Top 10 Political Gaffes of 2011

From Rick Perry's "oops" to James Sensenbrenner discussing the First Lady's "large posterior," here are the Top 10 Political Gaffes of 2011.

1. Rick Perry: “What's the third one there? ... Oops.”

The Texas Governor was already declining in the polls after several poor debate performances. Perry has never quite recovered, though, from his gaffe in the Nov. 9 Republican presidential debate in Michigan.

“I will tell ya, there's three agencies of government when I get there that are gone – Commerce, Education, and the … uh, what's the third one there, let's see?”

After trying a second time to remember, he was left with nothing else to say but, “I can't. Oops.”

Perry would later follow up with several more “oops” moments throughout the campaign as he forgot how many judges sit on the Supreme Court, got the voting age and election date wrong, and referred to solar power company Solyndra as a country.

2. Herman Cain: “Got all this stuff twirling around in my head.”

The former CEO of Godfather's Pizza was already known, by his own admission, as a lightweight on foreign policy. This was further confirmed when he could not remember his own position on Libya during a Nov. 14 interview with Wisconsin's Journal Sentinel.

“OK, Libya, President Obama, supported the uprising, correct? ... I just wanted to make sure we're talking about the same thing before I said 'yes, I agree,' or 'no, I didn't agree.'

“I do not agree with the way he handled it for the following reason, um? Nope, that's a different one.”

After a long pause and shifting uncomfortably in his chair, Cain continued, “I got to go back and see, I got all this stuff twirling around in my head.”

3. AARP: “We are 50 million seniors who earned our benefits ...”

As the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, or “supercommittee,” was working hard to fashion a bipartisan agreement that would put the nation on a path toward fiscal stability, the AARP decided to enter the fray with a TV ad that would help ensure the supercommittee's failure.

“So Washington, before you even think about cutting my Medicare and Social Security benefits, here's a number you should remember – 50 million. We are 50 million seniors who earned our benefits, and you will be hearing from us today, and on election day,” the ad stated.

So much for everyone putting skin in the game as a way out of Washington's budget mess. “Cut whatever you need to, as long as it doesn't affect us,” was the message AARP sent to the supercommittee. There were some fairly strong reactions to AARP's approach.

“Since hollowing out the rest of the budget to pay for expanding entitlements would result in more uninsured, undereducated and unemployed Americans, AARP has taken an approach which can only and honestly be described as generational warfare. By its actions AARP has put at risk the strong inter-generational support for Social Security and Medicare,” said former U.S. Senator Bob Kerrey (D-Neb.), co-chairman of The Concord Coalition’s Board of Directors.

Former Sen. Alan Simpson (R-Wyo.), who co-chaired President Obama's National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, said at a supercommittee hearing, “That is the most disgusting ad I've ever seen. … That is a really ugly thing, but let me tell you about the AARP, let's remember what they will be when they do nothing. … Let me tell you what will happen with their view of the world, which is to do nothing to restore the solvency of Social Security. In the year 2036, you're going to waddle up to the window and get a check for 23 percent less and then I hope that they will remember the AARP. I certainly will and a lot of young people will too.”

4. Paul Krugman: “Violent acts are what happens when you create a climate of hate.”

Just two hours after Jared Loughner shot Congresswoman Gabrielle “Gabby” Giffords, New York Times columnist and Princeton economist Paul Krugman wrote a blog post blaming Republicans, Sarah Palin and the Tea Party Movement for inspiring Loughner's actions.

“You know that Republicans will yell about the evils of partisanship whenever anyone tries to make a connection between the rhetoric of Beck, Limbaugh, etc. and the violence I fear we’re going to see in the months and years ahead. But violent acts are what happen when you create a climate of hate,” Krugman wrote.

Krugman could have easily avoided this gaffe if he had waited on the evidence before passing judgment. Loughner's political ideology, it turned out, only made sense in his own head, and had no relationship to conservative politics. Also, his hatred for Giffords predated the rise of the Tea Party and Palin's national prominence.

In the aftermath of the Giffords shooting, politicians from both parties called for greater civility in political debates. Apparently, Krugman did not get the memo. In March, he penned an op-ed in which he said Republicans are “stupid” and not “into rationality” because they disagreed with him on health care reform.

