George W. Bush's Black Question
On his first visit to Brazil as president, George W. Bush baffled
Brazilian President Fernando Henrique Cardoso with the question "Do you
have blacks, too?"
Then Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice came to her boss's rescue,
telling the new president, "Mr. President, Brazil probably has more
blacks than the USA. Some say it's the country with the most blacks
outside Africa," Der Spiegel reported.
Cardoso wrote off Bush's remark, saying he was "still in his learning phase."
Bush's Peace Sign Problem
On a trip to Australia in 1992, former President George H.W. Bush did
not even have to open his mouth to offend his Aussie hosts.
Riding in an armored limousine through the capital city of Canberra,
Bush threw up a two-fingered "V" for victory sign toward the Australian
But while the gesture means peace in the U.S., Bush made the mistake of flashing his fingers with his palm facing in, which in Australia is the equivalent of flipping the bird.
Carter's Carnal Translation
When President Jimmy Carter visited Poland for the first time in 1977 he
tried to tell the Poles how thrilled he was to be there. Unfortunately
that message got lost in translation.
In English, the president told the Poles, "I have come to learn your
opinions and understand your desires for the future." But his shoddy
interpreter botched the translation, giving the impression that the
president was a bit too excited to see the Polish people by saying, "I
desire the Poles carnally."
The translator also told the Poles that Carter "abandoned the United
States" instead of "left the United States" and rather than Carter's
assertion that the Polish constitution was a great document, the
translator said it was the subject of ridicule, United Press
International reported at the time.
Carter found himself a new interpreter for the remainder of the trip.
Clinton's Reset Button Blunder
One of the first items on Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's agenda
for U.S.-Russia relations was kicking off a new era of friendship and
leaving the past decades of contention behind.
But the small, red "resset button"
that Clinton gave to her Russian counterpart Foreign Minister Sergei
Lavrov upon their first meeting did not quite give the impression she
Instead of "reset" the symbolic token had the Russian word "peregruzka," which translates to "overcharge" or "overload."
Luckily for Clinton, Lavrov had a sense of humor and the two posed for
photos pressing the "reset"/ "overcharge" button together.