There’s No Such Thing As A Gotcha Question
The Taegan Goddard Political Dictionary defines a “gotcha question” as:
A question posed by a reporter in an effort to trick a politician into looking foolish or saying something damaging.
We’re already off to a bad start. In general, but especially if you are applying for any job (which running for office is), always think before you speak and be prepared to defend whatever it is that you say. Most importantly, never be afraid to admit that you are or were wrong, but you have learned from the experience.
Domenic Montenaro writes:
Presidential candidates have to answer all kinds of questions. Sometimes they are relevant or germane to the event they’re at or the campaign at large—and sometimes they’re not. But how they answer, even these “gotcha” questions—designed as a litmus test of rationality—can be revealing of their mindset, their depth, and their mettle as a candidate.
This is the heart of the matter. Questions aren’t “gotcha” unless they restrict your answer due to your own past statements or actions. It’s not “gotcha” as in you can’t win either way you answer. It’s gotcha as in “you have backed yourself into a corner through your own doing” questions.
An example of this is “When did you stop beating your wife?” This has been described as a “gotcha question” How? The simple answer is “I have never beaten my wife. Next question.”
In my opinion, Mary Matalin provides the best definition of “gotcha questions”:
“[A] gotcha question would be one that elicited an answer which no normal human being would consider a piece of information decisive in determining their vote,” she explained, “as in the poster child of gotchas, ‘what do you read?’ While that might be illustrative to a voter, it wouldn’t normally be a vote determinant, (excepting an answer that might include “Mein Kampf” or anything by the Marquis de Sade).”
This makes the whining even more nonsensical for if the question will not influence voters, the pressure to give a palatable and politically sanitized answer is lessened. There is no such thing as a “gotcha question.” All questions are generated to elicit a response, so use the question to show how it is that you reason.
I liken it to a drug test. Passing doesn’t get you the job, but failing is almost an automatic disqualifier. There are many ways that you can pass, so look at it as just another way the employer looks at how a prospective candidate reconciles with adversity. In fact, gotcha questions are easier as they aren’t under any time constraints as drug tests are. It’d be a whole different story if the clock was put on you.