Political Gaffes to Spark Any Party

Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) says he made a botched attempt at a joke this week. Partisan furor erupted. But he's far from the only politician from either party to stick his foot in his mouth.

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JOHN YDSTIE, host:

Massachusetts Senator John Kerry made headlines this past week in the one way no politician ever wants, with a gaffe. And worse, one that could be exploited by political foes.

Senator JOHN KERRY (Democrat, Massachusetts): Education. If you make the most of it and you study hard and you do your homework and you make an effort to be smart, you can do well. If you don't, you get stuck in Iraq.

YDSTIE: Kerry insisted that he meant to insult to U.S. troops and that he simply botched a joke aimed at President Bush. The former Democratic presidential nominee was only the latest in a long line of politicians to suffer from foot-in-mouth disease. Delaware Senator Joe Biden, another Democrat, and another perennial presidential aspirant, on a campaign visit to New Hampshire this past summer managed to insult a large segment of America's immigrant population.

Senator JOE BIDEN (Democrat, Delaware): In Delaware, the largest growth in population is Indian-Americans moving from India. You cannot go to a 7/11 or a Dunkin' Donuts unless you have a slight Indian accent. I'm not joking.

YDSTIE: Biden might have done better to claim he was joking. Of course, the Democrats don't hold a monopoly on verbal miscues. Former Vice President Dan Quayle, a Republican from Indiana, in a 1989 speech, meant to flatter an audience at a conference of the United Negro College Fund.

Vice President DAN QUAYLE: And you take the UNCF motto that what a waste it is to lose one's mind or not to have a mind is being wasteful. How true that is.

YDSTIE: And President Bush has done his part to secure a prominent spot in the political Miscue Hall of Fame. Jacob Weisberg, the editor of Slate magazine, dubbed the president's frequent flub-ups Bushisms, like this one from a 2002 speech in Nashville, Tennessee.

President GEORGE W. BUSH: There's an old saying in Tennessee - I know it's in Texas, probably in Tennessee - that says fool me once, shame on - shame on you. Fool me - you can't get fooled again.

YDSTIE: And sometimes enthusiasm gets the best of a politician's tongue. This happened to former Vermont Governor Howard Dean after he finished in third place in the 2004 Iowa caucuses.

Governor HOWARD DEAN (Vermont): We're going to South Dakota and Oregon and Washington and Michigan, and then we're going to Washington, D.C. to take by the White House. Yeah!

YDSTIE: The I Have A Scream Speech had the misfortune of coming in the age of the Internet. Dean has gone on to head the Democratic National Committee, and his wail has been mixed and re-mixed by countless online DJs.

(Soundbite of music)

Governor DEAN: And then we're going to Washington, D.C. Yeah!

YDSTIE: This is Fox - I'm sorry. This is the CBS - oh, geez, where I am? Oh, this is NPR News.

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