11 Awkward U.S. President Photos

As the tagging feature on Facebook has taught us over the past few years, you never know when you’re going to get caught at your worst.

Here to share your pain are some American presidents whose most awkward moments have been preserved for posterity by the miracle of the photographic age.

1. Big Brother Is Watching

Tagged: Barack Obama

Year Taken: 2009

Back Story: This snapshot from the G-8 summit appears to show Barack Obama giving a young woman the once-over. As if getting caught mid-ogle weren’t enough, Obama finds himself further incriminated by the fact that his fellow ogler is none other than French President Nicolas Sarkozy.

Video of the moments following the incident suggests that (possibly) Obama is actually looking back to help someone down the steps. But, unfortunately for Sarkozy, it appears that he has no such alibi.

2. Mission Accomplished

Tagged: George W. Bush

Year Taken: 2003

Back Story: Taken from a presidential address celebrating the end of “major combat operations” in Iraq, this image has since become synonymous with the word “fail.”

Skepticism regarding the president’s need for a flight suit or jet landing have also made it synonymous with the words “theatrical” and “expensive.”

Privacy Setting: Leave the photo visible to everyone, but write an ironic caption underneath to make the whole thing look planned.

3. Pardon Me

Tagged: George W. Bush

Year Taken: 2001

Back Story: This 2001 photo from the annual pardoning of the Thanksgiving turkey shows George W. Bush attempting to pose with a turkey named “Liberty.” Feel free to create your own caption.

Privacy Setting: Friends only. The gang will get a kick out of it, but you might want to block it from co-workers or potential dates.

4. Read My Lips

Tagged: Bill Clinton

Year Taken: 1996

Back Story: Taken shortly after his re-election, this famous shot shows Clinton hugging Monica Lewinsky a full two years before the secret of their affair became public.

Perjuring himself in court to keep their relationship a secret, Clinton then became the only other president besides Andrew Johnson ever to have been impeached.

Privacy Setting: Un-tag the photo immediately. Hell hath no fury like a Facebook stalker scorned.


5. Stand and Deliver

Tagged: George H.W. Bush

Year Taken: 1992

Back Story: Derived from a video taken in 1992, this unfortunate freeze-frame shows First Lady Barbara Bush staunching the flow of vomit from President George H.W. Bush’s mouth onto Japanese Prime Minister Kiichi Miyazawa’s lap.

To this day, puking in public is called “bushu-suru,” or “doing a Bush,” in Japan.

Privacy Setting: Friends-of-friends. Showing off your crazy weekend will awe your confirmed pals while letting potential friends know you’re wild and spontaneous.

6. The King and I

Tagged: Richard Nixon

Year Taken: 1970

Back Story: A picture may say a thousand words, but we’re guessing this photo of Nixon and Elvis Presley could use a little help with the specifics.

After writing Nixon a letter asking to be made a “Federal Agent At-Large” for the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs, Elvis was invited to the White House to meet the president. There, he expressed his disgust for illegal drugs, hippies, anti-Americanism, and The Beatles before giving Nixon a Colt-45 pistol as thanks.

Privacy Setting: Public. No one will believe you, anyway.


7. This Isn’t Nam, This Is Bowling. There Are Rules

Tagged: Richard Nixon

Year Taken: circa 1970

Back Story: This picture, which has since become a favorite among Big Lebowski aficionados, shows Nixon enjoying the Executive Office Building’s private bowling alley (Nixon also had lanes installed in the White House).

Moral of the photo: presidents may come and go, but hideous bowling decor is forever.

Privacy Setting: Public. Showing off your hobbies is a great way to lure people into your real hobby: updating your Facebook page.


8. Shock and Awe

Tagged: Lyndon B. Johnson

Year Taken: 1957

Back Story: Before becoming John F. Kennedy’s vice president and eventual replacement, LBJ had a reputation as an incredibly effective Senate majority leader.

This was thanks in part to a technique known as the “Johnson Treatment,” which involved backing fellow senators into solid objects, leaning in, and yelling at them.

Privacy Setting: Friends-of-friends. The public at large doesn’t need to see you getting down with your bad self, but everyone else sure does.


9. Smoke Gets In Your Eyes

Tagged: Ronald Reagan

Year Taken: circa 1951

Back Story: Prior to his time as California’s governor or the Reagan Era of the 1980s, Reagan made a name for himself as an actor.

He then used that name to endorse cigarettes while spreading the ol’ Christmas cheer.

Privacy Setting: Friends only, but don’t bother to un-tag it – they all still remember what you gave them for Christmas.


10. Fine-Tuned Instrument

Tagged: Harry S. Truman

Year Taken: 1945

Back Story: Unbeknownst to many is the fact that Harry S. Truman, who inherited the presidency from Franklin D. Roosevelt, also played the piano. Like this one pinned underneath Lauren Bacall, one of the most beautiful actresses of all time.

Seen here performing together at the National Press Club Canteen, Truman and Bacall caused an international scandal just months before Truman was sworn in as president.

Privacy Setting: Friends only – preferably on an anonymous second account hidden from family and co-workers.

Truman and Bacall

11. The Buffalo Stops Here

Tagged: William H. Taft

Year Taken: circa 1904

Back Story: Taken about five years before his presidency began, this photo shows a rotund William Howard Taft astride an unhappy-looking water buffalo.

What’s he doing up there, you ask? He was Governor-General of the Philippines. What better goodwill gesture than to condemn a local beast to a lifetime of chiropractor visits?

Privacy Setting: Public. Wave that chub flag high.

~~
For more presidential hijinks and insight, check out Shmoop’s Executive Branch & Presidents Learning Guide in Shmoop Civics

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