Bipartisan Folly: History's Most Memorable Political Convention Madness
From epic balloon fails to bizarre speeches and wild protests, political conventions seem to have it all.
The Democratic National Convention is set to begin in Philadelphia next week, following an unforgettable Republican conclave in Cleveland.
Every four years, each party takes over a major city to formally pick their candidate for president, but sometimes the process does not run very smoothly.
Over the course of history, there have been strange and memorable moments from the conventions and neither party is immune. InsideEdition.com takes a look at some of the most striking instances.
1940 – Mysterious Voice Beings “We Want Roosevelt!” Chant
In the months leading up to the 1940 Democratic National Convention in Chicago, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who was in his eighth year in office, was coy about running for a third term.
His Vice President John Nance Garner and longtime aide James Farley, were thought to succeed him, but as the convention got underway, Kentucky Senator Alben Barkley read a letter from the president that said: “[The president] wishes in earnestness and sincerity to make it clear that all of the delegates in this convention are free to vote for any candidate.”
As soon as the comment clicked in the heads of those at the convention, a mysterious voice came across the loudspeaker that said: “Illinois Wants Roosevelt! Ohio Wants Roosevelt! We All Want Roosevelt!”
Suddenly, the entire arena began chanting “We Want Roosevelt!”
The mysterious voice on the loudspeaker was Chicago’s Department of Sanitation superintendent Thomas Garry, a close friend of city Mayor Ed Kelly, a huge supporter of FDR and his New Deal that helped save the country from the Great Depression.
Thanks to the voice that came out of nowhere, Roosevelt won the Democratic nomination and got a third term. He would later lead America into victory during World War II.
1968 – Dan Rather Gets Pushed Around During Live DNC Broadcast
The 1968 DNC will forever be remembered for the riots that broke outside the International Amphitheater in Chicago and nearby Grant Park.
The flower power movement was in full effect and many were protesting America’s involvement in Vietnam. Protesters and police clashed outside the venue and in the park, leading tensions to boil over inside the theater where the DNC was being held.
During a live broadcast, CBS News reporter Dan Rather got caught up in a melee between police and protestors. He was trying to do a report on a delegate from Georgia when he was tackled by security and he said: “Unless you came to arrest me, don’t push me, please!”
He pushed back and defended himself, as his headset fell off, leaving in-studio anchor Walter Cronkite confused as to what was happening.
“I don’t know what is going on, these are security people around Dan,” he said.
Following the scuffle, Rather returned to the report, telling Cronkite he was “punched in the stomach.”
1980 – Trickle Down Economics: Balloons Fail to Fall Freely During Jimmy Carter Presidential Bid
The 1980 DNC at Madison Square Garden in New York City was a fight to the finish as favorite Ted Kennedy battled then President Jimmy Carter in a bid to become the party’s nominee.
During the convention, Kennedy would concede to his rival and Carter ran again for reelection.
Carter’s acceptance speech got off to a rocky start after the Georgia politician confused former Vice President Hubert Horatio Humphrey with fictional British character Horatio Hornblower.
It seemed to only get worse for the sitting president. When he and Ted Kennedy went to pose for a photo together, Carter wanted to raise their arms together in a sign of victory and unity for the party. A scorned Kennedy instead embarrassed his former rival with a handshake instead.
To make matters worse, balloons were supposed to pour from ceiling of the Garden like a colorful waterfall. But instead of a rush of inflatables pouring down, they trickled down just a few at a time in an anti-climactic manner.
1984 – Anarchy in the U.S.A.: Protestor Burns American Flag at RNC, Takes Case to Supreme Court
Politics, no matter what side, will always draw protestors. One demonstrator took his gripes out on Old Glory, when he burned the American flag outside the RNC in Dallas.
Gregory “Joey” Johnson, a member of the Revolutionary Community Party Youth Brigade, burned the flag outside the Dallas Convention Center.
During the event, Johnson was heard chanting: “"Reagan, Mondale which will it be? Either one means World War III;" "Ronald Reagan, killer of the hour, Perfect example of U.S. power;" and "red, white and blue, we spit on you, you stand for plunder, you will go under."
He said his actions were “exposing the flag as a symbol of American imperialism.” Johnson was arrested and fined $2,000. No one was hurt but many were offended by his actions.
Following his arrest, Johnson took his case to the Supreme Court. The landmark case ended with a 5-4 vote in favor of Johnson that burning the flag was within his rights.
1988: Words Come Back to Haunt George H.W. Bush
After Reagan’s two terms were up, his vice president was looking to take the Oval Office and become the Republican nominee.
During the RNC at New Orleans’ Superdome, George H.W. Bush proudly accepted his role as the Republican nominee for president, uttering a catch phrase that would come back to haunt him four years later.
“Read my lips, No new taxes,” Bush declared to a room full of constituents that were thrilled to hear his promise.
The phrase would turn against him when he faced reelection in 1992 and lost to Bill Clinton. In 1990, he hiked taxes after being hit with a $200 billion deficit.
2008: The World Is Introduced to Sarah Palin
When John McCain needed a running mate to go up against Barack Obama and Joe Biden, he went with an unknown.
McCain’s campaign plucked Alaska Governor Sarah Palin to be his running mate and the former sports reporter was thrust into the media spotlight overnight.
During her acceptance speech at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minnesota, Palin introduced herself and her family to the world.
"I love those hockey moms. You know, they say the difference between a hockey mom and a pit bull? Lipstick," she famously said.
Palin, who had hardly spoken on the national stage until that point came across as confident while she expressed her disdain for the media.
“I've learned quickly these last few days that, if you're not a member in good standing of the Washington elite, then some in the media consider a candidate unqualified for that reason alone,” she said.
Many believe Palin became the Arizona senator’s Achilles heel and cost him the election. Palin, who once scorned the media, embraced it as a Fox News pundit and reality TV star.
2012: Do You Feel Lucky? Clint Eastwood Talks to a Chair
One of the most iconic names in Hollywood history is Clint Eastwood. The Oscar-winning director, actor, screenwriter and producer has taken on a number of famous roles but the oddest was his keynote address at the 2012 RNC in Tampa, Florida.
Eastwood, an outspoken Republican and known to the world as a "man’s man," came off as a complete buffoon when he spent a majority of his speech talking to an empty chair.
He improvised with the furniture, using it as a symbol of emptiness in the Oval Office during the Obama administration.
The actor was trying to make a point but he ended up being a punchline.
Since then, Eastwood has not spoken at political engagements. As for the chair; it resides in the office of Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus.
2016: Trump and His Political Apprentices
Donald Trump, now the GOP pick for the Oval Office, will go up against Hillary Clinton in a battle for the White House . His nomination became official this week in Cleveland, but the circus inside the Quicken Loans Arena has overshadowed his achievement.
On the very first night of the convention, Trump’s wife, Melania, was accused of plagiarism.
In the days prior to her big speech, Trump’s third wife told reporters that she had little to no help writing her words. But as she spoke, a few clever sleuths on social media noticed an uncanny amount of similarities between Mrs. Trump’s speech and Michelle Obama’s 2008 DNC speech.
In the days following the address, a speechwriter came forward and offered her resignation, with Trump rejected.
Statement on Melania Trump speech pic.twitter.com/0iWIaFFjZW— MELANIA TRUMP (@MELANIATRUMP) July 20, 2016
It wasn’t the only scandal that occurred during the week in Cleveland. Trump’s former GOP rival, Ted Cruz spoke on the third day of the convention, telling delegates to "vote your conscience" and refusing to endorse the billionaire.
He was met with a chorus of jeers and boos. The audience chanted: “Endorse Trump! Endorse Trump!”
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