A Look Back at Nine of 2009's Best Political Flubs, Gaffes and Laughs

From Obama's oath of office to Tom DeLay's Texas two-step.

December 22, 2009, 12:13 PM

WASHINGTON, Dec. 28, 2009 -- Call them flubs, gaffes or simply nine of 2009's unscripted political moments -- fortunately caught on tape -- that made us want to send links to our friends to watch over and over.

This was the year of party crashers, celebrity dancers, and beer summits. We went hiking on the Appalachian trail. We even saw the president's Senate seat for sale.

Take a trip down memory lane, and enjoy some of the most interesting and unexpected moments from this year in politics. Watch our highlight reel HERE and then re-live the moments in more detail below.

1. Chief Justice John Roberts Flubs President Obama's Oath of Office

Heading into the historic inauguration of the nation's first African American president, chatter intensified on the subject of President Barack Hussein Obama's oath of office, after a two-year battle for the presidency in which his middle name had been, at times, uttered as a slur on the campaign trail.

Moments into the president's swearing in, Chief Justice John Roberts flubbed the 35-word oath, and the unscripted moment became the focus of a political sideshow that lasted over the following days.

This is what Roberts was supposed to ask Obama to repeat:

"That I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States."

Instead, Roberts said, "That I will execute the office to President to the United States, faithfully."

Obama retook the oath of office, readministered by Roberts, at the end of his first full day in the White House.

2. Jill Biden Gives Away (Secretary of) State Secrets on 'Oprah'

During a January taping of "The Oprah Winfrey Show," Dr. Jill Biden said that her husband, then the vice president-elect, was given a choice of being either vice president or secretary of state.

This revelation came after Vice President-elect Joe Biden told Winfrey that after then-Sen. Obama offered him the job of vice president, he asked for some time to think about it and talk it over with his family.

Jill Biden interjected: "Joe had the choice of being secretary of state or vice president." She then seemed to realize she'd said something she wasn't supposed to have said.

3. Obama: 'This Is Like the Special Olympics'

The late-night comedy circuit may have been a successful platform for Candidate Obama, but that wasn't always the case for President Obama. In March, the president went for laughs on "The Tonight Show" and ended up offending the disabled.

Near the end of his 40-minute appearance, Obama mentioned his improved bowling score after practice in the White House bowling alley.

The president said he bowled a 129.

"That's very good, Mr. President," Leno said sarcastically.

It's "like the Special Olympics or something," the president said.

Of the remark, the White House said the president didn't intend to offend, characterizing it as an "off-hand remark making fun of his own bowling that was in no way intended to disparage the Special Olympics."

Obama himself called Special Olympics chair Tom Shriver to apologize the night of the Leno taping.

"He expressed that he did not intend to humiliate this population, certainly didn't want to embarrass or give anybody any more reason for pain or just suffering, I would say," Shriver said on "Good Morning America."

4. Michelle Obama: Hands On With Queen of England

There is centuries-old protocol concerning interaction with the British royals, but in a brief meeting with the queen at an April reception for the visiting dignitaries of the G-20 summit, first lady Michelle Obama set international headlines on fire.

According to the British Press Association pool report, "the queen put her hand on the back of Mrs. Obama, who did the same for a few moments as they chatted." The report deemed the gesture "an unusual step."

Later, a spokesman from Buckingham Palace insisted that though the queen was not prone to public displays of affection, "we don't issue instructions on not touching the queen."

5. Joe Biden Reacts to Swine Flu Hysteria

As officials tried to temper international panic over the spread of swine flu, the vice president appeared on NBC's "Today Show" in April and drew criticism from the travel industry when he said he would advise his family to avoid flying or being in confined spaces for fear of contracting the H1N1 virus.

"I would tell members of my family -- and I have -- I wouldn't go anywhere in confined places now. It's not that it's going to Mexico in a confined aircraft where one person sneezes, that goes all the way through the aircraft," Biden said on NBC's "Today" show.

"That's me," he said.

"I would not be, at this point, if they had another way of transportation, suggesting they ride the subway," he said. "From my perspective, this relates to mitigation. If you're out in the middle of the field and someone sneezes, that's one thing. If you're in a closed aircraft, a closed container, a closed car, a closed classroom, that's another thing."

Critics categorized Biden's comments as off base while the vice president's spokeswoman issued a statement saying: "The advice he is giving family members is the same advice the administration is giving to all Americans: that they should avoid unnecessary air travel to and from Mexico. If they are sick, they should avoid airplanes and other confined public spaces, such as subways. This is the advice the vice president has given family members who are traveling by commercial airline this week."

6. South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford Admits Affair

First the governor of South Carolina was missing, then his office said he'd been hiking the Appalachian trail, before the truth came out when a South Carolina newspaper confronted Gov. Mark Sanford at the Atlanta airport as he returned from a trip to Buenos Aires.

The same day the paper, The State, revealed Sanford's true whereabouts, it also published a chain of email exchanges between Sanford and his Argentine mistress where Sanford sang the praises of her body and bemoaned their "hopelessly impossible situation of love."

A week later, Sanford gave a rare and emotionally charged press conference, admitting to his affair and mystery trip, saying, "I have been unfaithful to my wife," and describing his mistress as a "dear, dear friend from Argentina."

Jenny Sanford filed for divorce at the end of the year, a decision she said "came after many unsuccessful efforts at reconciliation."


7. Hillary Clinton in Africa: "I'm Secretary of State, Not Bill"

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton found herself lost in translation in August after losing her temper during a Q&A in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Speaking through a translator, a Congolese student asked her the president's opinion on a Chinese trade deal with the Democratic Republic of the Congo. In error, the translator substituted former President Clinton for President Obama.

"You want me to tell you what my husband thinks?" Clinton replied, visibly irritated by the thought of being her husband's international spokeswoman.

"My husband is not secretary of state, I am," she replied. "If you want my opinion I will tell you my opinion. I am not going to be channeling my husband."

8. Rep. Joe Wilson to President Obama: You Lie

During President Obama's September address to Congress on the need for health care reform, Republican Rep. Joe Wilson interrupted the speech to yell "You lie!" after a line about how health insurance would not be provided to illegal immigrants.

The magnitude of the break in Congressional protocol could be read clearly in the expression on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's face immediately following outburst.

9. Former House Speaker Tom DeLay Debuts on Dancing with the Stars

Fans of "Dancing with the Stars" and the political world alike were surprised to learn that former House Majority leader Tom DeLay would join the season nine cast, but DeLay said he "jumped at the chance."

"I love dancing. ... You've got to love dancing if you're from Texas," DeLay told Chris Cuomo on "Good Morning America." "Conservatives can have fun too. Conservatives can let their hair down ... and put on some dancing shoes."

"The Hammer," a nickname given for his ability to hammer legislation through Congress, danced alongside fellow cast members Donny Osmond, Kathy Ireland, Macy Gray and others -- until he withdrew after suffering stress fractures in both feet.