Thursday, May 22, 2008

posted on Politics.Online

The focus of the Weekly Netpulse is to report on how technology is affecting politics, but since one of our local boys, Chris Lamb in Charleston SC, came out with his new book, I'll be Sober in the Morning, filled with political putdowns, comebacks and ripostes, we haven't been able to put it down.In the fifth century BC, Alcibiades debated his uncle, the Greek orator Pericles. "When I was your age, Alcibiades, I talked just the way you are now talking," Pericles said. "If only I had known you, Pericles," his nephew said, "when you were at your best."

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Review in News Blaze

May 21, 2008
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I'll Be Sober In The Morning Book Review
By Michelle Kerns

Election day is still months in the future, yet the cliches are already flying as thick and fast as confetti at the Democratic National Convention:
"I'm the candidate for change!"
"America needs new leadership!"
"I represent the working-class families of America!"
The years may change, but the same, tired old lines stay the same.
Chris Lamb's new book, I'll Be Sober In The Morning: Great Political Comebacks, Putdowns, and Ripostes is a deliciously irreverent antidote to the banalities of this year's crop of Manchurian candidates. From Greek orators to Winston Churchill to recent U.S. presidents, Lamb records some of the wittiest things ever spoken by politicians.
The book takes its name from a devastating blow dealt by the all-time King of the Comeback, Winston Churchill. Churchill found himself facing Bessie Braddock, a political opponent, at a party where he'd had a drink or three too many:
"'Mr. Churchill, you are drunk,' Braddock said harshly. Churchill paused and said, 'And Bessie, you are ugly. You are very ugly. I'll be sober in the morning.'"
Many of Lamb's examples baldly contradict the common cry that modern politics have become too aggressive and attack-oriented. Compared to many of their historical counterparts, today's politicians are prim lap-dogs of propriety and discretion.
During a heated congressional debate in the early 1800s, an opponent of John Randolph jokingly made reference to Randolph's sexual impotence. Randolph's reply? "'Sir, you pride yourself on an ability in which any barbarian is your equal and any jackass immeasurably your superior.'"
Tourism at the Capital would quadruple if the present Congress began to have such debates; tickets would need to be purchased a year in advance.
Lamb does not merely report incidents of politicians going hand to hand; he also includes several politician vs. reporter gems. In an interview related to the Koreagate scandal of the late 1970s, Sam Donaldson (of bad toupee fame) stepped over the line when he asked Senator Fritz Hollings where he had obtained the Korean suit he was wearing. "'Sam, if you want to personalize it,' Hollings snapped, 'I got it right down the street from where you got that wig.'"
Likewise, Lamb does not confine himself to wit emerging from the mouths of men. Female politicians can be equally withering, as Agnes Macphail was in 1921 when she became the first woman elected to the Canadian House of Commons. "One of her male colleagues once pointedly asked her, 'Don't you wish you were a man?' 'No,' Macphail replied. 'Don't you?'"
I'll Be Sober In The Morning is a delightful, laugh-out-loud read. It reminds us that although politics is a serious business, it can also be pretty damn entertaining.
Chris Lamb is a professor of Communication at the College of Charleston in Charleston, South Carolina, where he teaches journalism. I'll Be Sober In The Morning is his fourth book. To find out more about him, contact him at his blog.
Have you heard a great comeback, putdown, or riposte lately? I'd love to hear it too-I need a good laugh before Election Day. Send it to
Paperback: 195 pages Publisher: Frontline Press, Ltd.; 1st edition Language: English ISBN-10: 0972382941
Michelle Kerns is a freelance book, music, and movie reviewer.

Hillary Clinton and the Hee-Haw Democrats

In the 1980s, America had the Reagan Democrats. In 2008, after claiming that convincing wins in West Virginia and Kentucky demonstrate that she had the stuff to win the Democratic nomination, Hillary Clinton has the Hee-Haw Democrats.

