Everyone makes mistakes. But when you’re vying for the highest office in the land (or after you’re already in office) you should try that much harder not to look foolish. The following list captures some of the most embarrassing moments in the careers of presidents and would-be presidents alike.
10Sarah Palin’s Word Mush
Let’s start with a former vice-presidential hopeful. During her time campaigning Palin managed to make numerous verbal slip-ups, either misusing or making up words entirely. The one she may be most famous for is “refudiate,” seemingly using it in place of refute. She tried to explain it away as a typo (it first caught attention when she used it on Twitter), but footage of her saying the word previously was also found.
9Rick Perry Doesn’t Understand Clocks
During his campaign for the 2016 nomination Rick Perry, when discussing his past political missteps, said “A broken clock is right once a day,” managing to screw up both a long-used logical fallacy and the cyclical nature of a twenty-four hour day.
8Howard Dean, Super Excited
Despite how innocent it is, Howard Dean will never live down his impassioned “yeahhhhh!” after coming in third at the Iowa Caucuses in 2004. The apparent battle cry was fodder for comedians, talk shows, and political opponents for years after the loss.
President Bush’s infamous “Mission Accomplished” speech is a screw-up on two levels. First, it seemed to imply that the war in Iraq was over. Second, the speech had been edited previously to remove any language that suggested the war was definitively over yet the banner in the background negated this.
6Presidents and Prisoners
As part of her 2016 campaign Hillary Clinton, when explaining how she’d help former criminals find employment, said she would make it so “former presidents won’t have to declare their criminal history.” She managed to write her own joke entirely on accident.
5Dukakis in a Tank
’88 Democratic nominee Michael Dukakis staged a photo-op of himself riding in a tank dressed as a soldier. The idea was to make him look more like a leader. However, Republicans were quick to pounce on the ad, releasing their own version of the footage complete with narration listing off all the times Dukakis opposed defense spending and military action. It destroyed his campaign.
4Binders Full of Women
During his 2012 campaign, Mitt Romney was asked how he would address the gender pay gap. He responded by saying that he planned to fill his presidential cabinet with women. He went on to say that he asked several women’s groups for their suggestions and was handed “whole binders full of women.” Social media adapted the phrase into a meme.
3Ford Doesn’t Believe in Communists
While debating Jimmy Carter, President Gerald Ford stated that “There is no Soviet domination of Eastern Europe.” In 1976. When the moderator asked him to clarify the statement Ford refused to back down, listing three nations that weren’t under Communist Rule instead.
2Goldwater Doesn’t Get Nuked
Barry Goldwater was arguably one of the worst presidential candidates ever. In 1964 Lyndon Johnson used Goldwater’s pro-war stance against him using nothing but Goldwater’s own words. He described the atomic bomb as “just another weapon.” The Johnson campaign took the quote and played it over footage of an explosion.
1Too Many Waynes
Before her campaign even began Republican hopeful Michelle Bachmann shot herself in the foot by saying that, like John Wayne, she was from Waterloo, Iowa. However, while actor John Wayne is indeed from Iowa he isn’t from Waterloo. But serial killer John Wayne Gacy was. How do you screw that up?