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Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Mumbly Joe strikes again

(Cross-posted to the Blogscanada election blog)

Ever watched Paul Martin speak for any length of time? On prepared notes, he's rock-solid, if not the most engaging. But when he speaks extemporaneously, he talks too fast, and has what I can only describe as a "tic" - he's saying one thing, thinking another, and he's constantly correcting his word choices. The first time I noticed it was two days after Martin became Prime Minister, when Saddam Hussien was captured. He stuttered and mumbled his way through a hastily-convenied press conference - he referred more than once to the "Iraqians". Because that's what he does.

Jean Chretien had unbelievably mangled syntax. He wouldn't have lasted a week up against a mad dog press corps. But by and large, the Hill reporters just accepted it, and would often conspire to untangle his comments into the same cohesive sentences, so that it didn't appear that every reporter was attending a different press conference.

I'm reminded of this because Don at All Things Canadian points out another Rueters report of Martin doing his "Mumbly Joe" act. No one else, it seems, is reporting this misspeak. I think it's because the other political reporters have accepted this, and don't think Martin should be constantly punished for it.

Perhaps the Canadian voters should be getting the full picture of the PM, but I'm with the implied view of the larger group of reporters. This sort of reporting is a distraction, not a story. The Rueters reporter is attempting to build a narrative that says the Prime Minister is a muddy-minded stumbler. It's not yet sticking. Back to the contest of ideas, please.

In the meantime, no Gaffe points for Mumbly Joeisms reported by this particular Rueters reporter, until and unless this becomes a more widely-accepted narrative.

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