5. Joe Biden: “I wish Republicans knew what it felt like [to be raped].”

In October, Vice President Biden was giving speeches aimed at convincing Republicans to pass the president's jobs bill. In an attempt to counter Republican arguments that the bill used permanent tax increases to pay for temporary spending increases, he said, “It's not temporary when that 911 call comes in and the woman is being raped and the cop shows up in time to prevent the rape.

“I wish [Republican members of Congress] had some notion of what it's like to be on the other side of a gun, or a 200 pound man standing over you telling you to submit.”

6. Franklin Graham: “I don’t know why he can’t produce that?”

In a taped interview for ABC's “This Week” that ran on Easter Sunday, evangelist Graham was asked about Donald Trump's claims that President Obama was not born in the United States.

“He could solve this whole birth certificate issue pretty quickly. ... I don’t know why he can’t produce that (birth certificate),” said Graham. “I don’t know, but it’s an issue that looks like he could answer pretty quickly.”

The Obama campaign in 2008 and the State of Hawaii had already shown copies of Obama's birth certificate. Because of the controversy, many media outlets had investigated the issue by the time Graham made his comments, and found Obama's birth certificate to be legitimate. In an interview with Christianity Today following Graham's remarks, he repeated his suggestion that Obama should show his birth certificate.

“How come he doesn't come out at a news conference and hold up his birth certificate? I don't know,” Graham said.

Of course, now that Graham has twice suggested that Obama needs to confirm his place of birth, Obama would need to, once again, prove to everyone that he was born in Hawaii. He did so in a press conference the day after Christianity Today's interview.

7. Michele Bachmann: “You're the state where the shot was heard around the world ...”

In March, before becoming a presidential candidate, Congresswoman Bachmann spoke to a Tea Party group in New Hampshire. She told the crowd, “You’re the state where the shot was heard around the world in Lexington and Concord.”

The battles of Lexington and Concord were fought in Massachusetts, not New Hampshire. While Bachmann was likely not the first to confuse Concord, N.H., with Concord, Mass., the fact that she was at a Tea Party event, which takes its name from the Boston Tea Party that preceded the Revolutionary War, makes the gaffe more “top 10” worthy.

8. Presidents Obama, Sarkozy: “He's a liar.”

At the G20 summit in November, President Obama and French President Nicolas Sarkozy were having a conversation about Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Unaware to both men, the mic in front of them was live and picked up the conversation.

“I cannot bear Netanyahu, he's a liar,” Sarkozy told Obama.

“You're fed up with him, but I have to deal with him even more often than you," Obama replied.

The episode can only serve to worsen an already rocky relationship between Obama and Netanyahu. It also gives Republicans more ammunition in their efforts to portray Obama as anti-Israel.

9. Democrats: “Republicans voted to end Medicare.”

Democrats claimed, on multiple occasions, that Republicans voted to end Medicare because they voted for Paul Ryan's (R-Wis.) plan to change Medicare into a premium support plan to keep it financially viable.

One Democratic organization ran an ad showing an elderly woman in a wheelchair getting pushed off a cliff as “America the Beautiful” played in the background. “Is America beautiful without Medicare?” the ad asks.

Paul Krugman said on CNN (yes, the same Paul Krugman from #4), that the Republican plan “would kill people, no question.”

Fact checking organizations Politifact and FactCheck both called out the Democrats on the bogus claim. Politifact even gave it the “Lie of the Year” award and FactCheck lists it as one of “The Whoppers of 2011.”

10. Jim Sensenbrenner: “She has a large posterior...”

Rep. Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) was overheard last week in a lounge at Reagan National Airport saying that First Lady Michelle Obama “lectures us on eating right while she has a large posterior herself.”

The congressman, who is overweight, was referring to Ms. Obama's campaign to fight the problem of childhood obesity.

In a statement the next day, Sensenbrenner said, “I regret my inappropriate comment and I have sent a personal note to the first lady apologizing.”

Free CP Newsletters

Join over 250,000 others to get the top stories curated daily, plus special offers!


Most Popular

More In Politics