I still have my old copy of Quotations From Chairman LBJ. The book was inspired by Quotations From Chairman Mao Tse-Tung (“the little red book”). Compiled by Jack Shepherd and Christopher Wren and published by Schuster in the annus horribilis of 1968, the book consisted of supposedly laughable quotes uttered by President Johnson. It was popular enough to go through multiple printings. My copy derives from the third printing. Despite its success as a publishing venture I can’t find much in the book that in the fullness of time has proved laughable or derisory except the attitude it displays toward Johnson as the left turned on him.
I don’t think any Democratic president since Johnson has inspired the same kind of book. The form has been dedicated to documenting the supposed stupidity of Republican presidents such as Ronald Reagan (Reagan Quotes, compiled by Mark Tracy from two books by liberals about Reagan) and George W. Bush (George W. Bushisms, compiled by Jacob Weisberg).
We’re well past the time when the form should be resurrected for President Obama. Has any president ever served up anything remotely like the ludicrous celebration of himself that Obama delivered in June 2008 in St. Paul to mark his securing of the Democratic nomination for president from Ms. Hillary? He actually said this: “I am absolutely certain that generations from now, we will be able to look back and tell our children that this was the moment when we began to provide care for the sick and good jobs to the jobless; this was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal…” Now that is funny.
The past few weeks have by themselves brought us an incomparable set of killer quotes:
“What we’re also discovering is that insurance is complicated to buy.” —Press conference, November 14, 2013.
“I was not informed directly that the website would not be working the way it was supposed to. I’m accused of a lot of things. I don’t think I’m stupid enough to go around saying this is going to be like shopping on Amazon or Travelocity a week before the website opens if I thought that it wasn’t going to work. Clearly we, and I, did not have enough awareness about the problems with the website.” (Ibid.)
Here we could insert Mark Steyn’s classic explication of the text:
So, if I follow correctly, the smartest president ever is not smart enough to ensure that his website works; he’s not smart enough to inquire of others as to whether his website works; he’s not smart enough to check that his website works before he goes out and tells people what a great website experience they’re in for. But he is smart enough to know that he’s not stupid enough to go around bragging about how well it works if he’d already been informed that it doesn’t work. So he’s smart enough to know that if he’d known what he didn’t know he’d know enough not to let it be known that he knew nothing.
And then last week brought us this:
“Obviously my most recent concern has been that my website’s not working. We’re evaluating why it is exactly that I didn’t know soon enough that it wasn’t going to work the way it needed to. But my priority now has been to just make sure that it works.” — ABC News interview, November 30, 2013.
We’ll put that last quote in the chapter headed “Annals of Inquiry,” along with quotes related to his discovery of the worldview of Reverend Wright during the 2008 campaign after sitting in the pews of Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago for 20 years…quotes such as this one:
“I don’t think my church is actually particularly controversial.” He said Rev. Wright “is like an old uncle who says things I don’t always agree with,” telling a Jewish group that everyone has someone like that in their family. — ABC News, March 13, 2008.
UPDATE: I am advised that David Boze has taken an early pass at such a project with The Little Red Book of Obamunism.