Campaign Gaffes

Romney's recent "47 percent" comment evokes memories of a disastrous gaffe made by Goldwater in an interview with the Post.

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August 24, 1963
Click the image to read the full text.

Nobody said it was easy being a presidential candidate. You’re never more than just one misstatement away from putting your entire campaign at risk. A quick look through the record books reveals that Mitt Romney’s “47 percent” comment is rivaled by quite a few bloopers uttered by presidential candidates in modern times.

One of them was Romney’s father, George, who was campaigning for the Republican nomination in 1968. In a TV interview, he said he had been lured into supporting the Vietnam War because he “had the greatest brainwashing that anybody can get when they go over to Vietnam.” The press latched onto the “b” word and that was the end of his presidential run.

But years earlier, in 1963, candidate Barry Goldwater made a horrific blunder during an interview with The Saturday Evening Post when he candidly announced, “Sometimes I think this country would be better off if we could just saw off the Eastern Seaboard and let it float out to sea.”

Lyndon Johnson’s campaign team pounced, producing a TV ad released August 31, 1963, that showed a saw cutting through the states from Ohio to Florida.

Here’s an excerpt from the Post story, which ran in the August 24 issue:

The era when the South and West were semicolonial dependencies of New York-dominated capital is over, but in these areas “the East” is still regarded with a mixture of suspicion, dislike and envy. Goldwater perfectly expresses this attitude—to an extent hardly recognized in the East, he is the anti-Eastern candidate. He once remarked—perhaps only half jokingly—that the East Coast ought to be “sliced off and set adrift.”

Click here to read the full article: “Can Goldwater Win in 64?”


POST script: In the interest of fairness, it’s not just Republicans who shoot their mouths off and pay the price. There’s John Kerry’s infamous, “I actually did vote for the $87 billion, before I voted against it;” Howard Dean’s Victory Scream; and, of course, the endlessly spoofed, “I took the initiative in creating the Internet,” by Al Gore.


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