When what you said can be taken out of context…

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…It will be taken out of context.

“The private sector is doing fine,” proclaimed the President in a June 8th news conference. The video went viral. Romney pounced. Bloggers flamed and talking heads gaggled the weekend and well into the week that followed.

I am sure the President did not mean his words to sound the way they did. He is, after all, a smart man, a gifted speaker and successful author. I am sure he had a momentary lapse in judgment, and what he meant to say is that compared to the public sector the private sector is improving more quickly. But he didn’t say it that way. He said “The private sector is doing fine.”

Lesson #1? When you say something that can be taken out of context, it will be taken out of context. It is a lesson even seasoned pros must learn. And apparently relearn.

After the President’s team spent weeks trashing Romney’s years at Bain Capital, President Clinton, on the stump for Mr. Obama, proclaimed that Mr. Romney had had “a sterling business career.” The day after Mr. Clinton called for extending all of the tax cuts set to expire at the end of the year, undercutting one of Obama’s key policy initiatives.


Lesson #2. When you make the mistake of saying something that is being taken out of      context, think damage control. And do it quickly. Otherwise, you’ll be watching your gaffe or mistake turned into a 5, or 6 or 7 day story. And don’t be afraid to say you are sorry.

Within hours of the President’s mistake, he personally walked back his remark about the private sector. It did not take long for President Clinton to say he was “very sorry” about his tax comments and to assert he supports the President’s position on raising taxes.

And lesson #3. Remember we are all imperfect in this life, and even smart people sometimes say stupid things. There is a book in my library, written by James Carville and Paul Begala…Buck Up, Suck up…and Come Back When You Foul Up. It is a worthy read. And a good resource to have handy when you foul up.


Political consultant Jay Townsend works with smart, passionate candidates who want to run for office, win elections and make a difference. He has successfully helped candidates learn how to run for the U.S. Senate, how to run for Congress, how to run for Mayor and develop a winning campaign marketing strategy.

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