During the U.S. election campaign in 2008, Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, then the governor of Alaska, couldn't tell Katie Couric the names of the newspapers and magazines she regularly reads.
This week, the front runner in Mexico's presidential race, Enrique Pena Nieto, the former governor of the state of Mexico, made a similar flub during an interview when he was asked to name three books that had influenced him.
He couldn't do it.
I have read a number of books, starting with novels, that I particularly liked. I'd have a hard time recalling the titles of the books, Pena Nieto during the interview, which was held in front of a live audience.
Pena Nieto made his comment at the International Book Fair in Guadalajara where he was promoting his own book, Mexico la Gran Esperanza (Mexico The Great Hope). Making matters worse, he then rambled on for four minutes about books before stating that The Bible had influenced him as a child and that he had read parts of it.
He did eventually name the book La Silla del Aguila, a famous Mexican novel that takes place during a future presidential race, but he credited the wrong author, citing historian Enrique Krauze instead of novelist Carlos Fuentes.
The truth is that when I read books, the titles don't really sink in, he finally confessed.
His comments have sent his opponents into a tizzy as they clamored to use the remarks for their advantage.
If ignorance hurt, Enrique Peña Nieto would be screaming, Labor Secretary Javier Lozano, who withdrew from the race in July, said.
Lozano is a member of the National Action Party, the same party as sitting president Felipe Calderon, which has a number of candidates in the race.
Enrique: the issue that concerns us is concrete. Your brutal ignorance offends and is a threat. I applaud you for giving yourself away so soon,
After the gaffe, pundits in Mexico launched a gleeful assault, comparing Pena Nieto not only to Palin, but also to Texas Governor Rick Perry, who couldn't name the three government agencies he would do away with if president, and pop singer Justin Beiber, who forgot Europe when naming the seven continents on the 'Tonight Show' television program.
I am reading the tweets about my mistake yesterday, some very critical, others funny even. I appreciate them all. Let's keep working for Mexico, Peña Nieto said in a Twitter posting on Monday.
While the book question provided some lighthearted amusement, this year's presidential elections in Mexico are quite serious. Pena Nieto is currently leading his opponents in the polls. The main issue of the 2012 election is Calderon's five-year war against drug cartels which was resulted in 50,000 deaths so far.
Many Mexicans are sick of Calderon's crackdown, which some feel has made crime and violence worse instead of better. Calderon has mobilized the army to fight against the country's many militarized drug trafficking organizations, often to the dismay of innocent civilians who pay with their tax dollars and even their lives.
During a speech on Monday, Calderon reiterated his quest to destroy the drug trade and said he wouldn't waver
The first obligation of a government is to guarantee the security and the rights of the citizens, Calderon said. We have done that, and we are going to continue defending the citizens until the last day of my term.