From Sarah Palin to John Edwards, here are 25 of the dumbest things said by politicians or media talking heads
In modern politics, the very nature of trying to debate objective reality has become a multiple-choice game between differing ideologies and self-interests, wherein facts which are suspect and patently absurd are given equal time. The rationalization of deceit has given way to prettier terms like “spin.” Being a racist asshole is treated by dumb pundits as the musings of “firebrands.” Normalizing bigotry under the banner of “religious freedom” is treated as something to be understood in some circles, instead of something to be defeated. Because, in the middle of it all, the conversation is controlled by a news media which too often is afraid to call a lie a lie, and puppets those lies as just another viewpoint while trying to absolve themselves of any responsibility for spreading it far and wide.
Over the weekend, Maggie Haberman, a reporter who has long defended the media’s reluctance to use the term “lie” to describe what comes out of Donald Trump’s mouth (except when the lies are about HER, then she has no problem using the word) wrote a patently stupid article which presented the issue of whether former White House communications director Hope Hicks complies with a congressional subpoena as a melodramatic “existential” question. This led to widespread condemnation and ridicule of The New York Times deciding the concept of complying with the law was somehow more about glamour photos of Hicks, and Haberman’s time at Sarah Lawerence College failing her in understanding what Jean-Paul Sartre and Søren Kierkegaard were trying to say.
Even though neither responded to the criticism, or to the many, many people on Twitter trolling Haberman’s posts about the stupidity of her piece, The Times and Haberman seem to have been shamed enough to change the word “existential” to “crucial.” The Times and people like Haberman tend to get away with this kind of thing, since members of the media tend to have each other’s backs to some degree. And, as we have all seen over many years, stupidity promulgated by government officials can sometimes not get the examination it deserves if reporters want to preserve relationships and access.
So this got me thinking about the dumbest things said by politicians and members of the media. What is the dumbest thing you’ve ever heard or seen, where it was just mind-numbingly stupid?
Here’s a scene which hits a little too close to home from the just-ended Veep, depicting the future 49th vice president of the United States, Jonah Ryan (Timothy Simons):
The criteria for what qualifies as a "screw up" can be very subjective, but I would posit it’s any action or event said or done by a politician, a campaign, interest group, or media personality which:
- Seriously contributed to a politician or party losing an election, or a journalist or pundit losing their job.
- Seriously damaged a person's ability to move upward and onward in politics, on television, or to be read and taken seriously on the internet or print.
- Damaged the public image of a person, their political party, the institution they work for, or the ideology they advocate.
The sad part is there have been people who have said and done some really stupid, gross, objectionable things and have never been held to account for it. Some are even president right now.
This is because not all gaffes and mistakes are created equal. It can be argued that some are fair, and some aren't. And most of them are creations of media perceptions, or tactics that backfire spectacularly. Mistakes and gaffes usually come from malice, stupidity, or just plain bad luck. And the difference can be in the spinning at making mountains out of molehills.
The statements made by politicians run the gamut from ignorant and stupid to vile. Some even make one question whether representative democracy really is the best form of government we could have.
- “He said that he agreed with what Justice Roberts said at his nomination hearing, in which he said it was settled law.”
- —Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), explaining why she thinks now Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh will not threaten Roe v. Wade
- “First of all, it happened during a period after she was in remission from cancer.”
- —Former Sen. John Edwards (D-NC), attempting to mitigate his infidelity and having a child with his mistress and campaign staffer, which came to light during the 2008 campaign as his wife was dying from cancer
- “In every society, the definition of marriage has not ever to my knowledge included homosexuality. That's not to pick on homosexuality. It's not, you know, man on child, man on dog, or whatever the case may be. It is one thing. And when you destroy that you have a dramatic impact on the quality.”
- —Former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA), responding with his infamous “man on dog” answer to a question of whether homosexuality should be outlawed
- “The internet is not something you just dump something on. It's not a truck. It's a series of tubes. And if you don't understand, those tubes can be filled and if they are filled, when you put your message in, it gets in line and it's going to be delayed by anyone that puts into that tube enormous amounts of material, enormous amounts of material.”