Monday, May 19, 2008

article in the Hanover Evening Sun, 5/18/2008

Charisse: The art of political attack
By MARC CHARISSE Evening Sun Editor
Article Launched: 05/18/2008 04:06:11 AM EDT

The Earl of Sandwich, John Montagu, was embroiled in angry debate with John Wilkes, an 18th-century political reformer.
"Sir," Montagu charged, "I do not know whether you will die on the gallows or of the pox."
"That, sir, depends," Wilkes shot back, "on whether I first embrace your Lordship's principles or your Lordship's mistresses."
No, they just don't make political jabs like they used to. Modern pundits decry the coarsening of our political discourse, but it seems to me most politicians have gotten as thin-skinned as the rest of our too-quick-to-take-offense society.
Consider the furor late last week over a George Bush speech to Israeli leaders. Bush likened those who would negotiate with terrorists or those who support them with politicians who tried to appease Hitler on the eve of World War II.
I'm no big fan of the president's, but it didn't sound to me like a scurrilous personal attack on Barack Obama, whom he didn't even mention by name.
The Democrats, however, wasted no time acting all hurt and insulted.
Obama called it a "false political attack," as though the issue of negotiating with Iran or Hamas could be reduced to a true-false test question. Sure, the comment could have political repercussions, but it didn't seem all that out of line for a speech in Israel, where the issue has daily political relevance.
Still, Democratic National Committee chairman Howard Dean thundered that Republican candidate John McCain must
distance himself from the president's remarks. You'd think Bush had called Obama himself a terrorist.
I guess we should come to expect hurt feelings in a thin-skinned political culture, in which politicians themselves stick closely to scripted banalities, lest they say something actually interesting - and potentially damaging.
But it wasn't always that way. We used to admire the pointed political attack, and the cutting comeback - in our rough-and-tumble culture of plain-spoken democracy. In his recently released "I'll be Sober in the Morning: Great Political Comebacks, Putdowns and Ripostes," communications professor Chris Lamb reminds us that the attack was once considered high art to be admired, rather than apologized for.
The book takes its title from the famous exchange between Bessie Braddock, a Socialist member of the British Parliament and Prime Minister Winston Churchill. Churchill, the story goes, had been drinking heavily at a party when Braddock scolded, "Mr. Churchill, you are drunk."
"And Bessie, you are ugly. You are very ugly," Churchill replied. "I'll be sober in the morning."
Churchill, one of the more successful politicians of the 20th century, well deserves his numerous entries in Lamb's book. Consider this exchange with the American-born politician Nancy Astor:
"If you were my husband, I'd put poison in your coffee," she scolded.
"If I were your husband, I'd drink it," he replied.
Lamb traces the fine art of political invective all the way back to the fifth century B.C., when Alcibiades debated his uncle, the great Athenian orator Pericles.
"When I was your age, Alcibiades, I talked just the way you are now talking," Pericles said condescendingly.
"If only I had known you, Pericles," Alcibiades replied, "when you were at your best."
And such comebacks have long been a part of American political history.
Kentucky Congressman Henry Clay and Massachusetts Sen. Daniel Webster were sitting outside a Washington hotel where they watched a man walk by with a pack of mules.
"Clay, there goes a number of your Kentucky constituents." Webster quipped.
"Yes," Clay retorted, "they must be on their way to Massachusetts to teach school."
A few modern American politicians - too few - have had memorable comebacks as well.
During a television debate against incumbent U.S. Sen. Fritz Hollings in 1986, his opponent, Henry McMaster, challenged him to take a drug test.
"I'll take a drug test," Hollings responded, "if you'll take an IQ test."
As Lamb put it in a recent radio interview, "You want to leave your opponent red-faced and stammering and left [to] sort of pick up the pieces of their manhood in a thimble and go skulking off in silence."
Silence might be too much to hope for from a politician these days, but I'd settle for a memorable line now and again.

article in The National Journal , 5/17/2008

Zing! An Old Weapon Gathers Dust
Today's scripted and choreographed negative campaigns just aren't in the same league as the let 'er rip oratory of old.
by Randy Barrett
Sat. May 17, 2008

