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Is There Humor In Politics?

May 23, 2008
Humor isn't a word usually associated with politics, but it's there. Abraham Lincoln, one of our most admired politicians, was good at turning insults into smiles. When Stephen Douglas called him two-faced during one of their debates, Lincoln replied, "I leave it to my audience. If I had another face, do you think I would wear this one?"

Winston Churchill, prime minister of England, frequently used humor to his advantage, as well as to get the advantage over his opponents. He was often at odds with Clement Attlee, leader of the Labor Party, which was in favor of a greater role for government in economic policy. When Churchill entered a men's room and saw Attlee standing at the urinal, he went to the far end. In response to this action Attlee asked, "Feeling standoffish today, Winston?" "That's right", Churchill answered. "Every time you see something big, you want to nationalize it".

When Churchill was invited by George Bernard Shaw to the opening night of one of his plays, Shaw enclosed a note with the two tickets. The note said, "One for yourself and one for a friend - if you have one". Churchill wrote back, saying he couldn't make it, but would like tickets for the second night - "if there is one".

And then there was Churchill's verbal run-in with Nancy Astor, an American-born, English politician. When Lady Astor told the prime minister she'd put poison in his coffee if he were her husband, Churchill casually replied, "If I were your husband, I'd drink it".

Adlai Stevenson, during his campaign against President Eisenhower, was assured by an ardent supporter that "every thinking person will be voting for you". To this the modest Stevenson answered, "Madam, that's not good enough. I need a majority".

Mayor Koch of New York City used humor to vent his frustration when a reporter asked about the inconsistency in his policies. The mayor said, "I can explain this to you; I can't comprehend it for you".

Henry McMaster, during a televised debate in 1986, challenged his opponent to take a drug test. Senator Hollings deflected this by saying, "I'll take a drug test if you'll take an IQ test".

Finally, when Dan Quayle announced that he was going to be a pit bull in his campaign against presidential candidate, Bill Clinton, Clinton was asked for his response. He responded, "That's got every fire hydrant in America worried".
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KNIGHT PIERCE HIRST takes humorous looks at life.
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