I DIDN’T TRY TO MAKE THIS an evenly distributed list in terms of “sides,” nor did I try to stack the deck: what’s dumb is dumb regardless of party. And a few politicians are quoted more than once, because frankly, they said a lot of inane stuff.
Clearly this list is not inclusive: feel free to add more quotes in the comments section.
1. “Our enemies are innovative and resourceful, and so are we. They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we.”
President George W. Bush, August 5th, 2004
Bushisms could easily dominate this list, but hilarious though they all are, I opted not to include those which simply show the man had only a tenuous grasp of the English language. This unfortunate choice of wording resulted in what might be the most unintentionally honest statement he made as president.
2. “Reports that say something hasn’t happened are always interesting to me, because as we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns – the ones we don’t know we don’t know.”
US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, February 12th, 2002
This was Rumsfeld’s attempt at clarification on the search for weapons of mass destruction. As Plain English spokesman John Lister said, “We think we know what he means. But we don’t know if we really know.”
3. “It all depends on what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is.”
President Bill Clinton during his Grand Jury testimony, August 17th, 1998
Even out of context this is pretty funny. But it made the ludicrous list because in context of the entire Clinton-Lewinsky debacle (as sad and stupid and admittedly entertaining as it had been up to that point), it marked the turning point from somewhat legitimate political news into a complete and total joke. Oh, Bill. Just stop, it’s over.
4. “Outside of the killings, DC has one of the lowest crime rates in the country.”
Former mayor of Washington, D.C. Marion Barry, March 24th, 1989, National Press Club speech
Pesky murderers, ruining an otherwise stellar reputation.
5. “You cannot be president of the United States if you don’t have faith. Remember Lincoln, going to his knees in times of trial and the Civil War and all that stuff. You can’t be. And we are blessed. So don’t feel sorry for — don’t cry for me, Argentina. Message: I care.”
President George Bush, Sr., speaking to employees of an insurance company during the 1992 New Hampshire primary
Clear as mud. I’ll pass the message on to Madonna.
6. “You all look like happy campers to me. Happy campers you are, happy campers you have been, and, as far as I am concerned, happy campers you will always be.”
Vice President Dan Quayle in a speech to the American Samoans in April of 1989
For those of you trying to remember what politician gave us the most comedic fodder before W. This wins for being the perfect blend of both ignorant and condescending.
7. “But we have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it, away from the fog of the controversy.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi talking about President Obama’s healthcare law, March 9th, 2010
Love this one. It’s like if someone handed you a plate of Tuna Surprise, and you said “Hey, what’s the surprise in your Tuna Surprise?” and they said, “…..why don’t you eat it and find out?”
8. “Well, I learned a lot….I went down to (Latin America) to find out from them and (learn) their views. You’d be surprised. They’re all individual countries.”
President Ronald Reagan, December 6th, 1982
Imagine that. Hope he studied Latin before his trip so he could communicate with them.
9. “By integrating women into particularly military institutes, it cripples the readiness of our defense. Schools like The Citadel train young men to confidently lead other young men into a battlefield where one of them will die. And when you have women in that situation, it creates a whole new set of dynamics which are distracting to training these men to kill or be killed.”
Delaware GOP Senate nominee Christine O’Donnell during a 1995 C-SPAN interview
C’mon ladies. Save the distracting heels and lipstick for guys who aren’t trying to, like, die and stuff. Now get back in the kitchen.
(Side note: I nearly went with this quote, but it’s not exactly political.
“It is not enough to be abstinent with other people, you also have to be abstinent alone. The Bible says that lust in your heart is committing adultery. You can’t masturbate without lust!”
That would be Christine advocating against masturbation in a 1996 appearance on MTV’s ‘Sex In The 90s’ TV show. Perhaps the most disturbing thing about it is the choice of “What if God was one of us” as background music.)
10. “We used to hustle over the border for health care we received in Canada. And I think now, isn’t that ironic?”
Former Alaska governor Sarah Palin, March 6, 2010
Don’t you think?
The extra-irony here is that she said this during a speech in Calgary. So we’ve got sweet irony, ignorance, hypocrisy, and a condescending attitude, each on multiple levels.
Vice President Dick Cheney, March 19th, 2008
Context: his response to an ABC News correspondent after she cited a recent poll showing that most Americans didn’t believe the Iraq War was worth fighting.
Warms the cockles of my black and shriveled heart.
12. “This is an impressive crowd: the haves, and the have-mores. Some people call you the elite, I call you my base.”
President George W. Bush at the 2000 Al Smith Dinner
It should be noted that the prez said this with the intent of being tongue-in-cheek. I think what we’ve learned here is that Bush Jr. was consistently the most honest when trying to be funny.
13. “When the president does it, that means that it is not illegal.”
Richard Nixon in an interview with David Frost in 1977
Another one filed under “funny because it’s both true and wrong.”
14. “Life is indeed precious, and I believe the death penalty helps affirm this fact.”
Former New York City mayor Edward Koch, in an essay published in The New Republic on April 15th, 1985
See comment under #13.
15. “Literally, if we took away the minimum wage — if conceivably it was gone — we could potentially virtually wipe out unemployment completely because we would be able to offer jobs at whatever level.”
Congresswoman and GOP Presidential nominee Michelle Bachmann, January 26th, 2005
She wins at adverbage.
Even more amusing is George Stephanopoulos trying to force her not to dance around the issue six years later. (Equally entertaining is when he gently educates her on the fact that John Quincy Adams was not a Founding Father.)
16. “It had to do with Cuba and missiles, I’m pretty sure.”
White House Press Secretary Dana Perino, admitting she had never heard of the Cuban Missile Crisis, October 26th, 2007
I mean, you can’t expect her to know ALL the histories.
17. “The administration was opposed to voting on (the Iraq war resolution) in the fall of 2002…because we didn’t think it belonged in the confines of the election. We thought it made it too political. We wanted it outside the confines of the election. It seemed it make things move too fast. There were things that needed to be done to bring along allies and potential allies abroad.”
Former Bush adviser Karl Rove in an interview on The Charlie Rose Show, November 21st, 2007
18. “When the stock market crashed, Franklin D. Roosevelt got on the television and didn’t just talk about the, you know, the princes of greed. He said, ‘Look, here’s what happened.'”
Vice President Joe Biden in an interview with Katie Couric, September 22nd, 2008
FDR took office in 1933; the stock market crashed in 1929. Also, there were only experimental TV sets back then. Oops.
19. “You know, I think you may have noticed that Senator Obama’s supporters have been saying some pretty nasty things about Western Pennsylvania lately. And you know, I couldn’t agree with them more. I couldn’t disagree with you. I couldn’t agree with you more than the fact that Western Pennsylvania is the most patriotic, most god-loving, most, most patriotic part of America, and this is a great part of the country.”
GOP Presidential Nominee John McCain, Moon Township, Penn., Oct. 21, 2008
I can’t not agree to disagree with that statement.
20. “We had no domestic attacks under Bush – we’ve had one under Obama.”
Rudy Giuliani, Good Morning America, 2010
Interesting observation from the man who was mayor of New York City in September of 2001.
Bonus: “Goodbye from the world’s biggest polluter.”
George W. Bush at his last G-8 Summit, said while punching the air and grinning, Rusutsu, Japan, July 10th, 2008
We’ll end this article as too many presidencies have ended: with a giant middle finger.
Best Travel Credit Cards
Top offers from our partners
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
100,000 bonus points
The Platinum Card®
75,000 bonus points
American Express® Gold Card
60,000 bonus points