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Presidential Blunders

Sprinkled among some glowing tributes to the late President Ford have been references to his biggest gaffe. During a debate with Jimmy Carter he said the following:

I don't believe ... the Yugoslavians consider themselves dominated by the Soviet Union. I don't believe that the Rumanians consider themselves dominated by the Soviet Union. I don't believe that the Poles consider themselves dominated by the Soviet Union. Each of those countries is independent, autonomous: it has its own territorial integrity ...

This was, of course, in 1976. Still, when it comes to funny and ridiculous presidential gaffes (although it's not a single error per se), I've always thought Ronald Reagan's 1983 lunch with members of the press took the cake. For your holiday reading pleasure, here are some highlights:

Question: Are we going to put any kind of pressure on the Turkish government about giving a just solution to the Cyprus problem?

President Reagan: To the which problem?

Q: To the Cyprus problem.

Reagan: Oh. I wish the Secretary of State were here. We're aware of that but I don't know that we have involved ourselves directly and deeply in that. We have offered, as we always do, to be of help if we can, but right now I think more of our help is directed a little further east than that, on the shores of--

Q: I am speaking of 200,000 refugees in Cyprus.

Reagan: Yes, I know, and I hope that we can find-and help in the settlement of that.

Q: I would like to know if the American government has a stand on the Turkish genocide of the Armenians.

Reagan: The genocide of--

Q: The Armenians in 1915.

Reagan: Oh. I-the only official stand I can tell you we have is one opposed to terrorism on both sides. And I can't help but believe there is virtually no one alive today who was living in the era of that trouble. And it seems to me we ought to be able to sit down now, an entirely new group of people who know only of that from reading it, to set down and work out our differences and bring peace at last to that segment of humanity.

--Isaac Chotiner