red phone moment

Benjamin Zimmer bgzimmer at BABEL.LING.UPENN.EDU
Sat Mar 1 01:19:52 UTC 2008

The phrase "red phone moment" was used first by Obama's campaign
manager David Plouffe and then by Obama himself today, in response to
a commercial the Clinton campaign is running...

In a conference call with reporters, the Obama campaign pushed back
against Clinton's newest ad. The ad, running in Texas, shows children
sleeping and an announcer says, "It's 3 a.m., and your children are
safe and asleep. Who do you want answering the phone?"
Obama campaign manager David Plouffe said, "She had her red-phone
moment; she had it in 2002," when she and President Bush voted for the
The red phone reference is to an ad run by Walter Mondale in the
Democratic primary against Gary Hart.
"In fact, we have had a red phone moment," Mr. Obama said. "It was the
decision to invade Iraq. And Senator Clinton gave the wrong answer,
George Bush gave the wrong answer, John McCain gave the wrong answer."

Can't find any earlier references to "red phone moment", but cites for
"red phone" (phone dedicated for high-level classified conversations,
such as the Cold War hotline between Moscow and Washington) go back to
about 1960.

--Ben Zimmer

The American Dialect Society -

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