Many U.S. commentators are viewing Herman Cain's apparent brain cramp during a video interview with a Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel editorial board on Nov. 14 as a threat to his candidacy.
In it, the contender for the Republican nomination was asked about U.S. President Barack Obama's handling of the Libyan conflict. What followed was a minute-long mixture of awkward silence and verbal confusion that suggested Cain was suffering a Rick Perry-style brain cramp.
During a Republican candidates debate Nov. 9, Perry was outlining his cost-cutting agenda were he to become president: "It’s three agencies of government that, when I get there, are gone: Commerce, education and, um, what’s the third one there?"
After repeated prompting, Perry still couldn’t come up with it. "The third agency of government I would do away with — the education, the commerce. And let's see. I can't. The third one, I can't. Oops."
The Cain stumble, like the Perry gaffe, has gone viral, like so many in the current Republican race. But what constitutes a gaffe, exactly? Is mispronouncing the name of a foreign country a gaffe? What about getting your geography wrong? Misremembering historical events? Forgetting a key tenet of your campaign platform?
The Republican campaign has been well worth following, not so much for its ideas on American governance, but as a seemingly endless stream of slip-ups.
The pizza tycoon and radio host has gained traction among Republicans for his affability and straight talk. But on more than one occasion, Cain’s confidence has led to some foolhardy statements.
In one interview, he claimed that China was "trying to develop nuclear capability," when in fact it’s been nuclear capable since 1964, and has a known arsenal of 240 warheads. He was also caught mispronouncing Uzbekistan (oops), then claimed it was of no strategic importance (oops again – it’s key to U.S. ops in neighbouring Afghanistan), and later adopted the mispronunciation as a point of pride ("Ubeki-ubeki-stan-stan").
Like Cain, the Texas governor prides himself on shooting from the hip – and he doesn’t always do it with a gun. He rode into the campaign on a crest of buzz and bravado, before his bluster started getting him in trouble. At a gathering of the conservative group Cornerstone in October, he gave a twitchy, ebullient, almost juvenile speech that prompted some media to suggest he was drunk. (He denied it.)
While the thrilla from Wasilla (Alaska) never declared herself a candidate, she shouldn’t be omitted from this list — she used her pulpit on Fox News to weigh in on various issues and undertook a suspiciously campaign-like "bus tour" this past summer. During that tour, she gave an erroneous account of Paul Revere’s part in the American Revolution that essentially bungled a major episode in U.S. history.
Remember The Donald’s dalliance with the Republican race? It was short-lived, but oh so entertaining. In addition to making hotheaded foreign-policy pronouncements (Libya: "I'd go in and take the oil"), Trump spent a lot of time ruminating on President Obama’s birthplace and his Harvard education. Charges of racism hounded the tycoon, but Whoopi Goldberg, co-host of The View, may have put it best, calling Trump out for "helping to perpetuate the idea that this country is a little idiotic."
In an interview with Fox News in June, the Minnesota congresswoman compared herself to Waterloo, Iowa’s famous son, John Wayne — not realizing that the John Wayne born in Waterloo was notorious serial killer John Wayne Gacy. (The Duke came from Winterset, Iowa.)
This didn’t deter her from aligning herself with other American icons. At a rally in South Carolina on Aug. 16, she asked the crowd to join her in commemorating Elvis Presley’s birth. It was the anniversary of his death.
During a Republican debate in October, Bachmann criticized Obama’s decision to send 100 U.S. troops to Uganda to neutralize the Lord’s Resistance Army. She suggested that the president "put us in Libya," and "is now putting us in Africa." So where does she think Libya is located?