Fractured comments by politicians are amusing, but rarely fatal

Posted: Jul. 2, 2011 6:34 pm Updated: Nov. 28, 2014 10:43 am


What politicians say in public gets reported and when they say strange things or make errors it catches our attention.

Blagojevich the court jester

This gem came from Illinois' own ousted-and-convicted ex-governor Rod Blagojevich after his conviction on 17 or 20 counts of corruption.

"Well, among the many lessons I've learned from this whole experience is to try to speak a little bit less, so I'm going to keep my remarks kind of short," Blagojevich told reporters right outside the courthouse.

There are a couple of levels of political comedy here. First, Blagojevich said he has learned "many lessons" from his experience. Yet he told reporters he was "stunned" by the guilty verdicts.

Dude! You were wiretapped talking about how you wanted money, or a big appointment or something "*#%!ing good" for appointing someone to the U.S. Senate seat left vacant when Barack Obama quit to become president.

How can you be stunned that 12 people are convinced beyond any doubt that you are a crook?

Then there's the part of his comment about speaking a little less.

Blagojevich went against his attorney's advice repeatedly by telling anyone, anywhere how he was being railroaded ... probably because he was doing so much to reform the ethics of Illinois politics. He's been on news shows, was interviewed by David Letterman, was on Celebrity Apprentice and then prattled on about his life and personal demons during days of testimony in front of the jury that just convicted him.

Did his epiphany about speaking less occur only as the guilty verdicts were read?

What's in a name?

Michelle Bachmann got her facts slightly off during the official launch of her presidential campaign last week in Waterloo, Iowa.

"John Wayne was from Waterloo, Iowa. That's the kind of spirit that I have, too," Bachmann said.

Locals pointed out to the candidate that John Wayne was from Winterset, Iowa, about 150 miles away. It was John Wayne Gacy, the serial killer who raped and murdered at least 33 boys during the 1970s, who was born in Waterloo.

The gaffe would have been more quickly forgotten had Bachmann simply admitted the error. Instead, she denied any mistake. She argued that John Wayne's parents once lived in Waterloo. Only after mounting evidence did Bachmann say she had "mis-spoken."

Bachmann had previously said the American Revolution started in New Hampshire, when it began in Massachusetts.

Fellow presidential hopeful Sarah Palin probably was happy to see someone's comments drawing attention away from her comments about Paul Revere warning the British on his famous ride, which she later defended as accurate.

Winners of the past

President Barack Obama once talked about campaigning in 57 states.

President George W. Bush warned other politicians about "misunderestimating" him.

President John F. Kennedy, trying to speak their language, told Germans he was a jelly doughnut during his visit to Berlin.

Mistakes happen. The point is to move the discussion past a gaffe by not using tortured arguments to prove you were somehow right. News cycles end more quickly once candidates fess up and move on to more constructive talking points.

It's a matter of perspective

Political gaffes get attention, but they don't hurt politicians with their own supporters. The mistakes may live forever on the internet or in the chatter of opponents, but they don't derail political careers unless there's a major scandal attached.

Goofy wording that gets reported can actually help politicians with their base, as long as they blame it all on a media that's out to get them.

One other interesting phenomenon is that lots of people would swear that politicians make more verbal slips than most people. They don't. It's just that the politician's words are preserved forever in print and video.

We would all get famous if our silly comments were made public for everyone to see and hear.

What parent hasn't asked a child some rhetorical question such as "how dumb do you think I am." If the child thinks the question deserves an answer, that's the kind of YouTube video that might remind us that we're all imperfect.


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