ABC-6 Reporter Mark Curtis: "The Sunday Political Brunch" Novemb - ABC6 - Providence, RI and New Bedford, MA News, Weather


ABC-6 Reporter Mark Curtis: "The Sunday Political Brunch" November 17, 2013

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by ABC6 Chief Political Reporter Mark Curtis

(Providence, Rhode Island) – The latest troubles from the White House bring to mind previous occasions where a President misspoke, lied, made false statements, or otherwise shaded the truth. In many cases, the statements crippled the administration for a period of time, and in some cases for good.  Here's a look at modern history:  

"Health Reform on Life Support" – On many occasions, President Obama said, "If you like your health care plan, you'll be able to keep your health care plan, period. No one will take it away, no matter what." And, "If you like your doctor, you will be able to keep your doctor, period." Millions of Americans have now found out that is not true, and now efforts are underway to allow them to keep their insurance and doctor for another year. The political and personal fallout for President Obama remains to be seen. 

"Where are the WMD?" – In the run up to the Iraq War in 2003 President George W. Bush said, "The Iraqi regime . . . possesses and produces chemical and biological weapons. It is seeking nuclear weapons. We know that the regime has produced thousands of tons of chemical agents, including mustard gas, sarin nerve gas, VX nerve gas." Now in the past, much of that was true, because there was proof-certain Saddam Hussein used chemical weapons against Iran and on Kurds in Northern Iraq. But no such weapons were found in Iraq during and after the most recent war. The ensuing controversy hovered over the remainder of Bush's time in the White House.  

"Finger Pointing Fiasco" – In January 1998 President Clinton said, "I want to say one thing to the American people. I want you to listen to me. I'm going to say this again: I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky. I never told anybody to lie, not a single time; never. These allegations are false. And I need to go back to work for the American people. Thank you!" But by August of that year, he recanted and admitted the relationship and apologized.  The House passed Articles of Impeachment, but the Senate did not remove Clinton from office.  

"Read My Lips!" – When he ran for President and won in 1988, George H.W. Bush said, "Read my lips! No new taxes!" But by 1990, with the federal budget deficit booming and Democrats in control of Congress, Bush compromised and agreed to some tax increases. In the 1992 election both his primary challengers and Democrat Bill Clinton attacked Bush for reneging on his promise. Clinton eventually defeated incumbent Bush, and analysts agree the broken pledge was a significant factor.  

"There is No Link!" – In November 1986, President Reagan addressed the breaking Iran-Contra scandal in the second term of his Presidency, "In spite of the wildly speculative and false stories of arms for hostages and alleged ransom payments, we did not—repeat, did not—trade weapons or anything else for hostages, nor will we." Just four month later he changed his tune: "A few months ago, I told the American people I did not trade arms for hostages. My heart and my best intentions still tell me that's true, but the facts and evidence tell me it is not." The investigation dominated the rest of his time in office.  

"Carter" – During his speech accepting re-nomination in 1980, President Jimmy Carter misspoke while describing Democrats as, "The party of a great man who should have been President, who would have been one of the greatest Presidents in history—Hubert Horatio Hornblower!" After a loud collective gasp from the convention audience, and an awkward pregnant pause, Carter corrected himself by saying, "Humphrey!" During the same speech Carter made only one brief mention of the American hostages being held in Iran. Analysts have long described the speech as awkward and out of touch. The United States was also deep in a recession. Carter was well ahead in the polls before he made the speech. Three months later Carter lost to Ronald Reagan in a landslide.  

"Cold War Revision" – During one of the Presidential Debates during his 1976 reelection campaign, President Gerald Ford said, "There is no Soviet domination of Eastern Europe, and there never will be under a Ford administration." His Democratic challenger Jimmy Carter hammered Ford, as did the editorial pages. Ford lost a very close election.  

"Watergate Waterloo" – In November of 1973, President Nixon said over the brewing Watergate controversy, "In all of my years of public life, I have never obstructed justice. And I think, too, that I can say that in my years of public life that I welcome this kind of examination because people have got to know whether or not their President is a crook. Well, I'm not a crook. I've earned everything I've got." Less than a year later, Nixon – facing impeachment on charges of obstruction justice - resigned from office.  

"Analysis" – Presidents Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush all had their infamous quotes come back to haunt them, during their second terms. It did not affect their reelections, but certainly damaged their legacies. That is likely the fate of President Barack Obama. Presidents Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter and George H.W. Bush made their infamous quotes during their first terms, and all were significant factors in their defeats. President Richard Nixon's quote came during his second term, but once fellow Republicans began to abandon him over Watergate – and impeachment loomed – he was forced to resign. All are examples of where politicians needed to choose their words more carefully.  

As always, I welcome your comments. Click the comment button at

© 2013, Mark Curtis Media, LLC.  

Photo courtesy: White House archives

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