Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Bannon: Comey firing was worst mistake in 'modern political history'

Bannon: Comey firing was worst mistake in 'modern political history'

It has some pretty strong competition


Nixon installing a tape system.

Saturday Night Massacre (also the most directly comparable to the Comey firing)

"Read my lips, no new taxes!"

"Mission Accomplished"

John Edwards' affair with Rielle Hunter.

Gary Hart's affair with Donna Rice

Muskie in tears.

McGovern choosing Eagleton, then supporting him "1000 percent"

"Heckuva job, Brownie!"

Dukakis in the tank.


Howard Dean's scream.

Quayle comparing himself to JFK.

Carter's "malaise" speech.

... and probably more I am forgetting.

I'd put the Comey firing up there, above some of the items on that list, but not on the top. Chappaquidick and Nixon's tape system (and overall response to Watergate) have to remain the big two since they kept a Kennedy from being President, and drove a sitting President to resign in shame. If Trump ends up resigning, I would place the Comey affair somewhere in the same group. If Trump ends up a one-term president, I think the Comey firing would be on a lower level, approximately at the same level of impact as "read my lips" or Carter's "malaise" speech. If Trump gets re-elected and the GOP holds both houses, then L'Affaire Comey turns out to be merely a tempest in a teapot.

A few of those were added by commenters. I don't think I personally would include "Mission Accomplished," since

(1) It was truly what Trump calls "fake news." The banner "Mission Accomplished" referred to the overthrow of Saddam and the defeat of his army, and as such, was completely fair praise for America's effective military services. Bush, of course, inadvertently flying in the face of Colin Powell's advice, was caught by the Pottery Barn rule ("You broke it? You bought it!"), which meant that the REAL mission, the stabilization of Iraq with a friendly regime, eluded him then, eludes us now, and may remain an eternal mission, forever unaccomplished.

(2) Furthermore, "Mission Accomplished" doesn't really meet the criteria for a political mistake, since there were no signiicant consequences. He was soon re-elected. In contrast, "Heckuva job, Brownie" caused him to drop to the lowest approval rating of his presidency to that point.


  1. Saturday Night Massacre (also the most directly comparable to the Comey firing)

  2. "Read my lips, no new taxes!"

  3. "Mission Accomplished"

  4. 1.I don't think it's ever been verified that Muskie was crying. It was raining and snowing.

    2.I disagree on your assessment of 'Mission Accomplished', however, if you are going to give Bush a pass on that then Quayle's comparing himself to JFK is also 'Fake News.' In his comparison, Quayle made it clear that he was only comparing himself to JFK in terms of their respective length of political service.

    The problem with both is that people correctly interpreted Quayle's comment that Quayle was saying he was as capable of being President as Kennedy was just as people correctly identified Bush's 'Mission Accomplished' as to mean that the job of the American soldiers in Iraq was done.

    3.Howard Dean's 'scream' was completely overplayed by the sensationalist media, however, the reason for his 'scream' was due to him trying to rally his supporters present at his speech after he came in a distant third place in the Iowa Caucus. Howard Dean was already rapidly declining in support before his 'scream.'

    1. Mission Accomplished had no negative consequences, so it could not be a severe mistake. Bush was re-elected.

      Also, where you wrote the word "correctly," it should have read "incorrectly." The WAR between the allies and Iraq was then over. Iraq lost quickly. Saddam was deposed and his armies were defeated. It was the OCCUPATION of Iraq that dragged on forever, and is still dragging on.

      You are right about Quayle's comparison of himself to JFK. That was unfairly interpreted by both Bentsen and the press. In fact, Quayle actually won that debate point. Bentsen had been attacking Quayle's youth and inexperience, and Quayle rightly asserted that his resume was as good as JFK's, a correct statement of fact which Benson attacked with an unfair ad hominum argument. But that did result in his humiliation. Of course, it was only one of many things that made him look like a fool, so the contribution of that specific incident to his public image as a buffoon was only fractional. And that contribution was really unimportant, given the fact that he really was a buffoon, so it was not simply a matter of "image." (Remind me to write sometime about his attendance at the funeral for the king of Norway. I was living in Oslo at the time. God, was Quayle ever an idiot! It is the tendency of the liberal press to portray all conservatives as mentally inferior, but in Quayle's case they were absolutely correct. That man was a defective. I can't imagine how he could possibly have graduated from high school, let alone college and law school. Compared to him, Sean Hannity seems like a quantum physicist.)

    2. No, I meant 'correctly.' This is sort of like that nonsense about some people taking Trump literally when they shouldn't.

      In both cases there were the specifics of what was said or written and then there is the broader meaning of what most people generally infer.

      In Quayle's case I think his clear inference was to say "I'm the equal of JFK" and in Bush's case I think the clear inference was that 'the soldiers will be home soon.'

      To use your argument, similarly Quayle's comment could not have been major since George H W Bush won the election.

      However, I think Quayle's humiliation was one of the things that made it impossible to be taken seriously as a candidate for the Republican nomination for President in 2000 and likely contributed to him deciding not to run for the nomination in 1996.

      Similarly, while Bush was reelected, I think his 'mission accomplished' sign was one of the things that fed into the (accurate) perception that Bush was a compulsive liar and an incompetent President that enabled the Democrats to retake the U.S House in 2006.

    3. Scoopy, I notice you seem to be a very literal person, but I'm hardly breaking new ground here in referring to these 'lies by inference' as lies. This is more commonly referred to in public usage as misinformation. In other circumstances it can be referred to as 'misdirection.'

