Top 10 Embarrassing Moments in Political History

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If you were to ask Miles and Harry, from the series Grass Roots, if politics was anything more than a giant board game being played in a global arena, they would probably agree with you. Even those who have little  or no power understand that politics is not that different from board games like Monopoly or Chess. Despite its nuanced nature, politics has a strict set of rules, just like any game of chess, and can be played in as many ways as there are players – yes I mean it metaphorically. And, most importantly, like all games, the integrity of its players is constantly changing and so are the people that are playing the game with them. Every move is closely watched, analyzed, and ultimately, judged.

Whether caught on paper, photograph or television, political blunders are a major part of history, finding their way into the hands of the people and often devastating the careers of the politicians. Here are 10 examples of political “oops” starting in the United States.


1. George H.W. Bush, Bad Sushi 

Let’s give this guy a break, he had a tough presidency and that probably explains why he forgot his manners and his etiquettes when visiting Japan with his wife Barbara.

But George H. W. Bush couldn’t really help himself – he was ill when he was eating dinner in Japan. During a visit to Tokyo in 1992, the former US President vomited on Japan’s  Prime Minister Kiichi Miyazawa before slumping into an comatose state. Thanks to Barbara Bush’s attentiveness and table-hopping Secret Service agents, Papa Bush recovered quickly.

“The President is human,” said Marlin Fitzwater, a spokesperson for the Whitehouse. “He gets sick.” Even so, the dinner’s awkward and revolting amusement couldn’t be erased. It’s never polite to throw up on your hosts, no matter how ill you are.

But that’s not the only reason why Papa Bush made it to number one this Top 10 List.

During the 1988 presidential campaign, George H W Bush made an iniquitous pledge not to raise taxes, which he failed to keep after being elected.

And I’m the one who will not raise taxes. My opponent now says he’ll raise them as a last resort, or a third resort. But when a politician talks like that, you know that’s one resort he’ll be checking into. My opponent, my opponent won’t rule out raising taxes. But I will. And the Congress will push me to raise taxes and I’ll say no. And they’ll push, and I’ll say no, and they’ll push again, and I’ll say, to them, ‘Read my lips: no new taxes.’
– George H. W. Bush, at the 1988 Republican National Convention

Some political scientists argue it helped Bush win the election. Then in 1990, the recession began and things took the turn for the worst. Bush initially resisted pressure from the Democrat-controlled Congress, but eventually had to raise taxes and go back on his word.  Oops…

The issue was initially swept away by the events of the Gulf War, but returned to haunt Bush during the 1992 election. During a primary challenge, conservative candidate Pat Buchanan constantly reminded voters of the broken promise that Bush made. Bush won the nomination fairly easily, but in the General Election, Bill Clinton used to portray Bush as untrustworthy. Clinton won the election in a sweeping victory.

Republican politicians and pundits later said that Bush would have easily be reelected if he’d stuck to his word. On the other hand, the Democrats believed that Bush did the correct thing in raising taxes, and the mistake was making the promise in the first place.


2. Mitt Romney, Binders Full of Women

The second presidential debate – between President Obama and Mitt Romney was what scholars call a bizarre orgy of testosterone, lies, and silly jokes, with moderator Candy Crowley presiding over it. At one point, between all the over talking and Obama’s left-field mention of “gangbangers,” we believed that we were watching Steve James’s documentary, The Interrupters all over again.

But women’s issues, almost entirely absent from round one, finally came to the front burner in this debate. In the second question of the night, “Katherine Fenton, who was an undecided voter, asked Obama: “In what new ways do you intend to rectify the inequalities in the workplace, specifically regarding females making only 72 percent of what their male counterparts earn?”

Binders full of women.

For Romney, who was consistently down in the polls, it was his chance to show 50.8 percent of the country that he cared for equal rights and gender equity. He proved the country wrong!

The former governor of Massachusetts said he “learned a great deal” about gender pay inequality while building his cabinet.

