Presidential Debate Bloopers, Gaffes and Quips

September 20, 2016

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Hey, we’re all human…and being under a microscope during a presidential debate is a lot of pressure. However, we just can’t help but laugh at some of these ridiculous presidential debate bloopers, gaffes and quips that actually happened.

Some of them have cost the candidate the election, because it’s these things people remember among all the rhetoric. A few of our favorites:

Rick Perry’s Brain Fart

Blame it on nerves or stupidity, but Rick Perry pulled a major ‘oops’ in the Republican presidential debate in 2011. When naming the 3 federal agencies he’d dissolve, (a rather bold move) he forgot one.

“The third agency of government I would do away with – the education, the uh, the commerce, and let’s see… the third one. I can’t. Sorry. Oops.”

Richard Nixon’s Sweat

The old expression “never let them see you sweat” lost Nixon the election. Bringing it back to the first televised debate in 1960 was a groundbreaker. This first TV debate, seen by 7 million Americans in 1960, made the difference for JFK, who won by a tight margin.

Nixon was dripping sweat throughout the entire debate.

Was he just nervous or did he just eat a spicy Indian dish? Neither – the Vice President at the time had just spent 12 days in the hospital for a knee operation and a staph infection. The poor fellow. But Kennedy’s composure, eloquence and just plain coolness, literally, got him elected.

Presidential Debate Bloopers

Gerald Ford’s Communism Gaffe

When debating Jimmy Carter, Ford said in no uncertain terms he would not allow Communism to spread. “There is no Soviet domination of Eastern Europe and there never will be under a Ford administration,” Ford said, at a time when every Eastern European country was securely locked behind the Iron Curtain.

This statement was made famous to be the “Blooper Heard Round the World”. The reaction of the moderator is priceless.

James Stockdale’s Existential Question

When introducing yourself, you want to make a good first impression. However, Admiral James Stockdale seemed to be a bit confused about who he was. When making his opening statement, he joked, “Who am I? Why am I here?” Although a great opening conversation starter for say, a meditation circle, the sentiment wasn’t exactly in the right place, nor at the right time. The rhetorical question became known as the “Stockdale Moment.”

Al Gore’s Sigh

Eye rolling, interrupting and looks of boredom are all common reactions amongst candidates during a debate. Al Gore decided to go with a sigh. Called “the sigh heard round the world”, Vice President Al Gore fought to soften his image as a buttoned-up politician…but a sigh probably wasn’t the way to go. In this 2000 debate, he sighed loudly and repeatedly in frustration as Gov. George W. Bush made points. How rude!

View the video here

Jan Brewer’s Brain Freeze

The Arizona governor had several ‘brain freezes’ as she later called it throughout the 2010 debate. When asked to make her opening remarks, she went silent. When asked about “beheadings” and illegal immigrants, she also stood silent. If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all?

Not for a presidential debate.


Lloyd Bentsen’s Comparison to JFK Flopper

Lloyd Bentsen’s debate opponent, Dan Quayle, often compared himself to Jack Kennedy: “I have as much experience in the Congress as Jack Kennedy did when he sought the presidency.”

“Senator, I served with Jack Kennedy, I knew Jack Kennedy, Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you’re no Jack Kennedy,” said Bentsen.


George W Bush Looks at His Watch

In 1992, George W seemed to look bored when an impassioned woman spoke about what mattered to her. He looked at his watch in a famous moment of this debate. He lost to Clinton.

See it here

On the Other Hand, Ronald Reagan’s Age Quip

In 1984, many worried that Ronald Reagan might have grown too old to function under the stress of the presidency. When it came up in the debate with Walter Mondale, Reagan quipped:

“I will not make age an issue of this campaign. I am not going to exploit, for political purposes, my opponent’s youth and inexperience.”

Regan’s sense of humor saved the day, and his personality gave him a landslide victory in the election.


Have another favorite presidential debate blooper we left out? Leave it in the comments below!

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