Former Vice President Dan Quayle had books of his famous quotations published (something to which our current VP seems to aspire). Quayle had the dubious talent of uttering some of the funniest unintentional things ever spoken. I’ve devoted prior columns to our former VP in years past, so this column will tackle a few other famous extemporaneous utterances.
Let’s begin with a comment made by the man who won the election part of the 2000 presidential selection process. Former Vice President Al Gore has uttered some classics throughout the years. “When my sister and I were growing up,” Mr. Gore told a small audience made up mostly of women, “there was never any doubt in our minds that men and women were equal, if not more so.” How is one more equal? And while criticizing Dub-ya, Gore actually said, “A zebra does not change its spots.” Hmm. Gore’s former boss (Bill Clinton) actually said, “Politics gives guys so much power that they tend to behave badly around women. And I hope I never get into that.” Oops!
Another classic from Dub-ya’s dad: “I have opinions of my own – strong opinions – but I don’t always agree with them.” And this: “It’s no exaggeration to say that the undecided could go one way or another.”
Bob Dole once had this to say, “You read what Disraeli had to say. I don’t remember what he said. He said something. He’s no longer with us.” And the former Pepsi/Viagra spokesman also had this to add: “The Internet is a great way to get on the net.”
Wally Hickel, one of Sarah Palin’s predecessors as Governor of Alaska, actually said, “You can’t just let nature run wild.” Palin might be inclined to agree, especially while taking aim at a moose from a helicopter.
But it’s not just politicians. Our lower level bureaucrats make their share of language laughs. A letter from the IRS had these actual instructions to a taxpayer: “Please provide the date of your death.” And how about this helpful (and likely federally-mandated) warning: “CAUTION: Knife is very sharp. Keep out of children.” That’s just plain good advice, like this warning from a Batman costume for kids: “Caution: Cape does not enable user to fly.”
Sometimes government officials say incredible things when attempting to debut a new device, like this classic from former FCC Chairman Mark S. Fowler: “If somebody has a bad heart, they can plug this jack in at night as they go to bed and it will monitor their heart throughout the night. And the next morning, when they wake up dead, there’ll be a record.”
Navy Rear Admiral James R. Hogg offered this brilliant observation: “The people in the Navy look on motherhood as being compatible with being a woman.” Thank God – I was beginning to have questions!
Even the Duke himself, John Wayne, came up with this gem: “I don’t feel we did wrong in taking this great country away from them. There were great numbers of people who needed new land, and the Indians were selfishly trying to keep it for themselves.” That socialist!
Brooke Shields said once while auditioning to become an anti-cancer spokesperson, “Smoking kills, and if you die, you’ve lost an important part of your life.” Little did we know she had so much in common with Senator Barbara Boxer from California: “Those who survived the San Francisco earthquake said, ‘Thank God, I’m still alive.’ But, of course, those who died, their lives will never be the same again.”
Newspapers make their share of goofs, especially in their headlines, like this one from the Cincinnati Times-Star: “Most Lies About Blondes Are False.” Or from the Cleveland Daily News, “Supreme Court Rules That Murderers Shall Not Be Electrocuted Twice For The Same Crime.” And a headline in the Columbus Dispatch proudly proclaimed, “Lack of Brains Hinders Research.”
One of the great newspaper quotes was this correction, made in a British publication called the Ely Standard: “We apologize for the error in last week’s paper in which we stated that Mr. Arnold Dogbody was a defective in the police force. We meant, of course, that Mr. Dogbody is a detective in the police farce.”
It can be really amusing to read other people’s goofs and gaffes, but let’s keep in mind that many of these quotes were made in the heat of the moment, sometimes under high-pressure situations. Some are simple oversight. Others, no doubt, were definite examples of genuine idiocy.
Perhaps we should wrap this up with a very telling quote from Albert Einstein: “Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I’m not sure about the universe.”