4 Presidential Scandals Somehow Dumber Than Today's
It may feel like the office of the president of the United States of America is at its most embarrassing point in history. But the passage of time does cruel things to our perspective. It's important to remember that in truth, the office of the president of the United States of America has always been embarrassing. Here are several historical examples to prove it.
Obama's Secret Service Was Comically Inept
While preparing for a 2012 state visit to Colombia, the Secret Service made headlines when several agents hired prostitutes after a night of partying. The scandal quickly escalated, since several of the agents were married at the time, the sex workers could have easily walked out of their hotel rooms with classified information, and, you know, they were grown men with a job to do, not freshmen on their first spring break. The scandal eventually prompted a broad look at the hard-partying culture of the Secret Service, which is apparently a thing. But that's alright, this particular scandal only served to draw attention away from the Service's many, many other screw-ups during the Obama years.
Like the 2009 incident wherein two random attention-seekers walked off the street and into a state dinner. They even shook the president's hand, all without the Secret Service bothering to check if they were on the guest list.
And in 2011, someone parked outside of the White House and shot at it, to which the Secret Service responded by ... assuming it was a backfiring car. It took four days for a housekeeper to discover broken glass, at which point two and two were very slowly determined to maybe be four.
And all of that was only in Obama's first term! In 2013, an agent forgot a bullet in a woman's hotel room (every guy's been there, right?) and tried to force his way back in to retrieve it. In the course of investigating exactly what the hell this guy was thinking, they found the man had also been sending "sexually suggestive" emails to a subordinate, which got him the boot.
But the worst came in 2014, when a man with a knife hopped the White House fence and made it deep inside the building. How did he manage to get so far without tripping any alarms? Well, he did trip the alarm ... which was promptly disabled because the staff found it too loud.
And only a few days before that, a security contractor with an assault record got on the same elevator as the president and filmed Obama with his phone, even after agents told him to stop. He was fired on the spot ... at which point they discovered that he was carrying a gun. How Obama survived this comedy of errors for eight straight years is anyone's guess.
Richard Nixon Gave The Secret Service A Ridiculous Makeover
In 1970, Richard Nixon was preparing for a state visit from British Prime Minister Harold Wilson, and like all good hosts, Nixon was worried about the state of his digs. Specifically, he was concerned that the Secret Service looked "slovenly," and was so impressed by the honor guards he'd seen in Europe that he decided to give his own troops a continental makeover. The results were, uh, well ...
Those poor bastards look like a bunch of extremely serious ice cream truck drivers. The press accused Nixon of running a banana republic, while regular Americans simply found the new threads far too formal. The Revolutionary War was fought precisely so that we wouldn't have to dress like that anymore, right?
The high black hats were soon phased out in favor of floppier white hats ...
... but they gave off a kind of Royal Disneyland vibe, and by the mid '70s, the whole outfit had been abandoned. In 1980, all 80 mothballed uniforms were sold to Southern Utah University's marching band for 90 bucks. We wish we could say that they looked like the toughest marching band around, but ... no, not even that.
LBJ Got Trapped In An Elevator, And Full Panic Ensued
On February 29, 1968, President Johnson showed up at the Pentagon to reassign Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara. McNamara met Johnson in the parking garage and, along with 11 other people, piled into the elevator. The elevator got stuck in between floors. What followed was about 15 minutes of pure, blind panic. One member of the party worried that they were experiencing the start of a coup (all the rage in the '60s), and that the elevator was going to be blown up or gassed. Another was concerned about oxygen levels, so they used Johnson's notes to wedge the door open.
Meanwhile, Pentagon officials were worried that the president had effectively vanished off the face of the Earth, because life was extraordinarily different before cellphones. Eventually, a maintenance team managed to get the doors open, and a chair was passed down through the top hatch so everyone could clamber up and out. Johnson's only comment on the whole affair was to joke, "I never knew it took so long to get to the top in the Pentagon," before heading off to make his speech as planned. The recommended maximum capacity of the elevator was lowered, and the Great Elevator Coup failed spectacularly.
Presidential Campaigns Keep Losing Top-Secret Material
In the 1980 election, Ronald Reagan was about to have his only debate against Jimmy Carter. While the election ended up being a rout, it looked close at the time. The debate was important, and the Reagan camp had one key advantage: They had flat out stolen Carter's preparation materials. The documents were labeled "Top Secret," so acquiring them meant their camp had broken the law. When the story broke in 1983, it flared into a scandal called, ugh, "Debategate."
To this day, no one is 100 percent sure what happened, but the prevailing theory is that the material was given to Reagan by William Casey (his campaign manager in 1980, CIA director by 1983). It's believed that Casey got the goods from an aide to Ted Kennedy, because the Kennedy camp was unhappy with how the Democratic primaries had unfolded. When the news broke, there was a ten-month investigation that led to ... absolutely no consequences for anyone.
Debategate seemed to set the precedent that it's totally cool to try to steal your way to the top. Even putting aside the recent Clinton/Trump scandal, another stolen debate prep incident made headlines in 2000, when an anonymous source (later revealed to be the employee of a Bush camp insider) sent Al Gore confidant Tom Downey some debate material from the Bush campaign. The moment Downey realized what it was, the Gore team politely turned it over to the FBI, and Downey recused himself from Gore's debate team. If there was ever a poster boy for "nice guys finish last," it's Al Gore.
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