Saturday, June 28, 2008

Sunday, June 22, 2008

From The Independent

By Edel Coffey
Saturday May 24 2008
This week's exchanges in the Dail are unlikely to find a place among the all time greatest parliamentary smack-downs. They certainly have a long way to go before they catch up with the likes of these historic phrases:
Winston Churchill probably wins the award for conjuring some of the wittiest political insults. One of his best was surely when an assistant knocked on his toilet door to say the Lord Privy Seal wanted to see him. Churchill replied, "Tell the Lord Privy Seal I am sealed in my privy and can only deal with one shit at a time."
Another famous insult was directed at Lady Astor, who said to Churchill, "Sir, if you were my husband, I would poison your drink." Churchill replied, "Madam, if you were my wife, I would drink it."
Benjamin Disraeli and his rival William Gladstone came up with some stinging one-liners. When asked to distinguish between the meaning of a misfortune and a calamity, Disraeli said. "If Gladstone fell into the Thames that would be a misfortune. If anybody pulled him out, that, I suppose, would be a calamity."
Taoiseach Brian Cowen can also come up with a witty put-down or two, having once described Fine Gael and Labour meeting in Mullingar to commemorate the Mullingar accord as having "a cup of coffee to celebrate the anniversary of having a cup of coffee". John Bruton too was able to dish it out. In 1994 he said, "If the Air Corps had a frequent flyer programme, government ministers could probably get to the moon and back on their accumulated points."
Last year, Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez described George Bush as "more dangerous than a monkey with a razor blade" and also asked, "Who would be the greater fascist: Hitler or Bush? They might end up in a draw."
Bertie Ahern always just about managed to stop short of using really bad language, which tended to give his insults a watered-down ineffectualness. When he lost his temper in June 2006 with Socialist Party TD Joe Higgins, the most offensive slur he came up with was the term 'nitwit'. Addressing Mr Higgins, he said, "You have a failed ideology, you have the most hopeless policy that I ever heard pursued by any nitwit. You are a failed person, you were rejected and your political philosophy has been rejected and you're not going to pull people back into the failed old policies that you dreamt up in south Kerry when you were a young fella. Now go away."
Put next to the scathing wit of Churchill and Disraeli, Bertie's comment is about as inoffensive (and effective) as a playground taunt. -- EDEL COFFEY
- Edel Coffey
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Monday, June 9, 2008

Associated Press story

Political insults and repartee featured in new book
BYLINE: By JOSEPH B. FRAZIER, Associated Press Writer
"I'll Be Sober in the Morning" (Frontline Press Ltd. 195 pages. $15), edited by Chris Lamb:

The political insult, the repartee, the comeback is a nimble fencer's epee in from out of nowhere, out in a flash, intended to unstuff shirts, slice and dice egos and leave the recipient humbled, dazed and speechless, preferably in public.
They've been around for centuries, and Chris Lamb, a professor of communications at South Carolina's College of Charleston, has culled some examples of the best of a low art form just in time for the fall campaign.
Some we know by heart.
When Winston Churchill, who liked a few, ran into Socialist Parliament member Bessie Braddock at a party she said, "Mr. Churchill, you are drunk."
To which he replied, "And Bessie, you are ugly. You are very ugly. I'll be sober in the morning."
Hence the title.
Equally famous:
"Winston, if you were my husband I'd put poison in your coffee."
"If you were my wife, Nancy, I'd drink it."
But it is the lesser-known comebacks in "I'll be Sober" that make it so much fun.
They generally are not remarks made on the offensive but in reply to inadvertent openings by dimmer wits.
Churchill, credited with some of the best, said many of the classics likely were thought of beforehand. Lamb goes further, suggesting some may have been created after the fact or not at all, but that facts shouldn't ruin a good story.
Lamb says he weeded out the clearly apocryphal ones. Some retain an air of civility. Some don't even try. A few have, over time, been attributed to others.
A sampler:
A diplomat walked into Abraham Lincoln's office and saw the great man shining his own shoes, and remarked, "Mr. President, you black your own boots?"
"Yes, Lincoln replied. "Whose boots do you black?"
Here's Churchill again, uncharacteristically on the receiving end:
Lady Astor, his nemesis, was speaking to the House of Commons on agriculture when Churchill interrupted, saying "I'll make a bet she doesn't even know how many toes a pig has."
Replied Lady Astor: Why don't you take off your little shoosies, and we'll count them together."
After the 1992 Republican convention Dan Quayle declared that he intended to "be a pit bull" in the upcoming campaign.
When Bill Clinton heard the news, he said "That's got every fire hydrant in America worried."
Will Rogers once approached President Warren Harding, whose administration was awash in scandal, saying "I would like to tell you all the latest jokes."
"You don't have to," Harding replied. "I appointed them all to office."
The portly queen of Tonga attended the 1953 coronation of Queen Elizabeth II and when she passed Churchill in the procession she was accompanied by a small boy.
"Who's that?" a companion asked. "Her lunch," Churchill grumbled.
And finally:
The 18th century political reformer John Wilkes was in a heated exchange with John Montagu, the Fourth Earl of Sandwich, who shouted "I do not know whether you will die on the gallows or of the pox" (venereal disease).
Wilkes replied, "That sir, depends on whether I embrace your Lordship's principles or your Lordship's mistress."
"There is no record of Montagu's response," Lamb said. "He probably put what was left of his manhood in a thimble and skulked away. To this day, none has delivered a comeback so devastating and so spontaneous."