By now, the only thing anyone remembers from last night’s presidential debate is that Rick Perry’s brain melted onstage, potentially derailing any shot he had at the 2012 Republican nomination.
The astonishing — and painful — gaffe will undoubtedly go down as one of the worst meltdowns in presidential debate history. For one long cringe-inducing minute, Perry desperately tried to remember which federal agencies he wants to abolish, before giving up with a simple: “Oops.”
But how does Perry’s total collapse stack up against other shocking debate moments? We’ve compiled a list of other jawdroppers that defined the night.
Vice Presidential candidate Dan Quayle got schooled by his Democratic opponent Sen. Lloyd Bentsen, after comparing himself to President Kennedy. Bentsen responded with what is perhaps the greatest one-liner in presidential debate history:
'Senator, I served with Jack Kennedy, I knew Jack Kennedy, Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you're no Jack Kennedy.'
Massachusetts Democrat Michael Dukakis horrified America and effectively ended his presidential campaign with his emotionless response to a question about whether he would still oppose the death penalty if his wife were raped and murdered.
President George H.W. Bush hurt everyone's feelings when he checked his watch during a debate against Bill Clinton. To be fair, he was the President of the United States, but it still made him seem callous and out of touch.
The nation voted him out of office as payback.
Decorated Naval officer James Stockdale laid bare his irrelevance, asking the audience: 'Who am I? Why am I here?' Of course, no one knew how to respond. The debate went downhill from there. Stockdale turned his hearing aid off and had to ask for a question to be repeated, paced back and forth, and basically became a punchline for the rest of the election.
In the 2000 election, Gore adopted the insufferable habit of sighing every time his debate opponent said something he disagreed with. The trick got him through the primaries, but came off as condescending and annoying in his first general election debate against George W. Bush.
The sighs, combined with his infamous 'lockbox,' made Gore's debate performance rich late-night fodder. Here's the Daily Show.
Those who think the 2012 presidential debate season has been a circus may find solace in the fact that it has always been thus.
In this 2008 Democratic primary debate, Rep. Dennis Kucinich confirms that he did, in fact, see a UFO, and that he plans to open a campaign office in Roswell, N.M. Flustered, he goes on to defend himself by claiming that Jimmy Carter once saw a UFO and that most Americans believe in aliens.
Debate moderator Tim Russert very clearly regrets his question.
During the New Hampshire Democratic primary debate, the moderator asked Sen. Hillary Clinton whether she could compete with Barack Obama's 'likability.'
'Well that hurts my feelings,' Clinton charmingly responded. 'But I'll try to go on. he's very likable -- I agree with that. I don't think I'm that bad.'
Barely looking up from his notes, Obama replied: 'You're likable enough, Hillary.'
The comment drove Hillary fans crazy, but obviously didn't end up doing too much damage to Obama.
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