Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Gaffes Examples: 2008

"When we kicked -- along with France, we kicked Hezbollah out of Lebanon, I said and Barack said, "Move NATO forces in there. Fill the vacuum, because if you don't know -- if you don't, Hezbollah will control it." Now what's happened? Hezbollah is a legitimate part of the government in the country immediately to the north of Israel."
-- Vice presidential nominee Sen. Joe Biden (D-DE), October 2, 2008, during the vice presidential debate against GOP candidate Gov. Sarah Palin (R-AK), hosted and moderated by PBS's Gwen Ifill.

Comment: Biden is making (as well as attributing to Barack Obama) a bluntly false statement about the history of Lebanon, Hezbollah, the U.S. and France. Hezbollah has never been "kicked out" of Lebanon: certainly not in the time since Barack Obama became a senator, and certainly not by the U.S. or France. Nor is it clear what President George W. Bush -- the object of Biden's criticism -- could have done to prevent Hezbollah from becoming part of the Lebanese government, which they did through elections. Yet Ifill never challenged Biden on his comments, nor did Palin. The U.S. and France did push for the United Nations to pass a resolution calling for Hezbollah to disarm (United Nations Security Council Resolution 1701, passed on August 11, 2006), but that's very different from what Biden describes.

"Part of what a leader does is to instill confidence, is demonstrate that he or she knows what they're talking about and communicates to people, 'If you listen to me and follow what I'm suggesting we can fix this'. When the stock market crashed, Franklin Roosevelt got on the television and didn't just talk about the, you know, the princes of greed. He said, 'Look, here's what happened'".
-- Vice Presidential nominee Sen. Joe Biden (D-DE), September 22, 2008 [CBS News: Behind The Scenes With Joe Biden (September 22, 2008); YouTube: Biden: FDR Led When Market Crashed; ABC News: In Gaffe, Biden Says FDR Led When Market Crashed (September 23, 2008)].

Comment: Biden is just wrong about history, here. F.D.R. -- Franklin Delano Roosevelt -- was not president until March 4, 1933, years after the Wall Street Crash (October 24, 1929) that Biden is referring to. And F.D.R.'s fireside chats were broadcast via radio, not television. Television broadcasts did not become widely available until the 1940s and 1950s. CBS anchor Katie Couric, who was interviewing Biden when he made this statement, didn't pick up on these gaffes, either. The gaffe is made funnier by Biden's insistence that leaders should know what they're talking about.

"It's a serious situation, but there's a lot of things we need to do. We have a lot of work to do and I'm afraid that it's a very hard struggle, particularly given the situation on the Iraq-Pakistan border."
-- Presidential candidate Sen. John McCain, June 21, 2008 [ABC News: McCain Challenges Obama to See Success of Surge in Iraq (July 21, 2008); YouTube: McCain Thinks Iraq Borders Pakistan].

Comment: Iraq and Pakistan do not share a border, Iran sits between them. At the time, McCain was talking about Afghanistan, which DOES share a border with Pakistan. During a campaign that involved discussion of U.S. military efforts in both Iraq and Afghanistan, McCain clearly just said "Iraq" when he meant to say "Afghanistan". ABC News anchor Diane Sawyer -- who was interviewing McCain when he made this gaffe -- did not pick up on the error, either.

"I've now been in 57 states. I think one left to go."
-- Presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) [Reuters: To Obama, it seems like there are more than 50 states (May 9, 2008); YouTube: Obama Claims He's Visited 57 States].

Comment: There are, of course, only 50 states, not 57 (or, if you count the one Obama says he still has left to visit, 58). Obama was probably trying to decide between saying how close he's gotten to visiting all 50 states and stating the number of the continental states (of which there are 48) he's visited, and combined the two to get "57".

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