From quotes encouraging people to look on the bright side of rape, to absolute mental meltdowns, 2012 was a truly great year for foot-in-mouth disease. How great? Michele Bachmann didn’t even make the top 10!
Without further ado, here’s a look at ten things that should never have been said.
10. “[Mitt Romney] wanted to be president less than anyone I’ve ever met in my life. He had no desire to…run.”
Mitt Romney started running for president in 2006. He spent $50 million of his own money and reversed pretty much every position he ever held in his life, simply for the chance to be president. On election night, he had fireworks at the ready for the moment when he was
coronated elected president.
Now that he isn’t president, his son, Tagg, is claiming that Mitt never wanted to be president anyhow. That he really didn’t want to run, and only did so because there was literally not another person in America who would be as awesome a president as Mitt would. Also, Tagg reports that Mitt never wanted the grapes that he wasn’t able to reach, because they were probably sour.
The Romney campaign’s demise has been a font of Schadenfreude for those who voted against him. From the debacle that was Mitt’s get-out-the-vote effort, to the lamentation of Mitt that President Obama had won thanks to “free stuff,” camp Romney has been steadily producing the sweet tears of unfathomable sadness for almost two straight months.
Still, Tagg’s quote is perhaps the perfect synecdoche for the entire Romney for President effort. Transparently false, aimed poorly and arrogant to the last, Tagg Romney has written Mitt’s political epitaph: “He never actually was interested in politics.” For a man who was both pro-choice and anti-choice, pro–gay rights and anti–gay rights, pro–universal health care and anti–universal health care, this is one perfect, final reversal. Indeed, in this case, the Romneys are with America — we didn’t really want Mitt to be president, either.
9. “I struggled with it myself for a long time, but I came to realize life is that gift from God. And I think even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen.”
–Indiana State Treasurer Richard Mourdock
In any other year, this would be in the top five for sure, and perhaps right at the top. In 2012, it isn’t even the worst quote about rape. Still, Richard Mourdock’s statement deserves note, for it is a remarkably concise statement of the pro–forced birth position. If God gives you rape, well, make rapeade.
Essentially, Mourdock’s argument was that God, in His infinite goodness, would allow a woman to get pregnant during rape because hey, nothing says “I love you” like forcing a pregnancy upon one of your creations. If this seems like kind of an awful thing for God to do, that’s because you actually recognize that women are intelligent creatures capable of feeling pain and sorrow. This sets you apart from Mourdock.
As for God, He hasn’t commented, at least not officially. But given that Indiana reacted to Mourdock’s statement by electing his opponent, perhaps God had something to say after all. At the very least, women did.
8. “By the end of my second term, we will have the first permanent base on the moon and it will be American.”
–Fmr. House Speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Ga.
It’s hard to remember now, but there was a time when Newt Gingrich was the front-runner for the GOP nomination.
No, really, it’s true! Back in the halcyon days of January, when Newt beat Mitt in South Carolina, setting the stage for a battle royale in Florida. If Newt had won there, it’s very possible he could have ended up the GOP nominee, and lost even worse than Mitt did.
Newt responded to his front-runner status the way Newt always has when his ego is ascendant: by making ridiculously grandiose pronouncements with absolute, terrifying certainty.
So it was that Newt Gingrich proclaimed that if elected, he would build a permanent base on the Moon, because that fits in with a Republican Party that wants smaller government. Or something.
While Newt would have done no better than Mitt, he probably would have done worse, so certainly, Democrats have reasons to lament his loss; who knows what other ludicrous things Newt Gingrich might have said had he made the general election? We might have had a base on Pluto by the time it was done.
7. “[President Barack Obama] says we need more firemen, more policemen, more teachers. Did he not get the message of Wisconsin? The American people did. It’s time for us to cut back on government and help the American people.”
–Fmr. Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney
Mitt Romney makes his first appearance on the list, but by no means his last. Indeed, we could have put together an entire article on the dozens of ridiculous things Romney said in 2012, from his dismissal of London’s preparedness for the Summer Games to his declaration that he liked to fire people.
Still, there’s something to be said for the complete disconnect Romney has here with the people he wanted to lead. Americans tend to like the idea of a smaller government in the abstract, primarily because we’re convinced that “government” is some sort of black hole that takes money from working people and gives it to the poor, who are actually richer than rich people because…well, at that point we sort of lose the thread.
But if you actually ask Americans about specific things government does — building roads, promoting national defense, social safety net programs like Social Security and Medicare — well, we like those just fine.
