Jewish World Review July 11, 2002 / 2 Menachem-Av, 5762

Richard Lederer

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Poli-Tickle Speeches | Longtime Chicago mayor Richard J. Daley was known for beheading the English language with such mutilations as "I resent your insinuendoes" and "No man is an Ireland." "Today the real problem is the future," he declared but predicted that "We shall reach greater and greater platitudes of achievement." Mr. Daley's creative word choices must have been contagious because another Chicago politician was heard to shout, "I don't want to cast asparagus at my opponent!"

Life may get complicated and confused, but leave it to politicians to clear everything up. Or, as a Wisconsin state legislator proclaimed, "Good communication is essential -- even if it isn't clear."

"Being in the legislature is no bed of gravy," one of these giants of political thought observed. That was the same Minnesota state senator who said, "Let's dispense with all the discussion and get to the crotch of the matter." Poet Percy Shelley once wrote that "poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world." Equally true is that politicians are the unacknowledged poets of the world. They can certainly turn a phrase -- inside out.

In political debate, the level of language soars to the absolute pinnacle of platitude. When confronted by a charge that the Democrats had "put New York State in a pickle," Democratic State Assembly leader thundered, "We find ourselves in this pickle because you bought that jar and filled it not with pickles but with water, and now you're trying to jam it in the public's face!"

In a nationally televised debate, Walter Mondale stated, "George Bush doesn't have the manhood to apologize." Fired back Bush, "Well, on the manhood thing, I'll put mine up against his any time."

In discussing a local flood, California Governor Pat Brown observed, "This is the worst disaster in California since I was elected." Here are more executive and legislative platitudes that fill the anals of political science:

  • Pronounced President Bill Clinton, "I believe that this country's policies should be heavily biased in favor of non-discrimination."
  • "We will not close any base that is not needed," proclaimed Secretary of Defense Les Aspen, more revealingly than he may have known.
  • "If we don't make some changes, the status quo will remain the same," said another member Clinton's staff
  • "We're going to have the best-educated American people in the world," promised Vice President Dan Quayle, who also proclaimed, "I support efforts to limit the terms of members of Congress, especially members of the House and members of the Senate."
  • "If Lincoln were alive today, he'd roll over in his grave," said former president Gerald Ford, at a Lincoln's Birthday dinner. Ford also said, "Things are more like they are now than they have ever been."
  • Responding to a question on whether she had expected murder convictions for the Branch Davidians on trial, Attorney General Janet Reno said: "I always wait until a jury has spoken before I anticipate what they will do."
  • Former Michigan governor George Romney clarified, "I didn't say that I didn't say it. I said that I didn't say that I said it. I want to make that very clear."
  • Answering accusations that he failed to pay his taxes, former NYC mayor David Dinkens reasoned, "I haven't committed a crime. What I did was fail to comply with the law."
  • "We have two incredibly credibly witnesses here," announced Senator Joe Biden at the Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings. One of those unbelievably believable witnesses was now-Supreme Court justice Thomas, who repeatedly denied "uncategorically" Anita Hill's allegations of sexual harassment.

A full anagram is the rearrangement of the letters in a word or statement to make another word or statement. If you're a fan of President Clinton, you can anagram William Clinton into no calm till I win. If you're not a fan, you can unscramble from William Jefferson Clinton the anagram jilts nice women; in for fall.

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JWR contributor Richard Lederer is a language maven. More than a million of his books, which have been Book-of-the-Month Club and Literary Guild alternate selections, are in print. He is the host of "A Way With Words," on KPBS, San Diego Public Radio, and a regular guest on weekend "All Things Considered." He was awarded the Golden Gavel for 2002 by Toastmasters International. Comment by clicking here.


06/27/02: Suppository questions
06/20/02: George Orwell is looking at you
06/06/02: Jest for the health of it
05/30/02: It is truly astonishing what havoc students can wreak on the chronicles of the human race
05/16/02: A bilingual pun is twice the fun!
05/09/02: What's in a president's name?
05/03/02: Slang as it is slung
04/25/02: Abstemious words
04/19/02: This Riddle Isn't Letter-Perfect

© 2002, Richard Lederer