New Rule

02/16/2007 07:36 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

New Rule: There's more to being smart than just not misspeaking. The world is a complicated place. Sometimes it all feels like a runaway train of violence, resentment and insecurity - sort of like a family reunion at Ryan O'Neil's place. Which is why for this next election, we need to pick the smartest candidate, not the dullest one who simply never had a verbal gaffe and said a wrong word or phrase. We're a superpower, not a drinking game. It has to be about leadership, not just hitting your buzzer first and remembering to phrase your answer in the form of a question.

A couple of weeks ago, Senator Joe Biden hit the ground flopping when he described Barack Obama as articulate and clean. But if you think he's a racist, then you're not really thinking, you're just playing Gotcha. Yes, the remark was cringe-worthy - it always is when someone old and out of touch says something creepy - even a Chinaman knows that.

However, when it comes to the most important ISSUE of the day, last year, Joe Biden was out ahead on calling for an Iraq broken into three countries - and that is what's going to happen, no matter how much surging George Bush does. And I say fine, so what if Iraq gets broken up, it's a made up country anyway, there's only been an Iraq since 1932 - it's 7 years younger than Paul Newman. And the people in it hate each other so much, and are now in such a, shall we say "intense" phase of the revenge cycle, that they're only going to be able to start breathing again if they live in different countries - which they're already moving to, on their own.

So, the guy who got this right, he can't run, because we're a very sensitive people, and he said a black man was clean, and we care more about a one second verbal brain-fart than we do about who has the right answers. The guy who had the right answer on terrorism in 2004 was John Kerry - he said fighting terrorism was primarily an intelligence and law enforcement operation, which doesn't sound macho in elections, but is true, he can't be in the debate either, because he's a crappy comedian. He screwed up a joke - about our troops! Hit the road jack.

Howard Dean has been a virtual Nostradamus on predicting what would happen in Iraq from the beginning. But he screamed once. He said "yee-ha" - publicly! He screamed louder than a crowd of people screaming at him, and the media acted like Grandpa just yelled out the "N" word at a ball game.

And before the war began, it was Al Gore who got it right, who spoke unequivocally about not making this bad choice, a choice that 77 Senators voted for. But during the debates of 2000, Al Gore... sighed! We can't have a sigh-er for president! That's why I think every candidate has to come out NOW, and say or do the stupidest thing they possibly can, and get it out of the way.

  • Chris Dodd must tell the religious right to take their abstinence programs and go back to Hymentown.
  • John Edwards must be caught hiring an illegal alien to wash his hair.
  • Sam Brownback must be caught having sex with his wife that is not for procreational purposes.
  • Hillary Clinton must mispronounce South Carolina "Mouth Vagina."
  • Barack Obama must tell people he's, quote, "bigger than Jesus."
  • Rudy Giuliani has to declare at a press conference that he's cheating on his wife, but it's ok because he's undergoing cancer treatment and he can't get an erection anyway. He did?
  • John McCain must be caught with a Filipino bar girl with an Adam's apple.

The sad thing is, all of those could really work. Does John Kerry really think the troops are stupid? No, Karl Rove things you're stupid. And if a botched joke or a sigh or a brain-fart is enough to derail you from a wise choice, he's kinda right. Does this mean that Joe Biden or Howard Dean should automatically be president - of course not. But the next time something really bad happens, remember it might have something to do with our election process having turned into an episode of Survivor - not even Survivor, Showtime at the Apollo - one note that's a little off key, and the Sandman comes out with the hook.

So disqualify the smartest leaders because they may have caused you a socially awkward moment, but next time another painful disaster is visited upon us, perhaps because we weren't being led by the best and the brightest, you'll know why: because the black guy on Grey's Anatomy said "Fag!" And by the way, if we're going to choose our presidents by which one never misspeaks, how did we end up with the Chimp we have now?

Bill Maher is the host of HBO's "Real Time with Bill Maher" which airs every Friday at 11PM.