Mulville: Agreed.

     The Left bases their calculation of “what’s fair” on how much debt they’ve racked up. . · 46 minutes ago

    KC – Never thought of it quite that way.  Well said!

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