pageok
pageok
pageok
OK, Now This Might Suggest a Lapse of Judgment Rather Than Just Being Tired:

The Washington Post reports:

[Mitt Romney] also criticized people who choose not to get married because they enjoy the single life.

"It seems that Europe leads Americans in this way of thinking," Romney told the crowd of more than 5,000. "In France, for instance, I'm told that marriage is now frequently contracted in seven-year terms where either party may move on when their term is up. How shallow and how different from the Europe of the past."

If this quote is accurate and in context, then it does seem more than just a screw-up caused by being tired -- Romney went out of his way to say this, and must have had at least some opportunity to reflect on it and to realize that it bears a little more checking. So it seems to me this reflects worse on him than the 10,000-death-toll (an error in one number, and one that was apparently fairly promptly corrected) misstatement by Obama.

See also the Orson Scott Card connection, courtesy of Ana Marie Cox (Swampland @ Time).

Related Posts (on one page):

  1. OK, Now This Might Suggest a Lapse of Judgment Rather Than Just Being Tired:
  2. Tired:
Paddy O. (mail):
Or a lack of a sense of humor not realizing some staffer was telling a joke. I suspect that someone is getting fired, or at least not allowed to tell Romney anything.

Of course, it's not just the seven year thing that's silly. How was Europe in the past different? Henry VIII split from Rome so he could split from his wife, and that was among the nicer ways he moved on after his apparent term was up.
5.9.2007 6:54pm
RAH (mail):
To suggest that the idea of marriage is a positive policy for society does not indicate stupidity or being tired. Now the story about 7 year marriages may be false and if so, to use that story is foolish.
The societal mode of keeping young adults as children and not to encourage that they take up adult roles with marriage and children when they start to work for a living is bad for society and for the children that are a result of temporary liaisons. We have extended the adolescence of children up to the 30's. I do not see that as a positive accomplishment. I always have felt that people should try to reach as high as they can accomplish and to be self sufficient and willing to shoulder responsibility. To encourage sexual relationships without marriage and any resultant children as just collateral damage is wrong. Children should not be illegitimate and should have the security of two legally married parents which provides long term security
5.9.2007 7:08pm
Eugene Volokh (www):
RAH: I agree that marriage is good (though I'm not sure to what extent we should be encouraging earlier marriages and to what extent later marriages, since being unmarried isn't quite the same as being an adolescent, and I have nothing against premarital nonchild-producing sexual relationships). I had thought that it would be clear from context that it's the 7-year-marriage-contract claim that shows a lapse of judgment. But in case it's not clear, let me make it clear.
5.9.2007 7:28pm
Colin (mail):
Ed Brayton reports that Romney may have been thinking of an Orson Scott Card novel.
5.9.2007 7:30pm
Martin Ammorgan (mail):
Why would you possibly post...just kidding! Sorry I was cranky earlier, but I was perusing the news right before logging on, and, well, all the news make me cranky these days.
5.9.2007 7:35pm
ras (mail):
Perhaps Romney was simply calculating a weighted average between Europe and Iran?
5.9.2007 7:35pm
Eugene Volokh (www):
Martin: Fair enough -- I know what that feels like!
5.9.2007 7:36pm
A.S.:
Why would you possibly post on this?

Complete non-event .... Will we see more of this sort of thing from Prof. Volokh as the election approaches?

The media vultures want to make stories out of trivial events. Too bad this website joins the flock.
5.9.2007 7:36pm
A.S.:
Darn you, Martin Ammorgan!
5.9.2007 7:37pm
r78:
A.S. - so you think that it is acceptable for a president of this country to be so mis-informed? I know that the Shrub has drastically lowered our expectations, but shouldn't we hope for more. What if Romney said that we should look to the Albanians to solve our energy problems because they can levitate? Is that a non-event, too? Where do you draw the line on stupidity?

EV - it gets even worse. One of Romney's flacks tried to spin this away by saying that he was referring to some form of civil partnerships or something - that didn't fact check either.
5.9.2007 7:49pm
r78:
No, darn you A.S. for being too subtle in your parody. Oops
5.9.2007 7:51pm
Dave N (mail):
If Romney said something stupid, he should be rightly criticized for saying it. We can say with a high level of confidence that the 44th President of the United States will have the last name (in no particular order) of Clinton, Guliani, McCain, Obama, Edwards, Romney, or Thompson (yes I realize that President Bush could leave office early giving us President Cheney or in Kos fantasyland, President Pelosi, but let's be real).

