Mon, Jun 07, 2004 - Page 6 News List

Sometimes Reagan wasn't actually agreat communicator

AFP , LOS ANGELES

Despite former president Ronald Reagan's reputation for being the "Great Communicator," he made many gaffes during his eight years in the White House -- at times with humorous consequences.

One of his most immortal slip-ups was his announcement, while preparing to give a radio address from his ranch in Santa Barbara, California: "My fellow Americans, I am pleased to tell you today that I've signed legislation that will outlaw Russia forever. We begin bombing in five minutes."

Unfortunately for him, the microphone was on and the message was broadcast.

That was not the only diplomatic slip he made. During a state dinner in Brasilia in 1982, he toasted "the people of Bolivia." When he realized his error, he tried in vain to correct it, saying, "We're going there next." The tour continued, however, in Colombia, Costa Rica and Honduras.

Reagan fared no better on domestic matters.

During his 1980 campaign against president Jimmy Carter, the 69-year-old actor made himself look foolish by declaring that "trees cause more pollution than automobiles," prompting a group of sarcastic students to demand a program to cut down national forests.

Once elected, the 40th and oldest president of the US declared, "Now we are trying to get unemployment to go up, and I think we're going to succeed."

Another time, he stated that the rate of poverty in the US "has begun to decline, but it is still going up."

Many attributed the mistakes to Reagan's age. He had a reputation for falling asleep in Cabinet meetings.

But Reagan always relied on his humor and telegenic qualities to get himself out of trouble. "I will not make age an issue of this campaign. I am not going to exploit for political purposes my opponent's youth and inexperience," he quipped during his 1984 campaign against Walter Mondale.

Reagan was also known for having difficulty with names. He once called Princess Diana "Princess David" and declared that "Gerald Ford is a communist."

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