The Misspoke Defense

The misstatements never seem to end.  Just when you thought it was safe, another errant misstatement comes flying out of nowhere.  And not from where you expect.  Or then again, maybe from exactly where you expect.  After a hailstorm of criticism, Charles Bolden, Administrator (for now) of NASA has been accused of misstating the mission of the agency that he leads.  What political opponent has leveled these charges against Bolden, the former Marine General and retired astronaut nominated by President Obama and confirmed by the Senate on July 15, 2009 to head NASA?  None other that the President’s own Press Secretary, Robert Gibbs.  Add General Bolden to the growing list of those — Obama’s grandmother, Obama’s former pastor, Poland, Israel — who have been thrown under the bus by the administration of “hope and change.”  But, that’s a post for another day.

Bolden, answering the very first question from an Al Jazeera interviewer (video here), stated that President Obama charged him with three main tasks as the new (if confirmed) NASA Administrator, the foremost being to

“find a way to reach out to the Muslim world and engage much more with predominantly Muslim nations to help them feel good about their historic contribution to science, math, and engineering.” was to win the hearts and minds of the Arab world.”

Anyone watching the first two minutes of this interview, where Bolden spoke clearly and plainly about NASA’s mission, would have difficulty making the case that Bolden had simply misspoke.  Enter Robert Gibbs.  Responding to a reporter’s question about the kerfuffle arising out of Bolden’s Al Jazeera interview, Gibb’s said he thought Administrator Bolden had “misspoken.”  There you have it.  Nothing more to see here, ladies and gentlemen.  Next question.  Let’s move on.  And, most will move on, simply because the President’s chief spokesman deflected the controversy with the well-worn defense, “He simply misspoke.”

The “misspoke” defense has been around for as long as human history.  While not recorded in the Genesis account of Creation, I wouldn’t be surprised if Adam or Eve were the very first humans to use this defense (to no avail).  Today, everyone uses the “misspoke defense.”  From politicians and bureaucrats to preachers and bloggers, many want to escape from annoying and inconvenient questions about their past words — either spoken or written.  This defense, whether presented by President Obama’s Press Secretary or your favorite preacher or blogger, should become inoperative when the earlier language, now under scrutiny (i.e., Bolden’s answer), is obviously clear on its face, regardless of how one wants to try to spin out of their own tangled web of words. 

However, from all spheres of our culture and from every religious and political persuasion, people still trot out the “misspoke” defense.  Why?  Because it still works.  But, the effectiveness of this defense has weakened in this new media age, where the internet and non-traditional sources of information have replaced traditional means of communication.  And when you can listen to and compare primary sources — video from Al Jazeera’s interview with NASA Administrator Bolden vs. Robert Gibb’s explanation of that interview — then you can come to your own conclusion, without Katie Couric, Diane Sawyer, Wolf Blitzer, Sean Hannity, or an influential blogger trying to tell you what the truth is.  Stated clearly and simply, with no ambiguity, the “misspoke” defense will not persuade public opinion the way it once did.  Not in political life.  And, by the way, not in Southern Baptist life either.  Much to the chagrin of all who still love the “misspoke” defense.

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About Howell Scott

I have been a Southern Baptist pastor for the last fourteen years. Before entering the ministry, I was a practicing attorney in my homestate of Florida. I have been married to my wife, Brenda, for 18 years and we have three sons, Stephen, Jacob, and Andrew.
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