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01.26.10

9 Notorious State of the Union Moments

Barack Obama promises to punish Wall Street, George W. Bush talks uranium, and Bill Clinton all but waves the white flag on heath-care reform. WATCH VIDEO of nine unforgettable moments from State of the Union speeches.

Obama's Warning to Wall Street

At President Obama's first State of the Union address in 2009, he promised to hold banks accountable for the reckless decisions that led to the recession—yet months later, Goldman Sachs employees were slated to make record bonuses. "This time CEOs won't be able to use taxpayer money to pad their paychecks, or buy fancy drapes, or disappear on a private jet. Those days are over," Obama said in his speech. But, were they?

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Justice Alito Mouths Off

No presidential gaffe here: At 2010's State of the Union, President Obama criticized the Supreme Court for passing the Citizens United case permitting corporations to fund political ads. As the president said he believed the court's decision would open the "floodgates for special interests," Justice Samuel Alito was caught mouthing the words "not true." Don't be surprised if you can't spot him in the audience on Tuesday.

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George W. Bush Uses "Uranium" to Frighten Us

Perhaps no words spoken during a State of the Union have haunted a presidency like these 16 words George W. Bush used in 2003. In the buildup to the Iraq war, Bush told the American people, "The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa." That statement was much disputed, but the belief that Iraq was developing weapons of mass destruction seemed to clinch the administration's case for war. The infamous words are spoken at 9 minutes and 2 seconds into the clip.

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Bill Clinton Waves the White Flag on Health-Care Reform

This may sound familiar: A charismatic young president comes to office promising change but finds that one way of trying to implement it—with a new heath-care plan conceived by Democrats—causes him to founder politically. There's hope from Bill Clinton in 1995 that bipartisanship will help him accomplish his goals, but we all know how that ended.

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The Reagan Revolution Begins With a Joke

President Ronald Reagan is admired by many Americans for staring down the Soviet Union, but to those who knew him, he was also beloved for telling a good joke. He begins with his 1982 State of the Union address with a few lines about George Washington that make even Tip O'Neill smile.

 

Three Other Words George H.W. Bush Wishes He'd Never Said

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On occasion, the State of the Union has come at a time of war. In 1991, while American soldiers were driving Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait, President George H.W. Bush used his address to tell Americans why. "What is at stake is more than one small country, it is a big idea—a new world order, where diverse nations are drawn together in common cause to achieve the universal aspirations of mankind: peace and security, freedom, and the rule of law," Bush said. Forward to 5 minutes and 10 seconds into this clip.

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Richard Nixon Doesn't Exactly Lie, but…

President Richard Nixon tried the power of positive thinking when he declared in his 1974 State of the Union, "There will be no recession in the United States of America." The promise dominated the coverage of the speech (Associated Press headline: "Nixon says no recession despite economy pangs"). Unfortunately for the president, and for the country, his optimism couldn't stem the tide. By the third quarter of that year, the economy was in a full-on slide. The stock market bottomed out that October.

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Lyndon Johnson Wants Peace in Southeast Asia

In 1965, President Lyndon Baines Johnson addressed the Congress about his plans for American military action in Vietnam. "Our goal is peace in Southeast Asia. That will come only when aggressors leave their neighbors in peace. What is at stake is the cause of freedom, and in that cause America will never be found wanting," Johnson said. Americans would continue to fight in the region until 1975.

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JFK's Ominous Closing Words

In his third and final State of the Union Address in 1963, President John F. Kennedy closed on a mixed message of hope and worry: "We know the turbulence that lies below, and the storms that are beyond the horizon this year. But now the winds of change appear to be blowing more strongly than ever, in the world of communism as well as our own." Less than a year later, President Kennedy would be assassinated.

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