President Obama recently claimed: “If you’ve got a business, you didn’t build that.  Somebody else made that happen.” It drew ridicule and he’s backpedaling now by saying he was taken out of context, but he really wasn’t for that’s what he believes.  He’s not the only one who’s tripped on their own lips and committed a Freudian slip during a campaign.  I’m convinced Obama’s blunder was paramount.

Presidential candidates are measured by every word they utter, and wouldn’t it be interesting to take a stroll through history and see what gaffes presidential election losers made?

In the first U.S. election of 1788, John Jay, the loser said: “Those who own the country ought to govern it.

Henry Clay, who lost to Andrew Jackson in 1832 and again to James Polk in 1844 once claimed: “I would rather be right than President.”

Lewis Cass said: “Only the most acute and active animals are capable of boredom.” He lost to Zachary Taylor in 1848.

George McClellan, the 1864 runner-up, claimed during the height of the Civil War: “The Union must and shall be preserved, cost what it may in time, treasure, and blood.”

Ulysses Grant won the elections of 1868 and 1872.  His opponents Horatio Seymour said: “Republicans have lost the confidence of the country and Democrats have not gained it” and Horace Greeley claimed: “I am the inferior of any man whose rights I trample underfoot. “

William Jennings Bryan, who lost in 1896, 1900, and 1908 once boasted, “No one can earn a million dollars honestly.” In the end, he was quoted to say: “I hope the two wings of the Democratic Party may flap together.”

Charles Hughes, loser to Woodrow Wilson in 1916 believed: “The United States is the greatest law factory the world has ever known.”

John Davis was bestowed second prize in ’24 for saying things like: “When will we get done with the fool idea that the way to make a party grow is to scare away everybody who has an extra dollar in his pocket? God forbid that the Democratic Party should become a mere gathering of the unsuccessful!”

Alfred Smith was foolish to claim: “All the ills of democracy can be cured by more democracy” when he was runner-up to Herbert Hoover in ‘28.

Franklin Roosevelt was President longer than any other and his opponents had some foolhardy things to say as well.  Alfred Landon said: “Wherever I have gone in this country, I have found Americans.” Wendell Willkie claimed: “A good catchword can obscure analysis for fifty years.” And Thomas Dewey let it slip: “When you’re leading, don’t talk.”

Adlai Stevenson lost to Dwight Eisenhower in 1952 by saying crazy things like: “There was a time when a fool and his money were soon parted, but now it happens to everybody” and “In America, any boy may become President and I suppose it’s just one of the risks he takes.”

Barry Goldwater, who lost in ’64, tops the list for Freudian slips by claiming: “If everybody in this town connected with politics had to leave town because of chasing women and drinking, you would have no government” and “It’s a great country, where anybody can grow up to be president, except me.”

Hubert Humphrey came in second to Richard Nixon in 1968 by bragging: “To err is human. To blame someone else is politics.”

Gerald Ford said things like: “Things are more like today than they have ever been before” and “When a man is asked to make a speech, the first thing he has to decide is what to say.” He had some brain freezes back then and lost the race of’76.

In 1988, Michael Dukakis proclaimed: “I do not believe in people owning guns. Guns should be owned only by the police and military. I am going to do everything I can to disarm this state.”  (He lost by a landslide)
Bob Dole probably wasn’t thinking either when he blurted out: “Something is wrong with America. I wonder sometimes what people are thinking about or if they’re thinking at all.”  Bill Clinton won that ’96 contest.

George W. Bush won in 2000 and 2004.  Al Gore, the first challenger said: “When you have the facts on your side, argue the facts. When you have the law on your side, argue the law. When you have neither, holler.” John Kerry, the second challenger, claimed: “I would rather be the candidate of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) than the National Rifle Association (NRA).”

In 2008, Senator John McCain belittled himself and lost by making the concession: “Most members of Congress don’t pay attention to what’s going on.”

Greg Allen’s column, Thinkin’ Out Loud, was published bi-monthly from 2009 to 2017.  He’s an author, a former nationally syndicated columnist and the founder of Builder of the Spirit Ministries in Jamestown, Indiana.  He can be reached at

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