My mistake was looking for inspiration for a Fourth of July weekend column by digging out the book “Political Babble: The 1,000 Dumbest Things Ever Said by Politicians,” only to discover quotes from three Nevada senators.
Howard Cannon earned his spot by saying in 1980: “The advent of these sleek coaches should provide a shot in the arm to both legs of Nevada’s passenger train system.”
Cannon was never known as eloquent, needless to say.
Paul Laxalt was eloquent, and sharp-tongued. In 1988, when he was considering a bid for the presidency, Laxalt said his opponent, Vice President George H.W. Bush, a member of his own party, “appears to be a Charlie McCarthy. He has no views of his own.”
Chic Hecht was included for this doozie. He told a reporter about his career as an Army intelligence officer behind the Iron Curtain. “The word is not covert, it’s overt. Covert means you’re out in the open. Overt is what I did. That means you’re undercover.”
This is the reason journalists use tape recorders for politicians, so there’s no deniability.
We all mix up words, but Hecht was particularly adept at it. Suppository for repository comes to mind immediately, another Hecht classic regarding Yucca Mountain.
Some of the quotes in the book didn’t seem all that dumb.
Ben Franklin said, “Here comes the orator! With his flood of words, and his drop of reason.”
That didn’t sound so dumb.
But there’s no shortage of dumb quotes from Nevada politicos uttered publicly since David Olive compiled this book in 1992.
U.S. Sen. Harry Reid’s quotes deserve some space. Because of his national profile, his quotes now gain national attention. Remember the fuss over his comments in “Game Change” — about President Barack Obama being “light-skinned” and having “no Negro dialect unless he wanted to have one”?
His comment about visitors to Washington, D.C., was certainly dumb, not to mention arrogant. “You can always tell when it is summertime because you can smell the visitors. The visitors stand out in the high humidity, heat, and they sweat.”
Frankly, I thought his telling President George W. Bush his dog was fat was a noteworthy example of rudeness, but dogs have yet to organize a march against the Senate majority leader.
Nor is Reid new to the gaffe circuit. I was there during a 1998 debate when Reid delivered a snotty put-down and earned boos from the audience by saying Congressman John Ensign was “a vet who also worked in casinos; he shouldn’t be interpreting the Constitution.”
Sharron Angle’s statements aren’t so much gaffes as they make one wonder: Does she really mean that?
Her “take out Harry Reid” stance sounded pretty fierce and has been toned down.
She’s trying to soften some of her seemingly unwavering positions about Social Security and Medicare, but those aren’t gaffes as much as an effort to reach the middle ground by wavering.
It’s no gaffe when she says she opposes abortion in every instance, even in cases of rape and incest. She means it.
And it’s no gaffe when she says she opposes unemployment benefits because it discourages people from searching for jobs. She means that, too.
It’s clear our Founding Fathers weren’t word perfect and didn’t hide a sharp tongue.
I wonder who Ben Franklin was referring to when he said in 1735, “Here comes the orator! With his flood of words, and his drop of reason.”
Political blather is with us always. We’ve got four more months of blather to endure, and, yes, some of it will be dumb, not to mention memorable. Sorting out the political babble from the political beliefs is the hard work.
Jane Ann Morrison’s column appears Monday, Thursday and Saturday. E-mail her at Jane@reviewjournal.com or call 702- 383-0275. She also blogs at lvrj.com/blogs/morrison.