There are few things worse for a public figure than misspeaking, having your words misconstrued or--as in John Kerry's case last week--a combination of both. But he has been in good, bipartisan and even holy company this year.
"You make an effort to be smart, you can do well. If you don't, you get stuck in Iraq."
WHAT HE MEANT The Senator was supposed to say, "You get us stuck," a pre-election barb aimed at the President. The White House said Kerry had insulted U.S. soldiers' smarts.
THE FALLOUT Kerry apologized to U.S. troops--but not to Bush.
"Well, it's a no-brainer for me."
WHAT HE MEANT The Veep was asked if dunking a suspect under water was acceptable "if it can save lives." He said yes but insisted that the U.S. doesn't condone torture.
THE FALLOUT Human-rights groups read the reply as backing waterboarding, a torture technique. Cheney said dunking isn't waterboarding.
"Steele has a career of slavishly supporting the Republican Party."
WHAT HE MEANT The House minority whip said he intended merely to attack the party allegiance of Maryland G.O.P. Senate candidate Michael Steele, who is black.
THE FALLOUT Republicans and black groups cried racism, and Hoyer promptly apologized.
Pope Benedict XVI
"Show me just what Muhammad brought ... and there you will find things only evil."
WHAT HE MEANT The Pope quoted, but didn't agree with, a medieval text in a speech that, ironically, called for dialogue. Muslim groups took the words as his own, and began protests.
THE FALLOUT The Pope clarified and said he was "deeply sorry."