Welcome to the Media Research Center's annual awards issue, a compilation of the most outrageous and/or humorous news media quotes from 1997. To determine this year's winners, a panel of 58 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.
This issue covers quotes from late 1996 through Nov. 1997. The first quote under each award heading is the winner, followed in order by the top runners-up.
"The mood of the Republican congressional leadership is so ideologically obtuse as to doom even this modest first step down the path of responsibility. They would rather kill people than raise taxes."See the Runners-Up for the Quote Of The Year
"His sturdy jaw precedes him. He smiles from sea to shining sea. Is this President a candidatefor Mt. Rushmore or what?...In fact, when it comes to influencing the public, a single medley of expressions from Clinton may be worth much more, to much of America, than every ugly accusation Paula Jones can muster."
"Still their shared needs and mutual admiration cover an essential difference between the two men. Both think deep thoughts about saving the world, but they approach the task quite differently. Clinton is often roundabout, if not waffling. Gore is a plunger who thinks and acts in a straight line. Because Gore has been a reserved politician, his sometimes messianic zeal has been overlooked. The Vice President has written that his call to save the environment began with the shock of a near-fatal car accident to his son, Albert III. Characteristically, Gore felt it wasn't enough to save one child; he wanted to save all the world's children. By the same token, he has said privately that his absorption with arms control in the 1980s began with dreams that he could not rescue his family from nuclear war."
"Gore's commitment to the world of big ideas is no pose. Unlike John F. Kennedy and Adlai Stevenson, who became darlings of the highbrow set without fully earning the honor, Gore is truly engaged in the life of the mind...Had the younger Gore not become a Congressman at 28, a Senator at 36, and Vice President at 44, he might have become the sort of essayist who aspires to membership in the American Academy of Arts and Letters."
"As he begins his second term you may lament that President Clinton leaves little eloquence. But in an age of focus groups and consultants saying, 'Keep it short. Don't take sides,' few politicians do. He faces personal charges about his conduct in a motel bedroom. And ethical allegations about opening the Lincoln bedroom to the highest contributor. But you come back to the fact that if Bill Clinton isn't always trusted he has twice been entrusted by the largest responsibility we have to bestow by voters who can have few illusions. Instead they seem to trust that as President Clinton displays his own excesses and frailties he forgives and accepts ours, too."
"In fact, Senator Specter, as Senator Torricelli mentioned, two votes have left campaign finance reform legislation pretty much DOA. Do you think that prompts the American people to wonder about the sincerity of Congress to really enact change and suspect that perhaps this is an intentional effort to embarrass the Democratic Party?"
"But it's so ridiculous, you know people watching this just think that reform is necessary. They can't understand why you guys can't get your acts together!"
"We begin tonight with stalemate in the Senate. The majority thwarted. Politics prevails. Campaign finance reform, which the public wants, dead as a doornail, all of the above. After many months of talking about it, the first real effort to reform how campaigns for federal office are financed, the push to get some of the big money out of election campaigns has gone nowhere."
"Your hearings clearly reinforced the public's already low opinion of politicians and politics. Beyond that, what did it accomplish?....At the same time you were criticizing the misdeeds of the Clinton administration, leaders of your own party were opposing changes in the law to outlaw these huge contributions that helped create this scandal. Do you think that undercut your credibility with the public?"
"At times it will seem as if an individual, or a presidential campaign, or a political party is being investigated. That's only partly true. What's really in the dock beginning today isn't any politician but the system that politicians built. What's important beginning today isn't what one party can show about the other, but what the campaign-finance system shows about our political system....The hearings that begin this morning aren't really about John Huang and Charlie Trie or Abraham Lincoln's bedroom but about the political loophole -- unregulated 'soft-money' contributions to the parties, not to the candidates -- that makes them important. Soft money exploded in 1996..."
"So a couple of White House aides helped Webster Hubbell find work, and he did find work, some of it with Democratic donors. It may not look good, but is there any proof anything was done wrong?...All right, similar kind of question about Jorge Cabrera, a convicted drug smuggler who gave $20,000 to the DNC, wound up at a fancy dinner with Al Gore, wound up at a White House Christmas party with Hillary Clinton. But they gave the money back when they found out about his background. It may not look good, but is there any proof that anything was done wrong?"
