Quotables By and About Obama, Steele, and Others

Ross Mackenzie

4/16/2009 12:28:21 PM - Ross Mackenzie

A grab-bag of quotations on subjects currently in the news . . .

President Obama, with reporters during his first flight aboard Air Force One -- dressed in a flight jacket bearing his name and the presidential seal: "I've got my spiffy jacket, so I thought I'd come and show it off. What do you think about this spiffy ride?"

Defense Secretary Robert Gates, on Afghanistan: "This is a long fight, and I think we're in it until we are successful along with the Afghan people. I do believe there will be a requirement for sustained commitment here for some protracted period of time."

Former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, who withdrew his nomination as secretary of health and human services because of his failure to pay income taxes, in 1998 Senate floor remarks on a bill reforming the Internal Revenue Service: "Make no mistake, tax cheaters cheat us all, and the IRS should enforce our laws to the letter."

Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, on Iran: "I think we've got a problem. . . . I think the Iranians are on a path to building nuclear weapons. (Talking to them diplomatically is fine, but) we don't have a lot of time."

Barbara Crafton, at GeraniumFarm.org: "Blind cynicism is no more intelligent than blind faith. It's not really smarter to think nothing is true than to think everything is. That bored roll of the eyes, that drawn out 'Oh, puhleeze' -- those things are not as sophisticated as they feel to the one employing them. Keep them up for long, and you just sound like a teenager who longs to appear worldlier than she is."

Erik Prince, founder of Blackwater Worldwide, whose employees have played key roles as security guards in -- most notably -- Iraq: "Our teams are not cooking meals or moving supplies. They are taking bullets. They are military veterans who have chosen to serve their country once again. Very few people know someone who would voluntarily go into a war zone to protect a person he has never met. I know 1,000 of them, and I am proud that they are part of our team."

Michael Steele, an African-American conservative disliked by the liberal Barack Obama, shortly after his election as chairman of the Republican National Committee -- when asked whether he had any words for Obama: "How do you like me now?"

A report by the Gallup Poll: "Nearly 60 percent of Americans say they would like to lose weight, while 34 percent want to maintain their weight and seven percent (mostly younger men) want to gain weight. While these figures have remained largely unchanged since 2001, Americans now weigh, on average, about 6 pounds more than they did seven years ago."

Wall Street Journal health columnist Melinda Beck, in an open letter to Barack Obama: "You've been very cagey about how much you . . . smoke. Telling Tom Brokaw (in December), 'There are times when I have fallen off the wagon,' could mean once or twice in the long campaign, or several furtive butts a day. In case you didn't see it, a big study in Norway in 2005 found that smoking just one to four cigarettes a day can triple the risk of dying of heart disease."

William Happer, formerly a senior researcher at the Energy Department fired by Al Gore (reportedly over Happer's refusal to support the former vice president's views on climate change), now a physics professor at Princeton -- in the Daily Princetonian, on why carbon dioxide is neither polluting nor warming the planet: "Carbon dioxide is not a pollutant. Every time you exhale, you exhale air that has 4 percent carbon dioxide. To say that that's a pollutant just boggles my mind. What used to be science has turned into a cult."

Wall Street Journal editorial board member (and Pulitzer-Prize columnist) Dorothy Rabinowitz: "Obama, who has always been much better than his vocal supporters on the far left, better than the cadres in MoveOn.Org, is no extremist. Still, there is no reason to think that his views on security issues and Guantanamo and interrogations, his tendency to minimize the central importance of armed might, are not deeply rooted. They are clearly core beliefs."

John Walters, director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy in the Bush II White House: "Some people believe drugs such as cocaine and heroin should be legal, sold by the government and regulated like alcohol. Our experience with alcohol (some 127 million regular drinkers as compared to fewer than 20 million drug users) suggests this would be a huge mistake. It is hard to imagine an aspect of American life that would be enriched by millions of new cocaine, heroin, or marijuana users."

The late radio commentator Paul Harvey: "White House occupants come and go. They are just like diapers. They should be changed often, and for the same reasons."

Fred Shapiro, editor of the Yale Book of Quotations, dubbing Tom Wolfe (Yale Ph.D., 1957) -- coiner or popularizer of such phrases as "the me decade," "masters of the universe," "radical chic," "the right stuff" and "pushing the envelope" -- as Yale's most influential phrasemaker: "In general, as the me decade has been succeeded by even-more-selfish subsequent decades, and the masters of the universe have continued their machinations to the point of a worldwide economic crash, Wolfe's social criticism and terminology seem more relevant than ever today. He earns the title of Yale's foremost contributor to our common discourse."