“And I—and I went to my staff, and I said, ‘How come all the people for these jobs are—are all men.’ They said: ‘Well, these are the people that have the qualifications.’ And I said: ‘Well, gosh, can’t we—can’t we find some—some women that are also qualified?’ And—and so we—we took a concerted effort to go out and find women who had backgrounds that could be qualified to become members of our cabinet. I went to a number of women’s groups and said: ‘Can you help us find folks,’ and they brought us whole binders full of women.”

It was even worse for Romney because arguably the debate’s most memorable line was his comment – which was reportedly a lie.

On the same night as the debate took place, David S. Bernstein of the Boston Phoenix revealed that a bipartisan women’s group called MassGAP had prepared a binder with the resumes of qualified female candidates for cabinet positions in 2002 before the election had begun.

Anecdote on Female Employees.

Romney dug a deeper hole when it came to women’s issues.  He later chose to share an anecdote about one of his female employees and that comment did not sit well with women across the United States.

Ohio Protest.

On October 17th, Tiffany Ricci, a union organizer for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, scheduled a small protest in front of the Ohio Republican party’s headquarters where she and four other people demonstrated against Romney’s comment, while dressed in binder costumes. The photos were posted on Talking Points Memo before being re-shared on Liberty News Network and Twichy amongst others.

Elections 2012.

As counting concluded, the Republican candidate was on course to finish with a smaller total than his predecessor, after running against an unpopular president in the midst of a jobs crisis and sluggish economic recovery.

His political strategists were sharply criticized for failing to unseat Barack Obama even with a $1 billion (£626 million) torrent of cash released by new political finance laws, which had terrified Democrats.

Several Romney backers were dismayed that his advisers allowed Mr Obama to spend the summer attacking the Republican as a heartless plutocrat without striking back with their own positive portrayal.

Donald Trump, a Romney donor, criticized one of the highest-spending conservative “Super PACs”, which used new laws allowing independent groups to spend unlimited cash supporting Mr Romney.


3. Bill Clinton Impeached (1998)

Bill Clinton was impeached in 1998. He became the 2nd President in American history to be impeached after he lied under oath about his affair with Monica Lewinsky and many other women (for that matter)

Paula Jones.

The impeachment of President Clinton originated in May of 1994 with Paula Jones’ , a former Arkansas state employee,  sexual harassment lawsuit.   In her suit, Jones alleged that on May 8, 1991, while she helped to staff a state-sponsored management conference at the Excelsior Hotel in Little Rock, a state trooper and member of Governor Clinton’s security detail, Danny Ferguson, approached her and told her that the Governor would like to meet her in his suite.  Jones, saw this as an opportunity to advance in her career and took the elevator to Clinton’s room – big mistake.  There, she alleged that Clinton made a series of  aggressive moves, culminating in him pulling down his pants and exposing an erection–and then asking Jones to give him a  blow job – “kiss it”.  Jones claimed that she stood up and told the Governor, “I’m not that kind of girl.” As she left, Clinton stopped her by the door and said, “You’re a smart girl, let’s keep this between ourselves.”  There is strong reason to believe that Jones was lying in story, as Clinton’s security guard reported that Jones seemed pleased when she left the hotel room–and that anything that happened inside appeared to be consensual.

Lawyers for Presidential Clinton argued that the Jones suit would distract him from the all-important job of his office and should not be allowed to go forward while he occupied the White House.  Clinton’s immunity eventually reached the United States Supreme Court.  The Court ruled unanimously against the President and allowed discovery in the case to proceed.  As Federal Appeals Court Judge Richard A. Posner noted in An Affair of State: The Investigation, Impeachment, and Trial of President Clinton, the Court’s “inept,” and “backward-looking” decision in Clinton v Jones, and an earlier decision by the Court upholding the constitutionality of the act authorizing the appointment of independent counsels,  had major consequences.

Monica Lewinsky.

Clinton’s affair with Monica Lewinsky was one that was devoid of significance to anyone except Lewinsky and would have remained a secret from the public, if it were not for Linda Tripp.  The public did not gain much from finding out the truth.  There would have been no impeachment inquiry, no impeachment, no concerns about the motives behind the President’s military actions against terrorists and rogue states in the summer and fall of 1998, no spectacle of the United States Senate play-acting at adjudication.  The Supreme Court’s decisions created a situation that led the President and his defenders into a series of cornered-rat behavior and produced a constitutional storm that caused American politics one embitterment after another… Not to mention that it weakened the role of  the President,  distracted the government from doing its job, and undermined the “rule of law.