  5. Those I would add
    1.Jesse Jackson's unfortunate 'Himey Town' comment. Jesse Jackson was never going to win the Democratic nomination in 1984, but I think this comment caused him major problems in 1988 when he was competing against a rather weak field for the Democratic nomination.

    2.Al Gore in 1988 accepting the endorsement of Ed Koch and then not doing anything accept shift uncomfortably during Koch's nasty speech where he was supposed to be endorsing Gore.

    3.Al Gore's 'No controlling legal authority' robotically repeated statement.

    4.Barack Obama in the 2008 primaries saying of working class white voters "They cling to their guns..."

    5.Hillary Clinton's bizarre claim of being under sniper fire in Syria.

    6.Gerald Ford claiming that Eastern Europe wasn't under Soviet domination. I'm pretty sure this was a slip of the tongue from Ford but for some reason he felt the need to defend his comment rather than simply say outright "Oops, that's not what I meant to say."

    7.Gary Hart in 1984 when he still had a real shot to defeat Walter Mondale in the primaries destroying his campaign in New Jersey

    ''The deal is that we campaign separately; that's the bad news,'' he told supporters at a fund-raising party. ''The good news for her is she campaigns in California and I campaign in New Jersey.''

    Mrs. Hart remarked, ''I got to hold a koala bear.''

    ''I won't tell you what I got to hold,'' the Senator responded. ''Samples from a toxic waste dump.''

    8.Michael Dukakis' legalistic response to the opening question of a debate in which he was asked if he would support the death penalty for a man who raped and murdered his wife. It was all over for Dukakis after that. Apparently he had the flu that day.

    9.John McCain wanting to suspend the first debate with Barack Obama in the immediate aftermath of the financial meltdown. Barack Obama's response along the lines of "President's have to deal with more than one issue at a time" along with the growing concern over McCain's choosing of Sarah Palin as his Vice Presidential nominee raised doubts about McCain's judgement that crippled his campaign.

  6. And then there are at least a couple gaffes. A gaffe is defined as when a politician tells a very unpopular truth that ends up hurting them politically.

    1.Jimmy Carter saying he had 'lust in his heart for many women.' This is more of a personal thing for him than a policy gaffe, but it hurt his campaign with conservative religious voters he was courting. Stating this in an interview with Playboy Magazine maybe wasn't the smartest thing to do either.

    2.Walter Mondale wanting to appear as an honest politician in his 1984 acceptance speech. "Mr. Reagan will raise taxes, and so will I. He won't tell you, I just did." Mondale wouldn't have won the Presidency, but he might have won more than one state if he hadn't said this. Of course, Reagan did raise taxes after being reelected.

    3.Hillary Clinton's comment on half of Trump's supporters being a 'basket of deplorables.' Much polling data shows that Hillary Clinton actually understated the percent of Trump supporters who are terrible people, and the idea of these Trump supporters being offended by this comment when many of them constantly refer to everybody else as 'sensitive, politically correct snowflakes' is beyond hypocritical, however, I think this comment from Hillary Clinton made it harder for her to take the high road afterwards.

    I doubt it cost her though the election as I think this was just one thing that people who were always going to vote for Trump used as an excuse to justify voting for him.

    Barack Obama's comment of 'they cling to their guns...' could probably also be considered a 'gaffe.'

    From above:
    2.Al Gore in 1988 accepting the endorsement of Ed Koch and then not doing anything accept shift uncomfortably during Koch's nasty speech where he was supposed to be endorsing Gore.

    Of course that should be written 'except shift uncomfortably.'

  7. One more along the lines of Al Gore freezing up during Ed Koch's endorsement speech

    George H W Bush freezing up when Ronald Reagan cynically violated a speaking time debate rule by arguing "I paid for this microphone.'

    George H W Bush should have immediately replied "Your campaign put up the money for this debate, but we all agreed to abide by the same rules." He probably would have been smart to have added after that something like "Your attempt now to demand special status doesn't look good on you.'

  8. I don't think
    "Read my lips, no new taxes!"
    was even a mistake, just a bald-faced lie AKA politics as usual. The mistake was anyone's believing him. Besides, he clearly said "Know newt axes."

    1. Yes, that one falls into the "If you like your health insurance, you can keep your health insurance" category of typical politician lies.

  9. *How did we already forget Mitt Romney's "47%" and "binders full of women" comments? Although only the 47% one really hurt him.

    *Dukakis' whiff on the question about the wife is a GREAT call. That was an even bigger mistake than the tank.

    *Jimmy Carter won the election after "lust in my heart", and it really hasn't had any legs, so I would call it more a oddity than a mistake.

    *Even though "Mission Accomplished" and "You're no Jack Kennedy" and Dean's yee-hah were all probably unfair, those will all be mentioned in the obituaries.

    1. Yes, I had forgotten Romney's 47% comment.

      Carter's 'lust in my heart comment' wasn't the only thing that hurt his campaign but he went from a 33% lead after the Democratic Convention to winning by 2%. Had Ford not made his comment about 'Eastern Europe not being under Soviet domination' Ford almost certainly would have won reelection.

      Carter won the Electoral College vote 297-240 (I believe a faithless Ford electoral cast a vote for Reagan) and Carter won Ohio, which has a large population of Eastern European descent by 11,000 votes. At that time Ohio had 25 electoral votes, so a Ford win there would have meant would have won 272 Electoral Votes. So, had Ford's comment tipped one other state (maybe Wisconsin which Carter won by 36,000 votes) Ford would have been reelected.

      Of course, had Ford not pardoned Nixon, he likely would have been handily reelected.