Every decade has its mistakes, of course, but the foibles, foul-ups and flubs of the opening days of the 21st century often came nicely as catch phrases. "Wardrobe malfunction." "Mission Accomplished." "Balloon boy." Here's a review of 10 what-were-they-thinking moments. Associated Press
A 'captivating' Madoff
For years, the Securities and Exchange Commission received detailed complaints that Bernie Madoff's investment operation was certainly fishy and probably criminal ("Nothing more than a Ponzi Scheme," a tipster wrote in 2000). But SEC examiners found him "a very captivating speaker" who assured them he was not "greedy" and that all was okay. So an SEC branch shelved the investigation. Eight years and several billion fraudulently acquired dollars later, Madoff confessed and is now selling his stories in prison.
White House flight of fancy, 2003
It was almost perfect. The golden sunset light, President George W. Bush's dramatic landing on the carrier deck, the speech. But who ordered that giant "Mission Accomplished" banner? Years later, the mission still seems distinctly in progress.
White House flight of fancy, 2009
Air Force One takes a good picture in any setting - but an aide to President Barack Obama thought a few snaps with lower Manhattan as a backdrop would be dramatic. How's this for drama: panicked office workers, seeing the low-flying 747 shadowed by a fighter plane, streaming out of buildings. Local officials called it "stupid and alarming." And that was before anyone learned that the taxpayer-funded photo op's price tag was $328,835. That didn't make anyone like it more.
Made-for-cable fake drama
When a homemade foil-covered balloon supposedly slipped its tether with a 6-year-old inside, we all held our breath - except some heavy-breathing cable anchors. The balloon finally landed - empty - and the kid was found safe at home, hiding, his father said. But why? "You had said that we did this for a show," the tyke told Dad, a would-be reality TV star, live on CNN. Whoops. Hoax charges followed.
Another thing O.J. shouldn't have done
The publishing mistake of the decade: If I Did It, O.J. Simpson's 2006 book about how the murders of which he was acquitted might have been carried out. Amid furious protest, the project was aborted, the book was ordered "pulped," and the publisher acknowledged its "ill-considered project."
Cheney's aim a national shame
In 2006, after former Vice President Dick Cheney shot an orange-clad hunting buddy who looked nothing like a quail, the pockmarked victim graciously allowed that accidents happen. How did others react? A Texas Monthly cover threatened: "If you don't buy this magazine, Dick Cheney will shoot you in the face." A hockey team held a "Cheney Hunting Vest Night" - "Don't Shoot, I'm Human," the vests said. Even Bush joked about his veep's middle initial: "B. stands for Bull's Eye."
Gov.'s in love
That's how you might categorize a couple of high-profile statehouse mistakes. South Carolina's family-values Gov. Mark Sanford missed the Appalachian Trail and ended up in Buenos Aires with his Argentine "soul mate." New York's crime-fighting Gov. Eliot Spitzer turned up far from Albany and as "Client-9" in a hooker's black book.
From double coverage to single coverage in Super Bowl
"So, we were watching the boob tube Sunday ..." So began an editorial in the Lebanon (Pa.) Daily News, commenting on the 2004 Super Bowl halftime show during which Justin Timberlake tore away part of Janet Jackson's costume, momentarily exposing her breast in what was later called a "wardrobe malfunction." Federal Communications Commission smut-busters imposed a record-breaking fine - but that malfunctioned, too. A federal appeals court ruled it to be "arbitrary and capricious."
Pulling the plug on Calif.
What caused California's energy crisis back in 2000-01? Deregulation? Too many hands on the AC switch? What about "creativity" by Enron employees? On Jan. 17, 2001, amid rolling blackouts, someone at the energy-trading firm told a power plant worker to "get a little creative" and find a reason to shut down, tightening electricity supply. "Okay, so we're just coming down for some maintenance, like a forced outage type thing?" the worker offered. "I knew I could count on you," his colleague replied on a tape revealed in a lawsuit. California's grid eventually stabilized, but Enron itself blinked out - under hefty fines and criminal charges.
Box office blunder
Did you see The Adventures of Pluto Nash? Almost no one did, despite its $100 million budget. And that was in 2002, when $100 million was still a lot of money. Admittedly, it is an exaggeration to say no one saw the movie. "I know two or three people that liked this movie," said the star, Eddie Murphy. Who knew there would be no audience for a comedy about a nightclub arson on the moon?