How did Monica meet Bill?

Monica Lewinsky came to Washington in July 1995 to work as a White House intern.  In her first few months on the job, the aggressive and sexually attractive Lewinsky met and flirted with the President, but no opportunities for close personal contact arose,  or at least none that we know of.  In November 1995, however, Lewinsky was assigned to the West Wing and she soon found herself alone with the President of the United States.  He asked if he could kiss Lewinsky and she consented without hesitation,  Later that evening, the two would have the first of what eventually would accumulate to ten sexual encounters over a 16 month period.  After eight of the encounters had taken place, in April 1996, Clinton’s deputy chief of staff–most likely aware of the threat the young intern posed–reassigned Lewinsky to the a position in the Department of Defense. The following month Clinton told a disappointed Lewinsky he was ending the relationship, but he revived it again in early 1997.

The encounters followed a predictable pattern.  Generally they occurred on weekend mornings in and around the Oval Office, when few people except Clinton’s personal secretary, Betty Currie, would be around the West Wing.  Although many private meetings between the two involved no sexual activity, when they did they generally included Lewinsky fellating the President and the President fondling her breasts and genitalia.  On three occasions, Lewinsky performed oral sex while the President spoke on the phone.  Lewinsky told Clinton she would like to have vaginal intercourse with him, but he resisted.  He also terminated the oral sex sessions before ejaculation until their last two encounters.

When Clinton again told Lewinsky in May 1997 that their sexual relationship was over, she enlisted the President’s assistance in getting employment. Lewinsky received a job offer from U. N. Ambassador Bill Richardson several months later, but she turned it down, preferring to find employment in the private sector.  Clinton golfing buddy and power broker Vernon Jordan, acting at what he presumed to be the President’s request through Betty Currie, met with Lewinsky to discuss employment possibilities in November 1997.

Less than two weeks after Lewinsky’s name appeared on the Jones deposition list, Clinton told her the news.  He advised her that filing an affidavit might avoid the necessity of a deposition (but only, he need hardly have said, if she denied a sexual relationship), and he reminded her of their “cover story” for her frequent trips to Oval Office–that she was just delivering documents.  Two days after discussing the matter with Clinton, Lewinsky received a subpoena to appear for a deposition in January 1998.  She called Vernon Jordan, who again met with her and referred her to an attorney, who proceeded to draft an affidavit that reflected her denial of any sexual involvement with the President.

Just after Christmas, Lewinsky met up with Clinton again, raising her concern that the subpoena had requested that she bring to the deposition any gifts–and yes there were many -that she had received from him.  Although Clinton apparently informed Lewinsky that she was obligated to give the lawyers for Jones any gifts in her possession, a call came later that day from Currie, indicating that she understood Lewinsky had some items she’d like to give her for safekeeping.  Currie, in her testimony, countered Lewinsky’s version of events and claimed that the call about the presents came from Lewinsky, not her.  Currie drove to Lewinsky’s home and carted away a box of Clinton gifts and put them under her bed.

In early January 1998, Lewinsky signed an affidavit, claiming her relationship with the Clinton was non-sexual in any way.  The day after Lewinsky showed the affidavit to Vernon Jordan, Jordan made a call to Ronald Perelman, a member of the Board of Directors of Revlon, encouraging him to hire Lewinsky. The job offer from Revlon came through just two days after the affidavit was signed.

The American public first learned of allegations of a Clinton affair with Lewinsky on January 21, 1998.  The President stuck with his “deny-it-all” strategy and at one point wagged his finger in a televised interview and insisted “I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky.”  Several of Clinton’s aides (including Sidney Blumenthal) were assured by the President that his relationship with Lewinsky was non-sexual and even denounced Starr’s investigations as “a puritanical witch hunt”.

