Excerpt from Great Political Wit by Robert J. Dole, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Great Political Wit

Laughing (almost) All The Way To The Whitehouse

by Robert J. Dole

Great Political Wit
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  • First Published:
    Oct 1998, 255 pages
    Oct 1999, 224 pages

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On numerous occasions, Lyndon Johnson repeated this remark about two kinds of speeches: "The Mother Hubbard speech, which, like the garment, covers everything but touches nothing; and the French bathing suit speech, which covers only the essential points."


Massachusetts Senator Edward Kennedy remembers, "I ran for the Senate at a very young age, and one of the issues used by the opponents was that I had never worked a day in my life. One day I was going through one of the factories in my state to meet the workers. And I will never forget the fellow who came up to me, shook my hand, and said: 'Mr. Kennedy, I understand that you have never worked a day in your life. Let me tell you, you haven't missed a thing.'"


In a letter to his sister in 1947, Truman wrote: "All the President is, is a glorified public relations man who spends his time flattering, kissing and kicking people to get them to do what they are supposed to do anyway."

Maine Republican Senator Margaret Chase Smith was once asked by a constituent, "What would you do if you woke up one morning and found yourself in the White House?" Smith replied, "I would go to the President's wife and apologize, and then leave at once."


Dan Quayle was fond of quoting his fellow Hoosier, Vice-President Thomas Marshall, who liked to tell of the two brothers, one of whom went away to sea, and the other became Vice-President--and neither was ever heard of again.


While instructing her secretary upon settling into the White House in 1961, Jacqueline Kennedy said: "The one thing I do not want to be called is First Lady. It sounds like a saddle horse."


Eleanor Roosevelt once left the White House to visit a prison in Baltimore. Her departure was so early in the morning that she decided not to disturb her husband. Shortly after he got up, he contacted Mrs. Roosevelt's secretary to ask where his wife was. She replied, "She's in prison, Mr. President."

"I'm not surprised," replied FDR, "but what for?"


The White House birth of puppies to Millie, George and Barbara Bush's beloved springer spaniel (and best-selling author) led President Bush to gloat, "The puppies are sleeping on the Washington Post and New York Times. It's the first time in history these papers have been used to prevent leaks."


When Will Hays took Will Rogers to the White House to meet President Harding, Rogers said, "Mr. President, I would like to tell you all the latest political jokes."

"You don't have to," Harding rejoined. "I appointed them."


Phil Gramm and I have had our occasional differences, but we do share a love for one-liners. One of the times I thought "I wish I had said that," was when Phil said, "Balancing the budget is like going to heaven. Everybody wants to do it, but nobody wants to make the trip."


When Edward Everett Hale served as Chaplain of the Senate, he was asked, "Do you pray for the Senators, Dr. Hale?"

"No," he said, "I look at the Senators and pray for the country."


Leave it to the inimitable Alice Roosevelt Longworth to offer the ultimate insider's assessment of scandals surrounding the Nixon Administration. In the words of Princess Alice, "I will remember Watergate as good, unclean fun."


Told that familiarity breeds contempt, Churchill responded, "I would like to remind you that without a degree of familiarity we could not breed anything."


In 1930 former President Calvin Coolidge filled out a membership form from the Washington Press Club. At the place marked "Occupation," he wrote in "retired." Then he skipped down a line to the section marked "Comments." Coolidge thought for a moment before writing, "and glad of it."

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Excerpted from Great Political Wit of the 20th Century by By Bob Dole. . Excerpted by permission of Nan A. Talese/Doubleday, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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