"President Nixon was investigated for obstruction of justice. President Reagan was investigated for not telling investigators what he knew of the Iran-Contra scandal. President Clinton is being investigated for making telephone calls from the wrong room in the White House."
"All right. So what if we made this case -- OK, he's pretty tough with fundraising. But there's no proof that the Chinese had any in, except they gave money. He did a bad deal for you. And he has turned on his friends maybe a little. But nobody made big money in Whitewater. It was years ago. He was in Arkansas. He's a good President. I am happy. No boy is dying overseas. Country seems to be coming around. Supreme Court is pretty good. Are you better off than you were four years ago? Yes. What I if I made that case?"
"What we've done is, we've got a face on a corrupt system and we're doubting the probity --who would ever have thought that you would doubt the probity of Vice President Al Gore and three nuns? So it seems to me you've got to look at the system when the system is corrupting people that you would not otherwise think."
"In fact, the Speaker will forever remain his own caricature -- a Dennis the Menace meets Darth Vader kind of guy. A fellow who, for instance, wants to give all children in America laptops but take away their free school lunches."
ABC reporter John Cochran: "Flood victims in Grand Forks do not understand why Republican leaders refuse to pass an aid bill without strings attached."
A flood victim: "The river took our home, our possessions, our neighbors, our neighborhood and we still have our spirit. But the government is taking our spirit and our strength. And that's what's going to kill us."
Cochran: "Doug Sprehe is a life-long conservative Republican."
Doug Sprehe: "I believed in these guys and I voted for some of them and I'm beginning to lose my faith in the conservative party."
Cochran: "...People whose homes and businesses were destroyed say GOP leaders should realize that what they really need is money to rebuild."
"But there's another reason why all but nine of the 225 House Republicans backed Gingrich: deep reservations about the man next in line, the hard-right majority leader, Dick Armey. Just as Dan Quayle's lack of gravitas led many Republicans to pray for the health of George Bush, Armey's ideological stubbornness and hot-headed rhetoric inspire in his colleagues protective optimism about Gingrich....In a House brimming with mean-spirited rhetoric, Armey stands out."
"It'll be interesting when he sits down with Jiang Zemin, the President of China, and starts lecturing him about the rule of law though, I think. I'd like to be a fly on the wall in that session."
"I thought that we Americans overreacted to the Soviets and the news coverage sometimes seemed to accentuate that misdirected concern. Fear of the Soviet Union taking over the world just seemed as likely to me as invaders from Mars. Well, perhaps I was naive, but I'd seen those May Day parades and Soviet bread lines and miserable conditions hidden behind them. That war-devastated country didn't seem that threatening to me...The nuclear arms race was on in earnest. All the anti-Soviet paranoia that had been festering since the war really blew up then. A Soviet bomb was seen as an assault on us. But I saw it as part of their pursuit of nuclear equality. After all, what should we expect, that our enemy's just going to sit still there and not try to develop the bomb?"
"Open societies, it turns out, haven't been as generous as socialism and communism to women who want to serve in public office. From Albania to Yemen, the number of women in power plummeted after the transition from socialist governments, which sought to develop female as well as male proletariats. As those governments died, so went the socialist ideals of equality and the subsidies for social programs that aided women. In many countries, traditional patriarchal cultures resurfaced."
"Under Cuba's communist form of government, a Cuban family's basic necessities, housing, education, health care, and transportation, are provided by the state for free or at very little cost."
"An editor's note: When your reporter was in China recently, a very high ranking Chinese government official was repeatedly asked questions about religious persecution. He told me, and I quote directly, 'These stories are untrue. We do, as you do, have some trouble with cults and we, like you, deal with them accordingly, but that's all.' End quote."
"John Huang isn't the poster boy for what ails money and politics -- Steve Forbes is...Forbes represents the purest, most offensive challenge to the idea that money should equal speech...Must we really accept a doctrine that lets a vain twit pour Daddy's millions into so much flat tax propaganda that it lands him on the cover of Time and Newsweek and influences the national agenda? Forbes has been encouraged by what money can buy and won't go away. If anything's sinister about campaign finance nowadays, it's this..."
"Thus the key question: Is Steve Forbes constitutional? The court might tell us that Forbes' fetishes are among those ugly things we have to tolerate in a free society. In any event, this is the kind of conversation that might begin to fix our campaigns, not witch hunts for red perils that don't exist."