Nowhere is that more true than at the local level, where Americans really want fire fighters, police, and teachers. They’re not “government;” they’re part of a vital, functional society.
This is why Republicans tend to talk about cuts in the abstract. Americans don’t really want to cut all that much out of government. Romney made a critical mistake — he actually told people what he’d cut to keep taxes low for the rich. It turns out that people would rather wealthy people pay more than increase class sizes again.
6. “Before Congress reconvenes, before we engage in any lengthy debate over legislation, regulation or anything else, as soon as our kids return to school after the holiday break, we need to have every single school in America immediately deploy a protection program proven to work — and by that I mean armed security.”
–Wayne LaPierre, Executive Vice President of the National Rifle Association
It is amazing that in the wake of one of the most shocking and horrific gun crimes in American history, the NRA found a way to advocate for increased sales of guns.
Okay, it’s not really amazing. More par for the course. The NRA’s job is to lobby, not for gun owners, but gun manufacturers. Their job is to sell guns, no matter what’s going on, or which first-graders are being killed. So Wayne LaPierre boldly held a press conference in which he argued that guns don’t kill people — video games kill people. And the only way to protect from those kids hopped up on their Natural Born Killers and their “Pac Man” and their hippity-hop music was by putting a lot of armed people into our schools.
This is a foolproof plan, one untried before, except during the mass killing at Columbine High School, where there were, in fact, two armed guards in the school, who failed to prevent the killing. But the efficacy of the NRA proposal is beside the point. They exist to sell more and more guns, no matter who gets them, no matter who gets killed by them. Unfortunately for LaPierre, the Newtown shooting represented something of a tipping-point, and few humans thought that it would be a good thing to have armed police patrolling their local kindergartens. His statement struck a dissonant note, one that is likely to resonate for years to come. It’s unclear if gun control measures can be passed given current GOP intransigence, but when meaningful gun control is passed, it will be in no small part because the NRA couldn’t bring itself even to advocate for minor reforms, lest they lose a single sale.
5. “What does it say about the college co-ed Susan [sic] Fluke, who goes before a congressional committee and essentially says that she must be paid to have sex, what does that make her? It makes her a slut, right? It makes her a prostitute. She wants to be paid to have sex. She’s having so much sex she can’t afford the contraception. She wants you and me and the taxpayers to pay her to have sex.
Amazingly, 2012 will be remembered as the year Rush Limbaugh finally went too far.
It’s not that Rush hadn’t gone too far before. Going too far has been Rush’s modus operandi since he first went on the air. The man who has aired the song “Barack the Magic Negro,” the man who mocked Michael J. Fox’s symptoms from Parkinson’s Disease, the man who seriously discussed whether Hillary Clinton killed Vince Foster (look it up, kids), has been an affront to all that is decent for more than a generation.
In March, however, he crossed the moral event horizon. His hateful diatribe against Sandra Fluke was so egregious, so monstrous, that Rush finally had to answer for it.
Sandra Fluke was not a politician. She was not a public figure. She was a private citizen who dared to testify before Congress about an issue of great import to her and millions of other American women. She didn’t ask for free stuff; she simply asked that if women have insurance, they should get coverage for reproductive health care, including contraception. She made the point that many women need hormonal contraception not to prevent pregnancy, but to prevent disease. She argued persuasively that contraceptive coverage was too expensive for many women.
Her reward for doing her civic duty? To be called a slut and a prostitute by one of the most listened-to talk show hosts on radio.
This outraged not just Democrats, but pretty much anyone who wasn’t a doctrinaire conservative. An active advertiser boycott started, one which has been devastating to Limbaugh’s bottom line. It hasn’t been enough to take Limbaugh off the air, but there’s no question that Rush’s brand has been permanently tarnished. It couldn’t happen to a more deserving fellow.
4. “I think this is premature.”
As Fox News was calling Ohio for Obama, Karl Rove was busy destroying what was left of his tattered reputation.
To be fair, it had to be a frightening moment for Rove. The man had taken hundreds of millions of dollars of money from billionaires to defeat Obama, including at least $40 million from a casino magnate. I wouldn’t want to have to explain to Sheldon Adelson why I’d wasted millions of dollars on a pipe dream.
