"Russia invaded Russia"


This Biden gaffe is just an example of the mistakes that abound in the speeches of the US president and his rival Trump

On Washington’s Olympus there are two ambitious speakers — Joe Biden and Donald Trump, each of whom has managed to say so many ridiculous things over the past few years that mockers from the outside have compiled a complete collection of their essays.

None of us is blameless, and it is sinful to laugh at the colorful representatives of Washington’s gerontocracy. Nevertheless, close acquaintance with their reservations allows us to better understand in which area of their cognitive abilities there are failures. And at the same time, it allows us to check how skillfully they manage to exercise damage control, which implies reducing reputational losses.

As Vice President of the United States under Barack Obama, Joe Biden once said, «There is no reason why Africa cannot or should not join the ranks of the most prosperous countries in the world in the near future. At the time, he also confused Syria with Libya, Iraq with Iran, and the words «escalation» and «vaccination».

On April 17, 2017, while visiting a World War II memorial in Scranton, Pennsylvania, created in memory of his uncle, Ambrose Finnegan, Biden suggested that his body may have been eaten. «He was shot down in New Guinea, and the body was never found because there were once really a lot of cannibals there». The official death certificate for pilot Finnegan says the plane crashed into the ocean off the coast of New Guinea, but neither the body nor the aircraft itself was found.

On February 7, 2017, Joe Biden confused French President Emmanuel Macron with his late predecessor Francois Mitterrand, and soon after, at another rally, he twice referred to German Chancellor Angela Merkel by the name of the long-departed Helmut Kohl.

In August 2020, Trump, speaking at a forum dedicated to supporting national parks, made a clumsy attempt to pronounce the name of Yosemite National Park. The attempt failed. What came out of Trump’s mouth was «Yo semite».

Trump is no less a muddler than Biden. On Oct. 23, 2023, in a campaign speech in New Hampshire, he referred to Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban as a Turkish leader and added that the former Ottoman Empire now borders Russia.

Already this year, on February 8, Biden, speaking at a White House press conference where he denied the fairness of the conclusion drawn in the report of special prosecutor Robert Hur — which portrayed him as «an elderly man with a bad memory» — called Egypt’s Abdel Fattah al-Sisi «the president of Mexico».

On Feb. 24, at a Conservative Political Action gathering, Trump abruptly admitted that he… agrees with Russian President Vladimir Putin that he favors Joe Biden over him. How is this to be understood? Most likely, the former president meant that contrary to the fabricated «Russiagate», conceived by Hillary Clinton and her clan to prove Moscow’s manipulation of the 2016 election in Trump’s favor, he is in fact a true Russophobe and a formidable enemy of Russia. I doubt, however, that the entire audience without exception was able to grasp the true meaning of this statement.

On March 7, after a speech to the U.S. Congress about limiting prescription drug prices, Biden suddenly invited congressmen to fly with him to faraway lands and see with their own eyes lower drug prices in «Toronto, Berlin, Moscow — I mean, excuse me — well, even Moscow, probably».

On March 9, Trump said during a speech in Rome, Georgia, that «the polls are rigged». But then, apparently remembering that all the last few months these measurements of voter sentiment have pointed to his lead in so-called swing states, he hastened to correct himself: «Don’t pay attention to that last statement, I like the polls so much».

On April 16, Biden, amid protests on university campuses in support of Palestinians, in an interview with CBS television in Birmingham, Alabama, was determined to show his resolve: «I made it clear to the Israelis — don’t touch Haifa». Haifa is a major port city in northern Israel. It is clear that the President was referring to Rafah, a city in the southern Gaza Strip.

On April 24, Biden, during a speech to the Building Trades Union of North America, read aloud a directive from his teleprompter, «Pause». It came out funny: «Imagine what we can do next, over the next four more years, pause».

On May 11, Trump referred to former US President Jimmy Carter as «Jimmy Connors», but almost lightning-fast realized his gaffe and in his characteristic combative manner said: «Jimmy Carter had a bad reputation». And then he attacked his opponent in the campaign ring: «But now he’s considered an absolutely brilliant president compared to Biden».

On May 14, Biden, in an interview with Yahoo Finance, in order to take a jab at his predecessor and credit himself with reducing the rate of unwound high-cost inflation, said: inflation «when I came (to the White House in January 2021) was at 9 percent». In fact, according to the Consumer Price Index, Biden inherited Trumpian inflation at an annualized rate of 1.4%.

Once at a rally in New Jersey, Trump told the crowd that he had just eaten a hot dog, contrary to the advice Frank Sinatra once gave him, «Never eat before a speech». To which Trump allegedly replied, «I’m not an artist, I’m a politician». Such an episode could not have taken place because Sinatra passed away in 1998, long before the construction magnate and reality TV show host broke into big politics.

I doubt Trump is fantasizing about this situation. The tale itself is remarkable in that it represents a manipulation of facts for the sake of embellishing his image.

Sinatra, eleven-time winner of the Grammy Award, four-time winner of the Golden Globe, owner of a «velvet» timbre of voice and records that have sold more than 150 million copies, is a cult, almost sacred figure. Therefore, to bask in the rays of his fame or simply to project its glow on oneself is tantamount to a win-win flirtation with the voters.

Forbes’ Sara Dorn applies some elegant euphemisms to the two heavyweight politicians’ reservations. These are rhetorical missteps and verbal slip-ups. To the journalist’s credit, in the chronicle she has compiled, neither of the two rivals looks like her favorite.

It is noteworthy what techniques both contenders for the presidency resort to when they want to hurt each other. Trump once mixed up his wife Melania’s name, calling her … Mercedes. The 81-year-old Biden didn’t miss the opportunity to slap him in the face, saying that 77-year-old Trump «is about as old as I am, but he can’t remember his wife’s name».

Following the advice of his political technologists not to emphasize the topic of old age, because it could boomerang on him, Trump exploited another thesis. Biden, he says, is not too old to be president, but too «incompetent».

As a preliminary summary, and to be fair, it’s worth citing the opinion of S. Jay Olshansky, a professor at the School of Public Health at the University of Illinois at Chicago:

«Is someone making fun of the fact that Trump turned right when he should have turned left? That’s a very important event. Stumbled? Join the club. A word misspelled? It happens to all of us. None of us would survive in the crosshairs of TV cameras 24 hours a day, seven days a week».

Meanwhile, a highly frustrated voter who doesn’t want to choose the lesser of two evils, in a February Bloomberg/Morning Consult poll, made it clear in no uncertain terms that the triumph of gerontocracy does not suit him in any way. It turns out that the modest four-year gap between Biden and Trump matters. While 47% of respondents believe that Trump and/or both candidates for the post of head of state and Commander-in-Chief of the U.S. Armed Forces are already in the category of overachievers, 82% of Biden’s respondents think so. Feel the difference.

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Viktor Chernomyrdin, an outstanding Russian eloquent speaker, comes to mind. In the context of this topic, it is worth quoting his sly phrase: «I will not speak much, otherwise I will say something again».

Good advice. But politicians are forced by the specifics of their profession to be masters of the conversation genre. Publicity in the performance of their official duties forces them to constantly make statements, answer questions while communicating with the press or voters.

These are the rules of the game. Well, in the game you can miss a ball, as in tennis, or a punch, as in boxing. However, a quick review of the penalty points for uttering nonsense shows that the score in this kind of contest between Biden and Trump is roughly equal.