"The UFO comparison is apt in his case. He is considered flaky and a bit of a crackpot, even though a nice guy. Some crackpots are nice."
"President Clinton's best defense for any campaign fundraising excesses or irregularities by Democrats appears to be that the Republicans do it too. And even more."
"Well, for centuries, I mean, Scandinavia has really been known, all these countries, for their innovative and their progressive social systems. But when it comes to protecting women's rights and children's rights, Norway could really teach most other countries a thing or two. They are the top priorities here. Largely responsible for this, former Prime Minister Gro Harlem Brundtland, and she is the first woman to hold that post...
"She's been very instrumental in pioneering some of these sweeping changes that have really greatly improved the quality of life for women and for children in Norway. Nice to have you here. I think most women, when they hear that, they just want to pack up and come right over here. But these have been sweeping changes that really have improved life here for women and children. Why do you think it happened in such a short time?....And they also have the lowest crime rate in the world. This is a very, very interesting country that we could learn a little bit from. Hopefully, we can get some of those programs instituted in America. Thank you for having us here."
"It is clear that day care in this country is inaccessible to many, cost prohibitive for others, substandard in many situations. What can the government actually do to alleviate some of these problems?"
"As you know, Mrs. Clinton, regulations for at-home day care vary so much from state to state in terms of the ratio of children to day care provider, do you think there should be some kind of overall federal regulations?"
"But in fairness, what is wrong with Newt Gingrich reaching out to some other groups, extending himself? I mean, can't you catch more flies with honey? Isn't there something about that? And perhaps the rigidity of some of the conservative Republicans and their almost religious adherence to the Contract with America, didn't that ultimately backfire on them?"
Sam Donaldson: "I think Governor Weld has done this country a service in a sense, even though I think that he's been shot down in the ocean now, and that is by allowing the country to see Senator Helms in action. Over the years I've run into him two or three times at receptions here and he's the most gentlemanly, courtly, friendly, pleasant individual you would ever hope to meet. But, when you see him in action, you see beneath that courtliness beats the heart of a dictator and I think the country is appalled."
George Stephanopoulos: "Or a terrorist. The President is really, I think made a mistake because he's been negotiating with a terrorist here."
James Warren, Chicago Tribune Washington Bureau Chief: "I also find interesting this revisionism about Senator Helms. We've sort of turned his dogmatism and bigotry into now, the iron-willed principle of a man of the right."
Mona Charen: "What bigotry?"
Warren: "Oh, his gay-baiting, his union-bashing. His hatred of any fundings for the arts. His isolationism."
"He had deep roots in the conservative traditions of the Old South. In his campaigns, Helms had been known to exploit the race issue for political advantage, which is exactly how slave owners and conservatives used to dominate Southern politics."
"[Food] stamps, a blessing, allowed them [able-bodied adults without children] to purchase about $25 worth of food a week. They would not be able to eat like a President or member of Congress, but they could have some soup, maybe a little pasta, some tuna, some beans. They wouldn't starve, and they would have enough energy to continue looking for a job...After 90days, the following notice is to be disseminated: Put down that soup spoon, poor person, the Clinton administration and the Republican-led Congress are clearing the table."
"Governor Shaheen, you've said that you want kindergarten available for every child in your state. And you're proposing to finance it with higher cigarette taxes and more gambling in the state. I guess you have to do that because you've locked yourself away from calling for any sales tax or income tax in New Hampshire. Are the kids not worth having a sales tax or an income tax?"
"Republicans got their tax cuts for families and investors and some savings in domestic programs. But they dropped the plans they had in 1995 and 1996 for crippling Medicare and Medicaid, abolishing government departments and agencies, expanding the military, and relaxing environmental protections."
"The most shameful act of '96 was welfare reform....welfare reform became a political football in '96, an easy way to kick around the poor and especially poor children and immigrants, even legal immigrants. Bill Clinton thought the GOP had a hot issue, so he closed his eyes and signed a bill that punishes children and people who want to work, but can't find a job in a tough market for entry level employment. This was a criminal act, further dividing us as haves and have nots. It was shameful."
