It’s only a year now until the 2016 US election, and that can only mean one thing: gaffes galore. Over the past few months, the hopeful candidates have been travelling the length and breadth of the country and sticking their feet in it at every possible opportunity. Here are some of the most painfully-dumb things next year’s wannabe-presidents have recently said, from both sides of the political divide.
10. Trump: US GDP is Below Zero
Honestly, we could have filled this entire list with nothing but Trump quotes and still had enough left over for a sequel. The bouffant-haired billionaire has turned controversial gaffes into an art form. But sometimes even the Donald comes out with something that’s nothing if not plain dumb. Case in point: the time he claimed the US’s GDP had fallen below zero for the first time in history.
Since GDP is a measure of all economic activity within a country during a given time period, the US would have had to become a barren wasteland devoid of human life for this to be true. Even the post-apocalyptic future of Mad Max has economic activity, for crying out loud. What Trump meant to say is that US GDP had experienced negative growth for the first time in history. But even this statement is hilariously wrong.
Negative growth for two consecutive quarters is the hallmark of a recession. Aside from the Great Recession, the US has experienced 10 smaller ones since WWII alone. Before that we had the Great Depression. Trump himself has lived through most of them, frequently while running businesses.
9. Carson: Prison Turns You Gay
Ben Carson is like the unimaginative Hollywood sequel to Trump’s insanity: more of the same, only crazier. Aside from making dubious comments about the Holocaust and blaming the Oregon shooting victims for their tragic fate, he’s made some wildly unscientific claims. In March 2015, he said:
“A lot of people who go into prison straight, and when they come out they’re gay.”
Being a former neurosurgeon, you might expect Carson to know a thing or two about how science works. You’d be wrong. According to Helen Eigenberg, expert on prison sexuality at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, Carson’s statement is “insane.” Sure, there is a massive problem with male rape in America’s prisons. But that’s not because ‘prison hormones’ or whatever are making straight men gay. It’s because some prisoners use rape as a way of dominating other inmates and getting power over them. That doesn’t make them gay.
According to the 150,000 member-strong American Psychological Association, homosexuality isn’t something that can brought on by a change in circumstances. No matter what Ben Carson thinks.
8. Clinton: The Benghazi Probe is the Longest in Congressional History
It’s not just GOP outliers who have been talking nonsense recently. The presumptive Democrat nominee Hillary Clinton has been showing her tenuous grasp on history. In September 2015, her official campaign Twitter account tweeted about the Benghazi probe:
“It’s the longest-running congressional investigation ever. It’s cost taxpayers $4 million. And what’s it about?”
Although 17 months is a pretty long time, a quick Googling would have proven it’s not the longest ever. It’s not even close.
The WWII Senate Special Committee to Investigate the National Defense Program lasted a full 90 months. During the Civil War, the Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War lasted a less-showy, but still impressive, 40 months. But hey, America was at war then, you can’t really compare, right? Well, maybe not, but that still leaves the 1957-1960 Senate Select Committee on Improper Activities in Labor-Management Relations (38 months) and the 1976-1979 House Select Committee on Assassinations (30 months).
Expand to include investigations by permanent committees (rather than special panels), and at least three more lasted longer than Benghazi, including two in the last ten years. Sorry, Hills, but you’ve got a long way to go yet.
7. O’Malley: Assad Messed Up “Invading Syria”
The Democratic candidate and former governor of Maryland Martin O’Malley might be under most people’s radar, but he can still drop clangers like a pro. During the televised debates in mid-October, the conversation turned to Syria. O’Malley’s take?
“I think Assad’s invasion of Syria will be seen as a blunder.”
As gaffes go, this one takes some beating. Assad – for all his faults – is the president of Syria. He could no more invade the country than Obama could ‘invade’ Delaware.
The likelihood is that O’Malley meant to say “Putin.” As president of neighbouring Russia, Putin can indeed invade Syria – although since he’s there at Assad’s request, that might still be a poor choice of words. Nonetheless, it didn’t give us great confidence in O’Malley’s ability to negotiate the fraught world of international politics.
6. Bush: The Federal Government Doesn’t Deport Criminals
Compared to the lunacy of Trump or Carson, Jeb Bush is like the voice of sanity in a crowded GOP field. However, even this seasoned pro still finds time to get his figures hilariously wrong. In August, Bush declared:
“The federal government right now does not deport criminals.”
It’s true that the government routinely opts not to deport violent criminals. But to claim it doesn’t deport any criminals, period, is akin to punching the concept of ‘research’ in the face.
In the fiscal year 2014, The Immigration and Customs Enforcement removed and deported over 300,000 illegal immigrants. Discount those removed at the border, and those deported for breaking immigration law, and you’re still left with nearly 87,000 criminals deported by the government in a single year. That doesn’t sound like “does not deport” to us.