"Going negative" has become the countercharge du jour in the Democratic presidential primarython, but the spitballs traded by Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton pale in comparison to the memorable artillery exchanges of politics past.
Today's genteel attacks are typically delivered by surrogates and countered by a flurry of press releases. The broadsides, if they can be called that, are studiously couched and thoroughly prefabricated. In earlier times, insults were often off-the-cuff and delivered face-to-face--and occasionally settled with firearms.
In 1827, former Rep. Robert Brank Vance of North Carolina quarreled with his successor, Rep. Samuel Carson, during a re-election debate. Vance was running to regain his seat, and he lambasted Carson for supporting public funding to rebuild Alexandria, Va., which had suffered a major fire. The tense meeting ended with Vance calling Carson a "coward." Vance fell to Carson's dueling pistol three weeks later.
Most often, words alone proved ample ammunition to lay an enemy low. The testy and eccentric Sen. John Randolph of Virginia possessed a famously acid tongue and often devoured his unfortunate opponents, much to the entertainment of Washington's elite during the early 19th century. "He is a man of splendid abilities but utterly corrupt," Randolph famously said of Secretary of State Edward Livingston. "He shines and stinks like rotten mackerel by moonlight."
Such poetic put-downs were commonplace. "Oratory was more grandiloquent in the 19th century," Senate Associate Historian Donald Ritchie says. "That included invective as well as praise." Nineteenth-century politicians did have one escape route from intemperate remarks uttered against colleagues, Ritchie adds. Such attacks were often quietly removed from the Congressional Record at night by the offending lawmaker--a move that was generally regarded as an apology.
Few politicians delivered one-liners to devastating effect better than Rep. Thomas Reed, R-Maine, who served as speaker of the House from 1889 to 1891 and again from 1895 to 1899. Unimpressed by two lawmakers, Reed once commented: "They never open up their mouths without subtracting from the sum of human knowledge." To a member of his own party who had bungled the handling of a bill, he said (in a Maine drawl), "You are too big a fool to lead and you haven't got the sense enough to follow." Both quotes are cited in Alvin Josephy's book On the Hill: A History of the American Congress.
Reed is credited with forcing tough new quorum rules on the House that made the chamber more efficient and the speakership more powerful. But his tendency to verbally flay his contemporaries ultimately derailed his career. "People enjoyed it, but Reed stung enough people that it hurt him personally," says Randy Strahan, an associate political science professor at Emory University. Reed sought the White House in 1896 but failed to win the Republican nomination.
"People would laugh [with] Reed, but they were afraid they'd be the next target," Ritchie says.
Political-insult connoisseurs agree that zingers work best when they are personal, accurate, and funny. "A good insult leaves your opponent red-faced, mumbling, and sweeping up what pieces of his manhood are left on the floor," says Chris Lamb, an associate communications professor at the College of Charleston and the editor of I'll Be Sober in the Morning: Great Political Comebacks, Putdowns & Ripostes. "It's a tattoo that says, 'I'm a boob.' "
Sen. Chauncey Depew of New York once looked at President Taft's immense girth and asked what he intended to name the child when it was born. "If it's a girl, I shall name it for my wife," Taft replied. "If it's a boy, I will name him Junior. But if it is, as I suspect, just gas, I will call it Chauncey Depew."
Abraham Lincoln exhibited a self-deprecating sense of humor to great effect. During one of his famed debates with Sen. Stephen Douglas, his opponent called him "two-faced." Replied Lincoln: "I leave it to my audience. If I had another face, do you think I would wear this one?"
The arrival of C-SPAN TV cameras on the House floor in 1979 (and in the Senate in 1986) dramatically altered the nature of verbal jousting between politicians, some experts say. And the digital 24/7 mass-media machine has made everyone even more cautious. "Public figures now are not encouraged to be witty or spontaneous," says Robert Dawidoff, a history professor at Claremont Graduate University.
Republican political consultant Bill Greener thinks that the problem goes deeper. "There is a draining of the sort of tongue-in-cheek affection for the other side--that you're both on the playing field."
John McCain is well known for his astringent asides about colleagues, but so far in the presidential campaign he has kept a tight rein on his tongue. Obama and Clinton have been equally careful. Has the political zinger become a lost art?
Lamb says no, but he thinks that the climate isn't as conducive to verbal swordplay as it once was. "A hundred and fifty years ago, politicians didn't have their every word and movement choreographed by consultants and pollsters who make sure [everyone] stays on message and doesn't say or do anything they might regret in the morning," he points out.
The political landscape has also grown more culturally complex, says Democratic strategist Anita Dunn. "In the old days, you only had white Protestant males running," she says. "There was no diversity, and candidates didn't have to worry about gender or ethnic or religious differences."
Despite the rough-and-tumble aspect of politics, modern voters appear to be more uncomfortable with ad hominem attacks than their lever-pulling forebears. "They don't want things to appear personal," Dunn says. "The personal pejorative is now seen by voters as extraordinarily mean-spirited, and it produces a backlash."
The media are quick to amplify the opprobrium, and that isn't necessarily a good thing, says Larry Sabato, director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia. He feels that negative attacks that are factually correct serve a useful purpose for the electorate. "In order to have a complete picture, you need both" positive and negative information about a candidate, he contends.
Sabato scoffs at the notion that discourse between candidates should always be sunny and polite. "That's laughable," he says. "Politics is the rough, cutting edge of democracy. It's our substitute for coups d'etat and riots in the streets."
Effective zingers have changed the game even in modern politics. President Reagan completely defused the issue of his advanced age with this showstopper against his 1984 rival, Walter Mondale: "I am not going to exploit, for political purposes, my opponent's youth and inexperience." Mondale smiled weakly--and could never bring the issue up again. He went on to lose the election by a landslide.
According to Greener, Reagan's advisers warned him that he would face the age question in the debate, and the president assured his handlers he was ready for it. He delivered the line with the timing of the trained actor he was. "Reagan knew how to use silence as a tool," Greener says.
Other comebacks have worked equally well, notably Democratic Sen. Lloyd Bentsen's slam of Republican Sen. Dan Quayle, who made the mistake of comparing himself to President Kennedy during their vice presidential debate in 1988. "Senator, I served with Jack Kennedy," Bentsen replied. "I knew Jack Kennedy. Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you're no Jack Kennedy." Still, Bentsen and Michael Dukakis lost the election and Quayle went on to be vice president, although the Hoosier's later bid for the White House flopped.
The tart-tongued Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., says that the best insults are delivered ad lib. "Zingers really have to be spontaneous," Frank told National Journal. "If it's effective, it's got to be based on something peculiar to" your target. When done right, "it's embarrassing and undercuts people."
Frank has been unafraid to skewer Republican presidents and members of his own party alike. Of President Bush's Iraq policy and problems with the nation's economy, Frank said in 2004, "Rather than the boy who cried wolf, George Bush is the reverse. He claims that there is nothing wrong when there is. He's the boy who cried, 'Nice doggy.' "
Other modern lawmakers have been equally good--and hilarious--on their feet. In 1990, then-Sen. Ernest Hollings, D-S.C., unexpectedly found himself being grilled about his suit by ABC newsman Sam Donaldson on This Week With David Brinkley. "Senator, you're from the great textile-producing state of South Carolina," said the obviously toupeed Donaldson. "Is it true you have a Korean tailor? Let's see the label in there."
Without missing a beat, Hollings responded: "I bought it at the same place right down the street ... where you got that wig, Sam."
When the program ended, Hollings turned to his press aide and said sagely, "Take a long look around this studio. We won't be invited back here any time soon."

