9 Political Slips of the Tongue

Pres. George H.W. Bush signs a nuclear nonproliferation treaty with Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev in 1990.
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­Pre­sidents and other politicians have a lot to say and not much time to say it; in their haste, the message often gets lost on its way from the brain to the mouth and comes out in funny, embarrassing, and memorable quotes. Here are 9 favorite political slips of the tongue.


1: Ronald Reagan

Ronald Reagan sometimes veered from his carefully written speeches with disastrous results.
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­As president, Ronald Reagan sometimes veered from his carefully written speeches with disastrous results. In 1988, when trying to quote John Adams, who said, "Facts are stubborn things," Reagan slipped and said, "Facts are stupid things."

Not known as an environmentalist, Reagan said in 1966, "A tree is a tree. How many more do you have to look at?"


His most famous blooper came during a microphone test before a 1984 radio address when he remarked, "My fellow Americans, I am pleased to tell you I just signed legislation which outlaws Russia forever. The bombing begins in five minutes."

2: Al Gore

Gore has often been incorrectly quoted as saying that he invented the Internet.
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­Al Gore served as vice president under Bill Clinton from 1993 to 2001. During the 1992 campaign, he asked voters skeptical of change to remember that every communist government in Eastern Europe had fallen within 100 days, followed by, "Now it's our turn here in the United States of America."

Gore has often been incorrectly quoted as saying that he invented the Internet, but his actual comment in 1999 was, "During my service in the United States Congress, I took the initiative in creating the Internet."


3: Richard Nixon

Richard Nixon once told a political associate, "If you can't lie, you'll never go anywhere."
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Richard M. Nixon was the 37th president of the United States, serving from 1969 to 1974. He is the only U.S. president to have resigned from office.

Famous for telling reporters, "I am not a crook," Nixon once gave this advice to a political associate: "You don't know how to lie. If you can't lie, you'll never go anywhere." Nixon couldn't cover up Watergate and he couldn't cover up bloopers like that either.


4: Richard J. Daley

­Mayor Richard J. Daley served as the undisputed leader of Chicago during the turbulent 1960s. The Democratic National Convention was held in Chicago in August 1968, but with the nation divided by the Vietnam War and the assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr., and Robert F. Kennedy fueling animosity, the city became a battleground for antiwar protests, which Americans witnessed on national television.

When confrontations between protesters and police turned violent, Daley's blooper comment reflected the opinion of many people: "The police are not here to create disorder, they're here to preserve disorder."


5: Texas House Speaker Gib Lewis

­A true slow-talkin' Texan, many of Texas House Speaker Gib Lewis's famous bloopers may have influenced his colleague, future president George W. Bush.

While closing a congressional session, Lewis's real feelings about his peers slipped out when he said, "I want to thank each and every one of you for having extinguished yourselves this session."


He tried to explain his problems once by saying, "There's a lot of uncertainty that's not clear in my mind."

He could have been describing his jumbled reign as Texas speaker when he commented, "This is unparalyzed in the state's history."

6: Dan Quayle

Sen. Dan Quayle, vice president under George H.W. Bush, was chosen in the 1988 race to balance the ticket in part because of his youth.
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­Before President George W. Bush took over the title, Dan Quayle was the reigning king of malaprops. Serving one term as vice president from 1989 to 1993, Quayle's slips of the tongue made him an easy but well-deserved target for late-night talk shows.

His most famous blunder came in 1992 when, at an elementary school spelling bee in New Jersey, he corrected student William Figueroa's correct spelling of potato as p-o-t-a-t-o-e.


Quayle didn't really help the campaign for reelection when, at a stop in California, he said, "This president is going to lead us out of this recovery."

7: Spiro Agnew

Spiro Agnew, the only vice president to resign the office, plead no contest on tax evasion charges.
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­Spiro Theodore Agnew served as vice president from 1969 to 1973 under President Nixon, before resigning following evidence of tax evasion. This slip expressed his true feelings on this matter: "I apologize for lying to you. I promise I won't deceive you except in matters of this sort."

Agnew also didn't endear himself to poor people in 1968 when he commented, "To some extent, if you've seen one city slum, you've seen them all."


8:George W. Bush

George W. Bush had several slips during his term in office.
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­Reflecting about growing up in Midland, Texas, President George W. Bush said in a 1994 interview, "It was just inebriating what Midland was all about then." Back in those days, Dubya was known to be a heavy drinker, so misspeaking the word invigorating was a real Freudian slip.

During his time in the White House, the junior Bush has had enough malaprops to give a centipede a serious case of foot-in-the-mouth syndrome.


9: George H. W. Bush

­With Dan Quayle as his vice president, the bloopers of President George H. W. Bush sometimes got overshadowed, but he still managed some zingers.

While campaigning in 1988, Bush described serving as Ronald Reagan's vice president this way: "For seven and a half years I've worked alongside President Reagan. We've had triumphs. Made some mistakes. We've had some sex . . . uh . . . setbacks." When it comes to presidents 41 and 43, you could say that the slip doesn't fall far from the tongue.



Helen Davies, Marjorie Dorfman, Mary Fons, Deborah Hawkins, Martin Hintz, Linnea Lundgren, David Priess, Julia Clark Robinson, Paul Seaburn, Heidi Stevens, and Steve Theunissen