Top 10 Embarrassing Moments in Political History

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.”


6. George W. Bush chokes on pretzel

President Bush fainted for a brief time in 2002 while eating a pretzel and watching a professional football game on television. Bush’s physician, Air Force Col. Richard Tubb, said the president blacked out and fell to the floor from a couch but appeared to have recovered quickly. Bush underwent a physical examination and then departed to the Midwest on a previously scheduled trip.

Can you imagine the headlines? President Bush Dead at 66! Cause of Death – Pretzel.


7.  Japanese Internment Camps (1942)

Japanese interrnment

Democrat Franklin D. Roosevelt issued an executive order that led to more than 100,000 Japanese Americans being put into “bleak, remote camps surrounded by barbed wire and armed guards.”

Background Information.

On December 7, 1941, Japan bombed Pearl Harbor. The next day, the United States and Britain declared on Japan. Two months later, on February 19, 1942, the lives of thousands of Japanese Americans were dramatically changed when President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed  the Executive Order 9066. This order led to the assembly, evacuation and relocation of nearly 122,000 men, women, and children of Japanese ancestry on the west coast of the United States — but not in Hawaii, despite the bombing of Pearl Harbor being in Hawaii.

Racism and Prejudice

Japanese Americans in Hawaii were never incarcerated because they made up approximately 40% of the population and a large portion of the workforce in the state. The fact they were not incarcerated suggests that the removal of Japanese Americans on the west coast was racially motivated rather than a military necessity and strategy. Agricultural interest groups in western states, and many local politicians, had long been against Japanese Americans, and used the attack on Pearl Harbor to step up calls for their removal.

The United States was fighting the war on three fronts — Japan, Germany, and Italy — compared to the number of Japanese Americans, a relatively small number of Germans and Italians were relocated in the United States. But although Executive Order 9066 was written in vague terms that did not any specific  ethnicity, it was used for the mass incarceration of Japanese Americans. The government claimed that incarceration was for military reason and, ironically, to “protect” Japanese Americans from racist retribution they might face as a result of Pearl Harbor. (These reasons were later proved false by the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians in the 1980s.)

In fact, Japanese Americans and other Asian Americans had long been characterized as a foreign “Yellow Peril” that was a security threat to the United States. Prejudice against Japanese Americans, including laws preventing them from owning land, existed long before World War II. Even though Japanese Americans largely considered themselves loyal and even patriotic Americans, suspicions about their loyalties were pervasive. Before Pearl Harbor was bombed, President Roosevelt secretly commissioned Curtis Munson, a businessman, to assess the possibility that Japanese Americans would pose a threat to US security. Munson’s report found (as cited in Ronald Takaki,Strangers from a Distant Shore, page 386) that “There will be no armed uprising of Japanese” in the United States. “For the most part,” the report says, “the local Japanese are loyal to the United States or, at worst, hope that by remaining quiet they can avoid concentration camps or irresponsible mobs.”

Despite these findings, however, thousands of Japanese American families in California, Oregon, and Washington were transferred to government camps. The government — and popular sentiment — understood that German Americans were not necessarily Nazi sympathizers and could distinguish Italian Americans from Mussolini’s Fascist regime, but they had a more difficult time distinguishing between Japanese Americans and Imperial Japan.

The majority of those interned — nearly 70%— were American citizens. Many of the rest were long-time US residents who had lived in this country for over 20 years. By and large, most Japanese Americans, particularly the Nisei (the first generation born in the United States), were loyal Americans.


8. Bull Connor Uses Fire Hoses And Attack Dogs Used On Children (1963)

Birmingham, Alabama’s notorious Commissioner of Public Safety, Democrat Bull Connor, used attack dogs and fire hoses on children and teenagers marching for civil rights. Ultimately, thousands of them would also be arrested.


9. Escalation In Vietnam (1964)

Vietnam War

Lyndon Johnson dramatically escalated our troops’ presence in Vietnam while he simultaneously put political restrictions in place that made the war an unwinnable. As a result, 58,000 Americans died in a war that ultimately achieved none of its aims.


War dominated 30 years of Vietnam’s 20th century history. The struggle that began with communists fighting French colonial power in the 1940s did not end until they seized Saigon and control of the entire country in 1975.

The period that Americans refer to as the “Vietnam War” – and the Vietnamese call the “American War” – was the US military intervention from 1954  to 1973.

Communist forces based in the north and led by the nationalist leader Ho Chi Minh defeated the French in 1954.

Accords were negotiated and split the country into communist north and pro-American south, split by a demilitarised zone (DMZ).

Country-wide elections to decide a permanent solution were promised but never took place and within five years the communists had launched a guerrilla war on the south.

