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Pres. George H.W. Bush: “People Say I’m Indecisive, But I Don’t Know About That” (Video)


National Presidential Joke Day is observed annually on August 11.

  • This day recognizes the humor often found and yet not so appreciated in the highest office in the land. With a nod to the blunders, take a look back at some of our presidents’ social missteps. Many of them awkward. While in the moment, the Commander in Chief might not find them so funny. Looking back, sometimes, they’re downright hilarious mistakes.
  • Everyone loves hot dogs. There’s even a National Hot Dog Day. However, when the President of the United States serves them to the King and Queen of England, things might become awkward. In 1939, President Franklin D. Roosevelt hosted a good old fashioned wiener roast when King George VI and Queen Elizabeth visited the U.S. in 1939.
  • In 1968, President Richard Nixon joined the set of Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In. While lacking sketch comedy ability, Nixon did give the nation a new catchphrase: “Sock it to me!”
  • George H. W. Bush pledged in 1988, “Read my lips: no new taxes.” Two years later, Bush raised taxes.
  • Sometimes the gaffes are vice presidential. At a Trenton, New Jersey spelling bee in 1992, Vice President Dan Quayle misspelled the word potato.
  • National Presidential Joke Day began on August 11, 1984. During a soundcheck for his Saturday evening radio broadcast, President Ronald Reagan joked, “My fellow Americans, I’m pleased to tell you today that I’ve signed legislation that will outlaw Russia forever. We begin bombing in five minutes.”
  • While we usually think of George Washington as a stoic political and military leader, he did have a sense of humor, especially when it came to his dogs. Mount Vernon notes that Washington had several dogs with funny names.  Washington had a Dalmatian named Madame Moose and a hound named Sweetlips. Records show that he had other dogs with names like Tipsy, Mopsey, Ragman, Truelove and Vulcan.
  • Every year during his administration, Obama delivered a “corny-copia of dad jokes about turkeys,” as he said during his 2016 ceremony, notes NPR.
  • The Library of Congress noted that President Abraham Lincoln did have a sense of humor. For example, Lincoln said that during the Black Hawk War in 1832, he didn’t see any fighting Indians, but had “a good many bloody struggles with the mosquitoes.” His sense of humor was so well known that his opponents wrote a song called “Hey! Uncle Abe, are you joking yet?”
  • George W. Bushat the 2006 White House correspondents’ dinner: “Cheney’s a good man. He’s got a good heart. [Pause] Well, he’s a good man.”
  • Bill Clinton, at the 2000 White House correspondents’ dinner:“Over the last few months I’ve lost 10 pounds. Where did they go? Why haven’t I produced them to the independent counsel? How did some of them manage to wind up on Tim Russert?”
  • Jimmy Carter, riffing at the 1979 correspondents’ dinner about the old White House indoor swimming pool that Richard Nixon covered over to build the press room: Press Secretary Jody Powell “has been trying to persuade me to reopen the White House swimming pool — suddenly. . . Any of you that survive would, of course, have permanent swimming privileges.” 
  • John F. Kennedyresponding to criticism that Robert Kennedy wasn’t qualified to be attorney general:  “I don’t see anything wrong with giving Bobby a little legal experience before he goes out on his own to practice law.”


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