- Gentlemen, start your drones: Judge’s ruling opens door for commercial use
- Soldier who hid, bragged about not saluting flag to be punished — in secret
- ‘Maverick’ of the seas: ‘Top Gun’ school for U.S. ship officers to launch
- Putin declares Sochi Paralympics open amid Ukrainian protest
- ‘In Jesus name, we pray’ sparks ire at Ohio council meeting
- Navy’s first laser weapon ready for prime time; drone killer to deploy this summer
- Billionaire backer: Rick Santorum ‘needs to be heard’ in 2016
- Obamacare fallout: 49 percent pessimistic; 45 percent ‘scared’
- DHS accused of holding U.S. citizen at airport, using emails to pry into her sex life
- Seattle socialist: Minimum-wage discussion skewed by ‘right-wing’ GAO analysis
Quips, gaffes and stumbles: Debates have history of memorable moments
Here we go again.
Voters, pundits and political junkies will be glued to Wednesday night’s presidential debate to see more than just a back-and-forth on national defense, the economy and other issues.
Of equal interest will be the potential zingers, one-liners, jokes, gaffes and blunders that have made debates timeless pieces of political pop culture.
Few remember who technically won the 1984 debate between incumbent Republican Ronald Reagan and Democrat Walter F. Mondale, but Reagan’s famous quip — “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” — is viewed as arguably the single greatest line uttered during a presidential contest and is by far the most memorable moment of that year’s debate circuit.
Democrat Lloyd Bentsen likely would have gone down in history as just another unsuccessful vice presidential contender were it not for his “You’re no Jack Kennedy” quip, aimed at Republican Dan Quayle, who often countered shots at his youth by boasting that he had as much experience as John F. Kennedy when he became president.
Those moments and countless others, analysts say, encapsulate why the nation’s political followers treat debates as must-see TV.
Few tune in to learn the nuances of Republican Mitt Romney’s foreign policy or President Obama’s plan for technological investment. Instead, we watch to see whether a candidate falls on his face or skewers his opponent’s argument with a perfectly timed put-down.
Those instances become front-page news and usually push substantive discussions to the back burner.
“For the millions of Americans who don’t watch the debates, their view of the debate comes from the sound bite,” said Robert Watson, a presidential scholar and professor of American studies at Lynn University, the host of the third and final presidential debate this year.
“It’s unfiltered. These debates are tailor-made that a gaffe or a zinger will live iconically forever,” Mr. Watson said. “Today, with social media, every gaffe by Romney or Obama is going to be tweeted and retweeted. This stuff develops legs. It has a life of its own.”
The debate gaffe is most damaging, analysts say, when it reinforces or confirms a damning stereotype.
In 2004, for instance, Mr. Bush’s campaign was predicated on convincing voters that Democrat John F. Kerry was weak on defense and wasn’t as trustworthy when it came to protecting the American people.
The narrative began to take hold, largely because of Mr. Kerry’s opponents’ “swift-boating” ad campaign.
© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.
About the Author
Ben Wolfgang covers the White House for The Washington Times.
Before joining the Times in March 2011, Ben spent four years as a political reporter at the Republican-Herald in Pottsville, Pa.
He can be reached at email@example.com.
- Commercial drone use not prohibited by FAA rules, judge says
- In Florida, Obama pushes federal college grants
- CPAC 2014: Democrats target convention as part of midterm-election strategy
- Obama urges Putin in phone call: De-escalate crisis in Ukraine
- Obama slaps Putin with sanctions, restrictions on visas
Latest Blog Entries
TWT Video Picks
Taxpayers must pay the freight for over-budget train projects
- CPAC 2014: Rand Paul urges conservatives to fight for liberty
- Putin has transformed Russian army into a lean, mean fighting machine
- Kim Jong-un calls for execution of 33 Christians
- Bill Clinton poses for photo with Bunny Ranch prostitutes
- Two liberals say Sarah Palin is right: Obama lacks substance
- Unemployment insurance vote could happen next week
- Bill Clinton cashes in on struggling nonprofit hospital
- U.S. pilot scares off Iranians with 'Top Gun'-worthy stunt: 'You really ought to go home'
- WEBER: Obamacare cuts home healthcare for millions of seniors
- Russias Putin nominated for Nobel Peace Prize
Pope Francis meets his 'mini-me'
Celebrity deaths in 2014
Winter storm hits states — again