From JFK's Assassination to Comey's Firing, Relive the Most Dramatic Political Moments in Recent U.S. History
LYNDON B. JOHNSON TAKES THE OATH OF OFFICE ON AIR FORCE ONE (1963)
The assassination of John F. Kennedy in Dallas continues to be one of the most talked-about moments in U.S. history (and is still the subject of multiple conspiracy theories). It resulted in one of the best-known photographs as well, as Kennedy's vice president, Lyndon Johnson, was sworn in on the plane back to Washington, D.C. Soon-to-be former First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy stood next to him, still wearing her now-famous pink suit, splattered with her husband's blood.
NIXON'S SALUTE AFTER RESIGNATION (1974)
The Watergate scandal started when five men broke into the Democratic party's headquarters in Washington's Watergate complex. It quickly snowballed into allegations that Nixon had been secretly taping phone calls, misusing funds, and abusing his position of power. The House Judiciary Committee voted to start impeachment proceedings in the Senate, but Nixon resigned on Aug. 9, 1974 -- before the hearings began. In a now-iconic photograph, he was pictured leaving the White House for his final time as president, both hands hoisting peace signs in the air.
THE ASSASSINATION ATTEMPT ON RONALD REAGAN (1981)
Just 69 days into Reagan's first term came one of the most talked-about moments of his entire presidency: The assassination attempt outside the Washington Hilton Hotel. The gunshot wounds were severe, and by the time he arrived at the hospital the head of his trauma team, Dr. Joseph Giordano, said he was close to death.
"I remember with a sinking feeling that the nurse said faint heartbeat, very low blood pressure," former secret service agent Jerry Parr said on CNN 20 years later. "And I really thought we were going to lose him right there." Reagan, of course, made a full recovery and ended up serving a full two terms in the White House.
THE IRAN-CONTRA AFFAIR (1985-1987)
In the midst of Reagan's second term, seven American hostages were held in Lebanon by Hezbollah, a group connected to Iran. In an effort to free the hostages, the U.S. supplied Israel with weapons to ship to Iran, with a promise from those receiving the weapons that they would attempt to free the hostages. According to the Washington Post, the weapons were sold at unusually high prices, with the understanding that extra profits would benefit the "contras," a Reagan-favored group fighting the Sandinista government in Nicaraugua.
The complicated arrangement violated U.S. law, and several members of the president's administration were convicted. Reagan and Vice President George H.W. Bush fell under a cloud of suspicion but were never charged.
HILLARY CLINTON STANDS BY HUSBAND BILL AFTER INFIDELITY ALLEGATIONS (1992)
During his 1992 presidential campaign, eventual President Bill Clinton was plagued by allegations of extramarital affairs and sexual assault. On 60 Minutes in January 1992, both Bill and Hillary Clinton addressed these claims, in particular those of Gennifer Flowers. Bill didn't deny that he had extramarital affairs -- and Hillary explained why she stuck with him.
"I'm not sitting here like some little woman, standing by my man like Tammy Wynette," she said. "I'm sitting here because I love him, and I respect him, and I honor what he's been through and what we've been through together. And if that's not enough for people, then heck, don't vote for him."
THE MONICA LEWINSKY SCANDAL (1998)
Six years after initial reports of Bill Clinton's infidelity, new allegations came to light: bombshell accusations that the president had an affair with former White House intern Monica Lewinsky.
Clinton originally denied anything but a professional connection to Lewinsky, famously saying in January 1998: "I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky. I never told anybody to lie, not a single time; never. These allegations are false."
Later, while giving a deposition for the Paula Jones case (she sued Clinton for sexual harassment), evidence submitted in the form of Lewinsky's stained dress led Bill to admit to the affair. The House of Representatives then voted to impeach him on the charges of perjury and obstruction of justice. After a 21-day trial in the Senate, he was acquitted.
AL GORE'S POPULAR VOTE WIN (2000)
Bill Clinton's vice president, Al Gore, had his own run for the White House in 2000 against George W. Bush, son of Clinton's predecessor, George H.W. Bush. The election was close, with Bush ultimately getting 271 electoral votes to Gore's 266. What swung the vote was Florida, where the vote tallies were so close — a margin of less than 2,000 votes — that Gore ended up rescinding his initial concession.
