Walk back the comment?

中国日报网 2018-06-01 13:06



Walk back the comment?Reader question:

Please explain this sentence: “I’m sure he will have to walk back the comment.” Walk back the comment?

My comments:

Someone (he) made a comment on something. The speaker (I) thinks it’s an inappropriate remark and believes “he” will retract it, i.e. take it back.

As we understand, to take back one’s remark is to admit that one said something wrong or false or insensitive or otherwise inappropriate. When we say something like that, we may apologize immediately saying: “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have said that. I take it back. Please act as if I never said anything.”

Or something like that.

Literally to walk back is to retract one’s steps and going backwards. For example, a man is walking his dog across the street but halfway through, he sees a car coming fast and so he walks the dog back to the sidewalk.

In this case, clearly, not walking back or retracting may prove dangerous. So it is the right thing to do for the dog owner to walk his pet back.

Hence and therefore, metaphorically, if someone walks his comment, criticism or statement back, it’s kind of similar, similar in that they probably find something wrong or inappropriate about the said comment, criticism or statement and want to take it back.

If not take the whole thing back, they must want to clarify it, put it into greater context or otherwise explain themselves further.

And here are a few media examples:

1. When politicians or other public figures get in hot water over something they said, they have a choice. Either they can walk it back or they can double down. I used to get confused about which was which. But I think I have a handle on it now.

Walking it back is a form of back pedaling in response to push back that behooves you to back down, although you really don’t want to entirely take it back. Doubling down is a refusal to back down, whatever the backlash, even unto a smack down, in hopes that your critics will back off on the double.

Those are your only two options, apparently, when there’s a surge of people getting their panties in a wad over your latest sound bite. At least that’s the impression I get from the chatter blowing up today’s punditsphere.

Presently, it’s Mitt Romney’s turn. After a trouncing in headlines such as the New York Daily News’ “Mitt Hits the Fan,” over his tacit dismissal of 47 percent of the electorate as freeloaders, he’s making the damage control rounds. As we listen to what he has to say about what he said, let’s remember that the visible squirming is typical when walking back or doubling down on secretly videotaped remarks.

If a comment backfires, generating public outcry, protest or ridicule, whoever made it may feel chastised enough to cede a little ground, but prefer to save as much face as possible. In which case, they can try taking the offending remark for a leisurely stroll, escorting it as discreetly as possible, sometimes on tippy toe, back in the direction from whence it came.

“Ryan Walks Back Exaggerated Marathon Time.” “Obama Walks Back Claim That Economy is ‘Doing Fine.’” “Mitt Romney Walks Back London Olympics Comment.” “Bloomberg Walks Back Comment That Police Should Threaten Strike After Aurora.” “Why Didn’t Team Obama Walk Back Joe Biden’s ‘Back in Chains’ Remark?” “Carney Starts Walking Back Claim That Anti-Islam Video Inspired Riots.”

On the other hand, if the comment sparks outrage, but whoever made it isn’t feeling particularly conciliatory (either out of conviction or stupidity), they can defiantly up the ante on the original statement, by issuing a full-throated: Yeah, I said it.

“Obama Doubles Down on ‘You Didn’t Build It.’” “Mitt Romney Doubles Down on His Decision to Politicize Diplomat Deaths.” “White House Doubles Down: Obamacare Not a Tax.” “Allen West Doubles Down on Obama’s ‘Crap Sandwhich.’” “Rush Limbaugh Doubles Down on ‘Slut’ Claim.” “Trump Doubles Down on Birther Nonsense.” “Clint Eastwood Doubles Down on Empty Chair.”

- To Walk It Back or Double Down, That is the Question, by Bill Santiago, HuffingtonPost.com, November 20, 2012.

2. Sometimes it seems policy at Donald Trump’s White House is like a Night at the Improv.

From transgender troops in the military to immigration and tax cuts, Trump has a habit of winging it: announcing (or tweeting) a policy pronouncement, and leaving it to aides to fill in the details (or somehow walk it back). In the past week alone, Trump did that with immigration, the Mexican border and U.S. troops in Syria.

