5 “Mission Accomplished”
George W. Bush didn’t have to bother articulating this fantastically incorrect little statement, because he had it emblazoned across a massive banner hung behind him as he proudly grandstanded on the deck of an aircraft carrier. Bush was announcing what his administration called the end of “major combat operations” in Iraq. This speech took place on May 1, 2003. The last U.S. combat troops would not leave the country for almost a decade, and the worst fighting was yet to come. The mission, whatever it even was, had not been accomplished.
4 “We will seek no wider war.”
Thus said LBJ in 1964, shortly after assuming the presidency following JFK’s tragic assassination, and shortly before escalating American involvement in Vietnam from about 16,000 troops deployed in 1963 to well over half a million by the time he left office in early 1969. In fact, in all the years of Johnson’s presidency, the U.S. military’s commitment to the conflict grew; immediately following his departure from office, it began to shrink. Maybe LBJ didn’t want a wider war, but he got one. The lesson? Watch that mouth, Mr. President.
3 “Read my lips: no new taxes.”
Immediately after uttering this doomed promise, then Vice President George H.W. Bush should have said “just kidding.” But he didn’t. The soon-to-be one-term President Bush crafted a fine narrative around this ill-fated promise, and it rang out like a clarion call to the country’s Republican base. Bush spoke the line during his 1988 acceptance speech, shortly after becoming the GOP nominee for the upcoming election. Within two years, however, reality came calling and he signed 41 new taxes into law. Two years after that, he was busy losing the 1992 election.
2 “I did not have sexual relations with that woman.”
Ever the consummate politician, and a Yale Law educated one at that, Bill Clinton thought that by making a firm and technically true statement denying the adulterous allegations against him, he could put the whole Monica Lewinsky affair to rest. The thing is that people didn’t fall for it. Clinton denied having had “sexual relations” with Ms. Lewinsky because they had not actually had sex. That narrow a definition of “sexual relations” seems to have existed only in the dictionary in Bubba’s head, though; soon enough he admitted that indeed he “did have a relationship with Miss Lewinsky that was not appropriate.”
1 “I am not a crook!”
The only problem with Richard M. Nixon using that terse phrase to defend himself during a televised 1973 question and answer session with dozens of reporters was that whole Watergate thing. Nixon declared his non-crook status more than a year after giving his countenance to the break-in at the headquarters of the Democratic National Convention, the point of which was to find material that could be used to sabotage Democratic candidates running for office in 1972. According to the generally accepted dictionary definition taking “crook” to mean “dishonest person,” yeah, you were a crook, Nix.