“Plausible deniability” is a strategy wherein an actor (not meant here to be an entertainer, but someone who performs an action) is able to avoid blame for something committed on their behalf by a surrogate, ostensibly one who is seemingly unconnected. In U.S. politics, a classic example of this is the so-called 527 groups, who produce and pay for advertisements benefiting a particular candidate, which are harshly critical of the opponent.
The term can also be applied to the conduct of the actor himself or herself (same meaning as above) that leaves little or no evidence of wrongdoing. But for plausible deniability to be effective, the act itself must be sufficiently removed from a “line,” which if crossed, devalues the effective plausibility of the denial.
With Barry Obama’s gaffe yesterday about “putting lipstick on a pig”, he inadvertantly stepped on that “line”. While I really don’t believe Obama or his handlers are that ignorant or arrogant to intentionally call Sarah Palin a pig, he certainly set himself up to a challenge of plausible deniablity. I’ll grant you that in the total context of his appearance yesterday, it is clear that the lipstick comment was intended to be relative to John McCain’s plans and not specifically targeting Palin. However, it is inarguable, particularly given the firestorm it has created, that it was an extraordinarily unfortunate choice of metaphors. And one could easily conclude that there may actually have been some hint of a double entente in his choice to use it. To the issue of his credibility and therefor the plausible deniability of the lipstick comment not being directed at Palin, the video makes it appear as if he very carefully crafted his words, then paused as the crowd reacted with applause and laughter, before he delivered the punchline. In the video his admirers appear to understand the lipstick correlation whether Obama did or not and whether it was intentional or not. There in lies the suspicion.
[As an aside, I was also intrigued by Barry’s unusual pronunciation of the word “policy” in this speech. Does he change dialect to suit an audience?]
Modern political rhetoric really is unbecoming on both sides. Wouldn’t it be refreshing if candidates simply said what they plan to do, with some greater degree of specificity than we get now, and abandon the compare-and-contrast model that seems so popular?. Am I the only one tired of hearing the same mantra from both sides? Is there anything fresh and constructive to be said? If not, perhaps the sure fire way to stay out of trouble is to not say anything. The Bible would tend to support that view I believe.
There are many verses in scripture that are instructive in this regard. A few of them are:
Psalm 141: 3; Proverbs 10: 8, 14; Proverbs 13: 3; Proverbs 17: 28; Proverbs 18: 6, 7; Proverbs 21: 23; Ecclesiastes 10:12; James ch. 3.