Political Blunders of the Year

For Burns, largely considered a vulnerable incumbent by the GOP, it wasn't the first gaffe on the campaign trail this year.

In June, he joked with a crowd of supporters that the "nice little Guatemalan man" fixing his house might be an illegal immigrant. A week later, during a debate, Burns recalled watching an interview of an illegal immigrant looking for work in Virginia.

""I told my roofer, you better go out and get your help, or you won't get my house roofed," Burns said.

Burns lost his Senate seat to Jon Tester in the November midterms.

Coulda Woulda Shoulda: The Foley Scandal

In late September, former congressman and GOP darling Mark Foley resigned from office after inappropriate and sexually explicit e-mails surfaced; Foley had sent them to young men who had formerly served as congressional pages.

In the wake of the Foley scandal, Republican House leadership came under fire as well and found itself defending "who knew what when" in a series of conflicting and inconsistent public statements.

Critics felt former Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert was minimizing Foley's actions when he said he understood that the improper conduct occurred after the pages had left the program.

"This was after the fact," Hastert said, " … and you know, would have, could have, should have."

The taint of the Foley scandal so close to the November midterms is thought by many to have cost the party its majority in the House.

The House Ethics Committee reported in December that while GOP lawmakers and aides should have done a better job protecting the young pages, no current lawmakers violated any rules.

A Botched Joke Goes From Bad to Worse

A week before the November midterms, the man who would have been president, Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) told a California audience, "Education, if you make the most of it, you study hard, you do your homework and you make an effort to be smart, you can do well. And if you don't, you get stuck in Iraq."

The president called Kerry's remarks "insulting and shameful".

Kerry stood his ground and insisted his comments were a "botched joke" and that the president's attempt to use it politically was "a shameful effort to distract from a botched war," until members of his own party -- following the tune of Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean and Sen. Hillary Clinton -- turned against him as well, disagreeing with his comments and calling them "inappropriate."

Kerry -- who wasn't running for anything this year -- eventually apologized and spent the days leading into the election running away from his comments.

Intelligence Questioned

In December, Rep. Silvestre Reyes (D-Texas), tapped by incoming Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi to head the House Intelligence Committee come January, stumbled after incorrectly answering basic questions about Islam, al-Qaeda and Hezbollah in an interview with Congressional Quarterly magazine.

When asked by CQ National Security Editor Jeff Stein whether al Qaeda was Sunni or Shia, Reyes answered "they are probably both" and then ventured "probably Shia."

Reyes was wrong despite having a 50-50 chance of success. (Founded by Osama bin Laden, al Qaeda is a Sunni organization.)

"Issues like al Qaeda and the Middle East deserve serious discussion and consideration," Reyes said in a statement after the column was posted on CQ's Web site.

"The CQ interview covered a wide range of topics other than the selected points published in the story. As a member of the Intelligence Committee since before 9/11, I'm acutely aware of al Qaeda's desire to harm Americans. The Intelligence Committee will keep its eye on the ball, and focus on the pressing security and intelligence issues facing us."

As for Reyes' pending chairmanship, Pelosi has not announced any plans to replace Reyes.

For better or for worse, leading in to 2007 and the 110th Congress, Reyes was not the only congressman on the intelligence committee who had trouble with those basic questions. Republicans Jo Ann Davis (R-Va.) and Terry Everett (R-Ala.) also failed the test.

  • 1
  • |
  • 2
  • |
  • 3
Join the Discussion
blog comments powered by Disqus
You Might Also Like...