Wednesday, 18 June 2014 08:16
Cassidy's “Illiterate”, Hillary’s “Dead Broke” Gaffes: the Political Fumbles
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cassidyIt is not usual that when a politician gets used to being in the public eye and too loose with his or her words or begins thinking of himself or herself as a celebrity rather than a leader, that they become too relaxed, trip up, and blunder their way into embarrassment. It is at that point that a politician has to explain “what I meant,” and “what I meant” explanations are never good.


Congressman Bill Cassidy (R-LA) is running against Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA). During comments to the Louisiana Oil and Gas Association, the Congressman and Senate candidate said that those without health insurance tend to be “illiterate,” and many of them are his patients. Did he really mean that people without health insurance are too dumb to know that health insurance is a good thing to have or that his own patients are also dumb and stupid since many of his patients, according to the Congressman, are some of those without insurance? I don’t think so, and no reasonable person would think so either. It is clear from his remarks that that is not what he meant. Of course, that did not stop Democrats from jumping all over Mr. Cassidy and his comment. In doing so, Democrats highlighted what sounds like a very arrogant remark for a man in Mr. Cassidy’s position. However, when you read the full context of what he said, Mr. Cassidy does not come across as someone who is insensitive or condescending. But that is not the point. The mere fact that the Congressman and Senate candidate had to explain what he meant is not good.  It never is and never will be.

Republicans are not immune from misspoken statements. Just ask Hillary Clinton. The Clintons like to portray themselves as one of the folks. Bill likes to be viewed as Bubba, someone you would like to have a beer with and chew the fat. Hillary, on the other hand, struggles with the role that Bill has so artfully created for himself. In a recent interview regarding her new book, Hillary stated that she and Bill were “not only dead broke, but in debt” when they left the White House in 2000. The next day Hillary was explaining what she meant.

Mrs. Clinton’s statement was meant to make Bill and her look like regular folks working hard to make ends meet. Her claim was not believable on its face since the Clintons receive a six figure income from having spent eight years in the White House and a book deal for Hillary worth a reported $8 million. It has also been reported that Hillary receives up to $200,000 for a speech. It sounds as if another book deal and few more speeches should be more than enough to take care of Bill and Hillary’s monetary problems, if any, and provide a very comfortable financial future. In her case, Mrs. Clinton made remarks that were not believable on their face. No one believes that the Clintons were dead broke when they left the White House. Their financial future had no ceiling and has none today. But once again a politician had to explain herself, and that is never good.

Gaffes like these occur and occur often because politicians want to look like the average guy, understanding their problems, and appearing to be sympathetic to the real life problems of raising a family and paying the mortgage and monthly expenses. Sometimes politicians want to sound deeply intelligent but make statements that need extensive explanation. These statements will always get the speaker in trouble.

When politicians act like someone they are not or speak without thinking, their words can be twisted or misconstrued. That’s when further explanations are needed. The problem is that by the time the explanation is given most people will not hear the explanation and are left only with the impression created by the initial statement, and that may or may not be a good thing. It is also very likely that the explanation will be more confusing than the original statement.  One thing you can rely on, however, is that such gaffes will happen again and again, and the opposition will jump on them with both fists swinging even when their guy is fumbling with his own words.

Lawrence Chehardy

For thirty-four years Lawrence Chehardy served as Assessor of Jefferson Parish. He has been the leading authority on Louisiana’s property tax laws. In addition to his political commentary and public speaking engagements, Lawrence Chehardy is a founding member of the Chehardy, Sherman, Ellis, Murray, Recile, Griffith, Stakelum & Hayes Law Firm and serves as its managing partner.

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