News reports disclose that a candidate for high public office, engaged in secluded meetings with an attractive member of the opposite sex. The candidate initially denies the stories, but after the accounts are confirmed, calls a news conference.The candidate should:
Assure the public that some people are merely inclined to misconstrue.
ANSWER: All except E.Half the people will accept (A) assurances by the candidate and will stop misconstruing. Of the remaining 50%, three out of five will join the candidate in (B) berating the public for misconstuing. Half the remaining 20% will (C) condemn the individuals who are most likely to misconstrue. Of the remaining 10%, nine out of ten will agree with the candidate and (D) denounce the press for writing stories that can be misconstrued.
Which leaves only 1% of the people, who are not assured, who bemoan being berated, who are confirmed misconstuers, or who think the press should go ahead and write stories that can be misconstrued -- and therefore will not support the candidate.
Now, if the candidate were to (E) express regret for behavior that can be misconstrued, the results will be altogether less favorable.
The half who would have (A) accepted the assurances decide to do some misconstruing. Of the remaining 50%, three out of five will resent being (B) berated for misconstruing. Half the remaining 20% will take up misconstruing and (C) condemn all individuals who do not misconstrue. Of the remaining 10%, nine out of ten will (D) denounce the press for not writing more stories that can be misconstrued.
Epilog: An original version of
this satirical essay was inspired by a passage in
E. J. Donne's 1987 article Courting
Danger: The Fall of Gary Hart, "Mr. Hart
admitted he had erred by "putting myself in
circumstances that would be misconstrued" and
lashed out at the newspaper for "spotty
surveillance." Four decades later James
Fallows asks Was
Gary Hart Set Up?