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BLITZER'S BLOG: Just a few words can have an enormous impact
March 28th, 2012
03:41 PM ET

BLITZER'S BLOG: Just a few words can have an enormous impact

By Wolf Blitzer, CNN

(CNN) – It’s amazed me over the years how a few words spoken by a presidential candidate potentially can have an enormous effect. I’ve been thinking a lot about that while covering the Republican race for the White House in recent months. The candidates are under enormous scrutiny – as they should be. They understandably have to be very precise.

I’ve been especially sensitive to the words uttered by candidates since my interview with then-Vice President Al Gore in March 1999. He was already running for the Democratic presidential nomination. Here’s the exchange that caused an uproar and certainly had an effect on his eventual general election race against then-Texas Gov. George W. Bush:

“Why should Democrats, looking at the Democratic nomination process, support you instead of Bill Bradley, a friend of yours, a former colleague in the Senate?” I asked. “What do you have to bring to this that he doesn’t necessarily bring to this process?”

Gore replied: “Well, I will be offering my vision when my campaign begins. And it will be comprehensive and sweeping. And I hope that it will be compelling enough to draw people toward it. I feel that it will be.”

He continued: “But it will emerge from my dialogue with the American people. I’ve traveled to every part of this country during the last six years.”

He then uttered these fateful words: “During my service in the United States Congress, I took the initiative in creating the Internet. I took the initiative in moving forward a whole range of initiatives that have proven to be important to our country’s economic growth and environmental protection, improvements in our educational system.”

He ended this section of the interview with this: “During a quarter century of public service, including most of it long before I came into my current job, I have worked to try to improve the quality of life in our country and in our world. And what I’ve seen during that experience is an emerging future that’s very exciting, about which I’m very optimistic, and toward which I want to lead.”

It was a pretty thoughtful answer but the words about the Internet created a huge stir.

There were quick headlines that you probably remember asserting that Gore had boasted about “inventing” the Internet.

He never said he “invented” the Internet that but the label stuck and continued to plague him throughout the campaign. It probably still does.

He was referring to legislation he supported in Congress that helped promote the development of the Internet. But he wasn’t that precise in his wording, and that cost him.

As I said, it amazes me how a few words said during a tense campaign can have enormous ramifications.

I write this as a cautionary tale for the current candidates.

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RELATED: Gingrich campaign plans fewer attack on Romney

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Filed under: 2012 election • Politics • Wolf Blitzer
soundoff (47 Responses)
  1. George in PA

    Forget the rhetoric. Look at the attendance and voting records. Do they "walk the talk"?

    April 18, 2012 at 12:51 pm |
  2. Rob Smith

    Wolf,

    Your recent interview with Stephanie Cutter was a great example of what is wrong with "journalism" in this country today. In the same sequence you went from accusing the Obama administration of throwing Hilary Rosen under the bus to saying the Republicans were still going to use it against them. WOW!! Throw under the bus??? Do you think that was appropriate when you well know had the President not disavowed the comments you would be treating the situation quite differently.

    What would Walter Cronkite think of your interview skills and objectivity. Shame on you!! I await your interview with the Republicans when you ask them why you are using this as a campaign issue when the Obama administration had nothing to do with it, Hilary Rosen was a CNN employee and the President has already disavowed the comment.

    April 13, 2012 at 5:48 pm |
  3. tom duffey

    It is sad that you speak of the proper use of words and then use the terms "love" and "hate" in describing voters preferences for political candidates. Voters choose candidates based on their perceived benefits or their prejudices.Your use of those terms does a disservice to responsible journalism.

    March 31, 2012 at 7:11 pm |
  4. Don Weaver

    You're wasting your time interviewing and asking whiteb people in the South if a neighbor is prejudiced. I know from extensive business travel in the South that it's almost impossible to getb a white person to say another white person is prejudiced,(except while you're drinking after dinner) , that's when they'll really open up.

    March 30, 2012 at 5:47 pm |
  5. Oliver El Paso, TX

    The supreme court elected Bush who had trouble finishing a sentences, and look what we got 2 endless wars, highs national debt ever, a financial melt down we still have not recover, the 760 billion bail out. I do not think that the supreme court makes the best decisions, we have the proof in front of us.

    March 29, 2012 at 2:15 pm |
  6. Michael

    5 years to rebuild and a lot to retrain an aged workforce and hire people who knew about hnw to run hi tech processing techniques. Not only that by some fancy trade agreements US Steel got to sell worlds best steel from Mexico and your Goverment let them claim it as domestic production, A deal worked out the Liaerals previous God Bill Clinton. The gullibility of a populace that lets themselves be swayed by Demigods spewing platitudes having to do whth crotch level politics and cannot realize how badly they are getting screwed around is unbelievable. This is not just a liberal trait as any sentient being by now must realize there is not a snowballs chance anyone other than Obama will be the next President. And by all the demigogury put out by the Progressives against religons not even JC himself could be better than Obama for Presidenp!

