Blackadder’s Lair

The home of many a cunning plan

Beware of “Gotcha” Politics

Whenever I see some outrageous statement attributed to a politician or other political figure, I tend to be skeptical. It’s not that I think people can’t have outrageous views, or make outrageous statements. But it’s been my experience that nine times out of ten the quote in question has been taken out of context or otherwise distorted, and that when viewed fairly and in context, the quote is almost always not nearly as outrageous as it might seem standing alone, and in many cases is perfectly defensible. Even when it seems as if there is just no way that a given quote could be defensible no matter the context, I tend to balk. After all, I’ve seen quotes in the past where I thought there was no way adding context would make them not outrageous, yet once I saw the context they seemed perfectly fine. I would almost go so far as to say that the worse a given quote appears standing alone, the more likely it is that it will turn out, upon inspection, to be no big deal. Politicians are not idiots, after all (well, some of them are, but they tend to hide it well).

I saw a particularly egregious example of this today. According to ABC news, Bill Clinton said at a recent campaign rally that to fight global warming “we just have to slow down our economy and cut back our greenhouse gas emissions.” Here’s the video.

Seems pretty cut and dried, doesn’t it? Well, it turns out the camera can, in fact, lie. Here is the fuller quote of what President Clinton said:

And maybe America, and Europe, and Japan, and Canada — the rich counties — would say, ‘OK, we just have to slow down our economy and cut back our greenhouse gas emissions ’cause we have to save the planet for our grandchildren.’ We could do that. But if we did that, you know as well as I do, China and India and Indonesia and Vietnam and Mexico and Brazil and the Ukraine, and all the other countries will never agree to stay poor to save the planet for our grandchildren.

So, in fact, what Bill Clinton actually said was the polar opposite of what the clipped quote would have you believe. Something to remember the next time you see an outrageous statement attributed to someone whose politics you don’t like.

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January 31, 2008 - Posted by | Election, Global Warming, Media

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