5. Sanders: The US Spends Twice as Much on Healthcare as Any Other Nation
The predicted runner-up in the Democrat race, Bernie Sanders is famous for speaking his mind. Sometimes, that means parting company with the truth and sailing off over the horizon of insanity. In August 2015 (and previously in 2009), the Bern declared:
“We spend almost twice as much per capita on health care as do the people of any other country.”
The US definitely spends more than any other OECD nation, but the only way it could spend twice as much is if you secretly blew up half of Europe. In 2013, the US was spending $8,713 per capita, compared to $6,325 for Norway, and $5,862 for Switzerland. Places like Germany, France, Belgium, Austria and Denmark all spent over half of what the US spends, as did Sweden and the Netherlands.
Sanders probably meant to say the US spends twice as much per capita as the OECD average, which is certainly true. But since we didn’t give O’Malley or Trump any leeway for mis-speaking, we won’t be giving any to the Bern either.
4. Huckabee: The DC Area Has Never Had a Recession
A long-time fixture on the GOP’s craziest wing, Mike Huckabee has dropped his fair share of clangers. Usually this just amounts to insulting a particular group, but occasionally the former governor of Arkansas also slips up on history. Only in September, he claimed that the DC metropolitan area “never has a recession.”
If Huckabee had said “never suffers as badly as the rest of a country during a recession,” he’d have a point. DC area downturns tend to be shorter and shallower thanks to the presence of the Federal government. But by claiming the capital has never experienced economic difficulties, his statement tilted over the edge of sanity and plunged screaming into cloud cuckoo land.
In the last decade, the DC area has experienced consecutive quarters of negative growth – the standard definition of recession. Unsurprisingly, this came in the 2007-09 period, when everyone was in trouble. But Washington DC was also hit during the early 1990s and early 1980s. Oddly, it also suffered flat growth (though not recession) during 2012-13, when the larger economy was leaping back on its feet. Not quite the unstoppable economic superpower Huckabee makes it out to be.
3. Clinton: All My Grandparents Were Immigrants
It’s not just congressional history where Hillary falls down, it’s her own family’s history too. Back in April, Hillary moved to catch the pro-immigrant vote by relating her own personal experiences. In Iowa, she declared “All my grandparents, you know, came over here.” She was 75 percent wrong.
Let’s start with the bit she got right. Her paternal grandfather, Hugh Rodham Sr. was definitely an immigrant. He was born in England, and made his way over the States. Now let’s move on to the bits she got extremely wrong. Regarding her remaining grandparents, two were born in Illinois, and one was born in Pennsylvania. In other words, they were as American as apple pie.
To be fair, most of Hillary’s great grandparents were immigrants. 7 of the 8 were born abroad. But that’s still some lackadaisical record keeping, there.
2. Carson: America’s Enemies Were All BFFs in Their Youth
Here’s a brain-tickler for you: What do Iran’s Supreme Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Palestine’s Mahmoud Abbas, and Russia’s Vladimir Putin all have in common? Answer: according to Ben Carson, they all hung out together in 1968 Moscow.
The full quote, so you can appreciate its wacko scope runs: “In the class of 1968 at Patrice Lumumba University in Moscow, Mahmoud Abbas was one of the members of that class, and so was Ali Khamenei. And that’s where they first established relationships with the young Vladimir Putin.”
In other words, Carson is implying that three of America’s great villains got together in 1968 to found the real-life equivalent of SPECTRE.
Hilariously, this doesn’t even pass the basic logic test. Putin was 16 at the time, studying in high school, lived 10 hours away from Moscow, and had nothing about him to indicate he’d ever hold a position of power. Khamenei had been imprisoned in March 1967 and was rotting in an Iranian cell. Only Abbas may have possibly visited the university, but it’s very unlikely he did so in 1968 (1982 is a far-more likely date, as that’s when he’s known to have visited Moscow). When challenged on this, Carson claimed the CIA had told him. The CIA, for their part, declined to comment.
1. Trump: All Iowans are Brain Damaged
Finally, we end on a quote from the world’s greatest professional troll. After a poll was released in October, showing Ben Carson leading over Trump for the first time in Iowa, the Donald’s official campaign account tweeted:
“Too much Monsanto in the corn creates issues in the brain.”
In other words, Trump had just outrageously, hilariously, insulted every single resident in one of the key states he needs to carry.
The resulting blowback was so fierce Trump issued his first apology in (perhaps) living memory, blaming the tweet on a “campaign intern.” Whether or not that’s the case, it still displays stupidity to an award-winning degree. Then again, maybe it’s all part of his master plan to get elected by abusing voters so much they develop Stockholm Syndrome. With someone as openly crazy as Trump, who the hell knows?