    March 29, 2012 at 1:20 am |
  7. Michael

    Romoey is getting a bad rap and the liberal lemmings with woe is me follow Obamas class warfare memes who want to find someone anyoneto blame that does not give them what they think they are worth. Many of them would think nothing of getting a good buy on a foreclosed home and many are buying up such homes on the cheap and plan on making a killing on the sale, just smart investing or VULTURE CAPITAlISM? The steel mill is best example. Owners loseing over 150 mill a year for third year in a row was jurt going to outright shut down but trying to recoup some of loses and not wantingto put out effort liquidate they approached Romneys group, Romney bought on the cheap yet owners got millions* Happy Happy* and Romneys group did the liquidating and made a profit and all done legaly! Workers and todays liberals try and say no other reason than Romoey is cold hearted man who gets jolies by firing people when in fact mill was antiquidated and would of cost 500 mil to replace and 5

    March 29, 2012 at 12:47 am |
  8. Michael

    Of all the Presidential candidates in our history Obana spoke the fewest words, and with least details coming forth about where he stood on any policys. Of course after the embarressment of Bush and the comedy of McCain and Palin what was there to say? Obama did not need to say anything, he just let t bunch of demoralized liberals make up stories about how he was going to fulfill all their dreams. Hillary Clinton knowing full well that the real decion making pswers were in the hands of whomever ruled at Dept of State, and the road to both future power and riches. Heck Dept of State even has its own military Branch, one that actually runs all our cotert operations, and yes they include the group who got bin Ladin, and she decides on who to advise Obama to assinate. Change only one word, that and a smile, onlya Bush or a Gop could be able to mess that up!

    March 28, 2012 at 10:22 pm |
  9. db

    They didn't post my comment before so I will try it again: Canada said they would build the pipleine west; EPA is shutting coal fired electrical plants. Both will sell to China since we no longer need the resource. So our President has effectively set up a safe source of energy for China from Canada and the U.S. while we will continue to reap whatever benefits from the middle east. Obviously he has your best interest at heart. And as to Gore, he couldn't walk his talk. He visions of big money in the ghg emissions. So Againt I will ask exactly who are the puppets of the corporations (yes the legal defintion gives them individual status – is why you can sue and prosecute them as an entity). Decide for yourself.

    March 28, 2012 at 8:51 pm |
  10. jedi

    This from the guy who screamed "THIS IS THE WORST FINANCIAL CRISIS SINCE THE GREAT DEPRESSION" non-stop, 24-7 on a loop, for months and months; and after that, at every and any possible opportunity – yeah just a few words can have a big impact...

    March 28, 2012 at 8:31 pm |
  11. Bob

    I remember when Gore was kissing up to the Unions he made the statement that he remembered his Mother would sing him a lullaby "watch for the union label" when he was a baby.. The problem was that when 'watch for the union label' came out, Gore was 27 years old...lol.

    March 28, 2012 at 8:26 pm |
  12. QS

    Dear Wolf,

    Don't you realize by now that cautioning conservatives to be more clear is merely an exercise in futility?

    March 28, 2012 at 8:24 pm |
  13. JohnYard

    The first 2 internet nodes were created in 1968-1969 between Murphy Hall at UCLA and Northern California . The project was to create a network called DARPANET which would allow easier communication of Defense Dept project data between universities . To create DARPANET a protocol called TCP/IP was written . What we call the internet is a extension of DARPANET on a worldwide scale. Gore had nothing to do with this . DARPANET is an example of the critical role of government research and development in lifting civilian productivity. Notice the long lead time between research and civilian use. No civilian research project could wait 30 years for return on investment.

    March 28, 2012 at 8:23 pm |
  14. skarphace

    It was Al Gore's inability to defend himself that lost him the election. Well, that and our delegate system which allows a nominee to be elected even though they lost the popular vote.

    March 28, 2012 at 8:01 pm |
  15. db

    And despite the vitrol, Mr. Blitzer is a good fair reporter from what I have seen.

    March 28, 2012 at 7:55 pm |
  16. george in texas

    sc judges gave away presidency that democrat gore won to republican bush by voting along party lines, which eventually led to iraq war. the sc is in the same role of pre-empting obama's re-election and handing it to romney which probably would lead to iran war.

    March 28, 2012 at 7:30 pm |
  17. Jep

    The republican candidates have put their foot in their mouths so often that they will self implode. They offer nothing but going backwards to benefit the rich. They are pathetic and narcissistic. You can see in their eyes they have that look of loving power at the thought of being president. They really don't give a damn about the average citizen. Santorum is most scarey as he exhibits theocratic ideas to run government. It was no slip of the tongue when he said he did not care about unemployment rates and the state of the economy.

