Do You Know a Presidential Campaign Gaffe When You See One?

Who's winning, who's losing, and why.
Oct. 10 2012 3:05 AM

Do You Know a Gaffe When You See One?

Michael Dukakis in a tank was a gaffe. Barack Obama and Mitt Romney are just warming up.

A Photographic History of Presidential Campaign Gaffes

This presidential campaign has been consumed with gaffes—some real, some make-believe—and it’s entering the final stretch. So we thought we’d offer both a public service and a guilty pleasure. The service we’re hoping to provide is a way to categorize all of the eruptions between now and Election Day, which is why we’re launching the 2012 Campaign Decoder. Consider it your one-stop destination for sorting the gaffes, antics, and false controversies of the day from the stuff that actually matters. When one of these eruptions occurs, we will offer our quick take to help you recognize whether an event is meaningful or just another piece of political junk food. You can spend your new free time studying the issues or thinking about how we might pick our presidents in a better way.

The guilty pleasure is a slideshow of some of the best presidential campaign gaffes ever caught on film. Some of these dogged presidents, others doomed their campaigns. It’s an amusing trip down memory lane, but also a helpful reminder of what a real gaffe looks like.  When you’re photographed with your mistress on your lap, that’s a campaign-changing event. All of this hullabaloo over out-of-context quotes is really not the real thing.


John Dickerson is Slate's chief political correspondent and author of On Her Trail. Read his series on the presidency and on risk.


The World

How Canada’s Shooting Tragedies Have Shaped Its Gun Control Politics

Where Ebola Lives Between Outbreaks

Gunman Killed Inside Canadian Parliament; Soldier Shot at National Monument Dies

Sleater-Kinney Was Once America’s Best Rock Band

Can it be again?

Paul Farmer: Up to 90 Percent of Ebola Patients Should Survive

Is he right?


“I’m Not a Scientist” Is No Excuse

Politicians brag about their ignorance while making ignorant decisions.


Driving in Circles

The autonomous Google car may never actually happen.

In Praise of 13th Grade: Why a Fifth Year of High School Is a Great Idea 

PowerPoint Is the Worst, and Now It’s the Latest Way to Hack Into Your Computer

  News & Politics
Oct. 22 2014 9:42 PM Landslide Landrieu Can the Louisiana Democrat use the powers of incumbency to save herself one more time?
Continuously Operating
Oct. 22 2014 2:38 PM Crack Open an Old One A highly unscientific evaluation of Germany’s oldest breweries.
Gentleman Scholar
Oct. 22 2014 5:54 PM May I Offer to Sharpen My Friends’ Knives? Or would that be rude?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 22 2014 4:27 PM Three Ways Your Text Messages Change After You Get Married
  Slate Plus
Tv Club
Oct. 22 2014 5:27 PM The Slate Walking Dead Podcast A spoiler-filled discussion of Episodes 1 and 2.
Brow Beat
Oct. 22 2014 9:19 PM The Phone Call Is Twenty Minutes of Pitch-Perfect, Wrenching Cinema
Future Tense
Oct. 22 2014 5:33 PM One More Reason Not to Use PowerPoint: It’s The Gateway for a Serious Windows Vulnerability
  Health & Science
Wild Things
Oct. 22 2014 2:42 PM Orcas, Via Drone, for the First Time Ever
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 5:09 PM Keepaway, on Three. Ready—Break! On his record-breaking touchdown pass, Peyton Manning couldn’t even leave the celebration to chance.