Last week, the American political system performed a test run of its gaffe system. You will be relieved to learn that all the pieces are functioning soundly. It began Friday afternoon, when Hillary Clinton, appearing at a rally for Massachusetts governor candidate Martha Coakley, told her audience, “Don’t let anybody tell you that it’s corporations and businesses that create jobs.”
The context of her remarks, in which she proceeded to denounce the Republican plan to reduce taxes and regulations for business, made it fairly clear that Clinton actually meant to disagree with the idea that its policies designed to benefit corporation and businesses that create jobs, not that jobs are actually formed mostly by private businesses.
Nonetheless, it was good enough to crank up the gaffe machine. Conservatives used the gaffe as a hook for unhinged paranoid claims that Clinton has revealed her secret hate for capitalism. (Forbes argues that Clinton has exposed herself as one of “certain deeply committed progressives do not support large-scale private free enterprise and do want the government to manage, control and oversee sector after sector of the economy.”) Likewise, the mainstream media dutifully conveyed the controversy. (Bloomberg reported that Clinton has “flip-flopped on whether companies create jobs,” citing three passages in her recent book that assume companies and businesses can create jobs. Almost as Clinton somehow … believes that companies create jobs.)
Finally, Clinton herself defensively explained that she did not actually mean it. (“Trickle down economics has failed. I short-handed this point the other day, so let me be absolutely clear about what I’ve been saying for a couple of decades,” she said. “Our economy grows when businesses and entrepreneurs create good-paying jobs here in America and workers and families are empowered to build from the bottom up and the middle out — not when we hand out tax breaks for corporations that outsource jobs or stash their profits overseas.”)
And now we know that all the players are fully prepared to reprise their assigned roles as the 2016 campaign begins following next week’s election. This is going to be the most edifying election ever.