Hillary simply ‘misspoke’

Hello there. Please allow me to tell you about myself.

I graduated with honors from an Ivy League college. I was a Rhodes Scholar. I chose journalism over professional football, into which I was drafted as a quarterback by the Dallas Cowboys after Tom Landry happened to see me throwing a football on a playground. I have copped for myself a half-dozen Pulitzer Prizes, most for international reporting.

Uh, oh. Did I hear you say that you’d checked and that none of what I said there is actually, you know, accurate and true?

Sorry. My bad. I misspoke.

Some alien words seem to have slipped out the end of my tongue when I wasn’t watching. I certainly didn’t mean to invent outlandish fiction for a personal biography. I intended to say that I had won two consolation doubles trophies in club tennis tournaments. How that came out as six Pulitzer Prizes — I have not a clue.

Misspoke. Isn’t that such a lovely word?

It’s political-speak. It’s benign euphemism. It sounds pleasant. It can transform lying into inadvertent error. It’s like kicking a man hard in the behind, then saying, "Sorry, my friend. I seem to have made a misstep."

Of course this is about Hillary Clinton.

It turns out that she was giving a speech about Iraq. She was trying to advance her theme that she has it all over Barack Obama in the international experience category — in much the way, one supposes, that being an electrician’s spouse prepares one to rewire Manhattan.

Hillary told about that time when, as first lady in 1996, she went to Bosnia to visit the troops. She said they landed under sniper fire. She said they had to cancel the welcoming ceremony. She said they had to duck their heads and run for cover.

Uh, oh.

It happens that CBS was on the trip and that the CBS reporter still works there and has a functioning memory. And, it seems, this reporter knew where to find the tape.

And there it was: Hillary at a welcoming ceremony in Bosnia, under nothing resembling sniper fire, smiling, stopping to listen to a little girl’s poem, running not at all, head not ducked, but held high.

Hillary got asked about this at a meeting with the editorial board of the Philadelphia Daily News. She’s intending to win big in this Pennsylvania primary, you know.

Keep in mind that Clinton is noted for extemporaneous articulation. Then consider what she said to this editorial board on this subject: "You know, I think that, a minor blip, you know, I say a lot of things — millions of words a day. So, if I misspoke, that was just a misstatement."

If she misspoke, that was just a misstatement. Profound. It’s like saying: If I can’t find it, I’ve lost it.

Her credibility, for example.

Could it have been that there was some other place where she had to duck and run from enemy fire to save her very life? Something else starting with a "B," perhaps? Belfast? Baghdad? Beijing? Baltimore?

Actually, no.

Never fear, though. The Clinton campaign was able to recover by leveling the same kind of charge against Obama. Hillary’s people put out a statement explaining that Obama had repeatedly called himself a former law professor when, in point of fact, he had merely worked as a faculty lecturer, not a professor.

Same thing, don’t you think — calling yourself a professor when you were only a lecturer, and asserting that you had to run in Bosnia to keep from getting shot?

Come on. Give Hillary a break. She was right about everything except the part about the running and the shooting.


John Brummett is an award-winning columnist for the Arkansas News Bureau in Little Rock and author of "High Wire," a book about Bill Clinton’s first year as president. His e-mail address is jbrummett@

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