The Haldeman Moment

H.R. Haldeman was the White House Chief of Staff for President Nixon. As the Watergate/Pentagon Papers scandal was slowly unfolding, he at one point tried to explain how the revelations damaged the administration. In doing so, he accidentally composed the most damning accusation of his own administration's wrongdoing:
"But out of the gobbledygook, comes a very clear thing: you can’t trust the government; you can’t believe what they say; and you can’t rely on their judgment; and the implicit infallibility of presidents, which has been an accepted thing in America, is badly hurt by this, because it shows that people do things the president wants to do even though it’s wrong, and the president can be wrong."
 If anybody has done a better job of summarizing the failures of the Nixon administration in five lines or less, I am not aware of it. Though of course, the best summary in five WORDS or less was given by Nixon's famous one-liner:
"I am not a crook!
Which, even if it were true, which it oh-so-clearly wasn't, that would be a necessary condition for leading the free world, but hardly a sufficient one.

This ability to summarize one's own failings better than the opposition is not unique to the Nixon administration. For example, the Irish referendum on same sex marriage gave conservative commentator William Blinchy the occasion to write:

The proposed amendment to our Constitution has been presented by the Government as simply a formula of 17 words designed to acknowledge the equality of all our citizens, gay and straight. It encourages the view that decent and humane people will vote Yes and only the bigoted or homophobic could contemplate opposing the measure.

The 17 words he speaks of are "marriage may be contracted in accordance with law by two persons without distinction as to their sex". While I don't know whether the effect was maliciously calculated by the Government to give that affect, I agree with Mr Blinchy's assessment of the final effect. However, after reading the rest of his article (in which he kicks up the standard "think of the children" stuff), the powerful and succinct prose of the second sentence has no equal throughout the rest of piece. His initial self-indictment is infinitely more powerful than his later rebuttal.
 I think it would be nice to have an expression to describe such a moment, in which a public figure sums up everything that is wrong with his viewpoint, and does so better than any of this counterparts across the political spectrum. My modest proposal is to call suche events  "Haldeman Moments".


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