Iran's President Ebrahim Raisi has made enough gaffes in just two months to be advised by a newspaper to seriously consider prevention and damage control.
The reformist paper Etemad Monday in a commentary headlined ‘To Be Read by President’s Advisers,’ lambasted blunders by President Ebrahim Raisi, suggesting they would destroy his self-confidence.
In the past two months Raisi (Raeesi) has uttered several malapropisms and made other errors in his public appearances and speeches, leading to comparisons with United States presidents Donald Trump, Ronald Reagan and George W Bush, whose gaffes and blunders spawned the term 'Bushism' and several books.
Unlike most Iranian clerics such as the 82-year-old Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei who are confident, eloquent public speakers, the 61-year-old cleric now steering Iran's government is clearly no orator. In fact, he often looks quite uneasy when addressing the public.
Raisi made two awkward gaffes last week. In a speech in Ardabil when speaking about the region's cultural heritage, he referred to the Safavid-era Shia scholar, Ahmad ibn Muhammad Ardabili, by two of his titles Mohaghegh (researcher) and Mughaddas (sanctified) as if Mohaghegh Aradabili and Mughaddas Ardabili were two separate characters.
"In our time we neither understood Mohaghegh Aradabili, nor Mughaddas Ardabili," Raisi said.
As a senior cleric who has studied Shia theology and jurisprudence in seminaries for many years this came as a surprise to many even his supporters who are hard at work on social media to whitewash the mistake.
In a speech at the International Islamic Unity Conference, also last week, Raisi referred to the Turkish-born Sunni Muslim scholar Mohammed Said Ramadan al-Bouti − killed in the Syrian war in 2013 and known as "Shaykh of the Levant" − as Shaykh Touti. This was particularly amusing for Iranian social-media users given 'touti' translates as 'parrot'.
Critics have pointed out that Raisi is even not comfortable reading prepared speeches. He read his address to the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit in Tajikistan in September from a prepared text but repeatedly failed to follow the words and mispronounced them so in his speech "belt road" turned into "belt and road" – referring to China’s massive international infrastructural plan – mixed with some other mispronounced words when speaking about a transit project.
The Etemad commentary wrote that Raisi's gaffs would embarrass Iran and that the presidential staff needed to follow the example of White House chief of staff Michael Deaver and presidential adviser David Gergen during the Reagan presidency.
"Gaffes lead to more gaffes,” Etemad observed. “A politician will gradually lose his self-confidence if he makes repeated gaffes and will make even more.” The paper drew a comparison with a volleyball game going badly when the coach "should take a time out" and stop further losses by talking to players.