Debates are often as much about the lowlights as they are about the highlights. With this year's presidential and vice presidential debates getting ready to gear up, we look back at some of the greatest debate bloopers, from Richard Nixon to Barack Obama.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry wins the award for arguably the worst stumble in the 52-year history of presidential debates, by declaring, “Oops,” and mangling his own platform in a Republican primary debate last year. Unquestionably, he was the first candidate to ever utter the word “Oops.” But almost as unquestionably, his failure to remember the name of the third federal department he pledged to eliminate – Energy – was the worst self-inflicted wound since the first modern-era debate between Vice President Richard Nixon and Sen. John Kennedy on Sept. 26, 1960.(AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
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Other candidates have blundered in ways ranging from bad makeup (Nixon against Kennedy on Sept. 26, 1960), loud sighing (Al Gore against George W. Bush on Oct. 11, 2000), to looking at a watch (George H.W. Bush against Bill Clinton and Ross Perot on Oct. 15, 1992).(AP Photo/File)
Democratic nominee Michael Dukakis blundered by failing to show what most viewers considered appropriate passion when the first question in his Oct. 13, 1988, debate with George H.W. Bush involved his reaction to a scenario in which “Kitty Dukakis were raped and murdered.” An emotionless Dukakis responded calmly with talk of studies showing the death penalty is no deterrent to violent crime.(AP Photo/Reed Saxon)
President Gerald Ford in his battle with Jimmy Carter had closed the gap when the two met in San Francisco for their Oct. 6, 1976, debate. But all that momentum ended in the time it took The New York Times’s Max Frankel to ask the president about growing Soviet influence in Europe. Ford responded that this dominance “just isn’t true,” adding, “There is no Soviet domination of Eastern Europe and there never will be under a Ford administration.” He never recovered.(AP Photo)
Barack Obama alienated many voters – particularly women – when he seemed to be condescending to Hillary Rodham Clinton on Jan. 5, 2008. When Clinton was responding to a question about whether she was as personally appealing as Obama, he turned to her and said, “You’re likable enough.” Days later, she scored a major upset and beat him in the New Hampshire primary.(AP Photo/Steven Senne)
In this Oct. 15, 1992, file photo President George H.W. Bush looks at his watch during the 1992 presidential campaign debate with other candidates, Independent Ross Perot, top, and Democrat Bill Clinton, not shown, at the University of Richmond, Va. They spend hours mastering policy. Learning to lean on the podium just so. Perfecting the best way to label their opponents as liars without whining. But presidential candidates and their running mates often find that campaign debates turn on unplanned zingers, gaffes or gestures that speak volumes. Debate wins and losses often are scored based on the overall impressions that candidates leave with voters. In the history books, though, small debate moments often end up telling the broader story.
(AP Photo/Ron Edmonds, File)
Perhaps the self-inflicted wound that came closest to Perry’s stumble was retired Adm. James Stockdale’s performance in the vice-presidential debate on Oct. 13, 1992. Stockdale was a widely admired hero of the Vietnam War but was a political novice when he was unexpectedly tapped by Ross Perot to be his running mate. Then Perot forgot to inform Stockdale that he had accepted an invitation for Stockdale to participate in the debate. Stockdale had only 12 days to prepare to go against veteran politicians Al Gore and Dan Quayle. Stockdale’s opening words were “Who am I? Why am I here?” He looked simply confused and gave comedians and Saturday Night Live ample material to lampoon him.(AP Photo/Greg Gibson)