If you've ever seen Ricky Gervais' BBC series, The Office (the overseas predecessor to the hit US show), you've already met David Brent. The miscreant man-in-charge is a serial joke-maker, though his workplace rubes almost always tend toward the inappropriate and insensitive.
Jump to the real-life political David Brent: John McCain. The Arizona Senator and GOP nominee has taken a number of stabs at humor on the campaign trail. Some have hit the spot. Others have missed the mark completely, garnering a gaggle of negative media attention as a result.
Now, as a general rule, I make a policy of not relating television to politics, or to anything in real life for that matter. But if the shoe fits...
8. Wife Beating Joke
In a June, 2008 interview with ABC News senior national correspondent Jake Tapper, McCain was asked why he had passed over Nevada's Republican Governor Jim Gibbons when choosing his state campaign chair (traditionally, the first choice if the governor and the presidential nominee are members of the same party). McCain explained that he had a longstanding relationship with the state's lieutenant governor, and that his choice was not a snub of any kind. Pressing the subject, Tapper asked whether McCain had passed over Gibbons as a result of the governor's relatively low approval ratings.
"And I stopped beating my wife just a couple of weeks ago," McCain laughed.
The reference is to what Tapper refers to as a "distasteful bit of DC yuckery so commonly quoted its hackneyed."
Despite the widespread news stories on it in Nevada, it's possible that McCain hadn't heard about Gibbons' recent high-profile divorce, stemming from multiple charges of infidelity. Moreover, a cocktail waitress accused Gibbons of grabbing and threatening her with sexual assault in a parking garage.
In Tapper's words: "Awkward."
7. Bomb, Bomb, Bomb, Bomb, Bomb Iran
Probably one of the most publicized instances of McCain's attempts at humor is his infamous rendition of the Beach Boys classic, "Barbara Ann." When asked what he would do about Iran, McCain broke into song, but substituted "bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb Iran" in place of the name of the female subject of the song.
McCain defended his quip amid a vocal outcry, telling detractors to, "get a life." Criticism abounded, alleging that McCain's failure to treat the prospect of military action- especially in the midst of two ongoing wars- was indicative of a callous and bellicose approach to foreign policy.
6. Waterboarding Charlie Crist
When Rudy Giuliani made his own attempt at humor, comparing the presidential race to torture, McCain- a torture victim himself- was outraged. And yet, McCain has made a few jokes of his own on the matter.
In late January of 2008, reporters asked Florida Governor Charlie Crist if McCain had pressured him for his endorsement. A nearby McCain interjected, "It was just waterboarding."
McCain's joke, while off-color, might not have been the most inappropriate, especially when compared to some of his other ones. But what makes it worse for the candidate is that it was he who was the first to condemn similar remarks from his opponents.
5. Waterboarding His Staff
About a month later, The New Yorker reported that McCain made the joke again. His presidential hopes apparently derailed, a number of his staff had abandoned the campaign, only to be brought back when McCain reemerged as the Republican front-runner. He joked that he conducted "a short period of waterboarding to find out what they did in their absence."
4. The French
In an interview with Fox News, McCain aimed his ill-fated humor at our allies, the French. "You know," he began, "the French remind me a little bit of an aging actress of the 1940s who is still trying to dine out on her looks but doesn't have the face for it." This is a country that is heavily involved in the Afghan conflict. McCain's questionable comments raised some a measured ruckus in both foreign and domestic circles, calling the Senator's diplomatic skills into question.
3. IED on Jon Stewart's Desk
Given, The Daily Show is satirical. But when McCain appeared on Jon Stewart's hit series most recently, he joked that he'd brought Stewart an improvised explosive device as a gift from Iraq.
The problem: more than1,700 US soldiers in Iraq have been killed by IEDs, accounting for more than one-third of all US casualties since the 2003 invasion. His comments were called, "insensitive" and "inappropriate" by a wide range of critics.
2. The Death of Fidel Castro
The Cold War- particularly the tension with Cuba- spanned six presidencies- those of Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, and Reagan. Not one of them ever joked about Fidel Castro dying. John McCain did.
In February of 2008, McCain told a town hall in Indiana, "I hope he has the opportunity to meet Karl Marx very soon."
Current president George W. Bush made no jokes about the death of Saddam Hussein, and in fact encouraged respectful treatment of the situation by others. Why? Because to do otherwise would have been unbecoming of a statesman.
1. 18 Year Old Chelsea Clinton
McCain has a legendary temper. When his wife teased that his hair was getting "a little thin," McCain fumed. "At least I don't plaster on the makeup like a trollup, you c*nt!"
But for his own sensitivity, he's not one to restrain himself when it comes to dishing it out. In fact, he can be downright nasty.
In 1998, McCain was speaking before a GOP fundraiser in Washington, D.C. when he asked, "Why is Chelsea Clinton so ugly? Because Janet Reno is her father." The joke was wrong on so many levels- for it's offense to the Attorney General, for it's offense to the president and his wife. But most of all, for his attack on a eighteen year old girl.
Anyone who has a daughter can tell you that those middle teenage years can be tough. Girls at school can be vicious as it is. But when a national figure makes a predatory attack on a defenseless girl to further his own political causes, it's downright disgusting.