- —Former Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Ted Stevens (R-AK), explaining the workings of the internet during a debate on net neutrality
- ''Well, let's see. There's — of course in the great history of America there have been rulings that there's never going to be absolute consensus by every American, and there are those issues, again, like Roe v. Wade, where I believe are best held on a state level and addressed there. So, you know, going through the history of America, there would be others but —''
- —Former Governor Sarah Palin (R-AL), unable to name a Supreme Court decision she disagreed with other than Roe v. Wade, during an infamous interview with Katie Couric
- “(I have) a wide stance.”
- —Former Sen. Larry Craig (R-ID), explaining to his arresting officer why he was playing footsie in a Minneapolis airport bathroom
- “I do not support a livable wage.”
- —Congresswoman Karen Handel (R-GA), explaining her opposition to raising the minimum wage
- “Carbon dioxide, Mister Speaker, is a natural byproduct of nature. Carbon dioxide is natural. It occurs in Earth. It is a part of the regular lifecycle of Earth. In fact, life on planet Earth can't even exist without carbon dioxide. So necessary is it to human life, to animal life, to plant life, to the oceans, to the vegetation that's on the Earth, to the, to the fowl that — that flies in the air, we need to have carbon dioxide as part of the fundamental lifecycle of Earth ...There isn't one such study because carbon dioxide is not a harmful gas, it is a harmless gas. Carbon dioxide is natural. It is not harmful. It is part of Earth's life cycle … And yet we're being told that we have to reduce this natural substance and reduce the American standard of living to create an arbitrary reduction in something that is naturally occurring in the Earth.”
- —Former Congresswoman (and idiot) Michelle Bachmann (R-MN), explaining her opposition to measures meant to combat climate change
- "His father was with Lee Harvey Oswald prior to Oswald's being—you know, shot. I mean, the whole thing is ridiculous. What is this, right prior to his being shot, and nobody even brings it up. They don't even talk about that. That was reported, and nobody talks about it."
- —Donald Trump, arguing it was possible Sen. Ted Cruz’s father was the second gunman on the grassy knoll
- "I think incest can be handled as a family matter within the family. The people know about it and they can get more serious about it. But I don't think it's rape because of the awareness of it within the family."
- —Former Congressman Jay Dickey (R-AR), explanation to an El Dorado, Arkansas, Rotary Club audience as to his reasoning about the incest exception for abortions
- “But one of the things I’ve talked to the secretary of agriculture about: Why don’t you have the kids pay a dime, pay a nickel to instill in them that there is, in fact, no such thing as a free lunch? Or maybe sweep the floor of the cafeteria — and yes, I understand that that would be an administrative problem, and I understand that it would probably lose you money. But think what we would gain as a society in getting people—getting the myth out of their head that there is such a thing as a free lunch.”
- —Former Congressman (and current TV pundit) Jack Kingston (R-GA), explaining why poor kids have it too good getting a government-provided meal
- “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”
- —Former Congressman Todd Akin, defending his position of no abortion exceptions on the grounds of rape by claiming women who are truly raped don’t get pregnant
- “We will never be able to win in the clash of civilizations if we don’t know who we are. If Western civilization succumbs to the siren song of multiculturalism, I believe we are finished.”
- —Former Congressman Tom Tancredo (R-CO), expressing white nationalist sentiments which have become much more (visibly) popular within the Republican party since his failed presidential campaign
- “Some of them are valedictorians—and their parents brought them in. It wasn't their fault. It's true in some cases, but they aren't all valedictorians. They weren't all brought in by their parents. For everyone 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.”
- —Congressman Steve King (R-IA), explaining his opposition and racist mental calculus to questions about the DREAM Act in an interview
For the last half-century, the news media has done and said things of equal stupidity at varying times. Any criticism of their divine right to crack dumb in between reading off a teleprompter invariably engenders a response wherein pundits wrap themselves in the flag, use the First Amendment as a shield, and argue the nobility of purpose in screaming “but her emails!” while occasionally giving free airtime to a megalomaniacal fool.
