Reporter's Notebook

Gaffe Track
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Every presidential campaign is full of unpredictable twists and turns. After a brief moment where it looked like the nation might slouch into a Bush-Clinton rematch, the 2016 election is taking its place in that line of strange journeys. The one sure thing: There will be gaffes.

Knowing that the range of gaffes is wide, and that the import of a gaffe is often inflated (or overlooked) early on, Gaffe Track is The Atlantic’s bid to cover these gaffes with a consistent approach, creating a nearly real-time chronological inventory of the missteps, miscalculations, and misstatements of the 2016 presidential campaign.

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Trump's '5-Point Plan to Defeat Islam'

The candidate: Donald Trump

The gaffe: Speaking on MSNBC, Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway ticked off some of her candidate’s proposals: “a ten-point Veterans Administration reform plan, five-point plan to defeat Islam...” Wait, hold on a second.

The defense: She’s presumably referring to shahada, salat, zakat, sawm, and hajj. Wait, no, those are the five pillars of Islam.

Why it matters (or doesn’t): Conway had a slip of the tongue, and she presumably meant ISIS, but because Trump has repeatedly demonized Muslims—calling for a ban on Muslim immigration, for example—it looks like a Kinsley gaffe, that treasured tradition where a candidate, or in this case an aide, accidentally tells the truth.

The lesson: Kellyanne Conway is the friendly public face of the Trump campaign, but Shia can’t mosque his policy toward Islam with a Sunni disposition.

Donald Trump poses with employees at his Doral Country Club Tuesday morning.
Donald Trump poses with employees at his Doral Country Club Tuesday morning. Jonathan Ernst / Reuters

The candidate: Donald Trump

The gaffe: During a campaign swing on Tuesday morning in Miami, the Republican tried to capitalize on the news that insurance premiums under the Affordable Care Act are set to rise by as much as 25 percent next year.

Later, Eli Stokols says, a reporters asked if Trump’s employees were covered by Obamacare or by employer-sponsored coverage, and he replied, “Some of them, but most of them no.” Here’s the problem: Employers are required to provide insurance to anyone working more than 30 hours a week. So either Trump is lying, or he doesn’t understand what Obamacare is, or both.

The defense: Really, hardly anyone understands Obamacare, right? I’ve asked both the Trump campaign and the Trump Organization to explain if they have employees who are purchasing insurance through the markets created by Obamacare. (No one is “on” Obamacare, which, unlike Medicare or Medicaid, is not an actual insurance plan.) Meanwhile, Trump later told Fox News, “We don’t use Obamacare,” which is obviously true, because no employer “uses” Obamacare.

Why it matters (or doesn’t): Obamacare has been a remarkable non-factor in the race this year, although policy has largely been a sideshow overall. One reason is that for all the ACA’s flaws, Trump’s proposal for a replacement doesn’t really do anything to explain how he would replace the law. One reason for that might be that Trump has no idea what the law does and would rather offer empty, nonsensical jabs at it.

The lesson: Refusal to understand the law is one preexisting condition the Affordable Care Act doesn’t cover.