Presidential Debate

Presidential Debates: Most memorable zingers and blunders

A look back at how a charismatic, folksy Reagan persuaded the American people in election and reelection campaign debates

 

As Republican nominee Donald Trump and Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton get ready to face off in their first presidential debate Monday night, FoxNews.com looks back at some of the most memorable debate zingers and blunders from past elections:

ZINGERS

“There you go again.”
SPEAKER: Ronald Reagan (R)
OPPONENT: President Jimmy Carter (D)
DEBATE: Presidential
YEAR: Oct. 28, 1980
Delivered after Carter accused Reagan of campaigning against Medicare.

“I am not going to exploit, for political purposes, my opponent’s youth and inexperience.”
SPEAKER: President Ronald Reagan (R)
OPPONENT: Walter Mondale (D)
DEBATE: Presidential
YEAR: Oct. 21, 1984
Reagan had been asked if his age would hinder his ability to be commander in chief.

“Senator, I served with Jack Kennedy. I knew Jack Kennedy. Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you are no Jack Kennedy.”
SPEAKER: Sen. Lloyd Bentsen (D)
OPPONENT: Sen. Dan Quayle (R)
DEBATE: Vice Presidential
YEAR: Oct. 5, 1988

“I’m going to try to help you do that, Joe.”
SPEAKER: Dick Cheney (R)
OPPONENT: Sen. Joe Lieberman (D)
DEBATE: Vice Presidential
YEAR: Oct. 5, 2000
Lieberman quipped that his wife would like to see him go into the private sector, to which Cheney delivered the memorable retort.

“You mentioned the Navy, for example, and that we have fewer ships than we did in 1916. Well, governor, we also have fewer horses and bayonets, because the nature of our military’s changed.”
SPEAKER: President Barack Obama (D)
OPPONENT: Mitt Romney (R)
DEBATE: Presidential
YEAR: Oct. 22, 2012

BLUNDERS

Nixon sweats, appears pale in first televised debate
DEBATE: Presidential
YEAR: Sept. 26, 1960
Vice President Richard Nixon (R) refused makeup to improve his appearance and used a handkerchief to wipe sweat away numerous times. Sen. John F. Kennedy (D) appeared confident and comfortable in contrast.

The sounds of silence
DEBATE: Presidential
YEAR: Sept. 23, 1976
A technical issue resulted in a 27-minute delay of the debate, during which both candidates – President Gerald Ford (R) and Jimmy Carter (D) – stood still and silent at their podiums, not wanting to look unpresidential.

Poland Freed?
DEBATE: Presidential
YEAR: Oct. 6, 1976
At his second debate, President Gerald Ford (R) asserted: “There is no Soviet domination of Eastern Europe, and there never will be under a Ford administration.” Asked to clarify, Ford said he doesn’t believe the Poles and others consider themselves “dominated” by the Soviet Union. Jimmy Carter (D) fired back, “I’d like to see Mr. Ford convince Polish-Americans and Czech-Americans and Hungarian-Americans that those countries don’t live under the supervision and control of the Soviet Union.” Ford’s comments were considered a major gaffe.

Carter asks his daughter
DEBATE: Presidential
YEAR: Oct. 28, 1980
President Jimmy Carter (D) said he spoke about nuclear arms control with his 12-year-old daughter, asking her “what the most important issue was,” leading to Republican ridicule.

Reagan stumbles in first debate
DEBATE: Presidential
YEAR: Oct. 7, 1984
Already battling questions about his age, President Ronald Reagan (R) appeared to ramble and lose his train of thought during his closing statement in the first debate against Walter Mondale (D).

Dukakis' crime response
DEBATE: Presidential
YEAR: Oct. 13, 1988
Gov. Michael Dukakis (D), branded weak on crime by Vice President George H.W. Bush (R), was asked by moderator Bernard Shaw if he would favor putting a man to death who had hypothetically raped and murdered his wife. Dukakis responded: “No, I don’t, Bernard.”

Watching the watch
DEBATE: Presidential
YEAR: Oct. 15, 1992
President George H.W. Bush (R) looked at his watch during the closing moments of a debate on Oct. 15, appearing impatient to leave.

Gore sighs
DEBATE: Presidential
YEAR: Oct. 3, 2000
Vice President Al Gore (D) sighed often and loudly in response to answers from his opponent, Gov. George W. Bush (R).

Bush scowls
DEBATE: Presidential
YEAR: Sept. 30, 2004
As he was being criticized by Sen. John Kerry (D), President George W. Bush (R) was continually shown grimacing and scowling.

'Binders full of women'
DEBATE: Presidential
YEAR: Oct. 16, 2012
Mitt Romney (R) uttered the phrase when speaking about equal pay for women.