Sarah Palin’s quest for mainstream political respect hit a major snag Wednesday when she referred to North Korea as “our allies” during an interview on Glenn Beck’s radio program.
Beck asked Palin how she would handle North Korea as president. The communist nation launched a bomb attack against a South Korean island early Wednesday, killing at least four people.
“But obviously, we’ve got to stand with our North Korean allies. We’re bound to by treaty,” Palin answered before a quick correction by Beck’s co-host.
Palin’s tongue slip is hardly the first — or the last — major gaffe by politicians both in and out of office. Looking for proof? We’ve compiled the top five best political gaffes of all time.
President George W. Bush and the No Good, Very Bad Day: “You’re Doin’ a Heckuva Job, Brownie”
George W. Bush’s presidency could be described by some as one big political gaffe. He’s not the most eloquent guy in the world, and putting him under a worldwide magnifying glass did little to change that. His faux pas range from an uninvited backrub for German Chancellor Angela Merkel to unintentionally hilarious one liners.
The biggest of Bush’s political gaffes is — without a doubt — his praise of former FEMA director Michael Brown during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. His praise of Brown’s work — along with his flyover view of Katrina-ravaged New Orleans — fueled the belief that Bush wasn’t in touch with the victims’ suffering.
“I never imagined those words would become an infamous entry in the political lexicon. As complaints about Mike Brown’s performance mounted, especially in New Orleans, critics turned my words of encouragement into a club to bludgeon me,” Bush wrote in his just-released memoir “Decision Points.”
Vice President Joe Biden’s Blind Ambition
Oh, Joe. Vice President Joe Biden is now known more for his off-the-cuff remarks and unnaturally white grin than his actual work, you know, governing the United States. His tongue slips are legendary — who could forget his four-letter word drop after the healthcare bill passed?
However, a seemingly normal campaign stop in Columbia, Missouri, on Sept. 9, 2008, marks the first — and biggest — Biden gaffe to date. Biden wanted to recognize Democratic Senator Chuck Graham of Columbia and called out to him in the audience.
“Chuck, stand up, let the people see you,” Biden said. The problem? Graham is confined to a wheelchair. Awkward.
For his part, Biden tried to save (red) face by instructing supporters to “stand up for Chuck.” They obliged with a standing ovation.
Potato, Potatoe — Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off, Dan Quayle
It was supposed to be a harmless photo opp: Then-Vice President Dan Quayle visited Luis Munoz Fivera School in Trenton, New Jersey, on June 15, 1992, for a class spelling bee. Student William Figueroa was asked to correctly spell “potato” on the class blackboard — and he did. The problem? Quayle told Figueroa that the correct spelling was “potatoe” — a mistake that instantly branded him as a national joke.
Quayle later wrote in his memoir that the word was incorrectly misspelled on the card given to him by the school, but he felt uncomfortable challenging their materials. No matter how he spins it, Quayle’s gaffe is likely the only thing that most Americans remember about his political career.
George Allen’s Monkey Business
It’s not a good idea to show your personal racial biases when campaigning for political office. After all, you’re never really sure who is watching — or filming — and those people you don’t like just might be among your supporters. Former Virginia Senator George Allen apparently didn’t get that memo before he referred to a 20-year-old Indian-American volunteer for opponent James Webb as a “macaca.” S.R. Sidarth, the volunteer, was in the audience during this August 2006 campaign stop, and Allen didn’t exactly want him there.
“This fellow here, over here with the yellow shirt, macaca, or whatever his name is. He’s with my opponent. He’s following us around everywhere. And it’s just great,” Allen announced to chuckling supporters. “Let’s give a welcome to macaca, here. Welcome to America and the real world of Virginia.”
Allen’s gaffe — and the resulting furor — cost him the election against Webb. Poetic justice.
Ronald Reagan’s Unintentional Red Scare
Word to the wise, just in case you ever become president: Don’t joke about bombing Russia during a sound check — your microphone might just be on and people might hear it. Before you ask, yes, it happened. Former President Ronald Reagan was preparing for his weekly radio address on Aug. 11, 1984, when he made an off-the-cuff statement before going on-air.
“My fellow Americans, I’m pleased to tell you today that I’ve signed legislation that will outlaw Russia forever. We begin bombing in five minutes,” Reagan said. The statement left Americans and Russians rather uneasy, to put it lightly. Luckily, this gaffe is remembered as a historical footnote, rather than the start of World War III.
The Los Angeles Times