From Potatoe to Amercia: Politicos Preserve Disorder

Ben Jacobs runs down five classic political typos and misnomers.

LOLs! The web erupted Tuesday into gibes and giggles after the Mitt Romney campaign released its iPhone app, with the memorable slogan: “A Better Amercia.” The Telegraph may have drily won the Internet with its memorable dek: “White House hopeful Mitt Romney has meticulously spelt out his vision for a better America while on the campaign trail this year. But his new mobile app did not feature the same levels of preparation.”

Here are five other cringe-inducing political typos and misnomers of the recent past.


In the midst of the chaotic protests surrounding the 1968 Democratic convention in Chicago, Mayor Richard Daley, trying to defend his police force against justified charges of brutality against anti-Vietnam War demonstrators, explained: “The policeman is not here to create disorder. The policeman is here to preserve disorder."


In June 1992, Vice President Dan Quayle made a campaign visit to a school in Trenton, N.J., to tout President George H.W. Bush’s education policy. While there, Quayle was invited to judge a spelling bee. A 12-year-old boy, William Figueroa got up to spell the word “potato.” The boy nailed it, but Quayle called him back, telling the lad to “add one little bit on the end” and then sounded it out for him. The boy, at Quayle’s urging, added the letter ‘e.’ Although the vice president later blamed a typo on the flashcard he had been handed by the teacher, it left him a national laughingstock.


Despite some very talented speechwriters, George W. Bush was a devoted mangler of the language, something of a family tradition. Perhaps his most notorious mistake came at a speech in Florence, S.C., during the 2000 Republican primary, where the ex-president said: “Rarely is the question asked: Is our children learning?”


Unlike a pit bull with lipstick, Sarah Palin has added new words to the English language. In 2010, Palin coined the word “refudiate.” In a tweet, Palin called upon “Peaceful Muslims” to repudiate the efforts to build the so-called Ground Zero Mosque in Lower Manhattan. Instead, she accidentally spelled the word with the letter “f.” When the typo was called to the attention of the former Alaska governor, she embraced her error, saying in a follow-up tweet: “English is a living language. Shakespeare liked to coin new words too. Got to celebrate it!” This strategy ended up being successful for Palin, as “refudiate” became 2010’s word of the year according to the New Oxford American Dictionary.


In 2011 Herman Cain was fleetingly the frontrunner for the Republican nomination. During that brief moment, he was asked how he would deal with “gotcha questions,” such as being asked to name the president of Uzbekistan. Cain replied, “When they ask me who is the president of Ubeki-beki-beki-beki-stan-stan I’m going to say, ‘You know, I don’t know. Do you know?’” Although the former Godfather’s Pizza CEO meant to be sarcastic, it only reinforced the perception that he lacked of foreign-policy knowledge, an image that wasn’t helped when he went on to dismiss Uzbekistan, a country rich in natural resources that has been a key partner in the War on Terror, as “a small, insignificant country.”