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Anatomy of a Gaffe: McCain Adviser's Quote Exposes Pattern

Anatomy of a Gaffe: McCain Adviser's Quote Exposes Pattern

Controversial statements on the campaign trail are sparking a lighting-quick trend, the standard cycle of apology becoming an expected, relay-race reflex. Here's the most recent example: Charlie Black, a top adviser to John McCain, has apologized for this passage in a profile on McCain in Fortune magazine:

As would, Black concedes with startling candor after we raise the issue, another terrorist attack on U.S. soil. "Certainly it would be a big advantage to him," says Black.

As is usual in the current political climate, the problematic statement, that a terrorist attack would be an advantage to McCain, was followed quickly by an apology from the source, with Charlie Black saying:

I deeply regret the comments. They were inappropriate. I recognize that John McCain has devoted his entire adult life to protecting his country and placing its security before every other consideration.

The next step in the pattern follows the distancing by the candidate, with McCain saying:

I cannot imagine why he would say it. It's not true. I've worked tirelessly since 9/11 to prevent another attack on the United States of America.

With his campaign officially seconding that emotion. To see what happens next,


Then, Act III of the modern political gaffe-gate, the rival's response and analysis. The Obama campaign says:

The fact that John McCain's top advisor says that a terrorist attack on American soil would be a 'big advantage' for their political campaign is a complete disgrace, and is exactly the kind of politics that needs to change. Barack Obama will turn the page on these failed policies and this cynical and divisive brand of politics so that we can unite this nation around a common purpose to finish the fight against al Qaeda.

It's a pattern fast becoming a foregone conclusion. Oops, Shun, Spin. Does the expectation of this progression, dilute the impact of the initial event? Does it neuter the apologizing and distancing by the candidate by its omnipresence? Are apologies in politics too numerous and quick to count? In this case, was the initial statement inaccurate or offensive?


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