The Best of Notable Quotables; December 24, 1990

THE LINDA ELLERBEE AWARDS
FOR DISTINGUISHED REPORTING


The Best Notable Quotables of 1990

 


Bring Back the Iron Curtain Award

 


"This is Marlboro country, southeastern Poland, a place where the transition from communism to capitalism is making more people more miserable every day....No lines at the shops now, but plenty at some of the first unemployment centers in a part of the world where socialism used to guarantee everybody a job."

-- CBS News reporter Bert Quint on the April 11 CBS Evening News.

Runners-Up:

"Communism is being swept away, but so too is the social safety net it provided....Factories, previously kept alive only by edicts from Warsaw, are closing their doors, while institutions new to the East, soup kitchens and unemployment centers are opening theirs...Here are the ones who may profit from Poland’s economic freedom. A few slick locals, but mostly Americans, Japanese, and other foreigners out to cash in on a new source of cheap labor."

-- Reporter Bert Quint on CBS This Morning, May 9.

"These refugees have been told little about the realities of life in the West, including the fact that some people sleep on the street...They will soon learn that jobs are hard to find, consumer goods expensive, relatives in Albania will be missed. Many refugees, according to experts, will suffer from depression, and in some cases, drug abuse."

-- ABC’s Mike Lee on what’s facing fleeing Albanians, July 14 World News Tonight.

Kevin Phillips Tax Fairness Award



"[C]ountless liberal analysts over the last five years have documented time and again how Reaganomics delivered a feast to the greedheads and starvation to the poor....[The Gilded Age and The Roaring Twenties] were marked by the same kinds of excesses as the 1980s -- gross concentrations of wealth in the hands of a tiny privileged elite, achieved primarily by deliberate Republican policies that left most Americans behind while debt, greed, and conspicuous consumption soared out of control."

-- Robert Rankin, national economics correspondent for Knight-Ridder Newspapers, in the July 22 Philadelphia Inquirer.

Runners-Up:

"For ten years Ronald Reagan taught us there was a free lunch. Folks, he said, we’re going to cut your taxes and we’re going to spend like there’s no tomorrow and you don’t have to pay for it. Folks, we’re now paying for it and it’s bitter medicine....we’re going to have to raise taxes to get some sort of fairness here....For ten years the great wizard sold us that idea, that we could grow our way out of the deficits and we bought it, and we didn’t."

-- Sam Donaldson on This Week with David Brinkley, October 7.
 
"The tax package hammered out last weekend continues a Washington policy established in the Reagan era: It takes a heavy bite out of the paychecks of working-class Americans."

-- Beginning of front page story by Boston Globe reporter Charles Stein, October 2.


Bring Back the Gas Lines Award  



"We have allowed this country to be held hostage by an industry that produces a product vital to our national interests. This makes about as much sense as having the military services or the nation’s water supply controlled by private corporations....In the long run, what would make the most sense would be to nationalize the oil industry to protect the economy."

-- Washington Post columnist Judy Mann, August 8.

Runner-Up:

"The hottest new proposal was a broad-based tax on sources of energy -- gasoline, oil, natural gas, and nuclear power. In all, it would raise about $20 billion. Everybody seemed to agree it was a good idea except, of course, the transporation lobby."

-- Unbylined box in Newsweek, July 16.


Damn Those Conservatives Award



"If you’re miffed because the Cold War’s over, Ceaucescu’s dead, the Sandinistas lost the election in Nicaragua and it seems like here’s no one around to hate any more, then maybe The Hunt for Red October is just the thing....This is a Reagan youth’s wet dream of underwater ballistics and East-West conflict."

-- Washington Post film critic Desson Howe in the "Weekend" section, March 2.

Runners-Up:

"In a year that has had some of the dirtiest, the sleaziest, the most misleading ads ever, it’s hard to pick the very worst, but here are a couple that the experts chose. North Carolina’s Jesse Helms, who battled a black opponent, last week overtly introduced the most divisive issue of the contest, race....The truth is Gantt supported the vetoed civil rights bill which he argued specifically warned against quotas."

-- ABC reporter Jackie Judd on Nightline, November 6.

