Into the Fray with Zingers
Debate preparation for the next Obama-Romney match continues with both sides trying to come up with one-liners, zingers, and take-downs.
Both sides may be looking to past debates for a game-changing line. Lloyd Bentsen’s famous retort to Dan Quayle, “You’re no Jack Kennedy” might be awesome if “Ronald Reagan” were to be substituted for “Jack Kennedy.” But I’m not sure which candidate should say it. President Obama told the Reno Gazette Journal in 2008 that he considers Reagan to be a transformational figure in American politics. In his recent foreign policy speech, Mitt Romney indicated he would be guided by Ronald Reagan’s foreign policy.
So both claim to adore Reagan and that their opponent is not fit to wear Reagan’s red tie and sunny smile. Perhaps the frail Nancy Reagan could be helped onstage to settle it. She could point to the “real” Reagan heir and give a thumbs-up. Nancy would then mouth “Just say no” while pointing to the faux Reagan.
There’s still time to scour sources for a game-changing one-liner. Perhaps I can help. I just opened The Great Quotations, edited by George Seldes. Here’s something: “I always thought I was Jeanne d’Arc and Bonaparte. How little one knows oneself.” This was Charles DeGaulle’s response to being compared to Robespierre.
I can see Obama musing in his professorial way, “I always thought I was Abe Lincoln, JFK, and Ronald Reagan. How little one knows oneself, because I now realize I’m all that plus Einstein with a side of Galileo and Al Green, rolled over easy and spiced with a bit of Che Guevara. Who knew?”
Not to be outzinged, Romney could craft a doozy based on this: “That country is the richest which nourishes the greatest number of noble and happy human beings.” John Ruskin said this in “Unto this Last,” an essay that’s widely perceived to be anti-capitalist. This will take some fancy re-purposing, but Romney could say something like, “We are still a rich country with vast resources. A rich country should also be a happy one! I’ve noticed that those who have given up looking for work don’t look very happy. Maybe we should count them in the unemployment numbers, just to make them feel we care.”
And so it could go back and forth, the zingers getting louder and more raucous. Let’s chill. It’s time to turn to another little gem on my bookshelf, Wise Sayings from the Orient from Peter Pauper Press. Right off, I turn to this: “Do not trust him who lies for thee, for he is as ready to lie against thee.” Uh oh. This could give Barack Obama the idea that David Axelrod, Stephanie Cutter and Jay Carney could turn on a dime.
It may be better for Obama to focus on this: “Sometimes we suspect the heart, even if the tongue be truthful.” So instead of calling Mitt a liar, maybe the President should say, “Okay, let’s assume for the sake of argument that my opponent is telling the truth (eye roll). What does he really feel in his heart about the 47% of you who are pathetic losers on the take, huh?”
Don’t worry, Mitt, we’re not done with this little book of wisdom. Ah, how about this? “Every bird rejoices in his own voice.” Romney could praise the President’s deep baritone, which he loves to display at Hollywood fundraisers. Mitt could refer to recent high-level meetings with Barack’s fellow crooners, Jay-Z and Beyonce, while world leaders awaited the President at the UN.
Zing away, candidates, and may the best one-liner become the verbal ear worm that carries you to victory!