Hundreds of thousands of US soldiers were sent to help fight the communists in a costly and ultimately unsuccessful war which brought domestic civil unrest and international embarrassment.

The US was driven by Cold War concerns about the spread of communism, particularly “domino theory” – the idea that if one Asian nation fell to the leftist ideology, others would quickly follow.

The Vietnam War was long and bloody. The Hanoi government estimates that in 21 years of fighting, four million civilians were killed across North and South Vietnam, and 1.1 million communist fighters died in battle.


10.  The Bay of Pigs (1961)

In early 1961 President John F. Kennedy concluded that Fidel Castro was a Soviet client working to subvert Latin America. After much debate in his administration Kennedy authorized a clandestine invasion of Cuba by a brigade of Cuban exiles. The brigade hit the beach at the Bay of Pigs on April 17, 1961, but the operation collapsed in spectacular failure within 2 days. Kennedy took public responsibility for the mistakes made, but remained determined to rid Cuba of Castro.

White House Meeting Regarding Cuban Missile Crises

In  1961, Kennedy approved Operation Mongoose, a secret plan to stimulate a rebellion in Cuba that United State support. While the Kennedy administration planned Operation Mongoose, Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev secretly transferred medium-range nuclear missiles to Cuba and pointed them at the United States, U.S intelligence picked up evidence of a general Soviet arms build-up during routine surveillance flights and on September 4, 1962, Kennedy issued a public statement warning the Soviets against the introduction of offensive weapons into Cuba. A U-2 flight on October 14 provided the first proofs of Soviet medium-range ballistic missiles in Cuba. Kennedy called together his political advisers to try to resolve the most dangerous U.S.-Soviet confrontation of the cold war. Some of the close advisers argued for an air strike to take out the missiles and destroy the Cuban air force followed by a U.S. invasion of Cuba; others favored warnings to Cuba and the Soviet Union. The President decided upon a middle course. On October 22 Kennedy ordered a naval quarantine of Cuba. He sent a letter to Khrushchev calling upon him to remove the missiles, thus initiating an exchange of correspondence between the two leaders that continued throughout the crisis.

In Late October of that year, Soviet vessels approached the quarantine line but turned back; 3 days later, the Cubans shot down a U.S. reconnaissance plane in the famous U2 incident. After these near crisis points, Kennedy reacted on October 27 to the first of 2 letters sent by Khrushchev proposing ways to settle the crisis. Kennedy accepted the Soviet offer to withdraw the missiles from Cuba in return for an end to the quarantine and a U.S. pledge not to attack Cuba. The same day Attorney General Robert Kennedy told Soviet Ambassador that if the Soviet Union did not remove the missiles the United States would do it for them. Robert Kennedy also offered an assurance that Khrushchev needed: several months after the missiles were removed from Cuba, the United States would similarly remove its missiles from Turkey. On the basis of those understandings, the Soviet Union agreed on October 28 to remove its missiles from Cuba. The quarantine and the crisis lingered was not lifted until the Soviet missiles was verified at sea on November 20, and the Soviet Union agreed to remove the medium-range Il-28 bombers it had also introduced into Cuba. Exactly how close the United States and the Soviet Union came to nuclear war over Cuba remains one of the most keenly discussed issues of the Cold War.

The Bay of Pigs disaster was a complete embarrassment for JFK, and arguably, the lowest point in his political career. Kennedy’s support of the Bay of Pigs invasion ran contrary to the idealistic rhetoric of his campaign, and his middle-of-the-road approach disappointed politicians on both ends of the political spectrum. More than anything, Kennedy  felt that the bungled mission in Cuba confirmed the belief—held by his detractors—that he was too young and not experienced enough to handle complex foreign policy issues. Throughout the remainder of his presidency, Jack was haunted by the mistakes made in the Bay of Pigs errors.

Strangely enough, however, Kennedy continued to demonstrate the similar types of political animosity in future Cold War conflicts. In Laos, he refused to send in American troops, instead supporting a cease-fire which failed to squash the Communist insurgency. In Vietnam, he was also reluctant to fully commit U.S. troops, but refused to stay out of the situation entirely. As with the Bay of Pigs, Kennedy took the middle road, sending a contingent of military advisers to the region and hoping that this minimalist approach would yield positive results. Unfortunately, JFK’s indecisiveness only made things worse; the deployment of American military advisers in Vietnam entangled the United States in a deadly conflict that would ultimately last for more than a decade. When Lyndon B. Johnson succeeded Kennedy as president, he inherited a seemingly no-win situation in Vietnam.




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One Response

  1. Carolee Reyers

    Anyone noticed that the rating values changed from the previous 2005-2007 edition of the same information. A lot of the state had a higher obesity rate this time around, but shows up as a healthier state now that we have lowered our standards.


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