The denials from the White House continued into summer, when the President became aware of that his semen stain remained on the blue dress that Monica Lewinsky wore into the Oval Office and that Lewinsky had signed an immunity agreement with the Office of Independent Counsel.  In the meantime, Starr’s office had interviewed Secret Service agents, friends of Lewinsky, examined hundreds of emails and White House telephone records and listened to dozens of hours of taped conversations between Tripp and Lewinsky.

On August 17, 1998, the President faced a federal grand jury that was called to consider whether he committed perjury or obstructed justice, in the Paula Jones case.  Clinton maintained that while he was being as unhelpful as possible to Jones’s lawyers in his earlier deposition, he had not actually lied.  He insisted on his right to adopt a very narrow (and very odd) definition of “alone,” and stated that oral sex was not, in his opinion, “sexual relations” within the meaning of that term as adopted in the Jones case.  He conceded that fondling Lewinsky would be “sexual relations” and so, implicitly, denied the former intern’s allegation that he had fondled her breast and genitalia on several occasions.  He explained his discussion with Currie as an innocent attempt to check his recollection of facts against hers, and denied that Vernon Jordan’s job hunting efforts were in any way tied to Lewinsky’s decision to file an affidavit falsely denying a sexual relationship with the President.  The night, when his exhausting deposition was over, Clinton appeared on national television from the Map Room of the White House and admitted that  he did have a relationship with Miss Lewinsky that was not appropriate”–and to lash out at Kenneth Starr for invading his privady.  “It is time to stop the pursuit of personal destruction,” the President said, “and get on with our national life.”

Linda Tripp.

The source of the information that put Monica Lewinsky’s name on the depositio was Linda Tripp.  Tripp had served in the Bush White House, and was held over in her job when Clinton became president in 1993.  Tripp hated Clinton with a passion.  In 1996, when she considered how to expose what she considered to be West Wing scandals, she contacted a conservative literary agent and also Clinton-hater, Lucianne Goldberg. Goldberg urged Tripp to write an expose, but at that time Tripp’s concern with keeping her job caused her to reject the suggestion.

Tripp’s name came to public attention in August 1997 when it appeared in a Newsweek article where she recalled running into a White House volunteer, Kathleen Willey, shortly after Willey had been kissed and fondled by Clinton in his private office.  Willey, according to Tripp, was “happy and joyful” and the incident was “not a case of sexual harassment.”  Paula Jones’s lawyers, of course, took note of Tripp’s account–and undoubtedly determined at that time to add Tripp to their list of potential witnesses.

Months before the Willey story broke, however, Tripp learned from her then-friend, Monica Lewinsky, that she was having an affair with Clinton as well. Tripp told the reporter for Newsweek, Michael Isikoff, when he approached her to ask about Willey’s encounter with Clinton that the better story involved a White House intern, who she left unnamed.  Tripp, partly for her own self-defense and also because of a desire to damage the President’s reputation, began secretly taping her own conversations with Lewinsky with a $100 recorder she picked up from a nearby Radio Shack, which violated Maryland state laws.

During one of her taped conversations with Lewinsky in November 1997, Tripp learned that her friend had in her closet a blue dress  that still bore the semen stain from a sexual encounter with the President some nine months earlier.  Tripp called Michael Isikoff with the remarkable news, and urged that the reporter have the dress DNA tested.  Isikoff pointed out an obvious problem: even if Newsweek could somehow obtain the dress, the test would be meaningless without a sample of Clinton’s DNA–and how could the magazine get that?  Tripp, however, continued to have a lead role in preserving the semen evidence, urging Lewinsky not to have the dress dry cleaned–as she had planned–for a family occasion because it might be useful for her own “protection” and, besides, the dress made her look “really fat.”

What a good friend Tripp was! Not…Probably a high school longer.

Gennifer Flowers

But let’s not forget who first alleged to have an affair Clinton- Gennifer Flowers. Flowers came forward during Bill Clinton’s 1992 Presidential election campaign, alleging that she had had a 12-year relationship with him.  Flowers at first denied that she had an affair with Clinton, but later switched around her story.

