Why Gaffes Don’t Matter But We Talk About Them Anyway

President Barack Obama at a campaign event in Des Moines.<a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/barackobamadotcom/7269002980/sizes/z/in/set-72157629893677302/">Barack Obama</a>/Flickr

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The Washington Post‘s Chris Cillizza says President Obama’s statement that “the private sector is doing fine” is going to be a big deal over the next six months. Why? Because political pundits are going to talk about how big of a deal it is:

First, while it is true that midday cable television viewership is low, that rationale completely disregards the media world in which we live, where even the smallest comment can be amplified into a national headline in minutes. Is there anyone paying even passing attention to politics who hasn’t seen the Obama clip five times at this point—which, by the way, is less than 96 hours after he said it? Answer: no.

Wait, really? We’ll have to wait for Pew’s next report on how little people pay attention to current affairs to see just how wrong that statement is, but the short of it is that it’s very wrong. I’m paid to pay attention to politics and I think I’ve seen the clip maybe once. The press conference in question was on a Friday afternoon. How are people supposed to have seen this clip if not on a cable news program? (No one watches cable news.) Cillizza notes that the Romney campaign has distributed a web video featuring the Obama quote, but that’s a lot different than a television ad capable of reaching people who don’t opt-in to watching it. And how do we know this will have any more of an impact than any of the dozens of other web videos released by the Romney campaign?

It’s very possible that this quote will enter Romney’s campaign lexicon going forward, but the idea that we should talk about it because we’ll be talking about it is pretty circular. The role of a political reporter isn’t to predict the future; it’s to cut through the balogna. In this case, Obama tripped on his line, but his factual point stands.

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SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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