"We begin bombing in 5 minutes."
August 11, 1984 - In the summer of 1984, President Ronald Reagan was running for re-election. As he prepared for his weekly radio address on National Public Radio, President Reagan spoke into a live microphone for a sound check that would allow the technicians to properly set recording levels.
Instead of reading the text from his prepared speech, President Reagan improvised a Cold War joke:
My fellow Americans, I'm pleased to tell you today that I've signed legislation that will outlaw Russia forever. We begin bombing in five minutes.
The comment was not carried live over the airwaves, but it was leaked to the press afterward and caused at least one division of the Soviet Army to go on alert.
The gaffe also knocked 7 points off his lead over Walter Mondale in the polls. Most Americans didn't seem to have a problem with the tough talk. 3 months later President Reagan was voted back for a second term in a landslide victory. One out of every four registered democrats voted for Reagan.