Live microphones and catty quips are a volatile political mix.
The presidents of France and the United States suffered an embarrassing reminder of that maxim 10 days ago at the G-20 summit in Cannes.
According to the French media website Arret Sure Images, Nicholas Sarkozy, through with a translator, gave Barack Obama this withering assessment of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu: "I can't look at him anymore. He's a liar."
Obama replied: "You've had enough of him, but I have to deal with him every day."
A snappier translation: Hey, Nick, you've got your problems with Bibi, I've got mine.
The journalists present initially agreed not to reveal that snarky exchange of anti-Netanyahu sentiments. But initial assurances of keeping mum rarely keep a juicy story hidden for long, and last week, the awkward truth was exposed.
Netanyahu let the insults slide. He has more important things to worry about, including if -- or when? -- he will order a pre-emptive air strike to thwart Iran's nuclear-arms quest.
Yet that didn't stop fading Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann from demanding that Obama apologize to Netanyahu. Just don't expect the Minnesota congresswoman to apologize for delivering gushers of verbal gaffes, including her preposterous promise, issued three months ago in Greenville, to drive gas prices below $2 a gallon if elected to the White House.
At least another fading GOP White House hopeful, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, has poked fun at himself for forgetting, during Wednesday night's debate in Auburn Hills, Mich., the third federal agency he aims to eliminate (the Energy Department). At least he was able to identify two out of three scrap targets -- the Commerce and Education departments.
Back to politicians unaware of live mics making unsettling remarks to unintended audiences:
--In 1984, moments before a radio broadcast, President Ronald Reagan said for all to hear: "My fellow Americans. I'm pleased to announce that I've signed legislation outlawing the Soviet Union. We begin bombing in five minutes."
See, the Great Communicator was a great kidder, too. And he did play a significant role in, as he so aptly put it in 1982, dumping "Marxism and Leninism on the ash heap of history."
--In 1993, British Prime Minister John Major, then leader of the Conservative party, vented his wrath against some of his own Cabinet members after a television interview, branding them "bastards" and pledging to "crucify" them.
--During a 2000 campaign rally in Illinois, George W. Bush spotted a media member he found especially annoying and told running mate Dick Cheney: "There's Adam Clymer, major-league [anatomical-reference expletive deleted] from The New York Times."
Cheney responded, "Oh yeah, he is, big time," forever earning the nickname "Big Time" Cheney.
--After a 2004 campaign speech to the AFL-CIO in Chicago, Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry told a union member, "These guys [Republicans] are the most crooked, you know, lying group of people I've ever seen."
--In 2005, Perry endured a mutually aggravating interview with Ted Oberg, a reporter for Houston's KTRK-TV. Oberg closed by telling Perry, "Try as I may, Governor, I guess I can't win this one." Perry turned to a spokesman and mocked his interrogator with, "Try as I may, Governor, I'm not going to wait that long. Adios, [abbreviated form of a vile word pairing]."
--Last year, Carly Fiorina, the GOP nominee unsuccessfully challenging incumbent Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer in California, told an aide of her opponent's coiffure: "God? What is that hair? It's so yesterday."
--Also last year, as Obama prepared to crow about passage of his unsustainable, virtually incomprehensible health care reform package, Vice President Joe Biden told him: "This is a big ----ing deal."
So if you're a politician, beware of nearby mics that can make edgy comments a big -- um -- deal.
And if you're not in politics, beware of nearby ears.