Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Thanks Cap'n Kirk! : Watson gaffe sticks it to the Obama campaign

Watson mute on Obama accomplishments

February 20, 2008

By Mike Ward and W. Gardner Selby
Austin American-statesman
Copyright 2008

It was not state Sen. Kirk Watson’s finest moment.

Asked by MSNBC host Chris Matthews last night, before a national audience with cameras rolling, to name some of Barack Obama’s legislative accomplishments, the Austin lawmaker and Obama supporter came up blank.

Not a one.

Matthews asked again and again.

Dead air.

“I’m not going to be able to do it tonight,” Watson finally acknowledged on the air.

The gaffe, which was making the rounds of national talk shows today and blazing across the Internet, surely is not high on Watson’s short list of great accomplishments.

So what happened?

“That wasn’t just a bad dream?” Watson said this morning. “That really happened?”

Watson said he knew right away that he had screwed up.

“I know when I don’t perform well,” he said, wishing a day later that he’d been primed to talk about Obama’s past proposals regarding officeholder ethics, homeland security and nuclear warheads, among topics.

“I felt like all of a sudden I was at a CAMPO meeting,” Watson said, referring to the lively Central Texas transportation planning body that he heads.

Reminded that Mathews said on the air that Watson obviously had nothing to say, Watson laughed. “Can you imagine Kirk Watson with nothing to say? And you wonder why I think it was just a dream.”

In Houston, Obama’s campaign staff rolled their eyes when asked about the video.

In contrast, Hillary Clinton’s folks were e-mailing the video clip around with thanks to the new-found help from Watson to underscore Hillary’s campaign message that Obama is inexperienced.

Funny thing is, Watson’s appearance on the show was delayed several times during the evening, with a program representative repeatedly asking the state senator if he wanted to back out because of the delay. Watson said he owed it to Obama’s campaign to stick around.

“I must admit: I stood there naked,” he said. (Actually, he fielded a call from a pal in California who watched his appearance with the sound off on their TV. Looked real good, he was told.)

Watson had no beef with Mathews’ repeating the question. “He’s one of the more aggressive and loud” TV anchors, Watson said. “That’s what you get.”

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