So what any of them says in substance (as opposed to the Obama misspeak) is fair game. However, I agree that it is going to be a long, grueling campaign season.
5.9.2007 8:10pm
Anderson (mail) (www):
Obama says "oops"; Romney sends out a flack with more misinformation.

Interesting.
5.9.2007 8:18pm
wt (www):
I haven't read the Memory of Earth. But I can attest that there are no 7-year marriages in the Ender's Game series.
5.9.2007 8:47pm
Stormy Dragon (mail) (www):
Even without the silly 'seven year contract' remarks, I rather resent his intimation that I have some sort of moral obligation to get married and have kids.
5.9.2007 9:43pm
jvarisco (www):
I'm not sure I see the problem here. Of course marriage is good, and of course the European trend away from marriage (one of the French cadidates had a PARTNER, not a husband!) is something we don't want here. Romney is conservative; obviously hippies won't like him. One of the foundations of his campaign is strengthening the American family, and that starts with the institution of marriage.
5.9.2007 10:05pm
Eugene Volokh (www):
Jvarisco: How about the problem that apparently there are no French 7-year-term marriages?
5.9.2007 10:08pm
nunzio:
But if there were 7-year marriages, you just know the French would be the first to adopt them. Maybe Romney's onto something.
5.9.2007 10:13pm
FantasiaWHT:
Wait, we're debating what the stupid things that politicians say really mean about the person that says them? Hoo boy...
5.9.2007 10:14pm
Ramza:

I'm not sure I see the problem here. Of course marriage is good, and of course the European trend away from marriage (one of the French cadidates had a PARTNER, not a husband!) is something we don't want here. Romney is conservative; obviously hippies won't like him. One of the foundations of his campaign is strengthening the American family, and that starts with the institution of marriage.

Romney didn't say marriage in France is like you get married for 7 years, divorced, and then remarried. He said that the law forces you to be married for only 7 years. After 7 years the law says you are no longer married and you have to find a new person to get married too. He is making this shit up, there is nothing like that in France. After creating a fictional strawman (which he said was real in France) he then said this is a horrible system.

He is making stuff up and attributing it to other countries.
5.9.2007 10:15pm
rlb:
Considering how last year we all bought into the idea that "mah cah cah" is some kind of terrible French racial slur, why wouldn't the media just blindly accept this too?
5.9.2007 10:34pm
Anderson (mail) (www):
Jvarisco: How about the problem that apparently there are no French 7-year-term marriages?

He meant *besides* that.
5.9.2007 10:42pm
jvarisco (www):
You guys are suggesting Romney seriously thinks France only has 7 year marriages? It seems pretty obvious it's a joke?
5.9.2007 10:48pm
frankcross (mail):
rlb, macaca is a French racial slur

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Macaca_(slur)
5.9.2007 11:52pm
Daryl Herbert (www):
It seems pretty obvious it's a joke?

Humor is the kind of thing that can get lost when a speech goes to text (sarcasm, too). But the way Romney's reacting to this, I don't think so. Video would be dispositive here (unless he's got a really good deadpan delivery)
5.9.2007 11:52pm
rlb:
"Macaca" is not a racial slur. "Macaque" is, pronounced "ma-cack."

This stupid thing started because someone transcribed the Senator's made-up "mah cah cah" as "Macaca," then looked up that spelling, which describes the genus of macaque monkeys. Of course the genus "macaca" is almost certainly supposed to be pronounced "ma-cack-ah," which isn't what Allen said, either.

It's analogous to someone who speaks a foreign language referring to a person as "Procyon," then having someone say-- that describes raccoons, and in English "coon" is a racial slur. Next, someone adds "procyon" to Wikipedia and suddenly it's a racial slur...
5.10.2007 1:04am
Randy R. (mail):
Well, then, rlb, if it isn't a racial slur, why don't you go up to any old dark skinned person, someone you don't know, a complete stranger, and say "Hey, Macaca! Welcome to our country!"

You'll find out very fast whether it is considered a slur or not.
5.10.2007 1:42am
Randy R. (mail):
But back to the topic on hand -- Romney is trying desparately to get in the good graces of the religious right crowd. It really doesn't matter to *them* whether 7 year marriages in France exist or not. The fact is that they will believe it is true, because they hate the libertines of France almost as much as they hate the liberals here in America.

