• Neal Spelce

Words Can Make 2022 More Bearable (if you know what to look for)



One of the joys of a life in journalism is you get to enjoy the “sayings” of public figures – without regard to politics. Despite all the harsh words tossed around in the public arena, some gems can actually emerge – even those with a bit of a bite. Watching for those can make 2022 a bit more bearable. Let me share some examples from the past.


President Harry Truman was the master of telling it like he saw it. After his controversial firing of popular General Douglas MacArthur due to insubordination, he famously told reporters “I didn’t fire him because he was a dumb son of a bitch, although he was, but that’s not against the law for generals. If it was, half to three-quarters of them would be in jail.” Truman’s wife Bess was asked if she could get him to stop saying manure. Her reply: “You don’t know how hard it was just to get him to use that word.”


From that same era, failed presidential candidate Adlai Stevenson said “I will make a bargain with the Republicans. If they stop telling lies about us, we’ll stop telling the truth about them.” A lie? Former Secretary of State Al Haig said “That’s not a lie. It’s a terminological inexactitude.”


President Ronald Reagan quipped that “one of the most important rules in politics is poise – which means looking like an owl after you have behaved like a jackass.” President Dwight Eisenhower cautioned that “sweet praise is like perfume. It’s fine if you don’t swallow it.”


Storytelling is a form of humor used by Presidents Abraham Lincoln and Lyndon Johnson, as I point out in my memoir, With The Bark Off A Journalist’s Memories of LBJ and a Life in the News Media.


Former Treasury Secretary and Texas Governor John Connally liked to twist the old George Washington-chopping-down-a-cherry-tree-legend into a Texas tale. Connally pointed out George Washington’s father told his son they would have to leave Texas and move to Virginia after young George confessed he couldn’t tell a lie when he cut down a mesquite tree in their backyard. As his father put it: “You’ll never get elected in Texas if you can’t tell a lie.”


Or sometimes, a Texas politician can simply “twist” the facts. Agriculture Secretary John White was badly beaten when he ran for Texas Governor. His rationale: “Texans like the job I was doing as Ag Commissioner, so they voted overwhelmingly to keep me in this job.”


And the following quote was made in jest, but it’s a good ’un: Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice John Hill commented after he was soundly defeated in a race for Texas governor: “The people have spoken – the bastards!”


As 2022 unfolds and the harsh political rhetoric heats up, be alert for the little humorous gems that are sure to emerge and brighten your day a bit.


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