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August 24, 2012

Laughing at the Gotchas

Harry M. Covert

It may be the so-called dog days of summer now, but there is a great hope for better days and funnier days. Politicians on the campaign trail are working overtime to give the populace some splendid laughs.


The lesson is simple when the off-the-cuff stuff is taken too seriously. The gaffes being reported daily are more like gotcha stories. In reality it’s quite easy to get a little tongue-tied and garble words that are out-of-place.


The word merchants have great fun at making hay out of obvious mumbles when the speakers get mixed up and orate with marbles in their mouths. The disease isn’t limited to any one particular political party. All of the apologies that result are silly and don’t mean squat.


These misspeaks are not just from politicians and public speakers, but from all corners of society, including preachers and school teachers – and newspapers.


Democrats panicked and Republicans guffawed and jumped on Vice President Joe Biden for saying to an August 14 Virginia crowd including black men and women, that the Republican Party intended to put them “back in chains.”


Then Republicans panicked and Democrats guffawed and jumped on six-term Missouri Congressman Todd Akins. He said, "If it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down."


Come on, now; the vice president and the congressman obviously misspoke.


Remember President Ronald Reagan’s humor? Being prepped for critical surgery from a gunshot wound, and he said, jokingly that he hoped the surgeon was a Republican. The latter apparently wasn’t but was a mighty fine physician.


Or, President Reagan’s sound check: “My fellow Americans, I’m pleased to tell you today that I’ve signed legislation that will outlaw Russia forever. We begin bombing in five minutes.”


I met Vice President Dick Cheney once, had my picture taken with him, and he was very pleasant. He could be a man of strong words though. During a picture session Mr. Cheney was reminded that he had once accused a Democrat senator of being a bad Catholic. The vice president told him "go ---- yourself" in violation of Senate rules.


Since there are lots of farms in Frederick County, here’s one to remember. During the debate of a 2008 farm bill, a member of the Agriculture Committee asked his colleague if chocolate milk really comes from brown cows. It was no joke.


Former Vice President Dan Quayle, besides misspelling potato, said, “Verbosity leads to unclear, inarticulate things.” And, even though he came from an Indiana newspaper family, he said, “I was known as the chief grave robber of my state.”


The witty Bob Dole, of Kansas, the former senator and GOP presidential candidate, said: “History buffs probably noted the reunion at a Washington party a few weeks ago of three ex-presidents: Carter, Ford and Nixon – See No Evil, Hear No Evil and Evil.”


President Barack Obama can be unintentionally funny, too: “I've now been in 57 states – I think one left to go” – at a campaign event in Beaverton, OR.


Further, he said: "… you're absolutely right that John McCain has not talked about my Muslim faith...” – in an interview with ABC's George Stephanopoulos, who jumped in to correct Mr. Obama by saying "your Christian faith," which Mr. Obama quickly clarified. He’s a Methodist.


President George W. Bush was also pretty good in mixing up his words. He told Bob Woodward: "I'm the commander – see, I don't need to explain – I do not need to explain why I say things. That's the interesting thing about being president."


Another comes from an evangelical pastor, preaching on the fires of Hades, looked at the congregation and wagging his finger to them: “Let me tell you damn people something…” The silence was deafening and he was called to a church out west within a few weeks.


There was a Virginian Episcopal lay reader in Morning Prayer recalling Matthew 11:19 that Jesus was "A friend of republicans and sinners." The rector didn't laugh and the congregation didn't get it.


During this high tension political year, people need to stop a moment, laugh and don’t take all this political stuff so close to heart or on the sleeves.


Here’s what Simon Cameron, U.S. financier and politician from1799 to 1889, said: “An honest politician is one who, when he is bought, will stay bought.”


Now, just suppose that the Congress had passed H. L. Mencken’s proposal that immediately after each presidential election, the loser be taken out immediately and hanged?


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