US Presidential Gaffes: Politics in History

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US politics is always interesting. The United States have been home to a number of hilarious political gaffes, from foreign policy to humorous anecdotes involving tamales.

Today’s article comes to us from Crystal Ferreira, a frequent contributor to our site and a teacher over at PolyHistoria.

If you love these stories and want to read more about American politics and US history, make sure you visit PolyHistoria and check out the classes there! Nothing is quite as empowering as arming yourself with information, and knowledge of the past can bring context to the present. In times as strange as these, that’s a mighty weapon indeed.

Ford Gets a Mouth Full

In 1976, Gerald Ford was running for a second term as president against Jimmy Carter. At a campaign stop in San Antonio, Texas to visit the Alamo, Ford was offered a plate of tamales. He picked one up and proceeded to bite into it without first removing the corn husk.

Gerald Ford pictured in the early 90's
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As he choked and spluttered on the tough wrapping, members of the press gleefully snapped pictures and furiously recorded the incident in their notepads. Ford lost the election that year, and “The Great Tamale Incident” went down in presidential campaign food history.
Source: “When A Tamale Determines the Presidency,” Sporkful, July 11, 2016.

Cultural Context is Everything

A US politician attempting to be friendly in the normal American way once almost caused an international incident when he complimented a French government employee on the job he was doing.

That seems harmless enough, but the comment was condemned by the French press as inappropriate interference in French internal affairs. Compliments meant to praise are liable to offend in cross-cultural situations if the local culture isn’t taken into account.

Harrison Talks Himself to Death

In 1841, William Henry Harrison’s inaugural speech was overly long and boring (the longest inaugural speech in history, in fact, at 8445 words). Not only that, but he delivered it outdoors on a sub-freezing afternoon, without a coat, hat, or gloves.

Soon after the speech he developed pneumonia. Harrison died after just one month in office, making him the shortest-serving president in U.S. history.