"What Helms has done is taken the words ‘North Carolina values’ -- a beautiful phrase that evokes the small-town, good-hearted sense of place that one feels when one travels the state -- and redefined them as the values belonging to a certain group of North Carolinians, mostly white, mostly male, mostly unhappy with the changes of the last 30 years. To Helms and his supporters, ‘North Carolina values’ seems to translate into a status quo view of the world in which blacks, women, and poor people know their stations in society."

-- Reporter Juan Williams in The Washington Post Magazine,October 28.

"Are you not also in danger of people looking at the Republican Party after this whole experience, and saying, ‘Oh, now we do know what they stand for that’s different. They stand for helping the rich and at the same time, the President’s talking about vetoing the civil rights bill, so helping the rich and white guys?’"

-- ABC and NPR reporter Cokie Roberts to Richard Darman, October 21 This Week with David Brinkley.


Paul Ehrlich Ecological Panic Award



"If nothing is done to reverse ozone damage, scientists predict hundreds of millions of skin cancer cases in the U.S. alone, not to mention increased global warming that would turn much of the planet into a desert."

-- Reporter Mark Phillips on the January 16 CBS Evening News.

Runners-Up:

"The missteps, poor efforts and setbacks brought on by the Reagan years have made this a more sober Earth Day. The task seems larger now."

-- Today co-host Bryant Gumbel, April 20.

"Clean air and water, pure food and natural beauty, which most Californians were all for a few months ago, have been made to seem a radical and expensive idea that has to be rejected at the polls on Tuesday. The stakes are very high in California because environmentalists know that if the Big Green initiative happens to pass there, the idea of cleaning up the air and water could spread like wildfire to all the other states. The forces opposing it know that too."

-- Charles Kuralt on America Tonight, October 31.


Good Morning Morons Award



"We would like to believe the State of the Union address is a time when the President tells the American people the way it is. But no one really wants to hear that, so the President keeps reality down to a minimum. The President was remarkably upbeat for a man who runs a country with a monstrous national debt, huge balance of trade problems, a crumbling infrastructure, dirty air, countless homeless people, a coast-to-coast drug epidemic, and a faltering self-image."

-- CBS This Morning co-host Harry Smith, February 2.

Runners-Up:

"The bottom line is more tax money is going to be needed. Just how much will be the primary issue on the agenda when Congressional leaders meet with the President later today, Wednesday, May the 9th, 1990. And good morning, welcome to Today. It’s a Wednesday morning, a day when the budget picture, frankly, seems gloomier than ever. It now seems the time has come to pay the fiddler for our costly dance of the Reagan years."

-- Bryant Gumbel opening NBC’s Today, May 9.

Bob Squier, Democratic Strategist: "I think that it was a game of chicken. I think what you had was Gingrich, who is supposed to be part of the leadership, leading people literally out of the deal."
Bryant Gumbel: "Acting irresponsibly."

Gumbel: "....Is this the legacy of Ronald Reagan politics, I mean, feel-good politics of the ‘80s, no-responsibility politics of the ‘80s?"
Roger Ailes, Republican Strategist: "I think that’s a misnomer..."
Gumbel: "But weren’t the ‘80s about spending what we didn’t have? And that was Ronald Reagan."

-- Exchanges on Today, October 5.


Most Honest Confession Award



"There is no such thing as objective reporting...I’ve become even more crafty about finding the voices to say the things I think are true. That’s my subversive mission."

-- Boston Globe environmental reporter Dianne Dumanoski at an Utne Reader symposium May 17-20. Quoted by Micah Morrison in the July American Spectator.

Runners-Up:

"I think that when abortion opponents complain about a bias in newsrooms against their cause, they’re absolutely right." "Opposing abortion, in the eyes of most journalists...is not a legitimate, civilized position in our society."

-- Boston Globe legal reporter Ethan Bronner in Los Angeles Times reporter David Shaw’s series on abortion coverage, July 1.

"After seeing our footage, she told us that Frontline doesn’t co-produce anti-communist programs."

-- Cinematographer Nestor Almendros on a Frontline producer’s reaction to his anti-Castro documentary Nobody Listened, quoted by Don Kowet in the August 8 Washington Times.


Gorbasm Award*



"Gorbachev has probably moved more quickly than any person in the history of the world. Moving faster than Jesus Christ did. America is always lagging six months behind...I think we can get by easily with a $75 billion military budget. Those bombers and all of this stuff is an absolute waste of money and a joke."

