Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Gaffes? Or Not

The MSM's gaffe-of-the-day award goes to...(drumroll)...Joe Biden!

Biden is a favorite for such things and may someday make the MSM's Gaffe Hall of Fame.

But sometimes it's useful to say strong things. It's no big deal to walk back something that the media calls a gaffe. Ronald Reagan even got away with saying "we begin bombing [Russia] in five minutes."

Now here's what Biden said that constitutes the latest gaffe, in Jay Newton-Small's view:
Russia has to make some very difficult, calculated decisions. They have a shrinking population base, they have a withering economy, they have a banking sector and structure that is not likely to be able to withstand the next 15 years, they're in a situation where the world is changing before them and they're clinging to something in the past that is not sustainable.
This all happens to be true. But Biden did not say
they're on the brink of becoming an irrelevant third world country
That was Newton-Small. The Los Angeles Times calls it a blunder.

There are a number of additionally interesting quotes in the Wall Street Journal's version of the interview. They've cut it up into individual quotes, which eliminates any possibility of understanding the context and makes it easier for their colleagues to find the gaffe-of-the-day. Let's take just one:
On whether he is concerned about Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili living up to promises to strengthen democratic institutions:

"I'm not concerned, but I'm not taking any chances. The opposition believes the only reason he said it was because I was coming. The opposition said to me the only reason he did some of the stuff he did in terms of backing off the demonstrations was because I told him….It may or may not have had an effect on his judgment."
It's generally thought to be a bad idea to claim that the actions of a head of state are influenced by another country's statesman. I guess that this didn't qualify for gaffe-of-the-day because Georgia is "an irrelevant third world country," in Newton-Small's words. And there's more that isn't entirely complimentary to Georgia.

It's fair enough to press the boundaries. Russia needs to recognize its limitations. So does the United States. We don't have Russia's financial problems, but perhaps getting the nuclear numbers down is to our economic benefit, too.

And maybe that's an indirect part of Biden's message.

A somewhat similar analysis here. But I like mine better.

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