The gaffe: “Make sure you get out and vote November 28,” the Republican nominee told voters in Panama City, Florida, on Tuesday. Small problem: Election Day is November 8, 20 days earlier. Hundreds of political reporters’ hearts stopped for a moment as they considered the idea there were three extra weeks of this to go.
Why it matters (or doesn’t): Hey, it’s an old-school, slip-of-the-tongue gaffe for Trump, who has been more prone to the unwise or outrageous than the simply mistaken! It doesn’t matter at all, though it’s hard not to think about Trump’s get-out-the-vote operation, which by all indications is much smaller and more challenged than Hillary Clinton’s. Given that, it’s all the more important that he give supporters the right date.
The lesson: If you can’t count days, you can’t count on votes.
I’m the type of music fan that likes to immerse myself in an artist or an album, listening over and over again. But seldom do I find myself listening to the same song over and over, back to back. That’s how I’ve been consuming “Heart Like a Levee,” the title track from Hiss Golden Messenger’s new album, which comes out today:
I’ve been trying to figure out why I keep listening to it. One reason is that enigmatic title: What does it mean to have a heart like a levee? Another is the tension between the gently rolling music and its bittersweet lyrics. Hiss Golden Messenger’s M.C. Taylor has always been a highly personal songwriter, but the latest album grew out of a commission by Duke Performances, which paired Taylor up with the late photographer William Gedney, some of whose photographs reside in the university’s archives. In contrast to Taylor’s confessional style, Gedney was a private, nearly reclusive figure, barely known when he died of AIDS in 1989.
Taylor worked with a series of photos that Gedney took in Kentucky in the 1970s; one adorns the cover of Heart Like a Levee, and it’s on the video above. Trying at first to write songs about the photos, he eventually gave up and switched tacks, writing songs about his own life but inspired by the images. One striking line here: “Do you hate me, honey, as much as I hate myself?” Taylor sings the song over a hypnotic, circular chord pattern, with a catchy, chiming guitar riff.
This is folk-inflected music, but it’s not rudimentary or primitive. Hiss Golden Messenger has traded some of the thump of previous albums for a sound that’s almost proggy at times. (The album’s co-producer, Bradley Cook, was also responsible for another of my favorite albums this year, which I wrote about here in June.) Amid the rich texture, you can pick out Ryan Gustafson’s banjo, Phil Cook’s pealing guitar, and Tift Merritt’s backing vocals.
Gedney’s photographs from rural Kentucky are striking for what they are not: Though they depict people without much money, this is no Walker Evans-style catalog of destitution. The Cornett family he captured was homey but not simplistic, earthy but not unintelligent, vulnerable but open. They are photographs of real people, and this is a song about real people. “Heart Like a Levee” is a fitting counterpart.
As a bonus, here’s a live performance, showing Gedney’s photographs, as arranged by Jim Findlay, projected behind the band:
(Submit a song via hello@. Track of the Day archive here. Pre-Notes archive here.)
The gaffe: Here’s the Republican candidate in Reno Wednesday: “Heroin overdoses are surging and meth overdoses in Nev-ah-duh. Nev-AHH-duh. And you know what I said? You know what I said? I said when I came out here, I said, ‘Nobody says it the other way, it has to be Nev-ah-da.’ And If you don’t say it correctly—and it didn’t happen to me, but it happened to a friend of mine, he was killed.”
The defense: They do in fact pronounce this word wrong, as famed champion of Hispanophone culture Donald Trump was right to point out. Then again, it’s their state, man.
Why it matters (or doesn’t): Have you ever talked to a Nevadan about this? It’s worse than getting between a Tar Heel and a Texan arguing about barbecue. Besides, who goes to a swing state and tells voters there that they pronounce their own state wrong? Jon Ralston reports it may be a joke, and indeed, Trump obviously understood the sensitivity or he wouldn’t have gone on the riff—which only raises the question of why he thought the joke was funny.
The lesson: Mispronouncing the Silver State’s name is the worst gamble in a state where casinos are legal.
The gaffe: Speaking about veterans’ issues Monday morning, Trump was discussing suicides among ex-servicemembers. “When people come back from war and combat and they see maybe what a lot of the folks in this room have seen many times over, and you’re strong and you can handle it, but a lot of people can’t handle it,” he said, implying that PTSD victims were weak.
The defense: Trump, who likes to project strength in all circumstances, looks to have been trying to flatter his audience. It didn’t appear Trump was trying to ridicule victims; it was just a thoughtless comment.
Why it matters (or doesn’t): Let us count the ways this remark is bad. First, it blames those suffering for PTSD, suggesting they are not strong. Second, it’s scientifically bankrupt: No doctor would agree that PTSD is a sign of weakness. Third, it spotlights the fact that Trump avoided facing combat to test his own “strength,” obtaining draft deferments. Fourth, it fits in a string of comments ridiculing veterans, starting with saying he didn’t like John McCain because he was captured. Fifth, it’s another example of Trump’s insensitivity about mental illness. (“If I looked like Rosie [O’Donnell], I’d struggle with depression too,” he once said.)
The gaffe: At a town hall on MSNBC, Chris Matthews asked the Libertarian nominee, “Who’s your favorite foreign leader?” That’s a pretty weird question, and one that might be useless. If, you know, Johnson could have answered it. “Anywhere, any continent,” Matthews prodded. “I guess I’m having an Aleppo moment,” Johnson said, referring to his recent failure to recall the Syrian city and center of slaughter. “I’m giving you the whole world!” Matthews said. “I know,” Johnson replied ruefully. He offered “the former president of Mexico” but couldn’t name him.
The defense: William Weld, his running mate and a Bill Clinton nominee for ambassador to Mexico in the ’90s, offered Angela Merkel, with full teutonic pronunciation.
Why it matters (or doesn’t): For so many voters, this election is a choice between two undesirable options. Set aside whether Clinton and Trump are equally distasteful for the moment; just recognize that Johnson has an exceptionally low bar to clear. And yet again, he has shown that he’s unable to clear it.
The moral: It’s Sisi as pie, but if you’re un-Abe-le to name a single leader, you May be Putin your candidacy in danger—it might even be the Enda the road.