-- Ted Turner, "TV chieftain with an outspoken conscience," celebrated in the January 22 Time.

Runners-Up:

"The supreme leader of an atheistic state was baptized as a child. Now, in a sense, Gorbachev means to accomplish the salvation of an entire society that has gone astray...Much more than that, Gorbachev is a visionary enacting a range of complex and sometimes contradictory roles. He is simultaneously the communist Pope and the Soviet Martin Luther, the apparatchik as Magellan and McLuhan. The Man of the Decade is a global navigator."

-- Time Senior Writer Lance Morrow, January 1.

"He has, as many great leaders have, impressive eyes...There’s a kind of laser-beam stare, a forced quality, you get from Gorbachev that does not come across as something peaceful within himself. It’s the look of a kind of human volcano, or he’d probably like to describe it as ahuman nuclear energy plant."

-- Dan Rather on Mikhail Gorbachev, quoted in the May 10 Seattle Times.

* With thanks to Rush Limbaugh


Thurgood Marshall Judicial Reporting Award



"Supreme Court nominee David Souter wants the world to stop viewing him as a nerd. Senate Democrats want to know if, instead, Souter is a neanderthal -- a mean-spirited conservative bent on wrecking constitutional protections for women, minorities, and accused criminals."

-- Beginning of September 13 USA Today cover story by legal reporter Tony Mauro.

Runners-Up:

"Chief Justice Rehnquist had the kind of image problems that might be expected of a jurist who habitually rejected constitutional equality for women, approved the execution of allegedly insane prisoners without a hearing, denied constitutional equality to aliens and bastards, asserted that the public did not have a constitutional right to attend court trials, said prisoners had no rights to practice religious freedom, and spoke warmly of the legendary Isaac (‘Hanging Judge’) Parker, who cheerfully ordered eighty-five executions."

-- Former CBS News law reporter Fred Graham in his book Happy Talk.

"Senator Simon, is there any doubt in your mind that [Souter’s] views pretty well parallel those of John Sununu’s which means he’s anti-abortion or anti-women’s rights, whichever way you want to put it?"

-- Dan Rather on the CBS Evening News, July 23.


Jim Florio Tax Advocacy Award



"The overall tax burden for Americans, local, state and federal, is actually quite low....The fact is Americans could pay more taxes and the country wouldn’t go down the tube. Taxpayers don’t believe this because they are being conned by the politicians....The truth is that the United States needs higher taxes and can afford them. Some political leaders are now starting to say that, but until more say it, the country will remain in trouble."

-- Commentator John Chancellor on the NBC Nightly News, April 17.

Runners-Up:

"The fact is that most government spending cannot be cut. The way out of the mess is for the government to raise some money through taxes and at last that’s being done. And there’s encouraging news in the returns from yesterday’s elections. Six states from Massachusetts to California rejected measures designed to limit taxation. Can it be that the great tax revolt of the 1980s is coming to an end? If true, maybe the country can get on with the business of balancing its books in a sensible and logical way."

-- John Chancellor on NBC Nightly News, November 7.

"[Except] for capital gains, it is certain the President won’t mention the T word, and yet taxes are very much at the heart of what all our potential solutions are. How long can both sides pretend that a hike’s not needed?"

-- Bryant Gumbel on Today, January 31.


Media Hero Award/Abroad


"Ortega’s defeat is something American Presidents had sought for ten years. Yet Ortega’s statesman-like acceptance of the voters’ decision has prompted some in Washington to call the Sandinista leader a champion of democracy."

-- Today co-host Deborah Norville before interview with Daniel Ortega, April 24.

"We talked to one observer who told us that if he were awarding the Nobel Prize, he would nominate Mikhail Gorbachev and Daniel Ortega. What do you think of that?"

-- one of Norville’s questions to Ortega.

Runners-Up:

"Fidel [Castro] touched this young machine adjuster, and the man enjoyed a mild ecstasy. I know the feeling." 

-- Institute for Policy Studies Senior Fellow Saul Landau in his pro-Castro documentary The Uncompromising Revolution, aired along with Nobody Listened on PBS August 8.

"Mandela leaves as a principled man, with all but the dullards understanding why he would embrace the Palestinians, whose children are being killed and family homes bulldozed in Israel just as black families’ are in Soweto....Moreover, if Mandela is a terrorist -- as conservatives have called him -- he would fit right in with U.S. patriots such as George Washington, Patrick Henry, Nat Turner, and Harriet Tubman. If it had not been for those terrorists, what would we have to wave our flags about on the Fourth of July?"

-- USA Today Inquiry Editor Barbara Reynolds, June 29.


Media Hero Award/At Home



"The problem for Florio is that, as history has shown, when you step up and are a leader, people often don’t like you. And it can take a long time, even centuries, for history to look back and say that was a good guy....I think that Florio will go down as the first, I hope not the last, brave man of the ‘80s and ‘90s."

-- Washington Post "Outlook" editor Jodie Allen on N.J. Governor who raised income taxes, July 29 Money Politics.

Runners-Up:

"Let Ronald Reagan ride off into the sunset untroubled by fleeting memories of astrologers, smoke-and-mirrors budget arithmetic, and arms-for-hostages swaps. Dwell instead on those political tall timbers still standing, the heirs of Jefferson, Madison, and Lincoln....Only Jesse Jackson, still an acquired taste for most white Americans, can strike the kind of inspirational pose that one could imagine being immortalized in granite."

-- Time Senior Writer Walter Shapiro in the September GQ.

"[Justice William Brennan] loved the flag clearly, and the Constitution, too...Maybe the way to remember Brennan’s years on the Court is with some words he spoke to another Georgetown University event back in 1979. ‘The quest for freedom, dignity, and the rights of man will never end,’ he said. The quest, though always old, is never old, like the poor old woman in Yeats’ play. ‘Did you see an old woman going down the path?’ asked Bridget. ‘I did not,’ replied Patrick, who had come into the house just after the old woman had left it. ‘But I saw a young girl and she had the walk of a queen.’ William Brennan loved and served two young girls who walked like queens -- his country, and its highest court."

-- Conclusion to story by reporter Bruce Morton on the July 21 CBS Evening News.


Dewey Defeats Truman Award



"Polls won’t close here for another thirty minutes, but the widespread belief that the Sandinistas will prevail has shifted thinking far beyond the ballot box. The topic of the day is: how will a freely elected Sandinista government be treated by the United States?"

-- NBC’s Ed Rabel in Nicaragua, February 25 Nightly News.

Runners-Up:

"The election observers say the Bush Administration may have itself to blame for Daniel Ortega’s rise in popularity among the voters. The reason, they say, is the U.S. military invasion in Panama. That was a move that was widely denounced here in Nicaragua. It was a close race until the U.S. invaded."

-- NBC reporter Ed Rabel four days before Nicaragua election, February 21 Nightly News.

"For the Bush Administration and the Reagan Administration before it, the [ABC News-Washington Post] poll hints at a simple truth: after years of trying to get rid of the Sandinistas, there is not much to show for their efforts."

-- Peter Jennings  five days before vote, World News Tonight, February 20.


The Real Reagan Legacy Award



"It will take 100 years to get the government back into place after Reagan. He hurt people: the disabled, women, nursing mothers, the homeless."

-- White House reporter Sarah McClendon in USA Today, February 16.

Runners-Up:

"Now the lessons of Iran-Contra are also clear. We have learned this: that a President who lies to Congress and to the people will feel free to joke about it. A Vice President who lies to Congress and to the people will be elected President. A White House aide who lies to Congress and to the people will be hailed as a hero until the time for a reckoning comes...An administration, in short, that lies to Congress and to the people is the accepted order of things. And a Constitution designed to prevent exactly that order is a mere scrap of paper."

-- PBS’ Bill Moyers writing in the January 1990 issue of The Progressive.

"Okay, Democrats are certainly not without blame. But I believe the S&L crisis lands right at the Republican door. It was the magic of the marketplace that took off the regulations...Oh, Ronald Reagan and the magic of the marketplace was the theme of the ‘80s. Greed in this country is associated with Ronald Reagan."

-- Newsweek reporter Eleanor Clift on Face the Nation, July 29.


Which Way Is It? Domestic Affairs



"When inflation is taken into account, it adds up to a cut in defense spending, and that’s the first time in a long time that has happened."

-- Bob Schieffer on the January 27 CBS Evening News.


vs.


"It’s easily overlooked, but the fact is, that in real terms, the defense budget has been going down every year since 1985. "

-- CBS News Pentagon correspondent David Martin on Nightwatch, January 31.

Runners-Up:

"If there’s anything that we heard out there at the polls today, it was the sound of Reaganomics crashing all around us. If there’s anything left of Reagan’s trickle-down theory, Dan, it seems to be anxiety which seems to be trickling down through just about every segment of our society."  

-- Ed Bradley during CBS News election night coverage, November 6.


vs.


"We have a lot of turnovers where Republican Governors raised taxes and they have been turned out."

-- Lesley Stahl, also during CBS election coverage.

“Spending and income rose slightly in Aug.”

-- Philadelphia Inquirer, September 27


vs.


“Spending, Income, Orders Fall”

-- Washington Post, same day


Joe Isuzu Foreign Correspondent Award



"But they [young people] are the healthiest and most educated young people in Cuba’s history. For that many of them say they have Castro and his socialist revolution to thank....if they long for the sweeping changes occurring in Eastern Europe, they are not saying so publicly....To the extent he can, Castro has been rewarding young people. For example, on their return home [from Angola], the 300,000 Cubans sent to Africa were first in line for housing, jobs, and education. Such benevolence breeds dedication, some young people say."

-- NBC reporter Ed Rabel, April 1 Nightly News.

Runners-Up:

"It’s almost impossible for most Americans to understand a government organization that monitors everything, that has tentacles reaching into all aspects of Soviet life. But keep in mind the KGB is like a combination of the CIA, the FBI, of the National Security Agency, the Secret Service, and the Coast Guard, too. From Lenin to Stalin to Gorbachev, its members have been a proud corps of the national elite, intelligent, talented, and fully in control. The officers of the KGB, in fact, decided reform was necessary long before Gorbachev came to power."

-- Diane Sawyer on ABC’s Prime Time Live, August 2.

"But Ortega, an irritant to Carter, became an obsession to Reagan, who saw him as an instrument of Moscow. The Contra rebels were the blunt instrument in Ronald Reagan’s attack on Daniel Ortega. Reagan’s dogged support for the Contras forever marked and ultimately scarred his foreign policy....Many of the Contras were former members of the Nicaraguan National Guard, Somoza’s enforcers. They were brutal, often inept...It has been one of the longest and most traumatic chapters in U.S. history in Latin America, and tonight it seems to be ending, and ending in a way Ronald Reagan never could have imagined."

-- NBC reporter John Dancy the day after Nicaragua’s election, February 26 Nightly News.


Gennadi Gerasimov Newspeak Award



"Free at last, the temptation is to exercise all that freedom -- fully, quickly and sometimes unwisely. Often, it means biting the hand that freed and fed you. Lithuania is the latest and most ludicrous example....There is little more logic to Lithuania eing permitted to unilaterally and unlawfully declare its independence from the USSR than there would be for Texas to secede from the USA. Both were grabbed during a war. But both owe much to their modern-day mother country. Gorby has a right to feel livid about Lithuania. The way you might feel about a runaway child, tempted to beat him within an inch of his life."

-- USA Today founder Al Neuharth in an April 20 column.

Runners-Up:

"Yes, somehow, Soviet citizens are freer these days: freer to kill one another, freer to hate Jews, freer to express themselves...But doing away with totalitarianism and adding a dash of democracy seems an unlikely cure for what ails the Soviet system."

-- CBS This Morning co-host Harry Smith, February 9.

"Many Soviets viewing the current chaos and nationalist unrest under Gorbachev look back almost longingly to the era of brutal order under Stalin."

-- Mike Wallace on 60 Minutes, February 11.

"Soviet people have become accustomed to security if nothing else. Life isn’t good here, but people don’t go hungry, homeless; a job has always been guaranteed. Now all socialist bets are off. A market economy looms, and the social contract that has held Soviet society together for 72 years no longer applies. The people seem baffled, disappointed, let down. Many don’t like the prospect of their nation becoming just another capitalist machine."

-- CNN Moscow reporter Steve Hurst on PrimeNews, May 24.


Which Way Is It? Foreign Affairs



"Attempting to defect will no longer be a severely punishable offense, but will be known as ‘border trespass,’ subject only to a minor penalty. And the death penalty, now applied to 34 offenses, will be retained only for those that involve direct ‘betrayal’ of the communist state and the social order."

-- Christian Science Monitor correspondent Eric Bourne, September 12.


vs.


"A reminder from Eastern Europe today that not all has changed. In Albania today, border guards shot and killed a four-year-old girl when they opened fire on a group of Albanians trying to cross into Yugoslavia. Albania is the last of the totalitarian states in Eastern Europe."

-- Peter Jennings on World News Tonight, same day.

Runners-Up:

“Black Nationalist Urges Continued Armed Struggle”

-- Washington Post front page, February 12


vs.


“Mandela Poised to Take Role of Conciliator”

-- same newspaper front page, same day

“Moscow protesters call for Gorbachev to quit”

-- Boston Herald, September 17


vs.


“Ryzhkov urged to resign at pro-Gorbachev rally”

-- Boston Globe, same day


Award for the Silliest Analysis



"The reporters (at Capital News) work for a shining institution, basically the last uncorrupted institution you can find. Hospitals are corrupt. Judges are corrupt. Everybody in the world is corrupt. But our newspapers are essentially a monument to idealism."

-- Former Washington Post editor Christian Williams, Executive Producer of ABC’s short-lived series Capital News, April 9 Newark Star Ledger.

Runners-Up:

"In many ways, in outlook and behavior the U.S. has begun to act like a primitive warrior culture. We seem to believe that leadership is expressed, in no small part, by a willingness to cause the deaths of others....Our collective fantasies center on mayhem, cruelty, and violent death. Loving images of the human body -- especially of bodies seeking pleasure or expressing love -- inspire us with the urge to censor."

-- Time essayist Barbara Ehrenreich, October 15.

"It used to be that the United States was number one, dominant....So right now, we are fast losing our position as number one, Connie....Yes, we’re no longer dominant, we’re no longer the number one nation, Connie...so we are no longer that number one, dominant nation. That’s the big change here now."

-- CBS economics reporter Ray Brady on the Evening News, July 8.


Quote of the Year



"Few tears will be shed over the demise of the East German army, but what about East Germany’s eighty symphony orchestras, bound to lose some subsidies, or the whole East German system, which covered everyone in a security blanket from day care to health care, from housing to education? Some people are beginning to express, if ever so slightly, nostalgia for that Berlin Wall."

-- CBS reporter Bob Simon on the March 16 Evening News.

Runners-Up:

"The ‘balanced’ report, in some cases, may no longer be the most effective, or even the most informative. Indeed, it can be debilitating. Can we afford to wait for our audience to come to its own conclusions? I think not."

-- Teya Ryan, Senior Producer of Turner Broadcasting’s CNN-produced Network Earth series, in the Summer 1990 Gannett Center Journal.

"Modern man has reached the point where his demands for space are ravaging the planet, and wiping out other life forms in the process. Stanford biologist Paul Ehrlich is back with more of his series ‘Assignment Earth,’ and this morning he begins with a report on how man is destroying the entire ecological system with something that appears to be completely harmless."  

-- Deborah Norville introducing Paul Ehrlich’s report on cows, January 9 Today.

"Congress changed the Soviet Constitution to permit limited private ownership of small factories, although laws remain against exploitation of everyone else."

-- NBC Moscow reporter Bob Abernethy on Nightly News, March 13.

Nothing To Do With the Media, But We Couldn’t Resist

"I wish I’d done this before I’d run for President. It would’ve given me insight into the anxiety any independent businessman or farmer must have....Now I’ve had to meet a payroll every week. I’ve got to pay the bank every month....I’ve got to pay the state of Connecticut taxes....It gives you a whole new perspective on what other people worry about."

-- Former Senator George McGovern on owning a Connecticut hotel, his first-ever business venture, in the March 1 Washington Post.

 

-- L. Brent Bozell III, Publisher;  Brent H. Baker, Tim Graham; Editors
-- Callista Gould, Jim Heiser, Marian Kelley, Gerard Scimeca; Media Analysts
-- Jennifer Hardebeck; Administrative Assistant