WIT HUNT

Eight years ago, I said it was time to change the tone of politics; in hindsight, I should have been more specific. — Barack Obama (2016 White House Correspondents’ Dinner)

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I am going to miss President Obama when he’s ‘gone’….if for no other virtue than his laid-back wit — a quality sadly lacking in the two major candidates to succeed him, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump  (not to mention his wit-less former GOP rivals):

One View: 2016 candidates lack wit of predecessors

At least Hillary managed a treasonable (to Trump apologists) facsimile of wit in a June 21 speech: “Trump has written a lot of books about business – they all seem to end at chapter 11” (a reference to his four corporate bankruptcies). Granted, that line was probably conceived by a speech writer, but she delivered it as if it were her baby, and to hold it against her is extraneous to witticisms delivered by past actual or would-be Presidents. Wit the help of assiduous research, here are a dozen of yore favorites (and I quote):

I do declare, if this be true, General Pinckney has kept them all for himself and cheated me out of my two. –John Adams (in response to rumors that he had dispatched the General to England to bring back four mistresses: two for Pinckney and two for Adams)

If I had two faces, would I be wearing this one? –Abraham Lincoln (when accused by Stephen Douglas of being two-faced)

Accuracy to a newspaper is what virtue is to a lady; but a newspaper can always print a retraction. –Adlai Stevenson

Politics is supposed to be the second-oldest profession. I have come to realize that it bears a very close resemblance to the first. –Ronald Reagan

Being President is like running a cemetery: you’ve got a lot of people under you and nobody’s listening. –Bill Clinton

If the Republicans will stop telling lies about the Democrats, we will stop telling the truth about them. –Adlai Stevenson

Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt. –Abraham Lincoln (Are you listening, Donald Trump?)

I hope you’re all Republicans. —Ronald Reagan (to surgeons upon entering the operating room following 1981 assassination attempt)

I think this is the most extraordinary collection of talent, of human knowledge, that has ever been gathered together at the White House, with the possible exception of when Thomas Jefferson dined alone. –John F. Kennedy (at a White House dinner honoring Nobel Prize winners)

I have left orders to be awakened at any time in case of national emergency — even if I’m in a cabinet meeting. –Ronald Reagan

A hypocrite is the kind of politician who would cut down a redwood tree, then mount the stump and make a speech for conservation. –Adlai Stevenson

When they call the role in the Senate, the Senators don’t know whether to answer “present” or “not guilty.” –Teddy Roosevelt

And with that exhaustive compendium, I’m at wit’s end.

 

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26 comments on “WIT HUNT

  1. Michele says:

    Yes the living here in Florida is easy but also challenging at times. I liked your Wits End poem and enjoyed the commentary from several of our nation’s wittiest politicians. Oh my! I had not realized how life of John Adams’ was so stressful that he chose to have a duel Thank you mistermuse for writing about this topic.

    Liked by 2 people

    • mistermuse says:

      Michele, I’m guessing that you meant “duo” (not “duel”) — although, if the rumors had been true, Adams might have chosen to duel the General for having “kept them all for himself!”

      Like

  2. Michele says:

    A funny and entertaining poem and commentary. Your quotes are notable. The elected officials are not always the smartest but they are certainly easy to talk with on more than one question:

    Liked by 1 person

  3. charlypriest says:

    I won´t get into politics because we disagree and I will make you such a great argument to vote for Trump and that you would be so dazed that I will have to buy you a weel chair…..so I got the so I got the real solution, I´m going to get into the race so you can vote for me. These are my 3 primary things to change in America
    1- Manddatory to go to MacDonalds once a day
    2- Mandatory to have sex at least 3 times a week( that would bring the calories of the burger down, see? Balance)
    3- Mandatory to party twice a week ( taking off the stress will make you go back to work on Monday with renewed energy therefore the workforce will be more productive)

    My slogan: CHARLY WILL MAKE AMERICA GREATER THAN GREAT

    Liked by 1 person

  4. linnetmoss says:

    Hillary has an unexpected talent for delivering funny lines. If only she would loosen up a little and learn to love a joke 🙂 Lord knows we need something to laugh about these days.

    Liked by 1 person

    • mistermuse says:

      I’d like to see Hillary use more lines like the “chapter 11” zinger I cited in my post. As I said, I doubt that she came up with it herself, but her delivery was spot-on, which is a talent in itself. Obama probably doesn’t write most of his funny lines, though I believe he is more than capable of doing so (Hillary, not so much).
      Looking over the list of 12 quotes, it would be interesting to know which ones were original to those who spoke them. My money would be on Lincoln, Adams and Stevenson for sure, and Reagan for at least the “I hope you’re all Republicans” quip.

      Liked by 2 people

      • linnetmoss says:

        Hillary might be funny in private. That’s what her aides say, any way. It’s riskier for women to use humor in public. But I agree that she should develop that talent for delivery. And get some good writers. Humor can be a powerful weapon in the coming election!

        Liked by 3 people

      • mistermuse says:

        I agree that “Humor can be a powerful weapon in the coming election” — but with the emphasis on “can be”….as in POWERFUL BUT NOT SUFFICIENT (a variant of ‘necessary but not sufficient’). There has probably never been a wittier Presidential candidate than Adlai Stevenson, but the relatively humorless Dwight Eisenhower beat him in a landslide in the 1952 election. Fortunately for Hillary, The Donald is no Eisenhower, and I think more wit of the “chapter 11” type would serve her well.