Once believing it, they will applaud anyone who is against it. The truth doesn't matter, it's what your position is on fictional matters that counts. That's why he didn't back down.

It's a crazy world we live in, and you're welcome to it.
5.10.2007 1:45am
rlb:
Randy, if I'd done it before the ridiculous "macaca" scandal, he'd probably just look at me like I was stupid.

Of course you're also taking the "welcome to America" bit out of context, too.

SEN. GEORGE ALLEN: My friends, we're going to run this campaign on positive, constructive ideas. And it's important that we motivate and inspire people for something. This fellow here, over here, with the yellow shirt, Macaca or whatever his name is, he is with my opponent. He's following us around everywhere. And it's just great. We're going to places all over Virginia. And he's having it on film, and it's great to have you here. And you show it to your opponent, because he's never been there and probably will never come. So it's good [inaudible] or his opponent actually right now is with a bunch of Hollywood movie moguls. We care about fact, not fiction. So, welcome. Let's give a welcome to Macaca here. Welcome to America and the real world of Virginia.


Once you get past the fact that the man can barely speak English, it's clear that Allen's "welcome to America and the real world of Virginia" was a jab at Webb as much as it was at Sidarth. Yeah, he was trying to exploit the fact that Webb's man looked like a foreigner. That's crude but it's not racist.
5.10.2007 1:56am
Hans Gruber:
Romney's mistake worse? Most people are unlikely to see it that way.

Putting aside the plausibility of Obama misspeaking, the video makes it seem like Obama geniunely believes 10,000 people died. "In case you missed it, 10,000 people died in Kansas. An entire town destroyed." A mistake of this magnitude is usually caught by the speaker, especially one noted for his speaking skills. Romney's mistake, in contrast, concerned a strange tidbit about the state of marriage in France.

The average voter is bound to forgive a candidate for a mistake about marriage policy in France. However, the average voter is going to think it's strange that a candidate noted for his oratory says 10,000 instead of 10 and doesn't catch his mistake. This would be forgivable if talking about, say, a disaster in India but not here in this country. American voters expect a candidate to know whether 10,000 Americans died in a disaster (or not). American voters don't particularly care if a candidate has all his facts straight about French marriage law.

Think of it in terms of potential value (or cost). Romney made a mistake, no doubt about it. But the penalty for that mistake levied by the voters will be small. Whether a candidate knows his facts about French marriage law just isn't important to most Americans. In stark contrast, the probability that Obama misspoke instead of being misinformed is to my mind greater than .50; yet the cost that he was genuinely clueless is infinitely higher. If he really was that misinformed he is not fit for the presidency. The idea that Obama could be so out of touch with what was going on that he really thought 10,000 people died is scary to most people. It is a small consolation that he probably misspoke. Taken in the context of the "Imus violence" stupidity in the wake of the Virginia shootings, leveraging another disaster for political advantage was unwise to say the least.
5.10.2007 2:45am
Brian K (mail):
Hans,

Does that mean I should not give you the benefit of the doubt and just call you a severely misinformed idiot?

Had you bothered to read Eugene's earlier posting (the one that he linked to above entitled "tired") you would see this quote "As he concluded his remarks a few minutes later, he appeared to realize his gaffe."

I won't go into the rest of "misinformed" analysis because it is obviously wrong.
5.10.2007 3:14am
Public_Defender (mail):
Some of the criticisms of W's verbal gaffes are excessive. When people make fun of him for mispeaking in the way we all mispeak, it just makes him look better and his critics look shrill and desperate. People who are attacking Obama for this obvious gaffe are making him look better and making themselves look shrill and desperate.

American voters don't particularly care if a candidate has all his facts straight about French marriage law.

This is why Romney may have thought he could get away without factchecking his speech, but Obama could not possibly have intended to make such an obviously incorrect statement.

Obama says "oops"; Romney sends out a flack with more misinformation.

One key to judging character is seeing how a person deals with a mistake. Obama quickly corrected his.
5.10.2007 7:32am
Jeremy T:
I really don't understand the hoopla. I don't know anything about French marriage law, practice, or customs, and I have no idea if Romney is right or wrong. Nor do I much care.
5.10.2007 9:35am
Joshua:
Stormy Dragon: Even without the silly 'seven year contract' remarks, I rather resent his intimation that I have some sort of moral obligation to get married and have kids.