Among some of the dumbest things said by pundits and media personalities, and just remember all of these people are paid thousands, if not millions, for their insights and analysis:
- “No objective evidence Empire was ‘evil.’ A liberal regime w meritocracy, upward mobility. Neocon/reformicon in spirit.”
- —Bill Kristol, defending the honor of Emperor Palpatine (a.k.a. Darth Sidious) and the Galactic Empire
- “My job is to assess not the rightness of each argument but to deal in the real world of campaign politics in which perception often (if not always) trumps reality. I deal in the world as voters believe it is, not as I (or anyone else) thinks it should be.”
- —Chris Cillizza, explaining why he doesn’t get hung up on facts and truth
- “I didn't hear the president demean women when he was running for president. Didn’t hear it.”
- —Paris Dennard, defending Donald Trump against accusations of sexual misconduct, with Dennard himself being suspended months later when his own past of sexual misconduct came to light
- "If you've ever seen the X-Men movies, you know they're about a group of mutants who are the next wave of human evolution. They've got special powers, and if left unchecked they will eventually wipe out humanity as we know it. That's how I feel about Mormons."
- —Meghan McCain, showing she’s as ignorant about Marvel characters and Mormons as she is about everything else
- “I’m still on my parents’ health insurance.”
- —Tomi Lahren, said by the then 24-year-old conservative Fox News contributor moments after criticizing Obamacare, which is what enabled her to remain on her parents’ health insurance until she’s 26.
- “Now look, I'm not saying God is, you know, causing earthquakes. Well—I'm not saying that he—I'm not not saying that either. God— what God does is God's business, I have no idea. But I'll tell you this: whether you call it Gaia or whether you call it Jesus—there's a message being sent. And that is, "Hey, you know that stuff we're doing? Not really working out real well. Maybe we should stop doing some of it." I'm just sayin'.”
- —Glenn Beck, trying to say what he wants to say without sounding like he’s saying it, because on some level he knows how batshit nuts he sounds saying it
- “You know what the magic word, the only thing that matters in American sexual mores today is? One thing. You can do anything, the left will promote and understand and tolerate anything, so long as there is one element. Do you know what it is? Consent. If there is consent on both or all three or all four, however many are involved in the sex act, it's perfectly fine. Whatever it is. But if the left ever senses and smells that there's no consent in part of the equation then here come the rape police. But consent is the magic key to the left.”
- —Rush Limbaugh, not understanding what rape means
- “Sometimes in life you just have to keep walking ... Some things in life need to be mysterious.”
- —Peggy Noonan, explaining why it was best not to know about torture perpetrated by the Bush administration
- “My hunch is this is going to end up being one of the worst moments in the entire campaign for one of the candidates but it’s Barack Obama … I believe that this opened the door to not just Tony Rezko in that ad, but to bring up Rev. Wright, to bring up his relationship with Bill Ayers.”
- —Mark Halperin, explaining why he thought John McCain not being able to answer a question about how many homes he owned was actually good news for McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign
- “How precisely is diversity our strength? Since you've made this our new national motto, please be specific as you explain it. Can you think, for example, of other institutions such as, I don't know, marriage or military units, in which the less people have in common the more cohesive they are? Do you get along better with your neighbors or your co-workers if you can't understand each other or share no common values?”
- —Tucker Carlson, revealing how insular and limited his life must have been to this point, since I get along with my neighbors because they’re kind people, not because of what color they are or the God they worship
- “To say that Europe is a civilization apart is not to say it is better or worse. It is merely to say: This is us and that is you. Nor is it to say that Europe ought to be a closed civilization. It merely needs to be one that doesn’t dissolve on contact with the strangers it takes into its midst.”
- —Bret Stephens, in which the current New York Times columnist argues the problem with Europe is its lacking in defending Christian values from outsiders