Some of us here at TAC enjoy having a little fun at the expense of politicians who make outrageous gaffes. I, myself, certainly enjoy indulging occasionally in a YouTube compilation of a particular politician’s vocal miscues. With the likes of Dan Quayle, George W. Bush, and Sarah Palin headlining the political laughfest, the GOP seems particularly apt at keeping the gaffes flowing. Of course, we cannot forget the Democrats’ own gaffe-machine, Joe Biden, who, unlike the aforementioned three, only seems to make the news because of a gaffe. Sometimes these gaffes are the result of “gotcha” journalism. Sometimes they are the result of blanking under pressure. Sometimes they are jokes gone wrong. Other times, they really point to a politician’s ignorance on an issue or topic. I don’t think a politician’s proclivity to make gaffes itself necessarily indicates that a politician is unqualified for or unworthy of a given office, though such a proclivity accompanied by other possibly worrisome characteristics in a politician (e.g., having a robust rap sheet, being a fan of light beer) may be sufficient to render him or her unsuitable for certain offices.
I want to focus on that subset of gaffes that showcase a politician’s or political candidate’s ignorance on an issue or topic. And let me demarcate a subset of that subset: the gaffes that are more than just gaffes–the gaffes that call into question the genuineness of the one who utters them. Such gaffes were on full display during a debate this morning between two of Delaware’s senatorial candidates, Christine O’Donnell and Chris Coons. At Widener Law School in front of an audience partly composed of university students and law professors, O’Donnell’s made multiple gaffes when discussing the contents of the Constitution. These gaffes were not of the Quayle/Palin varietal, however, for they raise serious questions about her honesty and intentions in running for the U.S. Senate, as well as about her understanding of her own platform.