Beltway Beat: 'Who am I?'

Posted: May 08, 2002 12:00 AM
Response to the Beltway Beat readers' contest to recall some of the most memorable political quotes of all time yielded some fine entrie. (Contest winners were Paul McVickar, of O'Fallon, Ill., and Mike Daley, of San Andreas, Calif., for submitting two of our favorite political one-liners, attributed to G.B. Shaw and former D.C. mayor, Marion Barry.) Here are a few of our favorite entries, beginning with the winners: "Power does not corrupt men; fools, however, if they get into a position of power, corrupt power." - George Bernard Shaw "If it wasn't for the murders, Washington would have one of the lowest crime rates." - Marion Barry "We're going to push through health care, regardless of the views of the American people." - Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV, June 1994 "Who am I? Why am I here?" - Vice presidential hopeful Adm. James Stockdale's opening statement at the Oct. 13, 1992, Gore-Quayle-Stockdale debate "I didn't have my hearing aid turned on." - Explanation by Adm. James Stockdale during the same debate. "I'll keep getting elected as long as they don't catch me in bed with a live boy or a dead girl." - former Louisiana Gov. Edwin Edwards "I understand that the press sometimes has to put politicians under a microscope. But when they use a proctoscope, that's going too far." - Richard M. Nixon "The nine most terrifying words in the English language are, 'I'm from the government and I'm here to help.'" - Ronald Reagan "Sometimes, when I look at all my children, I say to myself, 'Lillian, you should have stayed a virgin.'" - Lillian Carter "We are getting into semantics again. If we use words, there is a very grave danger they will be misinterpreted." - H.R. Haldeman "The road to tyranny, we must never forget, begins with the destruction of the truth." -Bill Clinton "Now I'm going to tell you something, and I want you to listen. I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky." - Bill Clinton "That depends on what the meaning of the word 'is' is." -Bill Clinton "In just eight years I've given you enough material for 20 years." -Bill Clinton's farewell address to the White House Correspondents' Association "It's hard to believe that someone can be Barbara Bush's son and still be a redneck." -Sen. Phil Gramm of Texas "I know the human being and fish can coexist peacefully." -George W. Bush "Insisting on the supremacy of the neocortex exacts a high price, because the unnatural task of a disembodied mind is to somehow ignore the intense psychic pain that comes from the constant nagging awareness of what is missing: the experience of living in one's body as a fully integrated physical and mental being." -Al Gore "I didn't inhale." -Bill Clinton SPY"S SOLUTION We had to laugh at Washington surveillance/countersurveillance guru James A. Ross, when he was discussing the new secure baggage-checking systems at our airports. "I used to check my briefcase while traveling by air," said Ross. "Regularly, after recovering my baggage, I would notice that the lock combination on my briefcase had been switched to the 'open' sequence. I pondered what to do." Remember, Ross is president of a firm that specializes in detecting - and planting - every imaginable bugging device and booby trap. A modern-day Maxwell Smart, if you will, sans the shoe phone. "Should I put a camera in the case so I could secretly take a picture of the handler who opened it?" Ross plotted. "Or should I just pump out a squirt of red paint into his face?" Well? "I finally gave up and did neither," he said. "I just carried the briefcase on board and stored it overhead." TIGHT CLAN Sen. James M. Jeffords of Vermont shocked fellow Republicans last year by abruptly quitting his party and handing control of the Senate to Democrats. With that unprecedented coup in mind, John McClaughry, president of the free-market Ethan Allen Institute in Concord, Vt., tells the story of his unnamed relative who "maliciously" presented him with an autographed copy of Jeffords' autobiographical "My Declaration of Independence." "I immediately offered it for sale on eBay," says McClaughry, "observing in the product description section that 'I want to get it out of the house before anybody sees it and thinks I actually spent money on it. It is autographed by The Hero himself, which might make it more valuable to some. Also enclosed: an autographed copy of my May 30, 2001, commentary in the Wall Street Journal explaining how Jeffords betrayed his party repeatedly over 30 years and why the Republican Party is better off with him gone. Please! Take this book off my hands.' "The publisher's price was $14.95; I asked a minimum bid of $5. A week went by. At the end of the week, close of the auction, one bid had been received, for $5. I accepted it and sent the book off to the winning bidder, a gent in Centreville, Va., named Ralph D. Jeffords." CHAD COUNTING Should Al Gore decide to run for president again in 2004, he'll need a new campaign manager. Donna Brazile, Gore's outspoken presidential campaign manager in 2000, told us at the annual White House Correspondents' Association dinner she would consider it a privilege to work on the campaign of the Democratic presidential nominee in 2004. Yet she had a one-word reply when asked if she intended to work for the former vice president again: "Never." We won't soon forget Brazile's closing statement once the dust of the 2000 presidential race settled, words that rang similar to former Soviet dictator Josef Stalin's observation: "The people who vote decide nothing. The people who count the vote decide everything." Or as Brazile preferred: "Al Gore won the popular vote. I did my job. I did get that vote out. Unfortunately, I didn't get to count it." BANKING ON BUSH The Washington-based Environmental Working Group, or EWG, touts itself as a not-for-profit environmental research organization dedicated to improving public health and protecting the environment by reducing pollution in air, water and food. The EWG is funded almost exclusively by grants, including from Ted Turner's Turner Foundation. And what millions it doesn't get from Ted, the EWG apparently makes from peddling George W. Bush documents over the Internet. Take this week, for example, where over EBay the EWG is auctioning "an original, highly collectible copy of 'Food and Agricultural Policy: Taking Stock for the New Century,' the landmark Bush Administration report issued in September 2001." Which is too little, too late, says the EWG, when it comes to rural development, conservation and nutrition. "The abandonment of all of these principles by the administration has made 'Taking Stock' a museum-quality work of hypocrisy," says the seller. Current high bid: $5.76. CASHING IN Speaking of cheap books, World magazine contributor Joel C. Rosenberg observes that Whitewater poster child Susan McDougal spent a year and a half in prison rather than answer questions from independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr. The question now is whether McDougal will tell us what she didn't tell the counsel. She received a last-day pardon from President Clinton, the target of Starr's probe, and is now writing her first book. Rosenberg notes that McDougal's book advance - a five-figure deal - is a far cry from Hillary Rodham Clinton's $8 million.
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