So as Fox declared that Rove had wasted millions of dollars on a pipe dream, Rove tried to deny reality, calling the results “premature,” and all-but-ordering the network to retract the call, leading to a surreal scene, as Meghyn Kelly wandered the bowels of Fox in search of the folks who had dared to make a call based on reality. It also led to one of the best quotes of 2012, when Kelly asked Rove, “Is this just math you do as a Republican to make yourself feel better?”
Alas, reality has a well-known liberal bias, and Barack Obama had, in fact, been re-elected president. And Karl Rove has some ‘splainin’ to do.
–Texas Gov. Rick Perry
Let’s see, there are three great Rick Perry quotes I could choose from. There’s the one where he said that the Revolutionary War happened in the 16th century, and there’s the one where he calls Fed chair Ben Bernanke a traitor, and then there’s…uh…um…no, that’s not it…um….
Oh well. Oops.
Rick Perry was already in free-fall when he made one of the epic gaffes in American political history. He’d been hammered for his willingness to show a smidgen of sympathy for immigrants, rather than a desire to make their lives as painful as possible. Still, this moment was the moment that ended Perry’s political career for all intents and purposes, and turned him into a national joke.
It wasn’t just that Perry forgot one of the three cabinet-level departments he wanted to shut down — something that cemented him as completely unserious about governing — but it was the length of the meltdown. The way it seemed to go on forever, with Perry racking his brain for another department, any other department. It was like something out of a Saturday Night Live sketch — indeed, the SNL sketch it inspired basically quoted Perry.
It was painful to watch, even if you didn’t particularly like Rick Perry. After all, this guy is governor of the second-largest state in the Union. Or as Rick Perry might say, the sixteenth-largest. Oops.
2. “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that down.”
–Rep. Todd Akin, R-Mo.
Todd Akin didn’t just sink his own political career when he declared that women’s ladyparts had laser beams that could destroy rapist sperm. He became the poster boy for the Republican Party’s war on women’s rights. Here was a U.S. Congressman, a man who wanted to be a senator, who didn’t have a rudimentary understanding of women’s reproductive systems — and he was not going to let that ignorance keep him from outlawing abortion even in cases of rape and incest.
What lay beneath this quote’s surface is almost as impressive. Akin used “legitimate” in his statement, which he said he regretted; he actually meant to use “forcible,” because Republicans had been working to outlaw federal funds for abortion in cases of “non-forcible” rape, like statutory rape, or rape by coercion — a bill sponsored by Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., the GOP’s nominee for vice president. Furthermore, Akin was repeating an oft-cited myth from the anti-choice side; it’s much easier to ban abortion in cases of rape and incest if women who’ve “legitimately” been raped can’t conceive. It means that all the women seeking abortions weren’t “legitimately” raped, and so they deserve to have childbirth forced on them.
Like Mourdock would later find out, actual human beings don’t draw fine distinctions about what rape is legitimate, or whether God wants to force women to have rape babies. Akin and Mourdock both lost their bids for the Senate, helping keep the body in Democratic hands for at least two more years. You see, Missouri and Indiana women had ways to shut those campaigns down.
1. “There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it. [...] My job is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.”
–Fmr. Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney
The other quotes in the top ten are amusing, but perhaps none was as critically damaging as this one — the quote that sealed Mitt Romney’s fate.
The Obama campaign spent most of the summer portraying Romney as an out-of-touch plutocrat who looked down on people with less than a few million dollars in the bank. Then Romney came along and confirmed it, writing off nearly half of the country with sneering dismissal, claiming that the poor took no personal responsibility, and that they were ungrateful for wanting to be able to eat, or have shelter against the cold or not die of cancer.
Mitt said, flatly, that those people didn’t matter. What mattered were the makers — the people who were smart enough to be born to rich, well-connected parents. They poor would learn to take responsibility for themselves by starving and freezing to death; the rich, meanwhile, would demonstrate the kind of responsible stewardship they showed when they destroyed the economy in 2008.
It was a breathtakingly awful statement, one culled from the darkest corners of Ayn Rand novels. It proved that Mitt was not on the side of anyone but those who were already successful.
In a grand moment of irony, Mitt Romney ended up taking 47 percent of the vote in November. It turns out that most Americans recognize that personal responsibility is important, but that it’s also reasonable for society to help those in need. Romney still doesn’t get this — his post-election diatribe in which he blamed Obama for giving away “free stuff” proves it — but it doesn’t matter. Romney never will be president whether he ever really wanted to or not.
Image Credits: Donkey Hotey, Bain Capital, David Lytle, Iowa-Politics.us