Everyone experiences “brain freeze” moments. We know what we want to say, but for whatever reason, the synapses just don’t cooperate the way we’d like.
When it happens to politicians in public, though, it seems so much worse.
Perhaps the most famous recent example came with Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s (R) “oops” during a presidential candidates’ debate in 2011, but there are others. Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer (R), for example, experienced a terribly awkward moment in a 2010 gubernatorial debate. One of my personal favorites was in 2008, when then-South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford (R), a surrogate for the McCain/Palin campaign, was asked to name a difference on economic policy between McCain and George W. Bush.
“Yeah. I mean, for instance, take, you know – take, for instance, the issue of – I’m drawing a blank, and I hate it when I do that, particularly on television,” Sanford said at the time.
Yesterday, it happened again. This time, the victim was Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Colo.), who has a record of remembering specific talking points, but who forgot an important phrase this week.
During Thursday’s kickoff debate between U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman and Democratic challenger Andrew Romanoff, Coffman experienced a moment he’d probably rather forget. But helpful Democrats are doing their best to make sure that doesn’t happen. During the debate, when asked about women’s reproductive rights and health care, Coffman struggled find the right words.
He really did.
For those who can’t watch clips online, Coffman quickly responded to the question about reproductive health by saying, “I’m pro-life…. I’m proud of that.”
The answer went downhill from there: “I do not support ‘personhood,’ but I support a women’s access to, to uh, certainly to, uh, this Hobby Lobby decision to, um, to get, uh….”
At this point, Coffman turns to his Democratic opponent, as if Romanoff was supposed to help him out. He didn’t. Finally, after some awkward silence, folks in the debate audience said, “Birth control.”
The look of relief on the congressman’s face was obvious – and understandable.
Of course, the significance of this goes beyond a debate embarrassment for a candidate. Coffman used to support “personhood” measures that would ban abortions and some common forms of contraception. Now that he’s in the middle of one of the nation’s most competitive U.S. House races, the conservative Republican changed his mind.
In other words, Coffman didn’t have any trouble remembering birth control when he supported policies intended to take birth control away,