    March 28, 2012 at 7:17 pm |
  18. textee

    Gore's claim that he invented the internet is not nearly as stupid as the claim that an utterly clueless, thoroughly unqualified, career community organizer/anti-military militant (who palled around with an unrepentant terrorist who bombed the Pentagon) "got bin Laden". Obama "got bin Laden", and Snooki won World War II.

    March 28, 2012 at 6:47 pm |
    • Liz the First

      Oh, how you wish that was true. you can't stand the fact that our president, the one who was actually elected, did something your president couldn't and wouldn't have done if he could. it's a fact the Bushes and bin Ladens are good friends. Dubya wasn't about to go after a friend of the family!

      March 28, 2012 at 8:39 pm |
  19. drichsd

    Wolf . These GOP just want to go back to the same old policies when it come to health care .and every thing else .The have no solution for health care .they should give up their health plan that we the tax payer have to pay for .They do not want anyone else to be cover but them. Their plan is better than our men and women that went to fight for our free .

    March 28, 2012 at 5:54 pm |
  20. drichsd

    wolf , The GOP just want to go back the same old policies when it comes to health care and every thing else . They have no solution to replace this health care . wolf ,those in congress should give up their health plan and pay just like every one else .they have a better health care plan than our men and women in uniform . we the tax payer have to paid for them .they are out of touch with what is going on in America just like Mitt Ronny,.

    March 28, 2012 at 5:43 pm |
  21. Wolf Blitzer

    The difference being Gore didn't have a multi-billion-dollar propaganda machine behind him spinning everything he says as a positive. And attacking anyone who has the audacity to challenge a single word.

    March 28, 2012 at 5:25 pm |
  22. BBear1

    And, it only took 13 years for Mr.Blitzer to correct the record.

    March 28, 2012 at 5:21 pm |
    • DJ

      No, sorry. The wording was out there for everyone to see and so was the explanation. Every time it got misquoted, I told people. You sometimes need to just look things up on your own and not be spoon-fed.

      March 28, 2012 at 5:38 pm |
  23. Briton

    Concerning the so-called gaffes, the electorates know that if it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck.

    The American people are not that stupid.

    March 28, 2012 at 5:17 pm |
    • Ken B. from Highlands, NC

      I fear you overestimate the average American's sagacity, sad to say.

      March 28, 2012 at 6:17 pm |
  24. judy

    Yeah but the repos don't stop at one wacky statement they make tons of them. Mostly because they are not qualified to hold the office and im fearful of what they will say if elected to world leaders. We could be the laughing stock if repos are elected. The russian president has already commented on ol mitt and his uninformed comments. So much for diplomacy.

    March 28, 2012 at 5:02 pm |
    • WiDawg

      I guess Media Matters was a bit late picking up on this and getting the talking points out to you...

      March 28, 2012 at 7:46 pm |
  25. Scott

    A car elevator saves green earth. One driveway can service multiple parking spaces.

    Consider neighborhoods with houses with attached 2 and 3 car parking garages doubling or tripling the footprint of the house. If you add an elevator and reduce the number of garage doors, and spaces, to only one, 200 square feet of earth planted with trees or grass can be preserved per parking space.

    In California if every two-or-more door garage were only a single door, it would be possible to have 10,000 square miles more green space. Additionally, if parking aprons were singles instead of multiples, another 30,000 square miles of greenspace could be claimed in the state.

    March 28, 2012 at 4:55 pm |
  26. Pander Bear

    "Corporations are people my friend".

    March 28, 2012 at 4:55 pm |
    • DJ

      As much as I don't like Romney, I truly think he meant that corporations are made up of people. It didn't stop him from getting rid of people, but that is a different story...

      March 28, 2012 at 5:39 pm |
    • Grizzley Bear

      Corporations are people in the legal sense. According to the law and as written on wikipedia it says, "corporations are recognized by the law to have rights and responsibilities like natural persons." Just to name a few aspects, corporations are "born", are taxed, and can "die". Also corporations allow society to enjoy more of the luxuries that we have. If corporations are not fairly treated, we might cease speed at which technology improves. We can kiss away ipods, ipads, tivo, fuel-efficient cars, and etc. Corporations are beneficial to individuals and society.

      March 28, 2012 at 7:20 pm |
  27. alex chapman-Ville Platte,La.

    I don't want to hear any Repub. whining when Mitt's many true misstatements come back to bite him in the rear end in the General Election Campaign.P.S.-Tommy Lee Jones DID say that he drew some things from Al Gore, his room mate at Harvard for his role in "Love Story" as "Preppie's" room mate.

