Monday, May 28, 2012

The Gaffe Awards

Recently, I was asked to contribute another article for the HAJET magazine, Polestar, regarding political misquotes or gaffes.  It was among the most fun I've had writing in a long time, because it was an excuse to wade through all of the ridiculous things politicians have said that are now caught on video and put on YouTube.  I hope you enjoy the article as much as I did! 

The Gaffe Awards
The campaign cycle in the U.S. has exploded in scope in recent decades to the point that the end of one election cycle simply means that we’re already three months into the next series of elections.  As the amount of money and time devoted to elections increases, the candidates’ risk of making serious gaffes also increases. 

Although there are technically two Republican candidates still in the race to challenge President Obama in November – Mitt Romney and Ron Paul – Mitt Romney is the presumptive Republican nominee.  Now that it’s essentially a two-person race, President Obama vs. Former Governor Romney, the time is fitting to review some of their more famous gaffes to date and recognize the best thus far.  Current Vice-President Joe Biden, who has a reputation for speaking before thinking, also provides plenty of quality gaffes to chose from, and some of his better ones are included.  

1. Most Likely to Haunt their Campaign:

Romney: “Corporations are people, my friend…of course they are.” – Referring to the controversial Citizens United Supreme Court case that gave corporations the same free speech privileges as citizens as he explained why he opposes raising corporate taxes to a heckler at the Iowa State Fair. 

Obama: “This is my last election. After my election, I have more flexibility.” – President Obama’s hot mike moment happened with Russian President Medvedev in Seoul, South Korea, at the 2012 Nuclear Security Summit.  The comments have allowed opponents to argue that President Obama has a “secret agenda” that he will implement if he gets a second term. 

2. Most Unfortunate Choice of Words:
Romney:  “I like being able to fire people who provide services to me.”  – This particular Romney quote often gets shortened to “I like firing people” and reminds people of his work in the private sector, specifically at Bain Capital.  Bain Capital has a wide variety of non-controversial investments, but the portion associated with Romney is the sector that buys companies and resells them at a profit, often by firing most of the workforce and rehiring a few of them at lower wages, shipping the company overseas, or otherwise dismantling the company to resell in smaller pieces.   

Biden: “A successful dump!”    – A few reporters caught this candid moment from Joe Biden in Delaware after he dropped off deadwood at a local garbage dump in 2008. 

3. Most Likely to Further Alienate those who Already Dislike You:
Romeny: “I’ll tell you what, ten-thousand bucks? $10,000 bet?”  – Romney tried making a bet with former candidate Rick Perry in order to settle a disagreement about what Romney wrote about his healthcare beliefs.  It gives credence to the idea that Romney is out of touch with the average person. 

Obama: “You are absolutely right that John McCain has not talked about my Muslim faith.” – President Obama has continued to face accusations by a small minority of Americans who stubbornly believe that he is a Muslim. This slip-up during his ABC interview in 2008 only reinforced that image. 

4. Worst Judge of their Audience:
Romney: “I should tell my story. I’m also unemployed.”  – Romney attempted a little humor to connect with a group of unemployed Americans at a Florida campaign event. Romney’s estimated net worth is over $200 million. 

Biden: “You cannot go to a 7-11 or a Dunkin’ Donuts unless you have a slight Indian accent.... I’m not joking.”   – This private remark was caught by C-SPAN as Biden appeared to be speaking to an Indian-American.  Biden apologized and said that his quote has been misconstrued.   

5. Best WTF? Quote:
Romney: “I love this state. The trees are the right height.”  – At a Michigan rally, Romney seeks to find things to say about how wonderful the state is. 

Obama: “I’ve now been in 57 states -- I think one left to go.”  – Considering that there are only 50 American states, one hoped that then-candidate Obama simply mixed up 47 for 57 during the strenuous campaign season.  Simple geography and spelling mistakes have meant the downfall of candidates in the past, yet this remark was generally forgiven. 

6. Worst (or best?) Unsuccessful Attempt at Humor
Romney: “They’re not happy that my dog likes fresh air.”  – Romney is referring to PETA’s (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) outrage at the 1983 story where, while going to Canada for a family vacation, Romney put their dog in a crate attached to the roof of the car for the 12-hour drive. 

Obama: “No, no. I have been practicing...I bowled a 129. It’s like -- it was like Special Olympics, or something.” - Although President Obama quickly apologized for his remarks made on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno in 2009, his self-deprecating attempt at humor outraged many Americans. 

7. Best Name Slip:
Biden: “A man I’m proud to call my friend.  A man who will be the next President of the United States — Barack America!”  – Said as Biden introduced then-candidate Obama at their first joint campaign event after Biden was named the vice-president nominee.  

John McCain: “I am confident, with the leadership and the backing of the American people, President Obama will turn this country around.”  – Senator John McCain was President Obama’s Republican 

challenger in 2008, and made this slip while trying to endorse Mitt Romney for president in early 2012. 

8. Best Facepalm Opportunity:
Romney: “I have some friends who are NASCAR team owners.”  – This is Romney’s response to an AP reporter’s question about whether or not he follows NASCAR.  Owning a NASCAR team is a notoriously expensive undertaking and this answer gives more weight to his general image as an out-of-touch elitist

9. Most Awkward:
Romney: “Who let the dogs out? Who, who.”  – While taking an impromptu photo with a group of young African-Americans, Mitt Romney spontaneously quotes this Baha Men song. 

Biden: “Stand up, Chuck, let ‘em see ya. Oh, God love you. What am I talking about.”  – Biden was speaking at a rally where Missouri State Senator Chuck Graham was present.  Sen. Graham is in a wheelchair. 

10. Honorable Mentions:
Romney: “I’m running for office for Pete’s sake, we can’t have illegals.”  – At a Republican debate, Romney recalled his reaction to finding out that a lawn company he used at one of his homes hired undocumented workers. 

Obama: “Thank you!  Thank you Sioux City!  Sioux Falls?  I’ve been in Iowa too long.”    – I had to include this one simply because it’s my hometown’s name that was messed up in the greeting and it happens way too often when big names visit our city.   There’s a lot of pride in the Midwest and mixing up our name with our smaller, Iowan neighbor isn’t going to get you any bonus points.  

Obama: “Now that’s my phone buzzing there. I don’t want you to think I’m getting fresh or anything.” – Then-candidate Obama’s cell phone apparently vibrated in his pocket while he was taking a photo with a group of women in close quarters.

Sources (In order of the quotes above): (approx. 1:00 into the video)

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