"Like an ominous storm blown in from the East, the reality of welfare reform has descended with relentless and unsparing force on thousands of families like that of [Yvonne] Parris who begin the new year today with less cash to live on and the prospect of a welter of new rules aimed at restricting their access to government aid....Many who are against the cuts argue that the welfare overhaul does little to address the fundamental causes of poverty, but is instead based on long-standing myths and prejudices."
"Are some current policies in Washington, however, exacerbating the problem? For example, the new welfare reform bill is going to put about a million kids on the street without a safety net beneath them. We're also now pulling back from the benefits that we've provided in the past to legal immigrants in this country and it's putting a big burden on a lot of the states out there. You come from an immigrant experience yourself. Do you think that the welfare reform bill went too far in just those two areas?"
"The right wing has lied repeatedly in an effort to move public opinion on this issue....Lie No.1: Conservatives care about life. The renowned quipmeister, Rep. Barney Frank, Massachusetts Democrat, once said, 'Conservatives' interest in life begins at conception and ends at birth.' Truer words were never spoken. If they did care about taking care of babies and protecting the helpless, they would not be so driven to cut government programs that help the poor, nor so concerned about paying a few dollars less of their own money in taxes."
"You were raised, sir, in a subsidized housing project by a single mother and yet you support welfare reform and oppose affirmative action. How do you square those two sides?"
Michael Barone, Reader's Digest: "I'm not as confident as Bill Press that I know the inner workings of the mind of Paula Jones. I don't feel that I do..."
Margaret Carlson, Time: "What mind?"
"The head of the Republican political lobbying group that calls itself, quote, 'the Christian Coalition' said today he's leaving to start a political consulting business. Ralph Reed's group took a beating on some of its hard-right agenda in the last election."
"What if Watergate had elected McGovern?....The Cold War would have ended in the '70srather than in the '90s. McGovern, in his campaign, debunked the threat and invincibility of the so-called evil Soviet empire. Republican and Democratic Presidents preached that myth for four decades, until the USSR self-destructed ....George McGovern. A man before his time. Prescient. Decisive, but decent. The USA and the world would have been far better off if we'd been heedful of his early Watergate warnings and had put McGovern in the White House in 1972."
"I said to somebody that if O.J. killed his first wife, Marguerite [who is black], and her friend, then do I think George Will and William F. Buckley would have written about it? No way. Not on God's green earth. They wouldn't have even noticed."
Crime Keeps On Falling; but Prisons Keep On Filling
"Overlaying this structure was a national politics heavily conditioned by nearly half a century of cold war. Strength and toughness trumped everything else. At one military briefing during the1980s, Reagan was shown models of American missiles. The American power phalluses were long and white; the Soviets', shorter and black. We were still safely ahead, but only by the margin of our machismo."
"[I]n person, [Anita] Hill bears only passing resemblance to her rather stern image from newspapers and television. At 41, she is slender to the point of willowy. Her features are elegant, and while she is intense while discussing her political baptism-by-fire, she can also muster a warm smile and a hearty laugh -- qualities that had little occasion to surface in the nine hours that changed Hill's world. So, she was asked, does she sometimes feel like the Joan of Arc of sexual harassment? Sure, Hill replied, and here came the mirth the Senate never saw: 'I refuse to die, though.'"
"[Mario] Cuomo was a rare combination: an intellectual and a spellbinding orator. I would have bet that he could have won the Democratic nomination and been elected to the presidency. He had electrified the 1984 Democratic convention with his keynote speech, and I never saw him fail to excite those who shared his liberal vision of America's future. Despite the pollsters and political operators' contrary opinions, I remain convinced that the public was ready for a leader who could restore that vision after the selfish eighties. I don't believe the public has rejected liberalism; it simply has not heard a candidate persuasively advocate its humane and deeply democratic principles."
"Justice William Brennan led the Supreme Court on a quiet revolution that expanded individual rights and press freedoms to an extent found nowhere else in the world...Brennan saw his influence wane as justices appointed by Presidents Reagan and Bush cut back the court's role as active protector of individual rights."
"I don't think voting for Clinton makes you a liberal. I mean, Bill Clinton isn't even a liberal, and second, if you're liberal, does that mean you can't be fair? What hypocrisy that we sit around and talk about the press like it's some sort of 'they.' It's us. Are we too liberal? N-o....The bias is in favor of bad news and you go after whoever is in power, and the name of the game is kill the king, which is why Bill Clinton does not get a free ride."
