More Super Duper Political Bloopers

Silly Slip-Ups Can Hurt Some Candidates

By Buck Wolf

Oct. 13, 2000 — Cheer up, Al; don’t despair, George: You may have tripped over your tongues on the campaign trail. But there is political life after putting your foot in your mouth.

Last week The Wolf Files recounted some of Al Gore and George W. Bush’s most laughably regrettable moments and juxtaposed them with slips of the lip by Dan Quayle, George Bush the elder and Bill Clinton.

The Wolf Files recounted the younger Bush telling the folks of Nashua, N.H., “I know how hard it is for you to put food on your family.” We pointed out that he once referred to a “peacekeeper” as a “pacemaker” and warned that America “cannot let terrorists and rogue nations hold this nation hostile” rather than “hostage.”

We also pointed out that Gore once told an audience, “A zebra doesn’t change its spots.” And how he tried to flash a little Spanish before Latinos in Albuquerque, N.M., thanking them with the salutation “machismo gracias” — which translates into “manliness thanks” — rather than “muchas gracias.”

And then there’s that time after the Chicago Bulls won the 1998 NBA championship and Gore gushed, “I tell you that Michael Jackson is unbelievable, isn’t he? He’s just unbelievable.”

We also brought up Gore’s reputation for overstatement, how he’s told folks at times that he invented the Internet and that he and Tipper were the model couple for Love Story.

Can Americans accept such buffoonish moments from their future leaders? Simply put, yes. John F. Kennedy, Dwight Eisenhower and Ronald Reagan weren’t stopped by their occasional bloops and blunders.

Of course, there are folks like Gary Hart and Gerald Ford, who probably wish they could press rewind and erase career-shortening bloopers.

Which group will Bush and Gore fall into? History will tell.

“Political campaigns probably do a better job now at capitalizing on their opponents’ mistakes. But every election I have looked at, you’ve had some incredible blunders,” says Christopher Cerf, who co-wrote The Experts Speak (Villard Books) with Victor Navasky of The Nation.