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Helpful Hints for Clinton, Obama, Brownback, and McCain*

On Saturday, January 20, Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY) announced her intention to run for president in 2008, joining Senators Barack Obama (D-IL), Sam Brownback (R-KS), and a growing list of other contenders.

As their words, actions, and personal styles come fully into the media spotlight, we invite all of them to ponder the foibles of past presidents and presidential candidates. See below (and after the jump) for our bipartisan editors’ picks of the most embarrassing moments for U.S. presidents and presidential candidates in recent decades. And feel free to add your favorites in the comments!

Most Embarrassing Presidential (and Presidential Candidate) Moments
Of the Last 35 Years

10. Jimmy Carter loudly bungles the name of a former Democratic vice president and icon during a dramatic part of his acceptance speech for the presidential nomination at the 1980 Democratic National Convention: "And we're the party of a great leader of compassion—Lyndon Baines Johnson, and the party of a great man who should have been president, who would have been one of the greatest presidents in history—Hubert Horatio Hornblower—Humphrey." (Aug. 14, 1980)

Ford-Brezhnev.jpg9. In the second presidential campaign debate between incumbent Pres. Gerald Ford and his Democratic rival, Georgia Gov. Jimmy Carter, Ford makes a misstatement widely seen as ridiculous when he declares, " ... there is no Soviet domination of Eastern Europe and there never will be under a Ford administration." (Oct. 6, 1976)

8. Presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry (D, MA) tries to defend himself against charges that by failing to vote in favor of funds for the Iraq War he was betraying American troops, but ends up fueling the perception that he has taken inconsistent positions on issues: "I actually did vote for the $87 billion, before I voted against it." (Mar. 16, 2004)

7. Pres. Richard Nixon, while campaigning to mute his Watergate and credibility problems, defends his personal finances at a nationally televised Q&A session with a convention of Associated Press managing editors: "And in all of my years of public life, I have never obstructed justice ... people have got to know whether or not their President is a crook. Well, I am not a crook. I have earned everything I have got." (Nov. 17, 1973)

6. During a microphone check, unaware that he is being recorded, Pres. Ronald Reagan jokes, "My fellow Americans, I'm pleased to tell you today that I've signed legislation that will outlaw Russia forever. We begin bombing in five minutes." (Aug. 11, 1984)

bush-merkel.jpg5. Pres. George W. Bush gives a surprise shoulder massage to a shocked German Chancellor Angela Merkel, at a conference meeting during a G-8 Summit in St. Petersburg, Russia. (July 2006)

4. After finishing third in the 2004 Iowa caucus, with 18%, Democratic presidential candidate Gov. Howard Dean (VT) exults to supporters, "Not only are we going to New Hampshire, ... we’re going to South Carolina and Oklahoma and Arizona and North Dakota and New Mexico, and we’re going to California and Texas and New York ... And then we're going to Washington, DC, to take back the White House! Yeaaaaagggggh!!!" The televised speech and loud scream strike many viewers as peculiar and unpresidential. (Jan. 19, 2004)

dukakis_2.gif3. Presidential candidate Gov. Michael Dukakis (D, MA) visits a General Dynamics plant in Michigan for a photo opportunity riding an M1-A1 Abrams tank and clutching a mounted machine gun. Filmed wearing a helmet that seems too large for his head, Dukakis looks awkward, out of place, and decidedly uncomfortable. (Sept. 13, 1988)

2. Pres. Bill Clinton quibbles about the meaning of the word "is," during inquiries into his relationship with Monica Lewinsky: "It depends on what the meaning of the word 'is' is. If the—if he—if 'is' means is and never has been that is not—that is one thing ... Now, if someone had asked me on that day, are you having any kind of sexual relations with Ms. Lewinsky, that is, asked me a question in the present tense, I would have said no. And it would have been completely true." (Grand jury testimony given Aug. 17, 1998)

1. Pres. George H. W. Bush, ill with the flu, vomits on the prime minister of Japan, Kiichi Miyazawa, then faints, during a state dinner in Tokyo. (Jan. 8, 1992)

* ...and, of course, for Edwards, Cox, Kucinich, Giuliani, and anyone else who might be contemplating a 2008 run.

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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on January 22, 2007 3:30 PM.

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