Gore then requested a recount in four Florida counties, but Bush was named the winner by a mere 537 votes. Gore quickly contested the results in a case that went all the way to the United States Supreme Court, which ultimately declared Bush the winner.
It was the first time a candidate had won the popular vote but lost the Electoral College -- and therefore the presidency -- since 1888.
GEORGE W. BUSH IN THE DAYS AFTER 9/11 (2001)
Months after the recount debate was settled, Bush faced his first true test in the White House: the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
All eyes were on Bush in the aftermath of the attacks. On Sept. 14 he visited Ground Zero, giving a rousing speech on the ground with a megaphone. "I want you all to know that America today is on bended knees in prayer for people whose lives were lost here, for the families who mourn," he said. "I can hear you, the rest of the world hears you, and the people who knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon."
His approval rating shot up to 90 percent, according to Gallup.
THE ELECTION OF BARACK OBAMA (2008)
When Barack Obama, then a U.S. Senator from Illinois, won the presidency following his hope-filled campaign, it wasn't just any other election win. It was a history-making moment, as Obama became the first African-American president-elect.
A particularly poignant moment came when Obama was photographed holding the hand of his mother-in-law, Marian Robinson — the descendent of slaves — as the race was called in his favor.
"America, we have come so far," he said in his election night speech. "We have seen so much. But there is so much more to do. "
BARACK OBAMA ANNOUNCING THE DEATH OF OSAMA BIN LADEN (2011)
One of Obama's biggest victorites during his time in office was the capture and killing of Osama Bin Laden, the leader of al-Qaeda and mastermind behind the Sept. 11 attacks. Bin Laden, who had been hiding in a compound in Pakistan, was killed after an American raid on the compound in May 2011. Obama announced the death of Bin Laden late on May 2.
"For over two decades, bin Laden has been al Qaeda’s leader and symbol, and has continued to plot attacks against our country and our friends and allies," Obama said in a speech at the White House following the announcement. "The death of bin Laden marks the most significant achievement to date in our nation’s effort to defeat al Qaeda. Yet his death does not mark the end of our effort. There’s no doubt that al Qaeda will continue to pursue attacks against us. We must — and we will — remain vigilant at home and abroad."
DONALD TRUMP'S PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN (2015-2016)
Celebrities have run for office before, but there was something different about now-President Donald Trump's campaign from the start. Initially shrugged off as a candidate with little chance of success (opponent Jeb Bush said he wasn't a "serious candidate"), Trump started topping the polls early on, eventually cinching the Republican nomination and then the presidency.
This all came while Trump was defying standard political norms: He didn't release his tax returns (and still hasn't), was accused of sexual assault multiple times and even mocked a disabled reporter on the campaign trail.
HILLARY CLINTON CONCEDING TO DONALD TRUMP (2016)
In a shocking turn of events that defied what most experts and polls predicted, then-Republican candidate Donald Trump ended up sweeping the swing states. He picked up Florida, Pennsylvania, and even Michigan and Wisconsin. Clinton conceded to Trump in the wee hours after Election Day, and later addressed her supporters in an emotional concession speech.
In a particularly poignant moment, she said: "To all the little girls who are watching this, never doubt that you are valuable and powerful and deserving of every chance and opportunity in the world to pursue and achieve your own dreams."
DONALD TRUMP'S FIRING OF FBI DIRECTOR JAMES COMEY (2017)
Trump was sworn in as the least popular president in four decades, with the cloud of allegations of Russian interference in the 2016 election over his presidency. On May 9, the White House announced that the president had fired FBI Director James Comey, who had been leading the investigation into the Trump campaign's ties to Russia. The termination was based on the recommendations of Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.
The backlash to his abrupt firing was swift on both sides of the aisle, with Republican Sen. Ben Sasse saying the timing of the firing is "very troubling." Trump defended the decision in an early morning tweet-storm, declaring that "Comey lost the confidence of almost everyone in Washington, Republican and Democrat alike. When things calm down, they will be thanking me!"