Verbal flubs hurt presidential candidates’ image, credibility

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I enjoy seeing politicians mess up. Whether it’s President Bush making another childish comment or Bill Clinton having another affair, it’s priceless to see the elite crumble under their own weight. That is, unless the mistakes can be potentially harmful for America’s future.

No, I’m not talking about the Bush Administration. I’m talking about none other than Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., two of today’s presidential hopefuls. In the past two weeks, these notable presidential candidates have stepped on their own toes in the race to the White House due to ‘misspoken words.’ One flub after another doesn’t bode well for the future.

Let’s go in order just to be simple. First up: Hillary Clinton.

On March 25, Reuters reported Clinton spoke during a conference on March 17 in Washington, D.C. about her trip to war-torn Bosnia in 1996.

“I remember landing under sniper fire,” she said. “There was supposed to be some kind of greeting ceremony at the airport, but instead we just ran with our heads down to get into the vehicles to get to our base.”

Roughly a week later, news outlets showed footage shot of Hillary arriving at the Tuzla airport in Bosnia, clearly not under fire. In fact, the footage showed her greeting Bosnian civilians and being escorted by U.S. soldiers on a relatively quiet day. Her daughter Chelsea accompanied her.

Clinton responded to the media hype on KDKA radio in Pittsburgh, Pa., the same day: “I’ve written about it in my book and I’ve talked about it on many other occasions, and last week, uh, you know, for the first time in 12 or so years, I misspoke.”

Nice excuse, except for one thing. Just a few weeks earlier on March 1, the New York Times followed Clinton to her campaign stop in Waco, Texas, where she said her greeting ceremony in Bosnia “had to be moved inside because of sniper fire.”

Nice try, Clinton. Another strike against you in my book.

Then there’s John McCain, the only remaining hopeful for the Republican ticket.

According to the Washington Post on March 18, just a day after Hillary “misspoke,” McCain made a flub of his own during a news conference in Amman, Jordan.

“Well, it’s common knowledge and has been reported in the media that al-Qaeda is going back into Iran and is receiving training and are coming back into Iraq from Iran,” McCain said. “That’s well-known, and it’s unfortunate.”

Shortly afterward, Sen. Joseph Lieberman, D-Conn., stepped forward and whispered into McCain’s ear. A second later, McCain said the following.

“I’m sorry; the Iranians are training the extremists, not al-Qaeda. Not al-Qaeda. I’m sorry.”

Nice restatement, especially when it should be common knowledge that Iran is a Shiite nation that supports fellow Shiite extremists groups (Hezbollah) while al-Qaeda is a mostly Sunni terrorist organization funded by other mainly Sunni elements. Believe it or not, it did not end there. In a press release on johnmccain.com, McCain said the following in Arlington, Va., on March 19, the fifth anniversary of the beginning of the Iraq War and just two days after his first Iran-al-Qaeda flub:

“Al-Qaeda and Shi’a extremists – with support from external powers like Iran – are on the run but not defeated.”

To put it straight: I can accept one flub or two here or there in politics. But when you make up an elaborate story or simply do not have your facts straight, as Clinton and McCain have demonstrated in such a short period of time, one has to question whether they’re really worthy of that seat in the White House – a rather important responsibility, one might say. We’ve already seen what happens when candidates lie or are shortsighted in office, and affairs just do not go over well for the United States.

It appears America might be stuck with McCain or Clinton, respectively, as its national leader in the near future. We can only hope they won’t make mistakes as bad as the few they’ve made in the past few weeks.

Grady Bolding is a junior in theatre. Please send comments to opinion@spub.ksu.edu.

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