Another year, another season of off-the-cuff remarks gone awry. This year's political gaffes ranged from stump-speech stumbles to Obama name-dropping actors who don't really exist.
The Time Hillary Clinton Tried to Pretend She's Just Like Us
Seeking to rid herself of her reputation as a Washington insider and defend her high public speaking fees, Hillary Clinton struck a nerve in June of this year when she told Diane Sawyer she and Bill Clinton were "dead broke" when they moved out of the White House in 2001.
"We came out of the White House not only dead broke, but in debt," Clinton said. "We had no money when we got there, and we struggled to, you know, piece together the resources for mortgages, for houses, for Chelsea's education."
The comment erupted a firestorm of conservative criticism. Clinton eventually apologized, telling Jorge Ramos in a subsequent interview the while the comment was still true, "it was inartful."
"We are so successful, and we are so blessed by the success we've had," Clinton said.
That Time Michelle Obama Didn't Know the Name of the Candidate She Stumped For
She was "thrilled" to introduce "her friend" and the" next senator from Iowa," but Michelle Obama wasn't quite right when she announced "Bruce Bailey" was running for office. It wasn't just the first introduction, however, she continued to call him Bruce Bailey until the audience shouted "Braley"—his actual name—back at her.
The first lady said she "was losing it," "getting old," and that she'd been on the road too much stumping for candidates. She wasn't the only one to make the mistake. Former President Clinton also urged a crowd at the Harkin steak fry to elect "Bruce Bailey."
On the campaign trail, Braley had made his own high-profile mistake when he mocked Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley for being "a farmer from Iowa who never went to law school." Braley's point was that Grassley was not capable of taking the helm of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Braley lost his race for the Senate to Joni Ernst on election night.
The Time Biden Referenced Bob Packwood in a Speech About Violence Against Women
It's part of his persona, but Vice President Joe Biden didn't rid himself of his reputation as a gaffe-prone politician in 2014. During a major speech before a Democratic women's group, Biden celebrated the Violence Against Women's Act and blasted the reality that the U.S. was still battling domestic violence at all. "Never, never, never," he said was domestic violence a woman's fault. But, in his remarks he also noted how he missed having more moderate Republicans to work with in the Senate.
Biden then dropped the name of former Sen. Bob Packwood, who resigned from office in 1995 amid accusations that he'd sexually harassed and assaulted women. The reference was, of course, to Packwood's willingness to work across the aisle, but it was an odd reference for a speech that was mostly filled with heartfelt rhetoric about protecting women's safety.
That Time Rand Paul Awkwardly Shirked Away From a Dreamer
Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul wants to see immigration reform. He just did not want to be caught on tape being confronted about it. During a picnic in Iowa this summer, Erika Andiola, a "Dreamer" who was brought to the country illegally as a child, approached Paul and tea-party Rep. Steve King of Iowa. In video footage, Paul shakes Andiola's hand and then jumps up out of his seat mid-bite and rushes away in order to avoid the heated exchange.
The video of Paul sneaking away went viral, but the tense discussion between King and Andiola that follows may show why Paul, a potential 2016 candidate, may not have wanted to take the political risk of having to lay out a detailed immigration plan right then.
In the footage, Andiola challenges King, who has often fought against allowing Dreamers to stay in the U.S. She asks him why and offers to let him rip apart her deferred action card that gives her legal status to stay. She also called King out for a comment he made in 2013 when he said that for every Dreamer "who's a valedictorian, there's another 100 out there who weigh 130 pounds, and they've got calves the size of cantaloupes because they're hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert."
King said he was not talking about Andiola when he made the comment.
"You are very good at English, so you know what I am saying," King says to Andiola.
"I was raised in the United States," Andiola says.
"Right, so you can understand the English language; so don't act like you don't," King says.
"I spoke of drug smugglers. Now, you are not going to tell me you are one of them are you?"
The Time a Freshman House Member Thought U.S. Government Officials Were Foreigners
It's tough to be the new guy, but that was still not enough to keep Foreign Policy from pointing out that Rep. Curt Clawson, R-Fla., thought top U.S. officials were actually representatives of the Indian government this year.
During a House Foreign Affairs subcommittee hearing in July, Clawson mistakenly thought that State Department official Nisha Desai Biswal and Commerce official Arun Kumar were testifying on behalf of India.
"I am familiar with your country. I love your country," he said smiling as he proceeded to his questions.
"So just as your capital is welcome here to produce good-paying jobs in the U.S., I'd like our capital to be welcome there," he said. "Can I have that?"
Looking mystified, both Biswal and Kumar were silent for several seconds before Biswal chimes in to try and clarify that she is actually a U.S. government official.
"I think your question is to the Indian government," she says. "We certainly share your sentiments, and we were certainly advocate that on behalf of the U.S. government."
"OK, I see some progress," Clawson says.
Following the hearing, the lawmaker apologized in a statement to USA Today saying, "I made a mistake in speaking before being fully briefed and I apologize. I'm a quick study, but in this case, I shot an air ball."
The Time Obama Said He Had No Strategy to Defeat ISIS
He was wearing a tan suit, so maybe that had something to do with it, but President Obama's comment during a press conference in August that the U.S. government did not "have a strategy yet" to defeat ISIS fighters struck a nerve in Washington.
"I don't want to put the cart before the horse," Obama said. "We don't have a strategy yet."
At that point, the brutal beheading of journalist James Foley had happened, the United States had unleashed airstrikes on ISIS targets in Iraq, and officials in Washington were in the midst of a debate about whether to intervene in Syria.
Obama, however, said his Cabinet was still looking at options.
"We need to make sure that we've got clear plans, that we're developing them. At that point, I will consult with Congress and make sure that their voices are heard," Obama said. "There's no point in me asking for action on the part of Congress before I know exactly what it is that is going to be required for us to get the job done."
The Time Alison Lundergan Grimes Refused to Say Whom She Voted For
In the end Alison Lundergan Grimes lost mightily to GOP Sen. Mitch McConnell in Kentucky, but a campaign-trail gaffe certainly didn't help her case.
Facing voters in a state where President Obama won only four of 120 counties in 2012, Grimes was acutely aware of the reality that in Kentucky, any association with Obama was political poison.
So when an editorial board at Louisville's The Courier-Journal asked her four times whom she voted for, things got awkward. Instead of simply saying "Obama," Grimes refused to answer. As the acting Kentucky secretary of state, she said it was a key priority of hers to "protect the sanctity of the ballot box."
The gaffe kept haunting her, however, as reporters continued to ask whom she voted for. Instead of the answer being under the radar, it became a major point of contention in her campaign at the end.
This article is from the archive of our partner National Journal.
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