Let the sniper-fire comment go

I can’t help feeling sorry for Hillary Clinton. She’s at the point in a political career where the vitriol is non-stop, and while I’m aware politicians have to be thick-skinned, the media scrum to kick someone while they’re down is always unpleasant. I’m sure she can cope ok, but I don’t see the virtue. I also find it galling that people are still bringing up the infamous sniper-fire comment. On Sunday Norm said “she was either lying or deceiving herself bigtime”, and the general media attitude seems to be she’s either a liar or stupid. Thing is, memory doesn’t work like that. Events merge and stories change with the retelling, all without deliberate intent.

Steve Novella explains properly. It’s entirely possible she genuinely remembers landing under sniper fire – even if it didn’t happen, people can still have entirely convincing memories – and this whole mess came as a complete surprise. And memory failures aren’t stupid, they’re normal. I’m amazed this doesn’t happen to politicians all the time – how many people and events do heads of state deal with in a given amount of time? I need to make notes on someone’s network layout before leaving the building or I’ll have forgotten it by the next time they call. I’d expect a politician to have a better memory than me, but they’re not super-human. When you’re making who-knows-how-many speeches per week on a non-stop campaign trail, something’s going to slip. Probably lots did, but most of it wasn’t intended to demonstrate a personal virtue, so nobody cared. Dr. Novella sensibly doesn’t take a position on the truth of the matter, but come on. What are the odds that an experienced politician deliberately lied over something so easy to check? I tend to think this was something that should have been double-checked, wasn’t, and blew up way out of proportion to the mistake.

I’m personally happy Obama has the nomination – refusing campaign donations from lobbyists is quite the stand – but the schadenfreude at Clinton’s defeat is ugly. I’d personally like to see her picked as running mate, but I get the impression there’s not a hope in hell. I’m sure there’ll be plenty of analysis of where she went wrong – abruptly becoming a gun-toting, hard-drinking non-‘elitist’ was particularly transparent, if you ask me – but the sniper-fire comment deserves to be let go.

A new definition of ‘lying’

I’m spending lots of time following the US elections, at least partly because UK politics is so embarrassingly stupid at the moment. To wit, David Davis on the MP bugging row:

“Why was this allowed to happen without ministerial knowledge?” he said. “When it was discovered in December, they didn’t tell Jack Straw or Jacqui Smith.

“These intercepts have broken a prime ministerial promise. They involve the intercept of the justice whip – someone who works with Mr Straw.

“This is a very serious issue. It’s a breach of a prime ministerial undertaking to Parliament, so it makes the prime minister a liar, basically.”

The undertaking was 40 years ago. I’ve no idea on the rights and wrongs of bugging MPs, but a breach of a 40-year-old prime ministerial pledge without Gordon Brown’s knowledge does not make him ‘a liar’. That is stupid. Is it possible there’s been a slow gas leak under Westminster Village for the past few weeks?