Michele Bachmann's latest gaffe: 'I haven't had a gaffe'
Think of Watergate, and the first episode conjured is probably an embattled President Nixon, dogged by evidence that he had indeed broken the law, assuring Americans, "I am not a crook." And so it goes with Michele Bachmann, in a campaign rendered undead by her prodigious gaffery, that she should distinguish herself from her fellow soon-to-be also-rans with this whopper: I am not a gaffer.
In a Fox News interview, via The Hill, the Minnesota congresswoman said:
BACHMANN: I haven't had a gaffe or something that I've done that has caused me to fall in the polls.
People see in me someone who's genuinely a social conservative, a fiscal conservative, a national security conservative and a tea partyer. I'm the whole package....
GRETA VAN SUSTEREN: Well, you've had a few -- you've had a few little gaffes, maybe not recently, but you had the historic reference in Massachusetts, I think, and I think you had one...
BACHMANN: Well, I got Elvis Presley's birthday wrong, but I don't think that's a disqualifying factor for being president of the United States.
A "few little gaffes"? What distinguishes Bachmann's verbal slip-ups is not that she's had several of them or that she gets a date or name wrong here and there, but that they defy any plausible explanation. It wasn't enough for Bachmann to attack Gov. Rick Perry over his order that Texas schoolgirls receive the HPV vaccine, a move that arouses uneasiness upon mentioning it. She had to add the impossible tale of a women who said the vaccine had caused "mental retardation" in her daughter. It also wasn't enough for her to do damage control when her New Hampshire staffers walked off their jobs; she instead insisted, in the face of reality, that it simply didn't happen.
This isn't the stuff of an unscripted politician momentarily telling the truth, to use Michael Kinsley's definition of a gaffe.
Plus, Bachmann's gaffes define her campaign in a way other former front-runners' don't. Herman Cain and Perry, both notable gaffers themselves, have defining moments that marked the descent of their candidacies (sexual harassment allegations against Cain and Perry's debate performances come to mind). Bachmann's campaign, on the other hand, can be described as suffering from death by a thousand gaffes. She's known not for any one of them in particular, but for the fact that she's committed so many of them.
So it's fitting, perhaps, that Bachmann's latest and best gaffe is that she says she hasn't had any.
-- Paul Thornton
Photo: Richard Shiro / Associated Press