Video Digest: May 18, 2007

Political clowns and posturing buffoons: Videos of our leaders at their worst (and most entertaining) moments.

With the endless malapropisms, spoonerisms, and eggcorns spilling out of the mouth of our president, we’ve been spoiled for political humor. Back when I was a wee girl, it wasn’t so easy. Yes, Michael Dukakis rode on a tank, and George Bush, Sr., choked on broccoli, vomited on the Prime Minister of Japan, and fell under the table, but those were isolated incidents—right? That’s what I thought, until I realized Ross Perot was more funny than electable. After that it was a downward spiral into giggling at anyone in a suit purporting to speak for a nation. Here’s a look at the political history of elephants and potatoes, ads threatening us with chaos and war if we vote for the other guy, and figures of state making themselves look ridiculous at every opportunity. Sounds familiar, right?

Apparently, political speeches were filmed as early as 1917. Count how many times Vladimir Ilyich says “kapitaliski” in 57 seconds.

Much more cheerful is this 1954 animated ad for Eisenhower, produced by second-fiddle Roy Disney. You can gauge the ad’s success when you find yourself humming, “Let’s take Ike to Wash-ing-TON” three hours later.

Jack Kennedy for President in 1960: Most noteworthy to me is Eisenhower’s insistence that he is “the decider.” Nixon? He was there to pretty things up, obviously.

As JFK would have it, in the circus of politics, Nixon was more like an elephant than the ringmaster. What he means by “ivory in his head” is anyone’s guess. Can you imagine Hillary Clinton comparing George W. to a chimpanzee at a DNC rally? That would be some television.

Here we have Lyndon Johnson in 1964, baldly informing us that this little girl, symbol of all American hopes and dreams, will be obliterated by an A-bomb should voters be so foolish as to vote for Goldwater. Try not to be totally creeped out when the camera takes us right through little miss America’s right eye.

Nixon made his successful run for president in 1968 by promising to disengage U.S. troops from an endless foreign war they couldn’t win. Ahem.

The current political scene could use a little levity. In the middle of the Reagan years, Larry Flynt provided some good old outrageousness to get conservative undies in a bunch. Not the subtlest humor, but very effective, and work-safe (with headphones on).

Dan Quayle was the national whipping boy during the 1988 election and throughout George H. W. Bush’s presidency. Remember the “potatoe” incident? Vice-presidential candidate Sen. Lloyd Bentsen shuts down Danny boy in this debate. Too bad he was running with poor, hapless Michael Dukakis.

Shockingly, Bush the Senior wasn’t the most eloquent candidate, either. This is no “put the future behind us,“ but what a gorgeous Freudian slip.

1992 was the first year I remember feeling invested in the outcome of a presidential race. Kooky little Ross Perot charmed nine-year-old me so well I informed every adult I knew that he was the only candidate worth electing. My mom and one of my teachers heard me, but my dad went and voted for Clinton anyway. The heartbreak and disillusionment I felt seeing my hero Perot lose so bad only made my longing for suffrage that much stronger.

Most of the ultra-conservatives have sex on the brain all the time, I suspect. Don’t they always seem to be ready to boil over with frustration whenever they start in on pop culture’s moral corruption? A cool, collected, and possibly stoned Frank Zappa sticks up for freedom of speech in this classic Crossfire clip.

Don’t think it’s only American talking heads who can’t keep their naughty thoughts to themselves. There’s nothing like stodgy Englishmen losing their cool.

Prince Charles, stodgiest of the uptight Brits, has always reminded me of both George Bushes; the first because he always seems so uptight, the second because he can’t keep mouthing off his nonsensical ideas. This moment captures the best of both Bushes in Charles.

Recently deceased Boris Yeltsin and Slick Willy look like they’re about to wet their respective pants at this summit.

Most political events aren’t so hilarious; otherwise we’d be streaming C-SPAN all day. Silvio Berlusconi has major nap-jerk. What an angel.

You’ve seen it before, but WAKE UP, America! Howard Dean would like to embarrass everyone associated with his ‘04 presidential run, and you’d better pay attention.

Finally, it’s back to scare tactics in this British ad for the New Labour party. See, kids? Voting conservative is just like a drunken wedding—you didn’t really mean to wake up with that in your life, did you?

blog comments powered by Disqus