"Although the experience and independence of Tom Brokaw, Peter Jennings, Dan Rather, and Ted Koppel would give their opinions a lot more weight than those of any politician, they still observe the disciplines of their craft. Their on-air analyses plumb the views and prejudices of others without parading their own."
"Scholar after scholar has disputed, in studying the actual content of the press, what you've justblithely handed out that it's this left-wing media. That's a charge from the '50s. That's not thecurrent press. Tom Patterson -- no, the bias is a bias against politicians of all kinds, not a bias forone side or other."
Nuns Tell of Panic About Fund-Raiser Documents Destroyed or Altered to Conceal Temple's Role With DNC
Nuns Say Temple Event With Gore Was Not A Fund-Raise
CIA Agent Says He Gave Huang Classified Data
C.I.A. Officer Says His Briefings For Huang Were Simply Routine
Dem tells of 'contribution swap' scheme
DNC Ex-Aide Denies Teamster 'Swap' Plan
"The mood of the Republican congressional leadership is so ideologically obtuse as to doom even this modest first step down the path of responsibility. They would rather kill people than raise taxes."
"Newt Gingrich's problem, I've always thought, he's like Lenin. They both made a revolution by shooting people -- Newt shot Democrats, Lenin shot everybody -- and then they didn't have enough sense to stop shooting once they won. So, I mean, once you win, you say, 'Okay, now I've shot all your relatives, but you're a good guy, let's work together.' Instead, Newt shut down the government and kept on trying to shoot Democrats."
"Earlier tonight, we reported the President's apology for medical experiments that allowed black Americans to die of syphilis. The President noted how badly this hurt public trust in government, especially among minorities. The same criticism is being made today on another score. As CBS News correspondent John Blackstone reports, it's the fallout from California's voter-approved ban on state affirmative action programs."
"The problem [of pedophiles] has been made only worse by the passage of Proposition 187. It specifically says that no public funds can be used to provide social services to anyone who's in this country illegally. That means that even if social workers for the city or the state wanted to help the boys of Balboa Park they couldn't. It would be against the law. Proposition 187 is now being challenged in court, but its message is clear."
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
George Brown, talk show host, WTAG in Worcester, Mass.
David Brudnoy, talk host, WBZ; Boston U. communications prof.
Priscilla Buckley, Senior Editor of National Review
Tucker Carlson, staff writer, The Weekly Standard
Don Cook, Program Director, WCHS in Charleston, WVa.
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
Don Feder, Boston Herald writer and syndicated columnist
John Fund, editorial board member, The Wall Street Journal
Tim Graham, Director, media analysis, Media Research Center
David Gold, talk show host, KWRD in Dallas and Salem Radio
Kirk Healy, Executive Producer, Cox Radio, Orlando
Arianna Huffington, nationally syndicated columnist
Marie Kaigler, talk radio host and broadcaster, Detroit
Cliff Kincaid, co-host, Media Monitor
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, Union Leader (N.H.)
Jason Lewis, talk show host, KSTP in Minneapolis/St. Paul
G. Gordon Liddy, national talk show host, CBS/Westwood One
Rich Lowry, national political reporter for National Review
Ross Mackenzie, Editor, editorial pg, Richmond Times-Dispatch
Tony Macrini, broadcaster, WNIS in Norfolk
Marlin Maddoux, host, Point of View radio talk show
Don Markwell, radio talk show host, WACV in Montgomery
Mary Matalin, national talk show host, CBS/Westwood Radio
Patrick McGuigan, Editor, editorial page, The Oklahoman
Jan Mickelson, talk show host, WHO in Des Moines
Wes Minter, talk show host, KCMO in Kansas City M.
Jane Norris, WAVE-TV host, WHAS talk radio host, Louisville
Robert D. Novak, syndicated columnist; CNN commentator
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 & columnist, Scripps
Howard Dan Pierce, talk show host, WGIR in 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, ed. writer, Richmond Times-Dispatch
Ron Smith, talk show host, WBAL in Baltimore
Ted J. Smith III, journalism professor, Virginia Commonwealth U.
Philip Terzian, 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, columnist; host of Atlanta's The Georgia Gang
Walter Williams, Professor of economics, George Mason U.
Thomas Winter, Editor-in-Chief of Human Events
Barry Young, President of WestStar TalkRadio Network, Phoenix