A gaffe, we are told, is not simply another name for misspeaking. Rather, it's a very specific kind of misspeaking, in which the speaker utters something that inadvertently reveals a damning and subconsciously understood truth that --- even once spoken --- can remain hidden in plain sight. Hidden from the speaker, as much as from the audience.
Sarah Palin made a gaffe yesterday. Speaking at a rally in Tampa, she had this to say about those decidedly un-Hockey-Mom-like duds she's been sporting on the campaign trail (video @ 0:24 to 0:34):
Those clothes, they are not my property. Just like the lighting and the staging and everything else that the R.N.C. purchased, I'm not taking them with me.
What did she say? "Those clothes...are...[j]ust like the lighting and the staging and everything else that the R.N.C. purchased...."
Once again: "Those clothes...are...[j]ust like the lighting and the staging...."
In other words --- for every gaffe has to be translated --- "I am a prop, and this whole thing is a show."
Does Sarah Palin or, for that matter, anyone else in the McCain campaign or at the Republican National Committee realize what Palin actually said? That she is a prop, and that this whole thing is a show --- indeed, that Wardrobe-gate is a withering metaphor for her entire candidacy?
Probably not. But Sarah Palin understands it deep in her soul --- even if she can't yet admit it to herself.
What's ironic is that it's Palin whom the rest of us have to thank for --- finally --- putting this truth in some form of words.
Even if she didn't mean to.