The generic definition of a “gaffe” is a remark or observation that most people would probably regard as true but will embarass nonetheless if you say it in mixed company. Sen. Harry Reid‘s racially-tinged comment about Barack Obama in Mark Halperin and John Heilemann‘s “Game Change” certainly qualifies.
Reid reportedly said that Obama was an attractive and electable candidate in part because he was notably “light-skinned” and had “no Negro dialect unless he wanted to have one.” A horrendous thing to say, but not wrong. This is exactly why many older white rural voters supported Obama in part — i.e., because he isn’t that “black.” Does anyone believe Obama would have beaten John McCain if he looked and spoke like Tracy Morgan? Remember that SNL bit in which Morgan said he’s “way blacker” than Obama?
In any event that quote attributed to Bill Clinton in the same book is much more inflammatory.
An L.A. Times story summarizes as follows: “In lobbying the late Sen. Edward Kennedy to endorse his wife, former President Clinton angered the liberal icon by belittling Obama. Telling a friend about the conversation, Kennedy recalled Clinton had said ‘a few years ago, this guy would have been getting us coffee,’ the authors paraphrase. A spokesman for the former president declined to comment on the claim.”