“Mitt Romney’s campaign is scrambling to limit the damage from his gaffe-strewn visit to London – which has drawn mocking put-downs from the city’s mayor and the British prime minister, and “Mitt the twit” headlines in the UK.”
The British “Guardian” newspaper, from which the piece above was taken, also quoted the New York Times as saying that Romney’s visit to the UK was “flub-filled” and “At this rate, Mitt Romney may provoke an international incident with the United Kingdom by the weekend.” Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics, is quoted as saying, “He was a gaffe machine. It wasn’t just a single gaffe. Every time he opened his mouth he created another gaffe.”
So what is a gaffe and what are these gaffes that Romney, a Latter Day Saint, made? Depending on where you are and what you’re doing, and whether you’re listening or reading, a gaffe can be one of four things. The homonym gaff is a stick with a hook that you use to bring in large fish or a sailing term in which case Romney made a damn mast of himself. A second gaff (but pronounced more like “gyaff”) can happen if you’re in Guyana or around Guyanese people. According to the Kaieteur News, “There is no Guyanese pastime that we engage in with such verve and dedication as the good old-fashioned gaff. While the word originally may have meant “severe criticism” or raillery, our gaff is punctuated with such good humour, that it would be difficult for all but the most thin-skinned not to crack a smile in the end. The Trini may have his ‘ole talk’ but we would take our gaff any day. There aren’t many topics that are out of bounds in a good gaff: religion and mothers about exhaust the list.” In Romney’s case, he found out that in England criticizing the preparation for their Olympic games is also a no-no. Then there is the gaffe or “an unintentional act causing embarrassment to its originator; a blunder” as in “His comments are a major diplomatic gaffe.”
What did Romney say? First, Romney, who ran the 2002 games in Salt Lake City, Utah, said he saw some “disconcerting” signs in the days before the games. David Cameron, the British Prime Minister, slapped down Romney with, “We are holding an Olympic Games in one of the busiest, most active, bustling cities anywhere in the world. Of course, it’s easier if you hold an Olympic games in the middle of nowhere.” Romney said he spent a great day in the “backside” of Downing Street. He meant the “back garden”. Others who referred to Mitt Romney using the same term, did not mean the back garden and when one of his aides told an American journalist in Poland to “kiss his …” he used a more direct term. Romney also referred specifically to a meeting with the head of Britain’s ultra-secret spy agency, “MI6”. This is another no-no and prompted a response from the British Press Office, “Sir John Sawers [MI6 Chief] meets with lots of people but we don’t give a running commentary on any of these meetings.”
The fact is that Romney’s gaffes actually put him in the company of many of the people who aspired to be, or became, Presidents of the United States. Ronald Reagan was astonished when he visited Latin America, “”Well, I learned a lot….I went down to (Latin America) to find out from them and (learn) their views. You’d be surprised. They’re all individual countries.” On December 1, 1982, at a banquet in Brazil, President Ronald Reagan offered a toast to Brazilian President Figueiredo and “to the people of Bolivia.” At a gala dinner in Washington, D.C. President Reagan called Princess Diana “Princess David.” “Permit me to add our congratulations to Prince Charles on his birthday just five days away,” he said, “and express also our great happiness that… er… Princess David – Princess Diane (sic) here on her first trip to the United States.” During a conversation between US President George W. Bush and Fernando Henrique Cardoso, the Brazilian President, Bush bewildered his colleague with the question “Do you have blacks, too?” John McCain who fought Obama for the Presidency said, “We have a lot of work to do. It’s a very hard struggle, particularly given the situation on the Iraq-Pakistan border.” The countries share no common border. And, of course the last words go to Bush, “”We spent a lot of time talking about Africa, as we should. Africa is a nation that suffers from incredible disease.”
This is why the recent gaffes by Trinidad diplomat, Therese Baptiste-Cornellis, must be taken in context. She was supposed to speak on “Cultural diversity as the fourth policy area of sustainable development.” Instead she spoke about finding a husband on the internet, finding a political appointment as the Minister of Health (MOH) because, as a lecturer in a post-graduate Business programme at the University of the West Indies, she taught the Prime Minister, and finding out when sacked as MOH that being an ambassador is harder than being a Minister and that is harder than being a teacher. I gather that she will soon find out that, hardest of all, is being unemployed. But it won’t be for long. From everything she said, she could make a great Republican President of the United States. Even better than Romney although if she doesn’t know the difference between a “backside” and a “back garden” there are a lot of Trinis anxious to enlighten her.
*Tony Deyal was last seen laughing at a British writer’s spoof on Romney, “The right to bear arms is what made our country strong. As I told Prime Minister David uh, David uh, as I made plain to the Prime Minister, the pistol is what keeps the Olympic spirit alive, and no athlete, man, woman or child, should ever have to go out on that track without one.”
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