It's a Gaffe A Minute with Politicians

October 09, 1994|By MARTIN D. TULLAI

Politicians are, for the most part, able, verbose, convincing, persistent and clever. And some of them have been prone to include in their rhetorical flourishes a variety of malapropisms and word gaffes. Listen:

* A member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, James McSheehy, chairman of the Finance Committee, told a group of homemakers: `Ladies, I have here some figures which I want you to take home in your heads, which I know are concrete.`

* He was also the one who observed: `This has all the earmarks of an eyesore.`

* Speaking at a patriotic event honoring Abraham Lincoln, Dan Flood, who was then serving as the congressman in Pennsylvania's 11th District, declaimed: "It is fitting that we pay tribute to Abraham Lincoln, who was born in a log cabin that he built with his own hands."

* Anthony Imperiale, a New Jersey state senator, concerned about the possibility of a tax increase, protested: "My constituents are fed up with exuberant taxes."

* Advocating the passage of a tax reform bill, the same legislator promised: "It will go a long way toward nipping the bull by the horns."

* In 1989, Mayor Marion S. Barry Jr. of Washington, D.C., declared: "Outside of the killings, we have one of the lowest crime rates in the country."

* It was Nevada Sen. Chic Hecht who said during a Senate discussion of a nuclear waste dump that he was "opposed to a nuclear waste suppository" for his state.

* Sheriff Clem Michalski warned that "Milwaukee is the golden egg that the rest of the state wants to milk."

* Speaking in a debate in the General Assembly, Del. Anthony M. DiPietro Jr. of Baltimore said: "I have my integrity to withhold and that's exactly what I'm going to do."

* Sen. Henry Fountain Ashurst of Arizona once assured his constituents: "The clammy hand of consistency has never rested for long on my shoulder."

* Seeking re-election to the Massachusetts Legislature, Sen. Ernest A. Johnson declared: "I have made no wild promises, except one -- honest government."

* Rep. Silvio O. Conte of Massachusetts noted: "This is no time to pull the rug out in the middle of the stream."

* The late Mayor Richard J. Daley of Chicago was a regular contributor of garbled language. He once told a group: "This is for the enlightenment and edification and hallucination of the uniformed [uninformed] aldermen."

Many still recall his classic: "Get this straight -- the policeman isn't there to create disorder. The policeman is there to preserve disorder."

* Rep. Walter Rogers of Texas inveighed against a bill raising taxes thus: "If we don't stop shearing the wool off the sheep that lays the golden egg, we'll pump it dry."

* F. Edward Hebert, former chairman of the House Committee on Armed Services, once observed: "The only way we'll ever get a volunteer army is to draft 'em."

* Frank Rizzo, the former Philadelphia mayor, stated in a discussion on discipline in schools: "If some big bully is going to get up and threaten a teacher, I think we ought to accommodate him."

* Baltimore's colorful councilman, the late Dominic "Mimi" DiPietro, was well known for his malapropisms. In discussing a controversial expressway, he explained: "It was like a little snowball which rolled down the hill, gathered moss and when it got to the bottom, it became a big mushroom."

In describing a boyhood friend, he said, "We grewed up together and went to church. As a matter of fact, my friend here used to sing in the quarry." Telling a reporter about a restaurant that served great coffee, the councilman explained, "They keep the urinals running 24 hours a day." He criticized the court system because "there's too much flea bargaining."

* Wisconsin state Sen. Norman Sussman offered this criticism: "The bankers' pockets are bulging with the sweat of the honest working man."

* His colleague, Sen. Gerald D. Lorge, responded to an insult: "That was a low blow between the belt."

* Frank G. Bonelli of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors welcomed a presidential commission on drug trafficking and said: "I am sure that this commission will do an infinitesimal amount of good."

* Sometimes accused of dozing off during meetings, Sen. S. I. Hayakawa of California is also remembered for observing: "The best cure for insomnia is to get a lot of sleep."

* Nebraska's Sen. Kenneth Wherry once spent an hour in the Senate talking about the crisis in "Indigo-China"; another time, he referred to the Joint Chiefs of Staff as the "Chiefs Joints of Staff."

* John Rembetski, a Pennsylvania politician, reminded his fellow school board members after a key vote: "Gentlemen, a lot of sheep are going to come home to roost."

* Huey Long, the Louisiana politician, was once besieged by a political follower pleading for a government appointment. "I can't recommend you," Long said. "Not after the story of that hotel episode in New Orleans."

"That story is a damn lie," cried the aspiring office seeker. "Why, there ain't even any Hotel Episode in New Orleans!"

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