One result of the president's improvisational style, said government officials as well as analysts, is a near-constant churning that leaves some people confused and creates the image of chaos.

“It’s been this way since the beginning,” said Stan Collender, a professor of public policy at Georgetown University. “It looks like they’re operating on pure adrenaline, emotion ... let’s say sugar-rush, also.”

To his aides, it shows an active president who makes decisions and wants to share them with constituents.

“It’s his agenda,” Trump spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said. “He’s the one who won election. He gets to decide the policy and when he’s going to say it.”

Some examples of the Trump method:

• This week, during a photo opportunity with the leaders of the Baltic nations, Trump told reporters he would send U.S. troops to the Mexican border to guard against illegal crossings.

Trump and national security officials later met to discuss the details. Over the next two days, the White House put out statements saying the plan would involve deployment of the National Guard, in consultation with border state governors — details, like troop numbers and costs, to be provided later.

• Last week, in what aides billed as an infrastructure speech near Cleveland, Trump unexpectedly said he plans to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria.

Days later, after meetings with national security officials, Trump and aides issued statements reaffirming the goal of troop withdrawal but saying the U.S. would wait until the Islamic State is completely defeated. They did not provide a timetable for withdrawal.

• Last year, on an early July morning, Trump tweeted that he would reinstate the ban on transgender troops in the military. He did so without informing the Pentagon, which had been working on a plan to integrate those troops into its ranks, pursuant to a directive from President Obama’s Defense secretary, Ash Carter.

Officials followed up on Trump’s tweet with more planning seeking to accommodate the president's concerns. Just last month, the administration announced a policy that would bar most transgender people from the military, though legal challenges have prevented the new restrictions from taking effect.

- Donald Trump tweets policy, forcing aides to fill in details (or walk them back), USAToday.com, April 5, 2018.

3. Emmanuel Macron had reportedly studied Donald Trump’s style of domineering power-grabbing handshakes, apparently prepared to avoid being outdone by his counterpart. Instead, it was President Trump who at one point in the 5-second-long handshake attempted to withdraw his hand from Macron’s firm grasp.

The maneuver marked the start of what has become a close partnership between the two leaders, who recently joined forces along with the United Kingdom to strike Syria earlier this month.

“It’s no secret that President Trump and President Macron enjoy a good working relationship. I may say a close personal relationship,” a senior administration official said in a briefing with reporters.

President Macron has already feted Trump in grand style, inviting him to be his guest of honor at France's elaborate Bastille Day celebrations last summer. The president and first lady dined with Macron and his wife at the Eiffel Tower and sat side-by-side as French military tanks, planes and troops rolled down the Champs-Elysee in the elaborate military parade.

The event so inspired Trump that he has since called on the Pentagon to look into organizing a military parade in the United States. That parade is now set to take place on Veterans Day.


Macron appeared to test the limits of that frankness when he seemed to take credit recently for convincing President Trump not to pull U.S. troops out of Syria in the immediate future; Trump had said days before that the U.S. mission in Syria was nearly complete and that troops would be coming home “very soon.”

“We convinced him that it was necessary to stay there long-term,” Macron said during an extended televised interview on Sunday.

The White House then came out to refute Macron’s assertion.

“The U.S. mission has not changed -- the President has been clear that he wants U.S. forces to come home as quickly as possible,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said.

And Macron himself also sought to walk back the comments, later attempting to clarify: “I did not say that either the U.S. or France will remain militarily engaged in the long term in Syria.”

- Presidents Trump, Macron solidify political bromance with state visit, ABCNews.com, April 22, 2018.


About the author:

Zhang Xin is Trainer at chinadaily.com.cn. He has been with China Daily since 1988, when he graduated from Beijing Foreign Studies University. Write him at: zhangxin@chinadaily.com.cn, or raise a question for potential use in a future column.

(作者:张欣 编辑:丹妮)

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