        Like

  5. Don Frankel says:

    I like TR’s the best there as it seems the most apropos in New York right now. But what will all this Brexit mean? Tune in Monday and find out. Also an update on Dumbgate.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. These are great. Who knew Reagan was such a wit? Sad that some of the old ones still apply today 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  7. mistermuse says:

    Reagan proved that one doesn’t have to be an intellectual to be witty. On the other hand, Adlai Stevenson (who is little remembered today) proved that an intellectual can be extremely witty (but not necessarily a successful Presidential candidate).

    Liked by 1 person

  8. What is “an intellectual”? Who is “smart?” Shouldn’t the humor of wit appeal in a universal way, to regular human beings in general, and not as an adolescent “in joke” appealing to the cafeteria table where all the popular kids hang out? (for example, “chapter eleven” would be meaningless to a great number of ordinary people, and is it actually true about the number of chapters in the book?) I say this because I find nothing to enjoy or find witty about Barach Obama or Hillary Clinton. I take a risk weighing-in here, since the smoke of lopsided partisan politics is so thick it forms the letters: “MEMBERS ONLY.”

    Liked by 1 person

    • mistermuse says:

      I suppose one could put “an intellectual” in the same class as Potter Stewart’s being unable to define pornography, but knowing it when he sees it. So I don’t find it hard to see Adlai Stevenson as an intellectual and Donald Trump as other-wise, though it goes without saying (?) that not every juxtaposition is so black and white….speaking of which, I half agree with you regarding Barack Obama, and completely agree re Hillary Clinton (as I indicate in my post). I think Obama is pretty darn funny at the annual White House Correspondents’ Dinners (though I’m sure most, if not all, his witty remarks come from his speech writers). Outside of such occasions, he is indeed almost entirely serious….and I probably would be too, in his position.

      BTW, if I may say so, I definitely do not agree that the humor of wit must NECESSARILY appeal only to “regular human beings in general,” although perhaps in an ideal world, it should. Take, for example, the John F. Kennedy quote (or the Hillary quote, for that matter). Should those quotes be disqualified as witty just because “a great number of regular human beings” may not ‘get’ them? That seems to me to make a virtue of insufficient education (which I don’t mean in a way that faults anyone for something that may well not be their fault). I don’t think humor needs to fit in one box. Jokes no doubt should appeal in a universal way; wit: not so much.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I like what you say here. I still think the chapter eleven joke was a joke and not wit, as you’ve nicely differentiated those things. Now for another expression…which, as a life long teacher, and denizen of schools, I would be interested to explore, if I weren’t too weary at the moment: “insufficient” education…I have known persons with a PhD.. whom I would deem insufficiently educated.

        Liked by 1 person

      • mistermuse says:

        I think we can probably agree that there are a number of things that can’t be completely separated in all instances, and that, though I drew a distinction between jokes and wit, there can be crossover. I will therefore meet you halfway on “chapter eleven” and call it a witty joke. And you will get no argument from me regarding some with a PhD being insufficiently educated!

        Liked by 1 person

  9. Richard says:

    Should we lower the level of humor to a universally understandable one for reasons of political correctness. (Still on vacation, and can`t find the rightside up question mark on this Spanish keyboard). Wouldn`t that leave us with nada but knock-knock jokes? (Found it!) But I will also regret the changing of Adminstrations no matter who wins. When will we have a President as chill as Obama again? You and I may well not live long enough to see it, Sr. Muse.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. mistermuse says:

    My guess is that the average person (who isn’t well-versed in history and current events) probably finds much of my wordplay over their heads, but if one must lower his/her “level of humor” to a universally understandable one, what’s the point — that anyone who doesn’t ‘dumb down’ their wit is guilty of being an ELITIST (pardon my language) and should be ostracized? In short, I agree with you, Ricardo.

    Like

  11. eths says:

    Wonderful! I think Hillary has a great sense of humor. Watch: http://www.nbc.com/saturday-night-live/video/hillary-clinton-bar-talk/2916002

    Liked by 1 person

  12. mistermuse says:

    Thanks for the clip, in which Hillary does very well. I agree that Hillary has a good, & perhaps even great, sense of humor, but there are lots of people who have a good sense of humor who aren’t witty, and I would put Hillary in that category. I don’t mean that in a derogatory sense, because I think wit is in a person’s DNA, and to not have it is not that person’s fault.

    What I really like about that clip is that she’s not afraid to be self-deprecating, and that’s a type of humor that is completely foreign to the likes of Donald Trump, who has probably never said a self-deprecating thing in his life.

    Like

  13. The dumbing down of humor would be a bad idea indeed, Sr. Muse–all we would have left would be knock-knock jokes.

    Like

  14. mistermuse says:

    Knock-knock,
    Who’s there?
    June.
    June who?
    June 29th.
    So what?
    So tune in tomorrow for the follow-up to this post.

    Like

  15. “If the Republicans will stop telling lies about the Democrats, we will stop telling the truth about them.” –Adlai Stevenson one of the all-time wittiest quotes….just like W. – or Trump eh? continue….

    Liked by 1 person

  16. mistermuse says:

    If only Adlai were alive today, I would love to see him running for Pres against The Donald (aka the battle of The Wit against The Witless).

    Liked by 1 person

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