Nobody’s perfect. Just ask Saint Barack of Obama

The US president has his own history of gaffes.

On Twitter, Sunny Hundal has been calling on Gordon Brown to deliver a Obama-style, post-Jeremiah Wright speech on race, immigration and integration in the wake of his "bigot" gaffe. Forget Jeremiah Wright -- Barack Obama himself, the man who can do no wrong, has made a few gaffes of his own -- and lived to tell the tale.

Here are my top four:

1) After being asked by Jay Leno about his bowling scores, and confessing to a "129" in the White House bowling alley, Obama then said:

It's like -- it was like the Special Olympics, or something.

As soon as he was back on his plane home from the New York recording of Leno's show, Obama called the head of the Special Olympics, Tim Shriver, to say sorry.

2) When the Harvard academic Henry Louis Gates, a friend of Obama's, was arrested after a suspected break-in at his own home, the president told reporters at a live news conference:

I think it's fair to say, No. 1, any of us would be pretty angry. No. 2, that the Cambridge police acted stupidly in arresting somebody when there was already proof that they were in their own home. And No. 3 -- what I think we know separate and apart from this incident -- is that there is a long history in this country of African Americans and Latinos being stopped by law enforcement disproportionately, and that's just a fact.

Later, Obama said he regretted the use of the word "stupid" and for "ratcheting up" the row, and admitted he could have "calibrated those words differently".

3) During the presidential primary campaign, Obama was recorded at a private fundraiser explaining why he thought the residents of hard-pressed communities grew angry:

You go into these small towns in Pennsylvania and, like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing's replaced them. And it's not surprising, then, they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.

Having been accused by his then rival Hillary Clinton of making "demeaning remarks", Obama conceded the next day, at a rally in Indiana, that his description had been clumsy and had not conveyed the intended meaning.

4) At his first news conference after winning the 2008 presidential election, Obama said he had spoken to all the living presidents for advice ahead of entering the White House. He then added:

I didn't want to get into a Nancy Reagan thing about doing any seances.

Mrs Reagan was said to have consulted astrologers but did not hold seances. Obama later had to call her to apologise personally for the "careless and off-handed remark" that he had made.

Mehdi Hasan is a contributing writer for the New Statesman and the co-author of Ed: The Milibands and the Making of a Labour Leader. He was the New Statesman's senior editor (politics) from 2009-12.

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Cabinet audit: what does the appointment of Andrea Leadsom as Environment Secretary mean for policy?

The political and policy-based implications of the new Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

A little over a week into Andrea Leadsom’s new role as Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), and senior industry figures are already questioning her credentials. A growing list of campaigners have called for her resignation, and even the Cabinet Office implied that her department's responsibilities will be downgraded.

So far, so bad.

The appointment would appear to be something of a consolation prize, coming just days after Leadsom pulled out of the Conservative leadership race and allowed Theresa May to enter No 10 unopposed.

Yet while Leadsom may have been able to twist the truth on her CV in the City, no amount of tampering will improve the agriculture-related side to her record: one barely exists. In fact, recent statements made on the subject have only added to her reputation for vacuous opinion: “It would make so much more sense if those with the big fields do the sheep, and those with the hill farms do the butterflies,” she told an audience assembled for a referendum debate. No matter the livelihoods of thousands of the UK’s hilltop sheep farmers, then? No need for butterflies outside of national parks?

Normally such a lack of experience is unsurprising. The department has gained a reputation as something of a ministerial backwater; a useful place to send problematic colleagues for some sobering time-out.

But these are not normal times.

As Brexit negotiations unfold, Defra will be central to establishing new, domestic policies for UK food and farming; sectors worth around £108bn to the economy and responsible for employing one in eight of the population.

In this context, Leadsom’s appointment seems, at best, a misguided attempt to make the architects of Brexit either live up to their promises or be seen to fail in the attempt.

At worst, May might actually think she is a good fit for the job. Leadsom’s one, water-tight credential – her commitment to opposing restraints on industry – certainly has its upsides for a Prime Minister in need of an alternative to the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP); a policy responsible for around 40 per cent the entire EU budget.

Why not leave such a daunting task in the hands of someone with an instinct for “abolishing” subsidies  thus freeing up money to spend elsewhere?

As with most things to do with the EU, CAP has some major cons and some equally compelling pros. Take the fact that 80 per cent of CAP aid is paid out to the richest 25 per cent of farmers (most of whom are either landed gentry or vast, industrialised, mega-farmers). But then offset this against the provision of vital lifelines for some of the UK’s most conscientious, local and insecure of food producers.

The NFU told the New Statesman that there are many issues in need of urgent attention; from an improved Basic Payment Scheme, to guarantees for agri-environment funding, and a commitment to the 25-year TB eradication strategy. But that they also hope, above all, “that Mrs Leadsom will champion British food and farming. Our industry has a great story to tell”.

The construction of a new domestic agricultural policy is a once-in-a-generation opportunity for Britain to truly decide where its priorities for food and environment lie, as well as to which kind of farmers (as well as which countries) it wants to delegate their delivery.

In the context of so much uncertainty and such great opportunity, Leadsom has a tough job ahead of her. And no amount of “speaking as a mother” will change that.

India Bourke is the New Statesman's editorial assistant.