The horses are long out of the barn now, but Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's trying to minimize the damage from the gaffe he committed Friday.
Speaking on the Senate floor Friday morning about the newly-released February jobs report, Reid said, "Today is a big day in America. Only 36,000 people lost their jobs today, which is really good." Republicans, of course, moved immediately to capitalize on the majority leader's mistake, which has been getting some play in the media already (including here in Salon).
So Friday afternoon Reid went back to the scene of the crime to give some more context to his remark and slam Republicans for the way they've been using it. From his remarks as prepared for delivery, sent out by his office:
I want to talk about some remarks I made this morning -- especially in light of how they are being irresponsibly mischaracterized by those seeking to score political points.
Today we learned that 36,000 Americans lost their jobs in February. Those families don’t need today’s Department of Labor report – or anyone else in Washington – to tell them what that means for putting food on the table – or for paying the bills – or affording their health care. It’s undeniably devastating news.
But if we’re going to discuss the state of our economy and the direction in which it’s going -- and if we’re going to talk about it like adults -- we have to take a step back and put this number in context.
Economists thought 75,000 Americans were going to lose their jobs last month. That’s more than double what the actual number turned out to be. But that number is still too high ....
Ask the 40,000 Americans who economists thought were in the line of fire – but who still had a job to go to this morning -- and they’ll tell you they were relieved that February wasn’t as bad as expected.
Reid then discussed Democratic efforts to improve the economy, and Republican recalcitrance, before concluding:
I encourage my Republican friends to remember this critical context before their political reflexes lead them to make claims they know to be false.
And I warn them, once again, that this country has no place and no patience for those who root for failure.
It's a nice try, sort of, to explain this away, but even Reid has to know it stands little chance of working. True, this context was present in the full floor speech in which he committed his gaffe. But, for good or bad, that doesn't matter -- complicated contextual explanations just don't work in the face of easy soundbites. Just ask two of Reid's colleagues, Sens. John Kerry ("actually did vote for the $87 billion before I voted against it") and John McCain ("Maybe 100"). No matter what the context is, what Reid said Friday morning was just plain dumb.