Interview with National Public Radio, 5/12/2008

National Public Radio
Morning Edition

Political Comebacks: The Art of the Putdown
Listen Now [4 min 36 sec] add to playlist

Morning Edition, May 12, 2008 · Politicians are known for delivering a scripted message. Those who stray far from their prepared remarks often find themselves in trouble. But a select few who dare can make a point with quick wit.
Daniel Webster, the 19th century orator, had this to say when offered the vice presidency: "I do not propose to be buried until I am dead."
That's one of the quips from a collection called, I'll Be Sober in the Morning: Great Political Comebacks, Putdowns and Ripostes.
The title comes from a particularly biting comment from a master of political wit, Winston Churchill.
As the book's editor, Chris Lamb, warns, political sparring is not for the faint of heart.
"The wit here is very mean-spirited," Lamb tells Renee Montagne. "A good comeback … you want to leave your opponent red-faced and stammering and left [to] sort of pick up the pieces of their manhood in a thimble and go skulking off in silence."
Churchill makes frequent appearances in the book. The British prime minister "could be so cruel and he would use his humor definitely as a weapon," Lamb says.
Such as in this exchange with Nancy Astor, an American-born politician in England:
Astor once shouted at Churchill, "If you were my husband, I'd put poison in your coffee."
His response: "If I were your husband, I'd drink it."
During one of his campaigns against President Eisenhower, Adlai Stevenson was approached by a supporter.
"Governor, every thinking person will be voting for you," she told Stevenson.
"Madam, that's not enough," he replied. "I need a majority."
Lamb says only a small group of politicians are good at the witty comeback. "It comes probably through seasoning, it comes from paying attention, and it comes perhaps from a heart that's a little darker than others," he says.
Excerpts: 'I'll Be Sober in the Morning'
by Chris Lamb


Steve Stegelin
Daniel Webster (left) and Henry Clay exchanged putdowns involving mules.

