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Top Nine Awkward Moments American Politicians Have Experienced Abroad

As shots of Cuba’s Leader Raul Castro not allowing Barack Obama to tap on his shoulder at the end of their joint news conference in Havana spread quickly around the world, providing an awkward ending to the first visit of an American president to the country in 90 years, Sputnik decided to recall similar experiences US politicians have had abroad.

The official visit of the US president to Cuba, the first official trip of an American president to the country in 90 years, had an incredibly awkward ending.

At the end of the joint Monday press conference held by US President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro, the American leader apparently wanted to tap on the shoulder of his Cuban counterpart, but Castro didn’t allow him.


As the Cuban president seized Obama’s hand in the air, it immediately went limp allowing Castro to wave it. The shots of the moment spread quickly around the world.

Sputnik recalls similar experiences US politicians have had abroad.

As it turns this is not the first embarrassment President Obama experienced outside his own country.

During his landmark trip to Myanmar (Burma) as the first American president to ever visit the country, back in 2012 Barack Obama delivered a historic speech on America’s support of Myanmar’s new reforms.  

His then Secretary of State Hilary Clinton however failed to appreciate the momentous occasion.


Despite sitting next to former political prisoner and Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi, who spent 15 years under home arrest, Clinton was caught on camera dozing off.

Falling asleep during memorial speeches seems to be the family tradition of the Clintons.

Back in 2008 former President Bill Clinton was filmed dozing off behind a speaker at a service to Martin Luther King Jr. in 2008 for all the world to see.


However the former US president George W Bush seems to be the champion in becoming grotesque abroad.

During his trip to Tokyo back in 2002 then-president mixed up d-words ("devaluation" and "deflation"), sparking a run on the yen.

Bush emerged from talks with the Japanese prime minister, Junichiro Koizumi, to say they had discussed "the devaluation issue". Officials rushed to point out that the president had meant "the deflation issue", but not before the dollar had risen by about a quarter of a yen against the Japanese currency.

© AP Photo/ Shuji Kajiyama

Former U.S. President George W. Bush, center, shows a pitching form, wearing a university's baseball jacket, during his visit to Waseda University in Tokyo, Japan.

In another gaffe back in 2007, Bush confused Austria and Australia, when thanking Australian premier John Howard for visiting 'Austrian troops' in Iraq.

There were no Austrian troops there, although Australia had 1,500 military personnel in the region.


He continued his blunders by then confusing the organisations of APEC and OPEC.

Talking at a business forum on the eve of an Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Sydney, Mr Bush also told Mr Howard: "Mr Prime Minister, thank you for your introduction. Thank you for being such a fine host for the OPEC summit."

As the audience laughed, the US president corrected himself and joked: "He invited me to the OPEC summit next year."

George Bush found himself in another embarrassing situation back in 1992. During a visit to Tokyo the 41st President became violently ill at a dinner with Japanese Prime Minister Kiichi Miyazawa, vomiting on the foreign head of state before slumping into an unconscious stupor.


Thanks to Barbara Bush's attentiveness and table-hopping Secret Service agents, Bush recovered quickly, and his aids passed it off as the flu.

In 2005, at the end of his snap news conference in China, Bush tried to make a quick exit from a — only to find himself thwarted by locked doors.
After answering just six questions from a group of US reporters, the president strode away heading towards the door.


President Bush tugged at both handles on the double doors before admitting: "I was trying to escape. Obviously, it didn't work."

Among other US presidents who experienced some troubles abroad was then President Jimmy Carter on his visit to Poland in 1977.

It was his first trip abroad as President. The State Department provided him with a translator, Steven Seymour, who was reportedly hired for some modest $150 per day. His interpretation had turned out to become an infamous series of gaffes.

© AP Photo/

Polish First Secretary Edward Gierek, left, leads the way for President Jimmy Carter during arrival ceremonies in Warsaw, Dec. 29, 1977. Poland is the first stop on a six-nation visit by Carter

Three errors followed in quick succession in what was a short discourse. Carter first of all announced that he was glad to be in Poland.

Somehow this was translated as Carter saying that he had abandoned America to come and live in Poland.

Then Carter, still smiling, announced that he wanted to learn about the desires of the Polish.  The translator turned this into: Carter desiring the Poles.

Carter said he was happy to be in Poland; Seymour said he was happy to grasp at Poland's private parts.

Interestingly Seymour did not realise that anything had gone wrong until 31 December when a journalist approached him and asked him about his errors. He had worked for another 48 hours for the president only being silently removed before a final banquet.

And then, finally, President Gerald Ford. While visiting Austria in 1975, the President tumbled down the Air Force One stairs.


“A few more falls (one was even up the stairs) combined with Chevy Chase's Saturday Night Live pratfall routine, earned the former University of Michigan football star a reputation as a bumbling klutz,” the US media then commented on his awkward experience.



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