Quotes of the Year

Quotes of the Year

December 1998


Quotes of the Year

January 12
"Heaven knows we need a little harmony in the Senate."
--Sen. John Ashcroft, R-Mo., who has recorded a country music CD with three other Senators.

January 20
"I believe he would be proud to see how much we have done to banish discrimination from our laws. But I believe he would tell us that we still have much to do in banishing discrimination from our hearts."
--Vice President Gore on Dr. Martin Luther King.

January 23
"Welcome to the theater of the absurd."
--White House press secretary Mike McCurry at the opening of a briefing Thursday at which he was grilled about President Clinton's relationship with former White House intern Monica Lewinsky.

January 30
"The executive branch leaks like a sieve."
--CIA Director George Tenet

February 6
"We will be hearing calls from all corners for the heavy hand of government regulation, for a new 'Internet Commerce Commission.' "
--Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, on what will happen if Microsoft comes to dominate the Internet.

February 11
"That's the question I've been asked by a lot of people, including my wife."
--New IRS Commissioner Charles Rossotti on why he took the job.

February 12
"The cruise missiles are the smart weapons."
--Sen. Tom Daschle, D-S.D., on the difference between sending members of Congress and cruise missiles to Iraq, after he was asked if lawmakers might be going to negotiate with Saddam Hussein.

February 17
"Our titanic ship of state, the USS Bureaucracy, is on a dangerous collision course. If the ship doesn't change direction, it will hit an iceberg. Strangely, that iceberg isn't made of ice. It's a gigantic paper iceberg, frozen hard with regulation and indifference."
--Morley Winograd, director of the National Partnership for Reinventing Government.

March 9
"The only thing the government likes about mediation is it takes a long time."
--Alexander Pines, attorney for a group of black farmers, on USDA efforts to settle their discrimination complaints.

March 16
"The Vice President is in a holding room reinventing corned beef and cabbage."
--Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., prior to an appearance by Vice President Gore at the annual St. Patrick's Day breakfast in South Boston.

March 20
"This court has a duty to send a message to other high government officials that there is a penalty to be paid for making false statements under oath."
--U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth after sentencing former USDA chief of staff Ronald Blackley to 27 months in prison for lying to federal investigators.

March 24
"I wonder if we should think of this sort of thing in Washington."
--Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, R-Miss., on Russian President Boris Yeltsin's dismissal of his entire Cabinet.

April 14
"The Congressional Budget Office hasn't been right in about a billion years. I mean, come on, that's just a bunch of government estimators."
--House Budget Committee Chairman John Kasich, R-Ohio.

April 20
"While the era of big government is over, the era of big rewards for bashing big government is also over."
--Vice President Al Gore

April 23
"We keep peeling deeper and deeper at HUD and sometimes that makes you cry."
--HUD Secretary Andrew Cuomo on the department's reinvention efforts.

April 27
"We don't think every contractor we do business with is a crook."
--Maj. Gen. Roy Beauchamp, head of the Army's Tank-Automotive and Armaments Command, on how DoD's approach to procurement has changed.

May 1
"My manager, through ambition, incompetence and lack of integrity, gave up a potential tax deficiency which could have brought in as much revenue as $24 million."
--IRS auditor Maureen O'Dwyer at a Senate hearing Thursday.

May 14
"If they can't manage the actions of Smokey the Bear, then how can the Forest Service be expected to manage our 191 million acres of national forests?"
--Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, chairman of the House Resources Committee. Smokey the Bear endorsed the Subaru Forester in a controversial marketing campaign.

May 15
"Would you take a job that reported to three bosses and had no control over budget and staffing?"
--Sam Avrett of the AIDS Vaccine Advocacy Coalition on the difficulty the National Institutes of Health has had finding a director for its new AIDS Vaccine Research Center.

May 29
"Bureaucracy is the Dracula of institutional behavior, and will rise again and again, requiring everyone in the organization to reflexively pound stakes through its reappearances."
--From General Electric's 1997 annual report.

June 12
"They say neither rain, nor sleet nor dark of night will keep them away. I guess that doesn't include turkeys."
--Jim Palmer, an Albany, N.Y. resident, after mail went undelivered in one of the city's neighborhoods because a wild turkey was harassing a letter carrier.

June 15
"How many people does it take to run a Cabinet agency? How about two: a Secretary to decide things and an inspector general to tell him later that everything he or she decided was wrong."
--From the newsletter of the National Council of State Housing Agencies.

June 16
"What did the snail say when he went for a ride on the back of a turtle? 'WHEEEEEEEEEEE!!!' "
--HUD Secretary Andrew Cuomo on the difficulty of gauging the pace of reforms at the department.

June 23
"We can stick our heads in the sand, put on a happy face, and hope nobody will notice the delays and cost overruns. Or we can admit mistakes, move on, and ... get the station built."
--Rep. James Sensenbrenner, D-Wis., on the international space station project.

July 8
"I don't have any information to that effect. You might want to call Tom Clancy."
--White House press secretary Mike McCurry, responding to a reporter seeking comment on a report that Iran has spirited four nuclear weapons out of the former Soviet Union.

