In the modern Mecca of terrorism and atrocious violations to basic human rights, individuals look towards diplomats and politicians to pave the way for a better tomorrow. As human beings we do not live in isolation. We live in communities, be it a small one like a nuclear family unit or a larger one like that of a country. Politics embraces individuals within a group context. There is little room for error, and if Aristotle’s classification is to be followed then although we have good leadership that inculcates the interest of the many and bad leadership which concentrates on the benefit and welfare of certain factions, there is little or no room for comedy.
Everyone has at some point in their life gotten their “foot in their mouth” whether it is the client telling you he would like you to remodel a house because the first choice was not available, the husband saying those jeans really do make you look fat, the excited friend running and hugging a stranger who looked like a good friend or a father accidentally picking up the wrong child from school. No relationship is sacred, and has not fallen to the lure of the faux pas. Sports players, celebrities, and modern day politics, however, have given us our fair share of chuckles, some with disbelief, some caustic and some with knee slapping hilarity. Caricatures, YouTube videos and not to leave out late night comedy shows have all benefited from the influx of unintended political gaffes and provided humor therapy and reduction of stress hormones for their avid audiences.
It is hard to narrow the list of greatest flukes and missteps, however here’s an attempt at the most popular and smile inducing. Disclaimer: Everyone has an Achilles heel. These are just funny because they were caught, documented and will be engraved in history.
We know who will not be voting against fire arms. It’s Dick Cheney, the sitting vice president who shot an elderly gentleman thinking he was a quail. The last vice president to do that was Alexander Hamilton but back then it was in a duel of honor not dinner.
The shoes that shook the world, and led to a hue and cry that was heard in developed and underdeveloped countries alike. The tears were a result of the giggles that showed the video on all major news channels. The country that was renowned for its supposed “nuclear power” really did have the most dangerous weapon of mass destruction, a pair of lethal size nine loafers. Kudos to Bush for still being able to instinctively recall those football reflexes from yesteryears.
Baroness Thatcher, the first woman to serve in the posts of Leader of the Conservative Party and Prime Minister of The United Kingdom very graciously in a meeting said “ Its marvelous to be back in Malaya..” Unfortunately she spent most of the flight looking through her notes of key issues to be discussed at the meeting and forgot to see the “welcome to Indonesia” sign at the airport.
The Yugoslavian leader arrived at Heathrow, only to walk past Prime Minister Edward Heath, who had his arms outstretched, to shake the hands of the most important diplomat, the baffled chauffer. It’s a perfectly understandable mistake, men in suits hug him all the time but he likes the aloof quiet chase the most.
Asif Ali Zardari
The President of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, Mr. Zardari, upon meeting the Republican vice president candidate, Sarah Palin, exclaimed over her looks and told her how he understood why the whole country is crazy about her. He also voiced the hope that someone would insist that he hug the running candidate. Feminists around the world united in their outrage over such comments, however the visible drool and appreciative glimmer in his eye lead more to believe that instead of devising new plans of fiscal spending, he derived much pleasure from watching old reruns of Charlie’s Angels.
The first president of the Russian Federation, he was often found inebriated even during press conferences and public appearances. His fondness for bluster and drink was married in his appearance at Hyde Park with then President Bill Clinton. He addressed the media directly by pointing to the camera in response to the political pundits readings of the summits failure due to the issue of Bosnia and stated “Now for the first time I can tell you, you are a disaster.” It was one small step for Alcoholics Anonymous, one giant leap for Cognac.
Many politicians will agree there is one deadly serpent they all can’t live with and cannot live without, the microphone. This metallic electrical device has brought many leaders to their knees, and legal aids compensation for all night apology letter scripting. Lets us examine some of the few that fell victim to its poison and forgot the first rule of public speech, when you are done, shut off the mic.
Prime Minister Gordon Brown, after ending a conversation with an elderly woman of sixty five years, and informing her how nice it was to meet her, was heard saying “ she was just sort of a bigoted woman” and how “it was just a disaster.” The real disaster was the fact that he failed to realize he still had his mic on. For those of us science fiction fans, we do not have to wait for the next Batman to catch our glimpse of “Two Face”, all we have to do is look to British Parliament.
On 19 October 2006 during an official meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in Moscow Russian President Vladimir Putin was overheard praising Israeli President Moshe Katsav for raping ten employees of his office. Poor taste definitely, and enough admiration to ensure the office boys, working girls and even sled dogs all ran for cover in Mr. Putins entourage.
Parental Discretion is advised. Language not suited for children and or dinner parties.
The Vice President is a big fan of the f word and I do not mean flavor. He has been caught and tweeted, saying to President Obama, “You did it,” “ it’s a big f...ing deal” prior to the signing of the historic health bill. Needless to say not only was he caught on mic, it is actually, in the vice presidents favorite term ,his second f….ing time. The first was said to a collogue in March 2009 when he asked for a” f…ing break” on mic. Can someone please wash this 67 year olds mouth with soap? It seems like a fundamental grasp of foul language is the criteria presidential candidate’s look for in running mate, for Dick Cheney seems to also have dropped out of Miss Manners school of political correctness with him telling a senator to “ Go f…. himself” back in 2004.
Lets face it, the former Republican president chronically suffered foot in mouth syndrome. Symptoms are presented as impulsive and abrupt phrases, usually during sensitive situations such as funerals and weddings or interviews. It appears that people with high societal stature seem to be at a particular risk of developing this syndrome. Other symptoms that may appear after impulsive speech are increased blood flow to the facial capillaries, making the patient’s face appear red. It has been observed in some patients with severe foot in mouth, that they are completely unaware of their behavior and appear to be unaffected otherwise.
There are several to examples to choose from that symbolize this illness with former US President George Bush, but perhaps the most telling was when he appeared to greet his old ally Tony Blair at a G8 summit with the immortal words "Yo, Blair. How are you doing?". Somebody really should have stopped playing all those late night Friends episodes on the white house cable.
Another unforgettable mic gaffe was when in a speech paying tribute to women reformers around the world, Bush sang the praises of Fathi Jahmi, a Libyan dissident. "Earlier today, the Libyan government released Fathi Jahmi," Bush said during a White House gathering marking International Women's Week. "She's a local government official who was imprisoned in 2002 for advocating free speech and democracy." Seems politically correct doesn’t it except for one major flaw, Jahmi was a man.
The famously gaffe-prone president gets another honorable mention, for the time on the 2000 election campaign trail when microphones caught his whispered attack on New York Times reporter Adam Clymer. Mr Bush described the reporter as a "major-league asshole".
So there you have it. Every hero has fallen prey to the slip of the tongue, finger or eye in the case of President Bush winking to Queen Elizabeth on her States Tour. In the words of the David Bowie “we can be heroes” because if these are the mistakes made by the modern equivalent to knights, then no feat is unattainable for the modern individual. Just remember, always look at your cue cards, and if you will partake in an aperitif do not confuse the president as your spouse in the case of Ms. Condoleezza Rice during her stint as National Security Advisor and never wear a space suit.