Editorial Observer; When Does a Mistake Mutate Into a Gaffe?

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Editorial Observer; When Does a Mistake Mutate Into a Gaffe?

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Despite the fact that most Americans would not do well naming foreign leaders, the flunking of his mini-exam plays into the concern that as a governor, Mr. Bush is under-informed about global issues. ”A blooper sticks around if it reinforces a pretty solid perception,” said Robert Neuman, a Democratic media consultant. That may not be fair, but it is a hazard faced by most first-time presidential candidates. Some of them discover, painfully, that for all the long hours and hard work on any campaign, a wounding gaffe can take place in a few unguarded seconds. Fans and supporters often quickly forgive their candidate’s human failings. But for the media and the distant public, an important — or merely memorable — mistake dangles from a candidate’s image like a noisy tin can, adding its dissonant clank no matter what political music is being orchestrated. Take the word ”potato,” which has trailed former Vice President Dan Quayle ever since he corrected a New Jersey student in 1992 by

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