    March 28, 2012 at 4:55 pm |
    • Can'tStandStupidity

      Headlines: "Romney thinks Corporations are People, folks" And all the Dems ridicule it ad nauseam. Sorry Dems, you're making fools of your self, Mitt is absolutely correct!

      Oxford English Dictionary definition of corporation ---

      "Corporation – a body of persons; A body corporate legally authorized to act as a single Individual." See? HE WAS RIGHT!

      March 28, 2012 at 5:32 pm |
  28. Paul

    Thanks for explaining this now Wolf. Thanks for not clearing it up in 2000. We got eight really bad years and unnecessary wars. The Country would have been much better if Gore, who got the most votes, would have been elected President in 2000.

    March 28, 2012 at 4:34 pm |
    • Jose Head

      actually 2003 -2007 were pretty good......The "really bad years" were 2000-2002 and 2008 til.....

      March 28, 2012 at 7:40 pm |
  29. JimII

    That the words "I took the initiative in creating the Internet" in a list of other legislative achievements was allowed to beceom "I invented the internet" is the shame of journalism in America. It shows how unwilling American journalists are to insist on accuracy. It is like allowing Romney to be misquoted about not carrying for the poor, when what he said was that he wasn't worried about the very poor because they had the social safety net. Professionals should do better.

    March 28, 2012 at 4:31 pm |
    • Can'tStandStupidity

      Well said, JimII – Romney also said "Corporations are people" If people who mocked him without checking with the Oxford English Dictionary – they'd find he was absolutely RIGHT.

      "Corporation – a body of persons ; A body corporate legally authorized to act as a single Individual." Mitt at least, is educated!

      March 28, 2012 at 5:26 pm |
    • DJ

      Yes, any media that misquoted should have corrected themselves. However, it doesn't mean that the average citizen can't look something up and get the real scoop. I get tired of everyone thinking that something that is preposterous is true, and not bothering to double check.

      March 28, 2012 at 5:41 pm |
  30. Charles - California

    WIN:WIN:WIN = energy.education.jobs.

    WIN:WIN:WIN > LEASE USA natural resource lands (the land/resources of the people of America) to the highest bidder (best bidder w/ lowest profit margin). Sell at market rate – 2/3 of profit goes directly to SEED: 1] education 2] create jobs 3] reduce energy costs & produce a profit for the Corporation. WIN:WIN:WIN – for youth, economy & American Spirit! Please pass to the ROMNEY team – I think the business mind set can merge with the AMERICAN quest for a liberal solution. WOLF – I believe the AMERICAN Spirit will reunite when LOGIC meets NEED – thanks for listening cmm

    March 28, 2012 at 4:21 pm |
  31. David Mold

    Yes, look out, current candidates, Wolf sagely advises you not to claim you invented the Internet. Not only this, but Gore's inanity was provoked by a mundane question from the Wolf Man himself. Heady stuff.

    March 28, 2012 at 4:13 pm |
  32. kristophercraig

    Well said, as always! As a software engineer who actually follows this stuff, it really annoys me when people witlessly regurgitate the false rumor (which was started by Rush Limbaugh btw) that Al Gore claimed to have invented the internet. He never made that claim nor did he even imply it. But it's a funny idea so people choose to believe it without checking to see whether or not it's actually true.

    Al Gore played a crucial role in the creation of the internet and he should be able to boast about that. His wording may have been imprecise, but that does not excuse either the cynicism of Republican pundits who deliberately lied about what he said or the intellectual laziness of those who continue to believe that lie.

    The voters get the leaders they deserve. It's that simple.

    March 28, 2012 at 4:03 pm |
    • Ken B. from Highlands, NC

      Yes, voters deserve what they get. Unfortunately, the options are too few. If there was a ballot choice 'None of the above' which required 're-do,' then perhaps the major parties would do a better job or other parties would emerge. As often it becomes the evil of two lessers.

      March 28, 2012 at 6:27 pm |
    • Fellow Engineer

      Interesting, Im in the same profession and have often found myself making that exact statement. We get the leadership we deserve. Personally I'm glad I've only got about 20 good years left.

      March 28, 2012 at 8:08 pm |
    • joshua

      March 9, 1999 Al Gore when running against Bill Bradley in an interview with Wolf Blitzer, "I took the initiative in inventing the internet". Sure, you can blame Rush for the lies of Al Gore. But who are you serving when you do?

      April 12, 2012 at 3:03 pm |
  33. joshua

    maybe he should have been more "flexible" like the current occupant of the white house.

    March 28, 2012 at 3:56 pm |
    • Can'tStandStupidity

      I love it joshua! Well said.

      March 28, 2012 at 5:33 pm |

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