Agreed. This was the real unfortunate part of his quote. It may well go down as his Dan Quayle/Murphy Brown moment.
5.10.2007 9:35am
Ramza:

I really don't understand the hoopla. I don't know anything about French marriage law, practice, or customs, and I have no idea if Romney is right or wrong. Nor do I much care.


Romney gave this written speech as a commencement speech at the Graduation event of Regent University (Pat Robertson's college). This wasn't a spur of the moment thing, this was a written speech. You don't make such speeches up at the spur of the moment.
5.10.2007 10:28am
Crust (mail):
Jeremy T:


I don't know anything about French marriage law, practice, or customs, and I have no idea if Romney is right or wrong.


He was wrong. His flunky tried to defend the comment that French marriages last for a maximum of seven years by pointing to civil unions (not marriages) that last a minimum (not maximum) of three months (not seven years). Other than those three details, he was right.

Not that this is that big a deal in my view. A lapse of judgement, sure. But surely an honest mistake. Every candidate is giving speeches and interviews on a daily basis; they're going to say some dumb things from time to time. In my view, the worst part was his spokesman's dishonest defense of the comment rather than simply acknowledging error.
5.10.2007 11:07am
byomtov (mail):
In my view, the worst part was his spokesman's dishonest defense of the comment rather than simply acknowledging error.

Close call. The worst may have been not checking such an obviously implausible assertion.

There are a fair number of teachers commenting here. How would you grade a student who put something like that in a paper?
5.10.2007 12:24pm
Public_Defender (mail):
Assertion: In my view, the worst part was his spokesman's dishonest defense of the comment rather than simply acknowledging error.

Response: Close call. The worst may have been not checking such an obviously implausible assertion.

I disagree. Failing to fact-check a speech is sloppy. Failing to admit a mistake is dishonest.

Back to Obama. If his opponents have to resort to attacks that are this weak, he must be doing something right. So please, keep attacking him over this.

I'm an undecided Democrat, and Obama just keeps looking better.
5.10.2007 1:12pm
byomtov (mail):
Failing to fact-check a speech is sloppy. Failing to admit a mistake is dishonest.

Fair point.

Though if the failure to fact-check was deliberate ("This is so good I'm not going to risk finding out it's false") then it too is dishonest, not just sloppy.
5.10.2007 2:13pm
Hans Gruber:
Brian K,

It would be nice if you could try to adhere to the comment policy. Yes, I actually did read that. But what Obama actually said doesn't strongly support the characterization that "as he concluded his remarks a few minutes later, he appeared to realize his gaffe." As the quoted article makes clear Obama did not correct his mistake, he merely alluded to some gaffe rather than provide a specific clarification. Obviously his staff probably made it clear he made a mistake (via slip of note or nudge and a whisper), and I think that's all his statement indicates, but I haven't seen the video in its entirety. And, again, my point is that people who misspeak so greatly usually catch themselves after hearing the mistake aloud. Finally, if you actually read what I wrote, I tend to agree that Eugene's explanation is more likely than not. I just think it's more likely than he does, for the reasons I outlined.
5.10.2007 3:01pm
Hans Gruber:
"One key to judging character is seeing how a person deals with a mistake. Obama quickly corrected his."

So Obama was supposed to argue with America that 10,000 people really did die? Quickly correcting his mistake was his only option, it's not a debateable point.
5.10.2007 3:07pm
courtwatcher:
Hans Gruber,


So Obama was supposed to argue with America that 10,000 people really did die? Quickly correcting his mistake was his only option, it's not a debateable point.


Are you implying, since his spokespeople refused to correct it, that Romney's statement about seven-year marriage maximums in Europe *is* a debatable point? If not, what point are you making here about the implications of these reactions on the character of the two men?
5.11.2007 4:11am
Brooks Lyman (mail):
Ramza -

What the Washington Post quotes Romney as saying is not at all what you are having him say. He said that "...marriage is now frequently contracted in seven-year terms where either party may move on when their term is up."

He did not say that all French marriages are contracted in seven-year terms or that in such a seven-year marriage the parties must move on at the end of the term.

I mean, Mitt can make mistakes, but let's us not make additional mistakes in interpreting what Mitt's mistake said....
5.11.2007 5:17am