July 16
"The best place for a bad idea to be born is in an American university. And the next best place for an idea to survive is in the seat of government, the reason being that bad ideas can only survive when they're insulated from reality."
--House Majority Leader Dick Armey, R-Texas.

July 23
"We just spent 30 years trying to get a fiscally responsible budget. I think we ought to stay in surplus for 30 minutes before we start to act irresponsibly again."
--White House chief of staff Erskine Bowles on a GOP proposal for $700 billion in tax cuts over the next decade.

July 28
"These men died defending the Capitol of the United States of America, the symbol of freedom across the world."
--Rep. Tom DeLay, R-Texas, on slain Capitol Police officers Jacob J. Chestnut and John Gibson.

August 11
"Although terror can turn building to rubble and laughter to tears, it can never--will never--deter America from its purpose and presence around the globe."
--Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.

August 19
"I hope we are not now gonna go on a national crotch patrol and start pressing for prurient details."
--Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., after President Clinton's speech acknowledging he lied about his relationship with Monica Lewinsky.

August 27
"There's not any point in his putting the country through an impeachment since he isn't making any pretense of innocence now."
--Then-congressional candidate Bill Clinton, suggesting in August 1974 that President Nixon should resign.

August 31
"Gore in '98."
--Message on bumper sticker seen in Washington.

September 2
"Geriatric study, give me a break! If I had been in the Senate for 24 years and had the political clout John Glenn had, I'd probably be bugging NASA to go, too."
--Apollo 15 astronaut Al Worden on the reasons for Sen. John Glenn's return to space.

September 14
"I didn't know if this was sort of developing into some kind of a longer-term relationship than what I thought it initially might have been, that maybe he had some regular girlfriend who was furloughed."
--Monica Lewinsky on her relationship with President Clinton, which began during the government shutdown of 1995.

September 22
"What we are witnessing here is the assassination of the President without a gun."
--Trial attorney Melanie Lomax on the release of the President's videotaped grand jury testimony.

September 29
"We have got to break out of slowing down and making space as boring as possible, which seems to be one of NASA's major achievements."
--House Speaker Newt Gingrich.

October 15
"This is deja vu all over again-and again, and again, and again, and again."
--Rep. David Obey, D-Wis., on the need for passage of a fourth continuing resolution to keep government open while fiscal 1999 budget negotiations dragged on.

October 20
"Honesty, trustworthiness, high ethical standards, personal accountability, responsibility, respect, values, moral and ethical standards, and the difference between right and wrong."
--Some of the words and phrases missing from President Clinton's National Character Counts Week proclamation that are typically used in the annual announcement, according to the Republican National Committee.

October 21
"Someone once said ... that making legislation is like making sausage. Don't kid yourself. I have made sausage, and I can tell you that what we did this year is significantly more sloppy."
--Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., on this year's appropriations process.

October 23
"The people who died here were victims of one of the cruelest visitations of evil this nation has ever seen. But we offer them today not pity but honor, for as much as any soldier who ever fought in any war, they paid the price of our freedom."
--Vice President Al Gore at the Oklahoma City Memorial groundbreaking on Sunday.

November 2
"Who in their right mind would want to be president, except some lunatic who doesn't drink, doesn't smoke, who doesn't have sex?"
--Musician Lou Reed.

November 5
"I don't make my living with my body anymore. I make it with my mind."
--Minnesota governor-elect and former pro wrestler Jesse "The Body" Ventura, saying from now on he wants to be known as "The Mind."

November 9
"I've been calling it the 'Godzilla effect.' You know in the old movie where they finally drop an atomic bomb on his head-and the SOB gets five times as big because he likes radiation! That's Clinton."
-Columbia University presidential scholar Richard Pious

November 13
"There are different rules for the military than there are for civilians. Those rules make it very clear that contemptuous statements about civilian leaders are wrong."
-Pentagon spokesman Kenneth Bacon on servicemembers' criticism of President Clinton.

November 30
"The thing that I am really thankful for in this Thanksgiving season is that the founding fathers gave us a system of government that is damn near inoperable."
-Columnist Robert Novak on CNN's "Crossfire."

December 1
"The lesson of the past week is that the market will take care of consumers better and faster than government ever can."
-From newspaper ads taken out by Microsoft in the wake of the America Online-Netscape merger last week.

December 9
"It used to be called smoke and mirrors. Now it's called emergency spending."
-Rep. Clay Shaw, R-Fla., arguing that the budget surplus has not been earmarked exclusively for the use of Social Security.

December 14
"The joke around our unit is that if they keep asking us to do more with less, eventually we'll be able to do everything with nothing."
-Air Force Capt. Christopher DeColli.

December 22
"We shoot all prisoners here. There's no such thing as a Geneva Convention on Capitol Hill."
-Rep. Mike Parker, R-Miss., on the current political climate in Congress.

December 23
"If we took the same approach to Christmas songs that we take to the language of federal rules and regulations, instead of 'Silent Night,' we'd be singing about 'noise-mitigated post-daylight time intervals.'"
-Vice President Al Gore, announcing his latest plain language award.