With Election Day two weeks away and stakes for both parties rising higher by the hour, it’s never been more crucial for candidates to choose their words carefully. History has shown that the slightest slip of the tongue can make or break a campaign or career. Will Todd Akin, in his bid for a Missouri Senate seat, surmount the vitriolic controversy surrounding his comments about the biological unlikelihood of pregnancy from rape? Will Biden’s performance during the vice presidential debate—lambasted by many as over-the-top—cost Obama votes? How will Romney’s unfortunate phrase, “binders full of women” (which has spawned a Facebook page with over 350,000 followers), from the second presidential debate, affect his shot at the Oval Office?
Eyes will be peeled and ears open for any further verbal mishaps during tonight’s third and final presidential debate, and for good reason. These books about famous blunder-prone politicians show that a brief faux pas can cast a long shadow.
Rick Santorum: “Bullsh*t!”
Oh, dear. It appears the pressures of the campaign trail may have wore on Rick Santorum, whose nice-guy persona took a bit of a beating after he launched a verbal missile at New York Times reporter Jeff Zeleny. Santorum, the author of “It Takes a Family: Conservatism and the Common Good,” was responding to Zeleny’s question about Santorum’s characterization of former Governor Mitt Romney as “the worst Republican in the country” to run against Barack Obama. Santorum told Zeleny in no uncertain terms that he’d been misquoted. One has to wonder what his wife Karen, the author of “Everyday Graces: A Child’s Book of Good Manners,” thinks of this kerfuffle.
Barack Obama: “This is my last election. After my election, I have more flexibility.”
Though it didn’t contain a swear word, Obama’s statement to outgoing Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in South Korea launched quite a bit of excitement in the media, particularly among right-wing commentators. The author of “The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream,” was speaking with Medvedev about his ability to negotiate various issues, including missile defense. Romney called the exchange “a troubling development.”
Joe Biden : “This is a big f*cking deal.”
Joe Biden has a well-earned reputation as a straight-shooter who loves his family, his cars and his beer. Apparently, the author of “Promises to Keep: On Life and Politics” also loved the passage of health care reform, excitedly dropping an F bomb as he congratulated President Barack Obama in 2010.
George W. Bush: “Major-league a**hole.”
Santorum isn’t the only Republican presidential candidate to get fightin’ mad at a New York Times reporter. Back when W. was a candidate in 2000, the former Texas Rangers owner and author of “A Charge to Keep: My Journey to the White House” expressed his feelings to running mate Dick Cheney about reporter Adam Clymer. It’s fair to say he wasn’t the journalist’s biggest fan.
Ronald Reagan: “We begin bombing in five minutes”
President Ronald Reagan was just goofing around before his weekly radio address to the nation when he quipped, “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.” Thankfully, the joker-in-chief’s statement wasn’t broadcast live, but it was leaked soon afterwards. Supporters of the author of “An American Life” found it funny; the Soviets, not so much.
Lyndon Baines Johnson: “Riding a wire fence”
Famous for his uncensored language and fondness for earthy metaphors, LBJ secretly taped many of his conversations—including one with tailor Joe Haggar in which the subject of Doris Kearns Goodwin’s bestselling “Lyndon Johnson and the American Dream” outlined his own dream for a good pair of pants. He was particularly descriptive when discussing the upper end of the inseam. Though LBJ knew the conversation was being recorded, it’s doubtful he thought it would ever be released. Then again, maybe the plainspoken Texan just didn’t care.