Devastating slips of the tongue in US election campaigns
A secretly recorded statement of Mitt Romney to Republican Party financiers sent shock waves high as it revealed that he had chastised 47 percent of the American public for not paying income tax, who had become" dependent on government and seeing themselves as ‘victims’". Romney stuck to his story pleading that he had been inelegant in how had stated a perceived situation in the US.
Millions watched perplexed how the 47% came to be calculated—seniors, unemployed, military personnel, veterans, students etc. The ten Southern states that vote Republican most of the time have a considerabale number of voters who are dependent on government assistance. So we have a national dialogue now recalling how election outcomes changed as candidates tripped over their tongues. In Romney’s case, he may take solace that at least he is not the first.
Presidential campaigns history overflows with candidates who tripped over their own loose tongues — some were careless, others accidentally reveal something they should not have. Even a cursory analysis shows that nearly 50 percent of races for the White House have seen a candidate suffer self-inflicted wounds.
Most remembered verbal misfires
In 2008, Senator John McCain said just before the great economic recession: “The fundamentals of the economy are strong.” It sealed the fate of McCain-Palin ticket. That is exactly a year to date of Romney’s gaffe. Barack Obama benefited even though he also goofed in saying inPennsylvania in 2008 that some working-class voters “cling to their guns or religion” as reasons to support Republicans.
Prior to that it was the losing candidate in 2004 John Kerrey who said, “I actually did vote for the $87 billion, before I voted against it.” This was about money to pay for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Winner George W. Bush mocked him and rest is history.
Al Gore and the internet
Vice President Al Gore, running for the presidency in 2000 famously said: “I took the initiative in creating the Internet.” He immediately got parodied as the father of the internet and lost to Bush. He was defined harshly due to this clumsy assertion, made during a March 1999 CNN interview and came to be lampooned Gore as a unbelievable embellisher taking credit for the innovation.
President Bill Clinton, 1996: “You think I raised your taxes too much. It might surprise you to know that I think I raised them too much.” It was a narrow shave but he managed to win. Clinton linked his Republican opponent, Bob Dole, to Speaker Newt Gingrich and the Republicans who had predicted that Clinton agenda, would cause the existing structure of Medicare to “wither on the vine.” The seniors voted in large numbers forClinton,
It’s the economy stupid
President George H. Bush, 1992: “Message: I care,” seemed catching on. The lousy economy at the time made Bush senior seemed out of touch with the masses. Bill Clinton’s “It’s the economy, stupid” campaign proved resonant enough to withstand publication of a 1970 letter in which he acknowledged having avoided fighting in Vietnam without resisting the draft “to preserve my political viability.” He won a three-way race against Bush and Ross Perot.
Gov. Michael S. Dukakis, 1988: “I think you know that I’ve opposed the death penalty during all of my life,” was a slogan that misfired. At the presidential debate Dukakis was stoic and not concerned when asked what would you do if your wife were to be raped? The emotionless response turned deadly as Bush senior retorted quite emotionally to that question when his turn came.
Walter F. Mondale, 1984: “Mr. Reagan will raise taxes and so will I. He won’t tell you. I just did.” But Reagan used his superior oratorical power calling Mondale a tax-and-spend liberal. He won in a landslide — despite his shaky debate performances, most famous for one response that began: “I remember driving down the California coast one day--adding “Approximately 80 percent of our air pollution stems from hydrocarbons released by vegetation.” Democrats used this so-called killer trees statement to cast Reagan as a know-nothing, extremist, retired actor. It was the plight of American hostages in Iran that tilted the scales in favor of Reagan.
President Gerald Ford, 1976: “There is no Soviet domination of Eastern Europe, and there never will be under a Ford administration.” That allowed Jimmy Carter to question Ford’s foreign policy prowess. Carter won a close race. He goofed though when confessed to Playboy magazine that he had “committed adultery in my heart many times.”
In the YouTube era of instant replay of even mundane slips of tongue, campaigning has become an occupational hazard.
- Asian Tribune -