Politicians have been slinging barbs at one another, at reporters, hecklers and critics for at least 2,500 years, as I'll Be Sober in the Morning documents. There are nearly 200 comebacks, putdowns and ripostes in this little book. Here is a sampling.
Winston Churchill had been drinking heavily at a party when he bumped into Bessie Braddock, a Socialist Member of Parliament.
"Mr. Churchill, you are drunk," Braddock said harshly.
Churchill paused and said, "And Bessie, you are ugly. You are very ugly. I'll be sober in the morning."
* * *
Henry Clay was sitting outside a Washington hotel with Massachusetts Senator Daniel Webster.
They watched a man walk by with a pack of mules and Webster remarked, "Clay, there goes a number of your Kentucky constituents."
"Yes," Clay replied, "they must be on their way to Massachusetts to teach school."
* * *
John Wilkes, an eighteenth-century political reformer, was involved in a particularly angry exchange with John Montagu, the Fourth Earl of Sandwich. "Sir," Montagu exclaimed, "I do not know whether you will die on the gallows or of the pox!"
To which Wilkes responded, "That, sir, depends on whether I first embrace your Lordship's principles or your Lordship's mistresses."
* * *
During a television debate against incumbent U.S. Senator Fritz Hollings in 1986, Republican candidate Henry McMaster challenged his opponent to take a drug test.
"I'll take a drug test," Hollings responded, "if you'll take an IQ test."
* * *
In the fifth century B.C., Alcibiades debated his uncle, the Greek orator Pericles.
"When I was your age, Alcibiades, I talked just the way you are now talking," Pericles said.
"If only I had known you, Pericles," Alcibiades replied, "when you were at your best."
* * *
At the Versailles Peace Conference in 1919, Georges Clemenceau held out for the harshest terms against Germany. Someone pointed out that historians would be arguing for generations over who was responsible for starting the Great War.
"Yes," Clemenceau said, "but one thing is certain: They will not say that Belgium invaded Germany."
* * *
During one of the Lincoln-Douglas debates, U.S. Senator Stephen Douglas called Abraham Lincoln "two-faced."
To which Lincoln replied, "I leave it to my audience. If I had another face, do you think I would wear this one?"
* * *
Just after the 1992 Republication National Convention, Vice President Dan Quayle revealed that he planned to be "a pit bull" in the upcoming campaign against the Democratic presidential candidate Bill Clinton and his running mate Al Gore.
When Clinton was asked for his reaction, he replied: "That's got every fire hydrant in America worried."
* * *
When the Reverend Edward Everett Hale was chaplain of the U.S. Senate, he was asked if he prayed for the Senators.
"No," he said. "I look at the Senators and pray for the country."
* * *
Once when television reporter Andrew Kirtzman was interviewing New York Mayor Ed Koch, the reporter pressed the mayor on an inconsistency.
Finally, Koch, a bit frustrated, leaned closer to the reporter and said, "I can explain this to you; I can't comprehend it for you."
* * *
A foreign diplomat walked into Abraham Lincoln's office while the president was polishing his shoes.
"Mr. President!" the startled diplomat said with disdain, "you black your own boots?"
"Yes," Lincoln said, "whose boots do you black?"
* * *
Playwright George Bernard Shaw invited Winston Churchill to the first night of his newest play, enclosing two tickets: "One for yourself and one for a friend – if you have one."
Churchill wrote back, saying he couldn't make it, but could he have tickets for the second night – "if there is one."
* * *
U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice Melville W. Fuller was presiding at a church conference when an audience member rose and began a tirade against universities and education, saying that he gave thanks to God that he had never been corrupted by any contact with a college.
"Do I understand the speaker thanks God for his ignorance?" Fuller interrupted.
"Well, yes, if you want to put it that way," the man answered.
"Then," Fuller replied, "you have a great deal to be thankful for."
* * *
The conservative Winston Churchill was often at odds with Clement Attlee, leader of the Labor Party, which advocated a greater role for government in economic policy. Churchill once entered a men's room to find Attlee standing at the urinal. Churchill took a position at the other end of the trough.
"Feeling standoffish today, are we, Winston?" Attlee asked.
"That's right," Churchill responded. "Every time you see something big, you want to nationalize it."

review, Small Press Bookwatch

I'll be Sober in the Morning.
Small Press Bookwatch • May, 2008 •

Upon stumbling in on a nude Winston Churchill as he was a guest in the white house, Churchill said to Franklin Delanor Roosevelt "The Prime Minister of Britain has nothing to hide from the President of the United States."--"I'll Be Sober In the Morning: Great Political Comebacks, Put downs, & Ripostes" shows that some of the most powerful men in the world have also have been some of the most sharp-witted. Filled cover to cover with countless retorts and hilarious vocal burns, and charmingly illustrated by Steve Stegalin, "I'll Be Sober In the Morning: Great Political Comebacks, Put downs, & Ripostes" is highly recommended to humor shelves everywhere with a nod to political studies shelves.