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Political Misspeak

by MISSY COMLEY BEATTIE

Who hasn’t misspoken? Jeeez, I have—plenty of times—and especially if I’ve consumed one too many glasses of Cabernet.

Do you remember when Condi Rice referred to George W. Bush as “my husband”?

Yes, we’ve all made slips of the tongue and, some, like Condi’s, are quite Freudian funny. Or funnily Freudian.

Recall Hillary Clinton’s Bosnian adventure, March 25, 1996, which she recounted during her campaign against Barack Obama. This was the “experience” that prepared her for that middle-of-the night phone call. She said her plane landed and she exited “under sniper fire.” Continuing, candidate Hillary said, “We just ran with our heads down to get into the vehicles to get to our base.” Daughter Chelsea was with her in Bosnia. Video footage shows them walking from the ramp of the plane, talking with a group, which included a child who gave Hillary a poem, and, then, greeting US troops. Clinton attributed her distortion to exhaustion, saying she “misspoke.” But she “misspoke” the same yarn during the campaign, at least three times.

My mother-in-law, on several occasions, addressed me by my husband’s ex-wife’s name. “Oh, I’m so sorry,” she’d quickly add, “but you shouldn’t be offended. She looks great.” It was difficult to be gracious through this. I did, however, cut her some slack. She was older than ELDERLY. The odd thing was that my husband had been divorced from his first wife for at least a decade when he and I met.

Anyway, you see where I’m going. Words tumble from our mouths, like “idiot wind,” blasted by firing neurons at work in our brains. Sometimes, the signals hit hurdles, stumble along the way, and propel words that are, quite simply, thunderous blunders.

I would never say that I’ve lived in Paris. At least, I would never utter this multiple times. I’ve been to the city. But I can’t fathom saying, over and over, “lived” instead of “vacationed” or “traveled.” In other words, if I misspoke and realized it, I would, immediately, make the correction.

So, it’s beyond difficult for me to accept the explanation of Democratic Senate candidate Richard Blumenthal when he says he “misspoke” about serving in Viet Nam. His excuse is, “a few misplaced words.” These words he misplaced were misplaced more than once or twice. While giving a speech in 2008, Blumenthal, who spent six years in the Marine Corps Reserve, said, “when I served in Vietnam.” Add this to the other instances when Blumenthal gave the impression, through his selection of certain words, that he was stationed in Viet Nam.

Blumenthal, actually, didn’t spend one day of Reserve duty overseas.

Sooooo, did he believe that if he said this repeatedly, those who heard it would believe it, too, and, perhaps, he himself could even begin to perceive it as truth?

“There’s no place like Vietnam. There’s no place like Vietnam. There’s no place like Vietnam.” Click the heels of those ruby slippers together, Richard. And you’ll be in Viet Nam. In service to your country. For service in Connecticut.

I have to wonder why this guy didn’t understand that everything he said would be vetted. And, really, WTF was he thinking?

But, to the point, this just makes him the perfect political candidate.

Because none of it matters.

In a way, voters in Connecticut should be reassured. They don’t have to consider the possibility that they might have a candidate who speaks the truth. Like: does he or doesn’t he? Should we even dare to hope? The sad fact is that we can’t trust the men and women who are supposed to represent our interests. They are shills who out themselves, repeatedly, with their actions and their words. And when they offer their “regrets” and assume “full responsibility,” we shouldn’t do anything but gag. At first. And, eventually, just shrug it off, because the hypocrisy has become so yawningly predictable.

Missy Beattie lives in New York City. She’s written for National Public Radio and Nashville Life Magazine. An outspoken critic of the Bush Administration and the war in Iraq, she’s a member of Gold Star Families for Peace. She completed a novel last year, but since the death of her nephew, Marine Lance Cpl. Chase J. Comley, in Iraq on August 6,’05, she has been writing political articles. She can be reached at: Missybeat@aol.com

WORDS THAT STICK

 

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Missy Beattie has written for National Public Radio and Nashville Life Magazine. She was an instructor of memoirs writing at Johns Hopkins’ Osher Lifelong Learning Institute in BaltimoreEmail: missybeat@gmail.com

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