History of US Presidential debates full of gaffes, but not of acrimony: Donald Trump vs Hillary Clinton
Even as a Fox News survey shows Clinton with a six-point lead over Trump on Wednesday (Thursday IST), the two contestants are facing fear and loathing at third debate. The increasingly bitter presidential campaign and Donald Trump’s refusal to follow protocol has claimed another victim, this time in the form of the pre-debate handshake between candidates’ spouses.
According to a New York Times report, the ritual of Bill Clinton and Melania Trump crossing the stage and shaking hands before the debate’s beginning was likely scuttled after the Clinton campaign responded to Trump’s attempts in the second presidential debate to seat three women who have accused Bill Clinton of sexual impropriety in his family box, which would mean the former president of the United States shaking hands with women who have accused him of sexual assault on national television.
The history of US presidential debate is littered with this sort of stories. The only difference is that while the earlier events could be passed off as gaffes, the increasing acrimony between Trump and Clinton is unprecedented.
As Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump gear up for their final debate, a look at some of the most memorable gaffes that took place over the years may be a bit educative.
The first presidential debate was held in September 1960 between US Senator John F Kennedy, the Democratic nominee, and Vice President Richard Nixon, the Republican nominee, in Chicago. The picture of Nixon dabbing the sweat off his upper lip during the debate is part of legendary debate history.
It was also the first televised debate and Nixon was even criticized for wearing his light-coloured suit against a light-coloured background. It went so badly for Nixon that for the next 16 years, general election candidates avoided televised debates.
During the face-off between Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter in 1976, Ford denied the fact that there was no Russian expansion in Eastern Europe. “There is no Soviet domination of Eastern Europe, and there never will be under a Ford administration.”
His response brought out the sense that he was not quite right for the job. The gaffe was so famous that it even made it to his obituary.
President George H.W. Bush was caught live checking his watch at the precise moment when a woman from the audience asked him how the national debt has affected him personally.
With the gesture, he gave the impression that he just didn’t care and that he had better things to do with his time. Bush later said that at that moment he was thinking: “I hate these debates. I’m so glad it’s almost over.”
Democratic presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich during the primary debates insisted of a UFO sighting. Kucinich said to moderator Tim Russert’s question, “It was an unidentified flying object, OK? It’s, like, it’s unidentified. I saw something.”
The 2012 presidential debate saw a lethargic Barack Obama getting hammered by a well-prepared Mitt Romney. Though Barack Obama claimed it “was a terrific debate”, his poor performance gave Romney the momentum till the second debate, where Obama bounced into shape and emerged as the victor.