Prior to Tuesday night’s democratic presidential debate, most people were not going to vote for Lincoln Chafee. And after Tuesday's debate, NO ONE is going to vote for Lincoln Chafee.
In the midst of the prime time CNN debate, Chafee, a former Republican turned Independent turned Democrat, gave one of the strangest answers in Presidential debate history. When asked why he voted to repeal the Glass-Steagall Act, Chafee gave a baffling response to moderator Anderson Cooper.
“Glass-Steagall was my very first vote,” Chafee said of the provision that separated commercial and investment banking. “I had just arrived. My dad had died in office. I was appointed to the office. It was my very first vote.”
“Are you saying you didn’t know what you were voting for?” asked Cooper.
“I just arrived at Senate. I think we get some take-overs,” the former governor replied.
“What does that say about you that you were casting a vote about something you weren’t sure about?” Cooper asked.
“I think you’re being a little rough,” Chafee said.
Chafee’s inexplicable response was truly awful, but where does it rank in the annals of debate history?
Check out five more head-scratching moments from presidential debate history below
Rick Perry’s Oops Moment
During the 2011 Republican presidential debate former Texas Governor Rick Perry stated that he’d get rid of three federal agencies if he were elected president. The only problem was that he couldn’t remember the third agency. After saying he’d get rid of the Departments of Commerce and Education, Perry effectively ended his presidential chances when he said, “I can’t. The third one, I can’t. Sorry. Oops.”
For the record, the third agency was the Department of Energy.
Perry attempted a second presidential run earlier this year, but dropped out of the race last month after he failed to gain any traction in a crowded republican field.
Clinton’s Comedy Falls Flat
Some failed jokes are followed by silence, while others are received with boos. A canned line delivered by Hilary Clinton during a 2008 debate with now President Barack Obama received the later.
"Lifting whole passages from someone else's speeches is not change you can believe in, it's change you can Xerox," joked Clinton in regard to plagiarism accusations against Obama. Clinton’s failed joke received boos and jeers from the audience.
Carter Gets Policy Advice from Daughter
It’s not unusual for politicians to reference their children while in a debate, but President Jimmy Carter made a mistake during the 1980 general election debate when he cited a policy conversation he had with his thirteen-year-old daughter.
“I had a discussion with my daughter Amy the other day before I came here to ask her what the most important issue was. She said she thought the control of nuclear weaponry,” said the incumbent president.
President Carter’s statement was widely mocked and became a punch line for late night comics. His opponent, Ronald Reagan would go on to trounce Carter in the general election—winning 44 states and 489 electoral votes.
Gerald Ford’s Denial
During the 1976 General Election Debate, incumbent President Gerald Ford gave one of the most arcane answers in debate history—one that left the moderator scratching his head.
When asked about Russian influence in Eastern Europe, Ford replied, “There is no Soviet domination of Eastern Europe and there never will be under a Ford administration.” Ford went on to double down on his assertion stating that he believed Yugoslavia, Poland, and Romania were free from any Soviet interference.
The statement caused Ford to slip in the polls and haunted him for the remainder of the campaign. He went on to lose the election to Democrat Jimmy Carter.
Dukakis on Death Penalty
Whether you’re in favor of the death penalty or not, Michael Dukakis’ response to the question of whether he would support the death penalty for a criminal that raped and murdered his wife came off as cold and callous.
"No, I don't, Bernard, and I think you know that I've opposed the death penalty during all of my life,” Dukakis told CNN’s Bernard Shaw. “I don't see any evidence that it's a deterrent and I think there are better and more effective ways to deal with violent crime."
Notwithstanding the fairness of the question, Dukakis’ unemotional answer certainly didn’t win over any undecided voters. The former Massachusetts governor went on to lose the election to lose the election to George H. W. Bush.
A Faulty Comparison
Be careful what you say in a debate, because your words can and will be used against you. In the 1988 vice presidential debate, Republican Dan Quayle compared himself to John F. Kennedy in terms of his political experience. The statement left an opening a mile long for his Democratic opponent Lloyd Bentsen to deliver this memorable retort:
“I served with Jack Kennedy. I knew Jack Kennedy. Jack Kennedy was a friend of min. Senator, you’re no Jack Kennedy.”
The jab garnered laughs from the audience, but vice presidential debates typically have little effect on Election Day. Quayle’s running mate, George H.W. Bush would go on to handedly defeat opponent Michael Dukakis.
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