John Leo

People no longer bother much to create new aphorisms, adages and memorable sayings. But when they do, this column boldly moves to collect them. “An aphorism is a one-line novel,” said Ukrainian author and aphorism fanatic Leonid Sukhorukov. Here are some more recent extra-short novels.
 “The plural of anecdote is not data,” said Frank Kotsonis. “A journey of a thousand miles starts with an airline ticket. Unless you’re crazy,” observed aphorist Chad Carter. “We campaign in poetry; we govern in prose,” said President Jed Bartlet of TV’s “West Wing.” “Where there’s Saddam, there’s Gomorrah,” said author and blogger Stefan Kanfer of Stefan Kanfer’s Gadflights.

“Nobody ever went to a ballgame to see the umpire,” said chief justice John Roberts, talking about the properly modest role of judges. Ann Coulter, typically sharper than your average aphorist, said: “When conservative judges strike down laws, it’s because of what’s in the Constitution. When liberal judges strike down laws. It’s because of what’s in the New York Times.”

 “Every liberal thinks he’s intellectually superior to conservatives; every conservative I know wants to think of himself as morally superior,” said former Clinton administration official Paul Begala. “Whichever side denounces the other for politicizing the issue is losing the argument,” said Rep. Barney Frank.
Columnist and author David Brooks wrote: “If the true thing is obvious and boring, the liberal person will go off and say something original, even if it is completely idiotic. This is how deconstructionism got started.” (Conservatives, when they stumble on a new idea, tend to keep saying it over and over, .he said at length too excessive for an aphorism.) Blogger Megan McArdle, who writes under the name “Jane Galt” at Asymmetrical Information, offered  “Jane’s Law: The devotees of the party in power are smug and arrogant. The devotees of the party out of power are insane.” In the Hawks vs. Doves sweepstakes, Charles Moore wrote in the Daily Telegraph of London: “Remember that the hawk is a bird that can see things from a long way off.”  A less serious reflection on hawkishness came from thriller-writer Joseph Finder: “Hawks may soar, but chipmunks don’t get sucked into jet engines.”

John Leo

John Leo is editor of and a former contributing editor at U.S. News and World Report.

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