Top 10 Embarrassing Moments in Political History

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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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