Yesterday, Sen. John McCain ignited a bit of a firestorm when he said that President Obama was “directly responsible” for the mass shooting in Orlando. It was a stupid thing to say, but give him credit for not doubling down on it for too long; within hours, McCain walked the comments back, explaining that he “misspoke.”
There are a few types of verbal gaffes. Some are classic “Kinsey gaffes,” where politicians accidentally tell the truth. Like the guy who resigns in order to “spend more time with my family,” saying that you “misspoke” in the wake of a Kinsey gaffe has become the default bogus excuse to cover a multitude of sins.
But other verbal mistakes are literally examples of human beings simply using words that do not accurately or clearly express their own positions.
In the case of McCain, I think that’s exactly what happened. And I think that the media should resist the urge to pounce and say, “We got you!” when this sort of thing happens.
Putting his remarks in context, McCain’s position was obviously this: President Obama’s policies helped foster an environment where radical Islamism—specifically ISIS—could prosper. And this environment probably impacts the odds that these sorts of “lone wolf” attacks will take place.
McCain doesn’t really think President Obama is “directly responsible” for this shooting. In fact, what he’s saying is that President Obama is indirectly responsible.