After Bill Clinton denied having a relationship with Flowers on 60 Minutes, she held a press conference in which she played tape recordings she had secretly made of phone calls with Clinton. Clinton subsequently apologized publicly to Mario Cuomo for remarks he made about the then-Governor of New York on the tapes Gennifer exposed him with. During the press conference Flowers was famously asked  if she was planning to sleep with any other candidates before the election. However, news reports at the time speculated that the taped phone conversations between Flowers and Clinton could have been fixed.

In December 1996, Gennifer Flowers talked about her sexual relationship with Bill Clinton on The Richard Bey Show. The show was canceled the following day. Richard Bey later attributed a direct connection between the two consecutive events.

In his presidential deposition in January 1998, while denying Kathleen Willey’s sexual accusations against him, Bill Clinton admitted that he did lie on 60 minute and in fact had a sexual encounter with Flowers.  In 1998, Flowers also admitted that she had made a total net profit of $500,000 by publicizing her alleged affair with Clinton to Penthouse, Star Magazine and other news sources. In his 2004 autobiography My Life, Clinton acknowledged testifying under oath that he had an encounter with Flowers. He stated it was only on one occasion in 1977.

All I can say – poor Hilary!


Historic Significance of Impeach.

The impeachment of Bill Clinton was less popular than that of his Civil War predecessor, Andrew Jackson,  because of the nature of the alleged crimes. Clinton’s impeachment was rife with small, senseless details about his private life, including his relations with women other than his wife. The public, rightly or wrongly, did not generally regard his alleged crimes as being very serious. In Andrew Johnson’s case, there was no sexual scandal attached to the charges leveled at him. Johnson was accused of a dry, technical crime that most people outside of Congress didn’t even understand well. What they did know was that they disapproved of his policies. The Northern public (the only public that counted in some sense, since Southern states had not yet been re-admitted to the Union) cared about Johnson’s obstruction of Reconstruction plans designed by the Radical Republicans, who were popular in the North at this time.

The Senate’s Role in Impeachment.

Both Bill Clinton and Andrew Johnson had trials in the Senate, as provided for by the U.S. Constitution. To be removed from office, a two-thirds “guilty” vote in the Senate would be required. Andrew Johnson escaped this fate by a single vote, and so goes down in history as the U.S. president who has come closest to being forcibly removed from office. (For those thinking about Nixon at this point, keep in mind that he resigned the presidency. He was neither impeached nor removed.)

In the impeachment of Bill Clinton, the vote count was not nearly so close. 67 guilty votes were required to remove him from office; for the worst of the charges he received only 55. On another count the vote was 50 to 50, meaning that there wasn’t even a majority for conviction.


4. Larry Craig, Soliciting Hooker in Men’s Room

Senator Larry Craig (R-estroom) gave new meaning to the word caucus when he was caught playing around in an airport men’s room with a hooker.” Needless to say, the comedians had a field day mocking Craig, or as David Letterman called him, “The Restroom Don Juan.” Craig announced his resignation, then reversed his decision after “talking it over with guy in stall number 3” (Conan O’Brien), angering his Republican colleagues, some of whom “stopped having sex with him” (Jimmy Kimmel). The staunchly anti-gay lawmaker denied being a hypocrite, saying, “Hey, I wasn’t trying to marry the cop in the bathroom” (Conan). Later, he was inducted into the Idaho Hall of Fame—not the entire hall, “just the men’s room” (Jay Leno).


5. George W. Bush, Shoe Incident

An Iraqi journalist was arrested by security guards after he called Mr Bush “a dog” and threw his footwear, narrowly missing the president at a conference in Afghanistan.

The US president was on tour in Afghanistan inspecting troops. Earlier in the day, President Bush and Iraqi PM Nouri Maliki signed the new security agreement between their countries. The pact called for US troops to leave Iraq in 2011 – eight years after the 2003 invasion that has in part defined the Bush presidency.


If you want the facts, it’s a size 10 shoe that this journalist threw  at US President George W Bush.

It all happened so fast. Iraqi television journalist Muntadar al-Zaidi  just stood up and shouted “this is a goodbye kiss from the Iraqi people, dog,” before hurling a shoe at President Bush.

Showing the soles of shoes to someone is a sign of contempt in Arab culture. As Zaidi was evacuated, he mutter: “This is for the widows and orphans and all those killed in Iraq.”


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