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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Theresa May is paying the price for mismanaging Boris Johnson

The Foreign Secretary's bruised ego may end up destroying Theresa May. 

And to think that Theresa May scheduled her big speech for this Friday to make sure that Conservative party conference wouldn’t be dominated by the matter of Brexit. Now, thanks to Boris Johnson, it won’t just be her conference, but Labour’s, which is overshadowed by Brexit in general and Tory in-fighting in particular. (One imagines that the Labour leadership will find a way to cope somehow.)

May is paying the price for mismanaging Johnson during her period of political hegemony after she became leader. After he was betrayed by Michael Gove and lacking any particular faction in the parliamentary party, she brought him back from the brink of political death by making him Foreign Secretary, but also used her strength and his weakness to shrink his empire.

The Foreign Office had its responsibility for negotiating Brexit hived off to the newly-created Department for Exiting the European Union (Dexeu) and for navigating post-Brexit trade deals to the Department of International Trade. Johnson was given control of one of the great offices of state, but with no responsibility at all for the greatest foreign policy challenge since the Second World War.

Adding to his discomfort, the new Foreign Secretary was regularly the subject of jokes from the Prime Minister and cabinet colleagues. May likened him to a dog that had to be put down. Philip Hammond quipped about him during his joke-fuelled 2017 Budget. All of which gave Johnson’s allies the impression that Johnson-hunting was a licensed sport as far as Downing Street was concerned. He was then shut out of the election campaign and has continued to be a marginalised figure even as the disappointing election result forced May to involve the wider cabinet in policymaking.

His sense of exclusion from the discussions around May’s Florence speech only added to his sense of isolation. May forgot that if you aren’t going to kill, don’t wound: now, thanks to her lost majority, she can’t afford to put any of the Brexiteers out in the cold, and Johnson is once again where he wants to be: centre-stage. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics.