The Best of Notable Quotables; December 28, 1998

THE BEST NOTABLE QUOTABLES OF 1998 December 28, 1998


The Eleventh Annual Awards for the Year's Worst Reporting

Welcome to the Media Research Center’s annual awards issue, a compilation of the most outrageous and/or humorous news media quotes from 1998. To determine this year’s winners, a panel of 50 talk show hosts, magazine editors, columnists, editorial writers and media observers each selected their choices for the first, second and third best quote from six to eight quotes in each category. First place selections were awarded three points, second place choices two points, with one point for the third place selections. Point totals are listed in the brackets at the end of the attribution for each quote.

A list of the judges appears on the last page.

The first quote under each award heading is the winner, followed in order by the top runners-up.


Presidential Kneepad Award (for Best Lewinsky Impression)



“The ironies for a President not given to irony are endless. Consider this: the best chance for Clinton to shine in history might be for Congress to force him to pay the price for lying about sex. In the unlikely event he is pushed from office, it would take only weeks, maybe just days, before a vast national remorse set in. We destroyed our lovable rogue prince of prosperity over this? Clinton would become a martyr to a legal system run amok. His defeat would mean victory over not just sheet-sniffing prosecutors but all those who would criminalize politics with endless investigations. As legacies go, balancing the budget might look puny by comparison.”

Newsweek’s Jonathan Alter in the Aug. 24 issue. [63 points]


Runners-up:



“Well, he’s been elected twice with people knowing he has had affairs. Now is the fact that this woman is 21. I mean, she’s still of age, I suppose. You know, I think that the distaste that people may feel for this will also be because of the fact that the probing into this person’s private life has occurred. I think past Presidents, Lyndon Johnson for one, certainly Jack Kennedy, these things went on, you know, libido and leadership are linked.”

– Eleanor Clift reacting to charges the President had sexual relations with White House intern Monica Lewinsky, live MSNBC coverage at about 5pm ET, January 21, the day the story broke. [50]

“The only people who count in any marriage are the two that are in it.’ There is a simple alchemy to their relationship: she’s goofy, flat-out in love with him and he with her. ‘They don’t kiss. They devour each other,’ says one aide. He needs her – for intellectual solace, political guidance and spiritual sustenance ....Clinton haters and even some supporters wonder whether their marriage will end with the presidency. That seems wildly unlikely. Neither Clinton plans to trade in a public career for shuffleboard. As long as they’re in the limelight, their turbulent partnership seems certain to endure – for better or worse. That’s  because they see themselves in almost Messianic terms, as great leaders who have a mission to fulfill. Her friends speculate that the Bible gives her a historical context for what she’s going through. ‘There’s a lot of consolation, guidance and refueling that comes from reading about centuries- old calamities,’ says a friend. Given the storm they’re in, it’s a source of inspiration they’ll need.”

– Matthew Cooper and Karen Breslau, Feb. 9 Newsweek. [48]
 
“Who has ever been punished more for adultery in this country? I mean, you have to go to Saudi Arabia to see people shamed the way the President was. And I think it was nobody’s business.”

Time’s Margaret Carlson on NBC’s Today, August 19. [44]
 
“In the gaudy mansion of Clinton’s mind there are many rooms with heavy doors, workrooms and playrooms, rooms stuffed with trophies, rooms to stash scandals and regrets. He walks lightly amid the ironies of his talents and behavior, just by consigning them to different cubbies of his brain. It's an almost scary mind, that of a multitasking wizard who plays hearts while he talks on the phone with a head of state, who sits through a dense briefing on chemical weapons intently doing a crossword puzzle, only to take reporters’ questions hours later and repeat whole sections of the briefing word for word.”

Time Senior Editor Nancy Gibbs opening a news story in the March 2 issue. [40]


Wired Wicked Witch Award (for Loathing Linda Tripp)



“If there were an Ig-Nobel Peace Prize, who would win it?
  o Slobodan Milosevic
  o Osama bin Ladin
  o Saddam Hussein
  o Linda Tripp”

– “What do you think?” question of the day on the abcnews.com home page, October 15. [94 points]


Runners-up


“Tripp lost membership in the family of man when day after day she looked into Monica Lewinsky’s eyes as a friend and at night hit the ‘on’ button on her Radio Shack tape recorder. No, there’s enough about Tripp to criticize without getting to the heart of her darkness. While we are trying to make up our minds about the other characters in the drama, she can safely be cast as a villain – the Mark Fuhrman of the Starr investigation – because of her perfect rendition of the friend from hell.”

Time’s Margaret Carlson responding to Jonah Goldberg in a Slate “dialogue” about Linda Tripp, June 30. [72]

“And Kathleen Willey also spoke about Linda Tripp, a Clinton-basher who seems to be at every ugly turn in this controversy.  Tripp was outside the Oval Office when Willey emerged from her encounter with the President...Just how is it that Linda Tripp is so often conveniently involved in the President’s troubles? For some clues let’s bring in The New Yorker’s Jane Mayer, who has profiled the controversial Miss Tripp in this week’s issue. You write that co-workers often viewed her as an inveterate busybody.  Has she always been a snoop and a gossip with a particular interest in other people’s romantic lives?”

– Bryant Gumbel on Public Eye, March 17. [53]
 
“Hello, good evening and welcome back to Hell. Can we renounce our citizenships for like only 24 hours? This thought before we begin: For months, William Howard Ginsburg took shot after shot on this program and others for some of his legal strategy.  But throughout his stewardship of the Monica Lewinsky defense we praised him here for at least one noble constant: He never let us even hear his client’s voice. God, do we miss him tonight. Okay, one of them will read the part of the irresponsible  adolescent, the other will narrate the lines of the pathetic, self-destroying, older loser and you and I will be Polonius hiding ourselves behind the arras.”

– MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann opening the Big Show, November 17. [36]
 


Hallucinating Hillary Award (for Promoting the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy)


“Where does Lewinsky fit into this conspiracy theory? Is she victimizing the President or is she too a victim?”

– Bryant Gumbel to James Carville, January 28 Public Eye on CBS. [66 points]


Runners-up:



“Hillary Clinton attacked her husband’s attackers, saying a lot of the criticism comes down to an anti-Arkansas bias. Well, chief among his critics, it can fairly be said, is Kenneth Starr. And the Starr Wars, it can also fairly be said, targeted Arkansas, home of the Whitewater affair and the investigation that now, four years later, seems to be winding up with the Lewinsky affair. From the beginning, Mr. Starr’s tactics and motives have come under fire, especially the way he went after low level targets..."

– Morley Safer introducing a re-run of a story on Ken Starr’s tactics, August 16 60 Minutes. [52]
 
“On another front, there could be trouble for the Ken Starr Whitewater investigation. Reports continue to surface that this key witness for the prosecution, David Hale, may have been secretly bankrolled by political activists widely regarded as Clinton opponents, people that Clinton supporters call Republican haters from the far right.”

– Dan Rather, April 2 CBS Evening News. [43]
 
“Hillary Clinton linked Starr to a conspiracy that has even suggested the President was involved in the murder of a former campaign worker....It is Starr’s past and continuing connections with very conservative organizations and causes that have brought him into the cross hairs of the First Family. As their evidence they point to his very appointment as independent counsel by a three judge panel headed by Judge David Sentelle, who is a close ally of ultraconservative North Carolina Senators Jesse Helms and Lauch Faircloth....”

– Correspondent Phil Jones on the CBS Evening News, January 27. [40]
 
“If there is a ‘vast right-wing conspiracy’ at work in America, the man at its center likely is Richard Mellon Scaife, the 65-year-old reclusive Pittsburgh billionaire whose money has funded both mainstream conservative think tanks and underground attack campaigns against President Clinton.... Scaife's money also has poured into the rabidly anti-Clinton American Spectator magazine. Editor R. Emmett Tyrell [sic] Jr. relentlessly derided the new President in 1993, a vilification campaign that won Scaife’s support.”

Los Angeles Times reporter David Savage, April 17. [38]
 

 
Corporal Cueball Carville Cadet Award (for Hating Ken Starr)



“Can Ken Starr ignore the apparent breadth of the sympathetic response to the President’s speech? Facially, it finally dawned on me that the person Ken Starr has reminded me of facially all this time was Heinrich Himmler, including the glasses. If he now pursues the President of the United States, who, however flawed his apology was, came out and invoked God, family, his daughter, a political conspiracy and everything but the kitchen sink, would not there be some sort of comparison to a persecutor as opposed to a prosecutor for Mr. Starr?”

– Keith Olbermann on MSNBC’s Big Show, to Chicago Tribune Washington Bureau Chief James Warren, August 18. [91 points]


Runners-up:


“Scott, as you and I both know, a popular move these days is to make a titillating charge and then have the media create the frenzy. Given Kenneth Starr’s track record, should we suspect that he’s trying to do with innuendo that which he has been unable to do with evidence?”

– Bryant Gumbel to CBS News reporter Scott Pelley, January 21 Public Eye with Bryant Gumbel. [53]
   
“The best defense it seems somehow is going on the offense now. While seedy stories in the media seem to be getting ever seedier. Each reporter in his turn sounds more and more like Howard Stern. A great investigative boom reporting who did what to whom. We see so many different styles of accusations and denials. When so much mud around you flies, you are bound to get some in your eyes. When such a war has been declared, everyone’s in, nobody’s spared. The jokes, the snickers, and the flippery. The slope we’re on is long and slippery. And there is something in the air which this country best beware: for there is danger in the dirt and lots of people could get hurt. And what we sow, we someday reap. Last night as I laid down to sleep I dreamed an apparition swarthy, the unshaved ghost of Joe McCarthy.”

– Charles Osgood, CBS Saturday Morning, February 28. [46]
 
“Anyone of us could be investigated like this and we would be able to keep no secrets about love or sex or money – no secrets about anything. If this reminds you of George Orwell’s novel, 1984, it should. The government in that book poked and pried everywhere. Its slogan was ‘Big Brother Is Watching You.’ And with the aid of the thought police, he was. Welcome to Orwell’s world.”

– CNN’s Bruce Morton on Late Edition, October 11. [45]
 
“Already, some of the more thoughtful members of the House and Senate have admitted, yes, they expect to be overwhelmed. There’s very little they can do about this, when someone drives, as one House Judiciary Committee member put this some weeks ago, a truck bomb up to the steps of the Capitol and just dumps it on them. Now this is probably not the most advisable comparison when you consider what happened on these very steps not so many weeks ago, but it is in some ways, politically, a very violent action for Ken Starr to leave this on them weeks before an election when they’re trying to decide how to deal with it.”

– NBC’s Gwen Ifill during live MSNBC coverage of the report being unloaded from the vans, September 9. [31]


Steve Brill Media Masochism Award (for Bemoaning Monicagate’s Impact on Clinton)

 


“I think we can now safely conclude that this whole notion that the liberal media elite iscoddling Bill Clinton and always plays to the Democrats is absurd. I mean the fact is who’s been the undoing of Bill Clinton: Newsweek and The Washington Post, those raging conservative publications..."

– Former New York Times and U.S. News reporter Steve Roberts on CNN’s Late Edition, February 1. [82 points]


Runners-up:



“We know from just answering the phone around here that the amount of attention we are giving this story is, at the very least, debatable. We in the news, as you can see [video of TV broadcasts], are devoting major time and resources to these events, but have we been carried away, are we doing too much and are we not being fair?”

– Peter Jennings on the January 23 World News Tonight, two days after the Lewinsky story broke. [47]

“I think, not to underestimate the American public. If you just look at one story where the press really almost entirely went one way and the public went the other way, was the whole episode of Monica Lewinsky. I mean there you had a story where the press was so consistently hostile on this story, and the public stood back and said ‘Wait a minute, wait a minute, wait a minute, we’re not going to go along with it until we’re a lot further down the road.’ The public is a lot more sophisticated because they’ve been exposed to too many stories that turned out not to be true.”

U.S. News & World Report Publisher Mortimer Zuckerman on the July 7 Good Morning America. [45]
 
“There is something about this story, this presidency, that has led the media to almost obliterate the standards of decency that were built up for so many years.”

Washington Post reporter Howard Kurtz on CNN’s January 28 special Media Madness? [43]


Media McCarthyism Award (for Tying Conservatives to Murder)



“The Christian Right per se and some particular members on Capitol Hill have helped inflame the air so that the air that these bad people breathed that night was filled, filled with the idea that somehow gays are different, and not only are they different in that difference, they’re bad and not only are they bad, they are evil and therefore evil can be destroyed. The next step to that to me, it’s a three-step process, and that ends in destruction. I don’t say that they were told to do that, they certainly weren’t part of any plan to do that, but again, what air are they breathing now? It’s the air filled with that hate....I mentioned Trent Lott, Jesse Helms and Dick Armey particularly. The Christian Coalition, the Family Research Council and the Concerned Women for America.”

– Deborah Mathis of Gannett News Service on who inspired the murder of Matthew Shepard, October 17 Inside Washington. [88 points]


Runners-up:



“When Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated by an extremist who was opposed to the peace talks, many commentators at the time blamed Bibi Netanyahu who was Mr. Rabin’s opponent at the time, for his political rhetoric, saying that by saying that people who were making peace with the Palestinians were in effect, countenancing terrorism, he in effect set up Rabin. Don’t you feel some of that same heat? Doesn’t anti-abortion rhetoric at some point verge on almost a back-handed pat on the back to those people?”

– Geraldo Rivera to Jerry Falwell after the shooting of an abortion doctor, October 26 Upfront Tonight on CNBC. [51]

“My concern with this guy, Weston, is he’s a guy talking up this business about the evils of big government and he’s a nut case, but this is his rant and I wonder if, you know, in some way the Republicans in this town haven’t gone too far with this kind of logic.”

– FNC analyst and Washington Post reporter Juan Williams on the Capitol Hill shooting, July 26 Fox News Sunday. [45]
 
“Then the fallout from the death of Matthew Shepard. The tragic beating of the college student in Wyoming has some activists in this country saying there is a climate of anti-gay hate that's been fostered by the political right in this country. We’re going to get into that debate after news and weather.”

Today co-host Katie Couric opening the October 13 show. [38]
 

 
The Everybody But Us Shut Up Award (for Promoting Campaign Finance Reform)



“For those of us who worship the constitutional guarantee of free press and speech, the spectacle of political hustlers like Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) using the First Amendment to justify legalized bribery is offensive.”

Wall Street Journal Executive Washington Editor Al Hunt, March 12 column. [82 points]


Runners-up:



“Republicans kill the bill to clean up sleazy political fundraising. The business of dirty campaign money will stay business as usual....Good evening. Legislation to reform shady big money campaign fundraising is dead in Congress. Republican opponents in the Senate killed it today. It was the latest in a long-running attempt to toughen loose laws that shield hidden donors with loose wallets and deep pockets. As CBS’s Bob Schieffer reports, when it came to the crunch today on campaign finance reform, it was all talk and no action.”

– Dan Rather, February 26 CBS Evening News. [71]  
 
“It was a bill that was doomed to die. The last time you heard people so eager to claim responsibility for something like this, they were terrorists.”

– NBC reporter Gwen Ifill, February 27 Washington Week in Review on PBS. [49]
 
“The Senate has effectively killed political campaign finance reform for the foreseeable future, which means that even though a majority of Senators declared themselves in favor of trying to change the way politicians raise and spend money, there were not enough votes to end a Republican filibuster. Together the Senate and the House of Representatives spent more than $9 million dollars to hold more than 30 days of hearings on how to change the rules, and even though so many Americans believe that money is more important to the process than their vote – which is not a pretty picture – and though many, many  politicians believe the system is flawed, they will not be fixing it, just yet.”

– ABC News anchor Peter Jennings, February 26 World News Tonight. [27]


Starr Behind Bars Award


“Coming out on to the White House driveway on the day after he had violated all norms of privacy, he jauntily gave his trademark wave and his patented grin, one that doesn’t involve eye movement, carrying himself as if he were President and as if there were a crowd of well-wishers rather than a ravenous camera crew awaiting him, as if he were on some high horse instead of on some low road. ‘You cannot defile the temple of justice,’ he has said in explaining his relentless pursuit of Clinton. But Starr did. As much as Clinton stained the dress, Starr stained the country to nail him for it. And his party goes on and on.”

Time magazine’s Margaret Carlson in an October 12 “Public Eye” column. [60 points]


Runners-up:


“What Starr is doing is trying to construct the truth according to Ken Starr, and according to Miss Lewinsky’s lawyer he’s reneging on his offer of immunity, because she’s not saying what he wants and what he’s doing is trying to get people to say what he wants. He’s the one who is suborning perjury here in my view. He has gone way beyond the pale in term of his treatment of witnesses.”

Newsweek’s Eleanor Clift, Feb. 7 McLaughlin Group. [52]
 
“CNN has learned the ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee plans to ask Attorney General Janet Reno to investigate whether Ken Starr should be removed from office. Sources say Congressman John Conyers is writing a long letter to Reno, accusing Starr of repeated abuses of power, including pressuring witnesses to commit perjury. The allegations are specific and serious, aimed at a man who already has given many people the impression he’s on a mission. That may have a lot to do with Starr’s religious and Republican roots...”

– Greta Van Susteren hosting the February 5 CNN special “Investigating the Investigator.” [48]
 
“Starr has stood Watergate on its head. It is not the President who is doing the taping; it is the prosecutor. It is not the President who is assembling the dossiers and leaking dirt on the intimate practices of an ideological opponent; it is the prosecutor. It is not the President who is involved in the politically motivated abuse of power; it is the politically motivated counsel. It is not the President who is insufficiently accountable; it is the prosecutor.”

U.S. News Editor-in-Chief Mortimer Zuckerman, April 6.  [47]
 
“Starr’s is a shameful story – as shameful as the conduct of almost all television news programs and some of the press....Starr’s leaks, whose purpose is to condition the public to believe in the President’s guilt, are of a piece with other practices that reek of abuse....The real spinning is taking place in the graves of our Founding Fathers. When they wrote the First Amendment, they imagined a press corps as a curb on power. They did not anticipate an independent counsel free from checks and balances. They had no role for a chief inquisitor. Nor should we."

U.S. News & World Report’s Zuckerman in his editorial titled, “Starr Has Hit a New Low,” – June 29 issue. [36]


Good Morning Morons Award (for Foolishness in the Morning)

 


Women who’ve been polled seem to put it behind them as well, and are willing to move on and forget about it. Is that because Bill Clinton’s been such a great President whom they elected in great part, or is there something I want to say almost sexy about a man who can get away with things over and over again?”

Good Morning America co-host Lisa McRee to Deborah Tannen, August 18. [73 points]


Runners-up:


Katie Couric: “Getting back to kids and guns, if you will indulge me for a moment. You cannot think of any other position the NRA could take in terms of trying to decrease the number of school shootings? You feel like this is not your bailiwick, this is not your problem?”
Charlton Heston: “Not at all. As I told you the NRA spends more money, more time...”
Couric, cutting him off: “Other than education.”
Heston: “Well what would you suppose? What would you suggest?”
Couric: “I don’t know, perhaps greater restrictions.”

– Exchange on the June 8 Today. [47]
   
“You and I spoke right at the beginning of this second term. Now, with two years left, is it something you look forward to? Do you get out there and say ‘I want to keep going out, I want to meet people, I have more stuff I want to do,’ or do you look and go ‘Oh, my God, two more years!’?”
“There’s so much speculation now about what you’re going to do. What Hillary Clinton’s life is going to be after the presidency. Do you find that takes away from what you’re going to do, or do you just like slough it off and pay no attention?”
“I’ve  talked to several people and they came up and said ‘She’s so different than I thought she would be. She's so much more of a people person. She’s funny, she’s nice.’ Do you think that, like, people don’t get you? I mean you get out there and people see a different side of you.”

– Maria Shriver’s questions to Hillary Clinton during her bus tour, July 16 Today. [44]
 
“Thirty seconds, but I want to get this in: Janet Reno, ninety-day investigation to look into whether a special prosecutor should be appointed for this campaign finance thing. Is that a big problem for the President? Has he done anything that anybody else wouldn’t have done?”

– ABC’s Lisa McRee to Cokie Roberts, September 9 Good Morning America. [43]
 
“Couldn’t this be just a witch hunt, couldn’t the Democrats and President Clinton’s people who’ve been defending him all these months be right, that even though he screwed up there’s some political motivation there. Couldn’t that be right?”

– Lisa McRee to humorist P.J. O’Rourke, September 10 Good Morning America. [40]


Move Over Buddy Award (for Geraldo Rivera’s Pro-Clinton Lapdoggery)



“Twinkle, twinkle Kenneth Starr, now we see how crude you are / Up above your jury high, like the judge up in the sky / Twinkle, twinkle little Starr, now we see how wrong you are / When you drag the agents in, when you bully moms and kin / then you kiss the treacherous Tripp, twinkle, twinkle DC drip / Twinkle, twinkle little Starr, now we see how small you are."

– NBC News reporter Geraldo Rivera singing his version of Twinkle Little Star after playing video of U.S. Representative Mike Pappas (R-NJ) on the House floor singing his version in a birthday tribute to Kenneth Starr, July 21 Rivera Live on CNBC. [71 points]


Runners-up:



“How much of his vital attention is being consumed by Ken Starr’s endless probe, by the Monica Lewinsky saga, by the fears that his trusted Secret Service agents will be forced to rat out the maybe gory details of his private life....And finally, and most importantly, how can our bridge to the 21st century feel about the slanderous charge amounting almost to treason, that for Johnny Chung’s bribe of 100,000 lousy dollars he sold America’s missile secrets to the Chinese, who now aim their deadly devices at America’s children?....I watch him and I wonder how he does it. I watch him and wonder how much is too much for  any man.”

– Rivera on Clinton’s plight, May 19 Rivera Live on CNBC. [47]

“Will all of the media, including NBC, give even a fraction of the airtime and the newsprint that we gave to these allegations [Filegate, Whitewater, Travelgate] to the fact that no impeachable offenses were found? When are we going to say to the President of the United States, ‘we’re sorry’?”

– Rivera, after citing a Nexis count of stories on the other scandals, September 14 Rivera Live on CNBC. [44]
 
“I thought that Linda Tripp now takes her place in the Hall of Infamy as a betrayer of the order of Benedict Arnold in the, in the, at least in the love ‘90s...I think anybody who wrapped themselves around Linda Tripp and her tapes is now soiled. You felt the need to take a shower. What that woman did to her young friend is beyond the pale. I think it’s much worse than anything Bill Clinton did.”

– Rivera as a guest expert on NBC’s Today, November 18. [39]
 
“They [Linda Tripp and Lucianne Goldberg] wanted to make money on a book but once push came to shove they were perfectly willing to sacrifice the young former White House intern on the altar of greed, on the altar of hatred for Bill Clinton and his administration and I think they’re going to accomplish that at least in the short term. But if it comes to trial Linda Tripp will be facing some severe questioning by Monica Lewinsky’s very capable counsel. And my God, a first year law student hearing those tapes will be able to make her look like exactly what she is, a treacherous, back-stabbing, good-for-nothing enemy of the truth.”

– Rivera from China where he was covering Clinton’s visit, on CNBC’s Rivera Live, June 26. [32]


Damn Those Conservatives Award



“The stock market crashed in October 1987, another setback for Reagan. Black Monday raised doubts about the soundness of Reagan’s economic policies. On Reagan’s watch tax revenues would double, but they never kept up with spending. The national debt nearly tripled. Although most Americans benefited, the gap between the richest and poorest became a chasm. Donald Trump and the new billionaires of the 1980s recalled the extravagance of the captains of industry in the 1880s. There were losers. Cuts in social programs created a homeless population that grew to exceed that of Atlanta. AIDS became an epidemic in the 1980s, nearly 50,000 died. Reagan largely ignored it.”

– Narrator of PBS American Experience profile of Ronald Reagan, February 24. [63 points]


Runners-up:



“I’ve got to know, Pat, why is this John Edwards/Lauch Faircloth race so important to the Republicans, other than the obvious that Senator Faircloth is considered to be one of the junior Grand Wizards of the vast right-wing conspiracy?”

– MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann to former Democratic pollster Pat Caddell, October 26 The Big Show. [49]
       
“I think Republicans are doing a rendition – remember that old Zero Mostel parody Springtime for Hitler? I think that’s what they’re doing. The moral charge against Bill Clinton is being led by Newt Gingrich, the only Speaker in history to be sanctioned for unethical conduct, the most unpopular political figure in America. Dan Burton, the committee chairman, now has, at least according to the Washington Times, has his staff wearing latex gloves because he says left-wingers are sending him condoms in the mail. His staff aide, Mr. Bossie, most reporters I know think was a duplicitous wacko.”

Wall Street Journal Executive Washington Editor Al Hunt, May 9 Capital Gang. [44]

“I’m happy about Fritz [Hollings]. He’s a crusty old coot, the kind you don’t really see in Congress any more. Faircloth is a sort of more recent edition. He’s a member of the hater branch of the North Carolina Republican Party, so good riddance to him.”

Newsweek Assistant Managing Editor Evan Thomas, November 7 Inside Washington. [43]
 
“Bill Bennett, Mr. Virtues, has said basically that Clinton is morally unfit to hold office. I’m sure Bill believes that, but this is the same Bill Bennett who has a close friend and goes on trips with Newt Gingrich, the Speaker of the House who’s been accused of some of the same sort of moral turpitude that the President’s been accused of....Gingrich gave his wife her walking papers a day out of cancer surgery. Now that’s character and as long as we play political games, and we view character in a ideological  sense, I don’t think the American public is going to be anything but cynical.”

Wall Street Journal’s Al Hunt on CNN’s Capital Gang, February 1. [42]


Politics of Meaninglessness Award (for the Silliest Analysis)



“The Communist Manifesto is well worth the $12 that Verso is asking. Despite the hype, its message is a timeless one that bears repeating every century or so: The meek shall triumph and the mighty shall fall; the hungry and exhausted will get restless and someday – someday! – rise up against their oppressors. The prophet Isaiah said something like this, and so, a little more recently, did Jesus.”

Time columnist Barbara Ehrenreich in an April 30 book review for the Web site Salon. [62 points]


Runners-up:



“We are often judgmental about people that are different from us...and we don’t even understand what their problems are...A lot of students got killed at Tiananmen Square, but I remember several students got killed at Kent State. And, remember, they have a lot more students than we do. We shot down our own students.”

– Ted Turner promoting the new 24-part CNN documentary series Cold War, September 24 Washington Post. [49]
 
“China has a one-child policy. Is that a good idea for all countries?”

Good Morning America co-host Lisa McRee to Bill McKibben, author of Maybe One: A Personal and Environmental Argument for  Single-Child Families, May 30. [46]
 
“Ken Starr and his people have been working for three to four years, spent more than $30 million, they’ve used dozens if not a hundred or so FBI agents. They may have turned this up, whether you had the Paula Jones case or not. But again maybe not, but again that’s like if a frog had side pockets he’d probably wear a handgun. It didn’t happen that way.”

– Dan Rather, Feb. 5 Late Show with David Letterman. [41]
 
“I was thinking about what Jane Fonda said the other night about North Georgia and how she thought North Georgia was not unlike parts of the developing world and some politicians in Georgia jumped all over her....And the truth of the matter is there are parts of America which are just as bad as some of the worst parts in the rest of the world and that’s desperately sad.”

– ABC News anchor Peter Jennings on Jane Fonda’s charge that children are “starving to death” in Georgia, April 23 CBS Late Late Show with Tom Snyder. [40]
 
“The women’s movement brought change and power to millions of American females. Virginal brides surrendered to the sexual revolution. Modern fashions exposed body parts previously reserved for the bedroom. Entering the work force meant the old ways that women met men were ancient history [video clip of a milkman]. And a new breed of superwoman said ‘I can have it all’...The search for pleasure leads some women to shop [video of sex toys] and some to stray...And experts say many husbands and wives can become stronger individuals, and on rare occasions, might even find that cheating recharges their  marriage.”

– CBS This Morning co-host Jane Robelot, April 23. [39]


Carve Clinton into Mt. Rushmore Award



“He invited his exhausted audience to take a holiday from Lewinsky and spend a refreshing hour and 12 minutes feeling like a country again. For once the talk on the screen was not of oral sex, but of our lives and fortunes and sacred happiness. He had become all human nature, the best and the worst, standing there naked in a sharp, dark suit, behind the TelePrompTer. That which does not kill him only makes him stronger, and his poll numbers went through the roof....That may have been a miracle, but it was no accident: Americans are less puritanical and more forgiving than the cartoon version suggests, and this President is never better than in his worst moments.”

Time magazine Senior Editor Nancy Gibbs, February 9 issue. [104 points]


Runners-up:



“The White House looks at this with such great irony. As the impeachment hearings grind on could you have a situation where next year the President cannot go to the Judiciary Committee on a particular day because he’s receiving the Nobel Peace Prize? That's the kind of irony the White House looks at as they look at the success of President Clinton on this day.”

– NBC News Washington Bureau Chief Tim Russert to Sara James on the October 23 Today hours before the signing in the White House of the Israel-PLO peace deal. [53]
 
Dan Rather: “With the economy humming, CBS’s White House correspondent Scott Pelley reports, President Clinton was singing his own praises, this time with the facts and figures to back him up.”
Scott Pelley: “The recovery began before Mr. Clinton took office. The fact that it’s run so long is credited to what some call the great odd couple – Mr. Clinton and Alan Greenspan, the Federal Reserve Chairman. Simply put, when Mr. Clinton made deficit reduction his top priority, Greenspan felt confident driving interest rates down. America did the rest. If the recovery continues to December, it will be the longest peacetime recovery in history.”

– March 6 CBS Evening News. [33]
 
Dan Rather: “President Clinton today proposed a centerpiece of his policy agenda: federal help for working parents who need safe and affordable child care....”
Scott Pelley: “The President was raised by a single mother who left him with his grandparents when she went off to school. Today, Mr. Clinton proposed what may be the largest increase in child care funding in the nation’s history.”

– Opening of a January 7 CBS Evening News story (though Clinton survived unregulated care by a relative.) [32]

“Medicare, the health care program that has been a godsend to the elderly in this country, even with all its financial difficulties. Tonight the President wants to dramatically expand its coverage to millions more.”

– NBC’s Tom Brokaw introducing a January 6 Nightly News story. [30]


Too Late For Our Judging, But Year-End “Best of NQ” Worthy



“I would not be astonished to see Hillary Clinton be the Democratic nominee in 2000....Hillary Clinton, as far as I’m concerned, she’s the Person of the Year, if Time magazine doesn’t put her on the cover, they may put Mike, Mark McGwire, or Alan Greenspan, or somebody, but Hillary Clinton is the Person of the Year in that, you talk about a comeback kid – she makes her husband look like Ned in knee pants in terms of comeback from where she was early in the Clinton administration. You know, you add it all up, and you can make a case that Hillary Clinton might, might – mark the word – be the strongest candidate for the Democrats.”

CBS Evening News anchor Dan Rather on CNN’s Larry King Live, December 3.
   
Dan Rather: “If you’re Al Gore – listen he’s been a loyal Vice President. He is the odds-on favorite for the nomination. If you were Al Gore, what would you do?”
Larry King: “Make her, ask her to be Vice President. Is that what you think? Is that where you’re leading me?”
Rather: “No, I think maybe I would say, ‘You know, we want the goals of the Clinton administration to be achieved and to go forward. I need your help, First Lady, friend of mine, Hillary Clinton, and if I’m elected President, I will make you the next Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court.’ That’s what I’d do, but Al Gore is a better man than I am and I doubt that he’d do it.”

– CNN’s Larry King Live, December 3.
 
Announcer: “Did Kenneth Starr go too far?”
Diane Sawyer to Starr: “I think there were 62 mentions of the word ‘breast,’ 23 of ‘cigar,’ 19 of ‘semen.’ This has been called demented pornography, pornography for Puritans. Were there mistakes made in including some of this?”
Announcer: “The tables are turned. Now it’s the prosecutor’s turn to be grilled, when 20/20 Wednesday continues after this from our ABC stations.”

– Plug during 20/20 interview with Ken Starr, November 25.
 
Sawyer: “Which brings us to Linda Tripp, the woman people love to hate, and the accusation that Ken Starr was not what he had seemed. Are you part of a right-wing  conspiracy?”
Starr: “No. I don’t know that there is one.”
Sawyer: “His key witness, Linda Tripp, is now a recognized soldier in the army of Clinton haters – among them Tripp’s friend and svengali, Lucianne Goldberg. Among them, the lawyers for Paula Jones. Before he became independent counsel, Starr gave them advice. And among them, millionaire Richard Mellon Scaife, who hired people to dig up dirt on Bill Clinton and funded a chair at Pepperdine University for Ken Starr....”
“Driving to the White House that day, for what was – for all intents and purposes – a lot of people think your trial, the only trial you were going to get. Did you think to yourself, here is a man who has to deal with Saddam Hussein and bin Laden and what’s going on in Russia, and we’re putting him through this?”

– Some of Diane Sawyer’s questions to Starr, November 25.  


Quote of the Year


“I would be happy to give him [Clinton] a blow job just to thank him for keeping abortion legal. I think American women should be lining up with their presidential kneepads on to show their gratitude for keeping the theocracy off our backs.”

Time contributor and former reporter Nina Burleigh recalling what she told the Washington Post’s Howard Kurtz about her feeling toward Bill Clinton, as recounted by Burleigh in the July 20 New York Observer. [121 points]


Runners-up:



“Mr. President, we love you. I want to hug you, I want to hug you, please do the right thing. This is nothing, this is nothing. Thomas Jefferson did not have this in mind, I swear to God....I would give Ken Starr the Nobel Peace Prize were he to be man enough not to refer a sex lie to the House for impeachment.”

– Geraldo Rivera urging Clinton not to cooperate, August 6 edition of Rivera Live on CNBC. [66 points]

Washington Post media reporter Howard Kurtz: “It’s interesting to watch them, Ann Lewis and others, dutifully drag themselves before the cameras yesterday and saying, ‘I know I’ve been telling you for months that this didn’t happen. Well it did happen, but no one cares and lets move on.’ So their own credibility has taken a hit.”
Co-host Lisa McRee: “But it’s also courageous professionalism, some would say.”

– Exchange from ABC’s Good Morning America, August 19, just after Clinton admitted he misled his staff. [39 points]

“But, do you give the President at least a little, not credit, but a little sympathy, when you read details like snapping the straps of a thong underwear, her thong underwear to entice him, asking for a job. Do you think that it mitigates our view of the President in any way?”

Good Morning America co-host Lisa McRee describing Monica Lewinsky’s testimony to conservative columnist Betsy Hart, September 17. [33 points]


1998 Award Judges



  Brent Baker, Editor of MediaWatch and Notable Quotables
  Mark Belling, talk show host, WISN in Milwaukee
  Neal Boortz, talk show host, WSB in Atlanta
  L. Brent Bozell III, Chairman, the Media Research Center
  David Brudnoy, talk host, WBZ; Boston U. communications prof.  
  Priscilla Buckley, Senior Editor of National Review
  Tucker Carlson, staff writer, The Weekly Standard
  Mark Davis, talk host, WBAP; columnist, Ft. Worth Star-Telegram
  Midge Decter, author, New York City
  Jim Eason, talk show host, KSFO in San Francisco
  Barry Farber, nationally syndicated talk show host
  Tim Graham, Director, media analysis, Media Research Center
  Kirk Healy, Executive Producer, Cox Radio, Orlando
  Arianna Huffington, nationally syndicated columnist
  Marie Kaigler, radio talk show host and broadcaster, Detroit
  Cliff Kincaid, media analyst
  Paul Koloski, Editorial Editor, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
  Tim Lamer, Director, Free Market Project; Editor, MediaNomics
  Mark Larson, talk host and general manager, KPRZ in San Diego
  Richard Lessner, Editorial Page Director, The Union Leader (N.H.)
  Jason Lewis, talk show host, KSTP in Minneapolis/St. Paul
  Ross Mackenzie, Editor, editorial pg, Richmond Times-Dispatch
  Tony Macrini, Program Director, WTAR/WNIS in Norfolk, Virginia
  Marlin Maddoux, host, Point of View radio talk show
  Don Markwell, radio talk show host, WACV in Montgomery
  Tom Marr, radio talk show host, WCBM in Baltimore
  Patrick McGuigan, Editor, editorial page, The Daily Oklahoman
  Jan Mickelson, talk show host, WHO in Des Moines
  Gary Nolan, national radio talk show host, Radio America
  M. Jane Norris, WAVE-TV host, WHAS talk radio host, Louisville
  Robert D. Novak, Chicago Sun-Times columnist; CNN analyst
  Kate O'Beirne, Washington Editor for National Review
  Marvin Olasky, professor of journalism, U. of Texas at Austin
  Janet Parshall, nationally syndicated radio talk show host
  Henry Payne, editorial cartoonist, Scripps Howard News Service
  Dan Pierce, talk host, WGIR Action News Network, Manchester, NH
  Wladyslaw Pleszczynski, Executive Editor, American Spectator
  Michael Reagan, nationally syndicated radio talk show host
  Mike Rosen, talk show host, KOA; columnist, Denver Post
  William Rusher, Distinguished Fellow, Claremont Institute
  Melanie Scarborough, Associate Editor, Richmond Times-Dispatch
  Ron Smith, talk show host, WBAL in Baltimore
  Ted J. Smith III, journalism professor, Virginia Commonwealth U.
  Philip Terzian, nationally syndicated columnist  
  Cal Thomas, nationally syndicated columnist
  R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr., Editor-in-Chief of The American Spectator
  Armstrong Williams, nationally syndicated columnist
  Dick Williams, syndicated columnist; host of The Georgia Gang
  Walter Williams, Professor of economics, George Mason University
  Thomas Winter, Editor-in-Chief of Human Events