Though this year's debates have been largely free of serious gaffes or salient moments, that hasn't always been the case. Many Presidential debates are remembered for serious mistakes, election-winning bon mots, and often hilarious comments by the candidates. In preparation for the 2008 debates, here is a collection of the 15 most memorable or notorious moments from the presidential debates of the past.
The Top 15 Presidential Debate Moments 15 In 2004, John Kerry Infuriated Dick Cheney and his wife by at a debate by remarking "If you were to talk to Dick Cheney's daughter, who is a lesbian, she would tell you that she's being who she was, she's being who she was born as." 14 In the 2008 Democratic Primary Debates, Joe Biden illustrated that Rudy Giuliani is unfit to be president by saying “There's only three things he mentions in a sentence -- a noun, a verb, and 9/11.” 13 In a 1984 debate against Walter Mondale, Reagan turned his old age into an asset: "I want you to know that also I will not make age an issue of this campaign. I am not going to exploit, for political purposes, my opponent's youth and inexperience." 12 Between 1964 and 1972, there were no debates; not for primaries, not for Vice Presidents, and not for Presidential Candidates. They resumed in 1976 with the FordCarter Debates. 11 During t his second 1976 Debate with Jimmy Carter, Gerald Ford inexplicably stated: “There is no Soviet domination of Eastern Europe, and there never will be under a Ford administration.” He would later say do svidanya to his presidency. 10 During his first Debate with George W. Bush in 2000, Al Gore repeatedly signed and looked uncomfortable at Bush’s answers. Voters lost confidence in him as it made him appear whiny. 9 While discussing a 1992 debate against Bill Clinton and Ross Perot, George H.W. Bush confessed he was impatient to leave. Everyone already knew that however, the moment he checked his watch onstage. The moment contributed to his defeat. 8 In a watershed moment for Michael Dukakis’s 1988 campaign, moderator Bernard Shaw asked “if Kitty Dukakis were raped and murdered, would you favor an irrevocable death penalty for the killer?“ The right answer was “Yes, of course.” Dukakis instead reiterated his hard stance against capital punishment, making him appear dishonest, or worse, soft. 7 “Who am I? What Am I doing here?” Though this was strictly a rhetorical statement by 1992 Vice Presidential candidate James Stockdale, voters took it literally, perceiving him as a confused, doddering old man. 6 George H.W. Bush attempted to make light of fellow 1984 Vice Presidential candidate Geraldine Ferraro’s credentials, but she fired back with both guns, citing her experience, abilities, achievements. Though she lost the race, she gained women in politics a great deal of respect. 5 As Gerard Ford’s 1976 running mate, Bob Dole suggested that the bulk of U.S. Wars (and by extension U.S. casualties) in that century was the fault of the Democratic Party. 4 Showing his prowess with pithy, powerful statements, Ronald Reagan closed the last 1980 debate with Jimmy Carter by simply asking America “Are you better off than you were four years ago?” Slightly ahead already, the comment clinched the presidency for Reagan. 3 Dan Quayle’s attempt to compare himself to John F. Kennedy backfired during a 1988 debate against democratic vice presidential nominee Lloyd Bentsen; the older Bensten famously said “Senator, I served with Jack Kennedy: I knew Jack Kennedy; Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you're no Jack Kennedy.” 2 1984’s democratic primary was heated up when Walter Mondale attempted to take the unsubstantial “new ideas” of opponent Gary Hart to task. Mondale quipped "When I hear your new ideas, I'm reminded of that ad, 'Where's the beef?‘” It won him the nomination and sold many burgers to boot. 1 The first televised Presidential Debate took place in1960 between John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon. Though their debating skills were well matched, the frazzled and harried Nixon lost voters to the cool, polished well –rested façade of JFK.
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