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Democratic New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand is one of the several Democrats vying for her party’s nomination to take on President Donald Trump in the 2020 election.
While speaking recently to a small group of supporters at a restaurant in Dover, Delaware, Gillibrand discussed concerns she had with regard to the Trump administration and its control over the nation’s arsenal of nuclear weapons, particularly the development of low-yield tactical nuclear weapons.
Theoretically these weapons could be used in a localized fashion in battle without causing too much collateral damage, but in reality, they would bolster the general deterrence that our arsenal of nuclear weapons provide against enemies and rivals.
Unfortunately for Gillibrand, she uttered a pretty humorous gaffe while speaking about the subject and mispronounced the word “tactical” as “tactile.” The Washington Free Beacon reported that the gaffe from Gillibrand was played for National Security Adviser John Bolton by conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt, and Bolton could not stop laughing.
You can listen right here as Hewitt plays the clip of Gillibrand’s gaffe and Bolton responds with utter hilarity:
Hewitt introduced the clip, during which Gillibrand said, “When you say you want to develop low-yield nuclear weapons that are tactile, what you’re saying is you want to use them. Now the military can make the argument to say ‘Oh this is just, again, we have to have an equal threat, and if it’s useable it’s a better threat’. I just found that as not believable.”
“I just — they are trying to create nuclear weapons that are useable, so I opposed the entire defense bill because of that one provision,” she added. “So if I am president, I’m going to make sure we unwind that completely, and I don’t think we should be trying to create tactile nuclear weapons.”
The Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary defines the word “tactile” as being “perceptible to touch,” “tangible” or “of, relating to, or being the sense of touch.”
That same dictionary, meanwhile, defines “tactical” as being “of or relating to combat tactics,” particularly “of or occurring at the battlefront,” and, in the case of a military’s air forces, “of, relating to, or designed for air attack in close support of friendly ground forces.”
Despite the different meanings behind those two words, they do feature slightly similar spelling and sound. Most likely, Gillibrand made an honest mistake in saying the wrong word when speaking about something she isn’t completely familiar with, a mistake many a politician has made before.
That said, Bolton’s reaction to Gillibrand’s gaffe was simply too good to let this mistake slide unmentioned, as he laughed and laughed, and then laughed some more before finally regaining his composure enough to speak.
Chuckling a bit himself, Hewitt admitted that he was “unfamiliar with the concept” of tactile nuclear weapons. Bolton replied, “I have to say, I was unfamiliar with it as well. I wonder what Sen. Gillibrand knows that I don’t.”
Still laughing a bit, Bolton said, “Well, ya know, Hugh, as national security adviser, I don’t get involved in politics, but I’ll just say that maybe Sen. Gillibrand could give me a call and tell me what she knows about those tactile nuclear weapons. I’d be interested in learning.”
If you’d like to see the broader context of Gillibrand’s commentary on tactical nukes, you can see a longer video directly from that event. Of course, the broader context doesn’t really change the gaffe, but it is worth noting the expressions on a few of the attendee’s faces when Gillibrand twice mispronounced the word.
John Bolton typically comes across as a rather serious individual who doesn’t play around, but the national security adviser — and his equally serious mustache — does indeed have a sense of humor, as was apparent by his reaction to Gillibrand’s ridiculous gaffe.