Who Said It — 2016 Candidate, Or 5-Year-Old?

by Elizabeth King

Some people like to say that we're all kids at heart. Which is fine for the most part, unless you're a presidential candidate who can't keep a lid on your less-mature side while in the public eye. Time and time again, we see heavy-hitting politicians get hot under the collar and unleash what they wish they could have said to their schoolyard bullies back in the day, but under the heat of debate stage lights and broadcast on national television. Whoops! Watching the debate, it's sometimes hard not to picture presidential candidates with little backpacks overflowing with crayons and markers, and to wonder why their parents are letting them stay up so late after their bedtimes. Basically, debates tend to bring out the childish side of politics, and presidential candidates often end up sounding like five-year-olds (no offense to all the five-year-olds out there).

This isn't a phenomenon specific to Donald Trump, though he is arguably the worst offender in the current election cycle. Candidates have been going at each other little-kid-style for decades. Sometimes it's funny, and sometimes it's so cringe-worthy you may curl up in a ball and cry. So pull up your nap mat and grab a binky, and let's explore some of the perfectly Kindergarten-quality zingers presidential and vice presidential candidates have hurled at one another over the years.

He's Got A One-Point Plan

During debates between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney in 2012, the two did not hold back on zinging one another — Obama least of all. He really went at Romney, and smugly relished in insulting his Republican rival. At the time, Romney was espousing a "five-point plan" for this presidency; during one of their debates, Obama stated, "He doesn't have a five-point plan, he has a one-point plan!" Come on, man. He did follow up by saying that Romney intended to play favorites with the rich, but "Nuh-uh, its only ONE point" reads schoolyard to me. Oh, Mr. President.

I Wasn't The One Having Trouble Explaining It


I remember watching the presidential debates between Al Gore and George W. Bush as a kid. I very distinctly recall the major dis that Gore landed on Bush in their debate in October 2000. In fact, they both went tit-for-tat in a little verbal spar towards the end, when Gore was criticizing Bush's tax plans. Bush interjected with "That's the kind of exaggeration I was just talking about." Gore's rejoinder: "Well, I wasn't the one having trouble explaining it."

Ouch! This was of course a jab at Bush's struggles with remaining articulate during the debates (a flaw that followed him throughout his presidency), and also something that might have gotten Gore sent home from pre-school, had their teacher overheard.

That One

During one of their debates in October of 2008, McCain pointed out that Obama had voted for a bill supported by President Bush and Vice President Cheney which contained massive benefits for oil companies. McCain, wanting to highlight that he had not voted in support of the bill, said, "You know who voted for the bills? That one!" and pointed to Obama. Alright, John, use your manners and refer to your colleague by his actual name. Sheesh.

I Never Attacked Him On His Looks

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In a moment that was shockingly lacking in self-awareness (even for Donald Trump), after being called out by Rand Paul for making "junior high"-style insults towards other candidates, Trump fired back "I never attacked him on his looks, and believe me, there's plenty of subject matter right there."

From What I Heard Last Night, It's The Cartoon Network

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I'd never want him to be president, but I have to admit I was proud of Lindsay Graham during the last Republican mini-forum. He really stepped it up from his impossibly stiff and uncomfortable first showing in the first Republican forum. He teased himself in good fun and also took a wicked crack at Donald Trump. Graham said that Trump "Gets his foreign policy from watching television. And from what I heard last night, it's the Cartoon Network. Ooo I'm big, I'm strong, we're gonna hit them on the head." Graham literally did an impression of Trump. Can I get a "Nana-nana-boo-boo?"

No Jack Kennedy


In a 1988 Vice Presidential debate, Republican candidate Dan Quayle stated that he was no less experienced than John F. Kennedy was when he ran for the presidency, so inexperience shouldn't be an issue. Democratic VP candidate Lloyd Bensten quickly put Quayle in his place, saying, "Senator, you're no Jack Kennedy." The crowd roared, Quayle was humiliated, and all he could think to say was, "That was really uncalled for, Senator." I almost wish Quayle had come back with "You're not my dad!" but that would have been too perfect.