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.