Joe Biden is a “gaffe-machine” who has made many regrettable statements. His critics are quick to pounce on even his smallest gaffes. The reaction to Biden’s off-script comments at Wednesday’s League of Conservation Voters Annual Capital Dinner was not unexpected.
In the transcript of the White House, Biden stated, “We plan to build an Indian Ocean-Pacific railroad.” We have plans to build in—in Angola one of the largest solar plants in the world. But I won’t. It’s not on script. “I’m in serious trouble.”
The video was quickly shared and has been viewed more than 2 million times. A number of prominent critics of President Obama also responded to the remarks.
Jason Mollica, Professorial Lecturer, Program Director at the School of Communication, American University, said: “It is commonplace that social media users call out individuals who stumble in their words or actions.”
Mollica said that “President Biden s comments are the most recent example.” In politics, each side takes advantage of the chance to attack the other party and spread rumors about it. It is possible to use social media for correcting inaccurate information and promoting accountability. It’s not about accountability in this instance; it is a method to gain attention and popularity.”
The History of Presidential Gaffes
Biden’s not the only one who says things that are wrong, particularly when he deviates from his script. Many former presidents regrettably said some things.
Gerald Ford, Richard Nixon’s successor, likely regretted his statement, “There was no Soviet Domination in Eastern Europe”. Ford lost the 1976 presidential election due to this remark made by him during a debate with Jimmy Carter.
Although it was not technically a mistake, Ronald Reagan made an unsavory joke at a soundcheck for the microphone. He said, “My American friends, I am pleased to inform you that today I have signed legislation which will ban Russia permanently.” “We begin bombing within five minutes.”
Donald Trump, too, has made a few notable gaffes over the years. Among others, he infamously proclaimed, “It has not been easy for me… my father gave me a small loan of a million dollars;” and another time stated “I watched our police and our firemen down at 7/11—down at the World Trade Center right after it came down,” when he obviously meant 9/11.
Most of us remember these as historical facts, though they are no longer relevant. Social media is ablaze with any mistake made by politicians today!
Gaffes Aren’t New—We Just Cover Them More
It is hard to know what verbal gaffes earlier presidents made, simply because there were no recordings of their speeches—except what was literally written down. The presidential archives show that there were mistakes made and certain former presidents were better speakers.
William Henry Harrison’s and James Buchanan’s inaugural addresses are remembered today as two of the most infamous in American history. Both were not known as great speakers, but any opinions are based only on the written accounts of that time, which could be biased. Moreover, there is no way to tell what people really thought.
Only a portion of Franklin Roosevelt’s speech was likely recorded. Just over 300 speeches and other utterances are currently digitized and stored in the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum. On social media, however, you can find thousands of clips or sound bites from our modern presidents.
It is now much simpler to respond to every single word that our leaders say.
George W. Bush was the first president to face criticism on social media. Bush is arguably the president who was the first to experience a social media backlash, which has become the new norm. Ford or Carter would often be only mentioned on evening news. We had no immediate access to social media.
In other words, had George W. Bush, Donald Trump or Joe Biden been around before social media, their gaffes might have gone largely unnoticed—and likewise, had social media existed during the administrations of President Abraham Lincoln and FDR, they might have faced greater ridicule from their critics, but also from the masses.
Susan Campbell, a distinguished lecturer at the Department of Communication, Film and Media Studies, University of New Haven, said that this ability to react to our leaders’ gaffes is just an unfortunate sign of times.
I understand that people will jump on a perceived weakness of an opponent’s, but to equate a gaffe like this with someone’s diminished mental ability is a bit far-fetched. Is there anything else that’s more important to discuss? Campbell replied, “I believe that there are other things better discussed.”
Focusing on such a statement is exactly what makes the outrage machines spew smoke and make nonsense,” added she. Is this something that needs our attention?” “Is this news that requires our attention?”