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Top 6 On-Camera 'Oops' Moments in American Politics

by Emily Green, published

All of us do really dumb stuff. We occasionally trip, forget our train of thought, or go the wrong way. Fortunately, most of us aren't in front of an arsenal of camera operators and photographers when we do it. Politicians, however, live in constant scrutiny. If they goof up like normal human beings, it's likely to get caught on film and played endlessly by every news network in the country and immortalized in a Saturday Night Live sketch.

Here are the top six political "OOPS!" moments.

1. Bush Barges Out (But He Went the Wrong Way)

We all know how it is when we finish our job and just want to get the heck out of dodge. George Bush felt this way after a 2005 press conference in Beijing and bolted for the door -- the wrong door. He tugged furiously for a few moments as confused and bemused members of the press looked on. Bush finally responded, "I was trying to escape. Obviously, it didn't work." Everyone laughed it off, but nobody left it out of their next broadcast.

2. Dukakis Defense


Michael Dukakis launched a hearty presidential campaign in 1988, with high hopes for securing the job as commander and chief. One of his tactics included a photo shoot of himself riding on a tank wearing a combat helmet, trying to look tough and courageous. Unfortunately, the shots came out looking more like a little boy playing army than a noble commander. The Republicans got more use out of the botched shots than the Dukakis campaign.

3. Howard Dean Goes Ballistic

In 2004, it looked like Dean was one of the frontrunners to win the Democratic party nomination, until he placed a distant third in the coveted Iowa caucus. As so many defeated political hopefuls have had to do in the past, it was time for Dean to bow out gracefully, reassemble his dignity and go about planning the next four years without Air Force One and All Hail the Chief. Instead, Dean went on TV and conducted a not-so-graceful speech he later called his, "crazy, red-faced rant." TV comedians got fodder for months, dubbing it Dean's "I Have a Scream" speech.

4. Rick Perry Wants to Axe What?!

When you're in a hotly contested Republican presidential debate, there are a few things to remember. Topping the list should be a list of government agencies you've slated for demolition. However, Rick Perry completely forgot which agencies he'd earmarked for disaster right on the podium. His brilliant response? "Oops!" This would have been a useful occasion for writing notes on his smartphone, as he would not have forgotten something so important to him.

5. Biden's Getting Sleepy... Very Sleepy

Vice President Joe Biden certainly believed in Obama's heartfelt speech on the serious budget crisis given in 2011. But perhaps Biden had sat in Obama's practice sessions one too many times. The speech apparently bored Biden, who fell asleep for approximately 30 seconds on air at a nationally televised presidential speech.

6. Sarah Palin Sees Russia From Her House

During the 2008 presidential campaign, Sarah Palin had an interview with Charles Gibson from ABC News. When asked about the insight she gained from loving so close to Russia, Palin responded that “you can actually see Russia from land here in Alaska, from an island in Alaska.” These words were hilariously twisted on Saturday Night Live when Tina Fey and Amy Poehler appeared as Sarah Palin and Hillary Clinton in a season premiere sketch. Fey remarked, as Palin, that she could “see Russia from my house.” The quote stuck.

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