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The 25 Most Embarrassing Political Moments of the '00s

Decade in Review: 2000-2009

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Revisit the most memorable political scandals, gaffes and mishaps from the '00s, as well as classic jokes that kept us laughing through the schadenfreude.

1. Larry Craig Gets Caught Soliciting Sex in Men's Room

Senator Larry Craig (R-estroom) gave new meaning to the word caucusing when he was caught playing footsie in an airport men's room with his infamous "wide stance." Needless to say, the comedians had a field day mocking Craig, or as David Letterman dubbed him, "The Restroom Don Juan." Craig announced his resignation, then reversed his decision after "talking it over with guy in stall number 3" (Conan O'Brien), angering his Republican colleagues, some of whom "stopped having sex with him" (Jimmy Kimmel). The staunchly anti-gay lawmaker denied being a hypocrite, saying, "Hey, I wasn't trying to marry the cop in the bathroom" (Conan). Later, he was inducted into the Idaho Hall of Fame—not the entire hall, "just the men's room" (Jay Leno).

2. Dick Cheney Shoots a Guy in the Face

When Dick Cheney mistook a 78-year-old lawyer for a quail, he became the first sitting vice president to shoot a man since Alexander Hamilton. Comedians everywhere declared open season on Cheney: "The real question now is, is this a one-time thing, or will the vice president try to kill again?" asked David Letterman. "In fairness to Dick Cheney, every five years he has to shed innocent blood or he violates his deal with the devil," joked Jimmy Kimmel. "It's amazing, the only time you get accountability out of this administration is when they are actually holding a smoking gun," quipped Bill Maher.

3. Bush Attacked By Shoes

In what became known as the "shoe heard 'round the world," an Iraqi journalist hurled his shoes at President Bush during a news conference in Baghdad. The incident sparked a wave of comedy, including amusing Internet mock-ups featuring Bush ducking things like pies and snowballs, as well parodies inspired by Austin Powers and The Matrix. As Jimmy Kimmel joked, "This is the country we thought had nuclear weapons. It turns out they have a pair of size 9 Hush Puppies instead."

4. Howard Dean Emits Primal Scream

At a rally following his third-place finish in the 2004 Iowa Caucus, Howard Dean emitted a crazy, red-faced, vein-popping scream that was replayed hundreds of times on cable and broadcast news shows. Dean's "I Have A Scream" speech also quickly gained cult-like status on the Web, inspiring a series of hilarious mashups. Dean's campaign quickly fizzled amid a chorus of heckling. As Jay Leno joked, "Howard Dean announced today he will campaign in seven states. The states are Rage, Frenzy, Fury, Rath, Fever, Agitation, and Delirium. Yeeeeaaaah!"

5. Sarah Palin Gives Disastrous Interview to Katie Couric

In what may be the most damaging interview any candidate on a presidential ticket has ever given, Sarah Palin dispensed one idiotic statement after the next to CBS's Katie Couric. Palin was widely mocked for her failure to think of any Supreme Court decisions other than Roe v. Wade; her failure to name a single newspaper or magazine she reads other than "all of 'em, any of 'em"; and her claim to foreign policy expertise because Vladimir Putin likes to rear his head and fly over Alaskan airspace. It teetered on such self-parody that all Tina Fey had to do on "Saturday Night Live" was repeat parts of Palin’s answers verbatim, gosh darnit, and also there too, you betcha!

6. John Edwards Gets Caught Trying to Escape After Visiting Mistress

After paying a late-night visit to his former mistress and his child at the Beverly Hills Hilton, John Edwards was confronted by a National Enquirer reporter who questioned him about where he had come from. Edwards did what any self-respecting ex-Senator and presidential aspirant with nothing to hide would do: He fled into a bathroom and tried to hold the door shut. Edwards later admitted to the affair, but denied for more than a year that he had fathered the child. Or, as the humor site Fark reported it: "John Edwards: Billie Jean IS my lover, but the kid is not my son."

7. Mark Foley Gets Caught Trying to Seduce Male Pages

Mark Foley resigned from Congress after reporters got a hold of a series of sexually explicit emails and IM's he sent to underage male pages. Foley spent most of his career protecting children from Internet stalkers, presumably because he didn't like the competition. A sampling from Foley's IMs: "How's my favorite young stud doing? ... Did you spank it this weekend yourself? ... Is your little guy limp or growing? ... What you wearing? ... Love to slip them off you and grab the one-eyed snake." As Bill Maher quipped, "Republicans have sex the same way they govern -- barely legal."

8. Eliot Spitzer Gets Caught With Prostitute

Former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer rose to power as a sanctimonious crusader against ethics violations and corruption, but he didn't let that get in the way of his taste for high-priced hookers. As Attorney General, Spitzer had famously busted prostitution rings, apparently so he could keep them all for himself. Spitzer was forced to resign after being outed as Client No. 9 at the Emperor’s V.I.P. Club. Jay Leno was confused: "He's the governor — who were the eight guys in front of him? You’d think as governor, you'd at least get to go first."

9. Mark Sanford Goes 'Hiking the Appalachian Trail'

After he went missing for several days, South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford became a national laughingstock when it turned out he was not "hiking the Appalachian Trail," as his staff claimed, but was in fact off in Argentina chasing tail. "It turned out he was down there because he was sleeping with a woman from Argentina. Once again, foreigners taking jobs that Americans won't do," David Letterman joked. "Just another politician with a conservative mind and a liberal penis," quipped Jon Stewart.

10. Palin Punk'd by Prank Call

Just days before the 2008 election, a Canadian comedy duo prank called Sarah Palin and convinced her she was talking to French President Nicolas Sarkozy. Palin failed to pick up on any of the hints that the conversation was a joke, even when he said, with an exaggerated Pepe Le Pew-style accent, "From my 'ouse, I can see Belgium," boasted that his wife was "hot in bed," and praised the documentary about her, Hustler's "Nailin Palin." McCain campaign manager Steve Schmidt reportedly went ballistic when he heard about Palin being duped, while Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs said, "I'm glad we check out our calls before we hand the phone to Barack Obama."
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