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Great Presidential Wit (...I Wish I Was in the Book): A Collection of Humorous Anecdotes and Quotations (Lisa Drew Books (Paperback)) Paperback – June 4, 2002
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Friends and foes alike recognize that Bob Dole is one of the funniest men in American politics, and Great Presidential Wit is an excellent collection of wit and wisdom drawn from public life. It reads much like Dole's previous book, Great Political Wit, even if it has a narrower focus. Dole begins by ranking every president on a humor scale, and in doing so, he makes an interesting point: "At the top of the heap ... I place Abraham Lincoln, Ronald Reagan, and the two Roosevelts. By most accounts they are also among the most effective chief executives. Coincidence? I don't think so." (At the bottom of the heap is Millard Fillmore. Writes Dole: "Don't get me wrong. Fillmore's been good for many a chuckle over the years. It's just that most of the laughter has come at his expense.")
Dole frankly assesses each president for his wit: "Now comes the part sure to keep this book out of several presidential birthplace gift shops," he deadpans. Here he is on John Adams: "Often cranky and full of insults--an eighteenth century Don Rickles." On George Washington: "First in peace, first in war, but middle of the pack when it came to humor." On Richard Nixon: "Those weren't jokes that were deleted from the Watergate tapes."
The bulk of Great Presidential Wit, however, is a collection of jokes and humorous stories. Sometimes they are old-fashioned knee-slappers. When Stephen A. Douglas called Lincoln two-faced, Lincoln asked the audience, "I leave it to you. If I had another face, do you think I would wear this one?" Sometimes they have a deeper meaning. "It has been my experience," said Lincoln on another occasion, "that folks who have no vices generally have very few virtues." Ronald Reagan fills up quite a few pages: "An economist is someone who sees something happen in practice and wonders if it'd work in theory," he once said. Calvin Coolidge, one of the most underrated presidents, turns out to be one of the best at combining wisdom and humor: "Perhaps one of the most important accomplishments of my administration has been minding my own business." Here's John F. Kennedy answering a reporter's question about how he became a war hero aboard PT 109: "It was absolutely involuntary. They sank my boat." Bill Clinton delivered this howler in 1995, on (humorous) ways the government can save money: "Combining the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms with both the Bureau of Fisheries and the Interstate Trucking Commission. We're going to call it the Department of Guys." Great Presidential Wit is a joy to read or browse, and highly recommended for anyone who likes politics served with a dash of humor. --John J. Miller --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
"After his perennial rival, Stephen A. Douglas, called him two-faced, Lincoln turned to his audience and drawled, `I leave it to you. If I had another face, do you think I would wear this one?'" Lincoln's comeback is only one of many presidential quips, jokes, sarcasms, witticisms, self-deprecations and word-plays cited by Bob Dole in Great Presidential Wit: I Wish I Was in the Book. Convinced of the salubrity of humor in the Oval Office, Dole sets out to show that the most respected, fondly remembered and effectual presidents have been endowed with a funny bone, debunking the notion of the necessarily solemn face of leadership.
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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After researching all the American presidents, Dole rates them from the funniest to least funny. Some of the best lines are from prominent people other than the president. There is a saying (not in this book) "Blessed are they who can laugh at themselves, for they shall never cease to be amused"!Some of our presidents, fortunately, have been likeable, intelligent and quite witty. This fine collection of humorous quips and anecdotes makes an excellent gift for all ages. Bob Dole's remarks are right on!
My reason for the 4 star rating is for one reason only: Since most of us remember the faces of only a few past presidents, a small picture of the president being quoted at the beginning of each chapter would have been a nice touch. Dates are included which is helpful as we relate to each presidential term while reading.
The introduction to this book is entitled " Backbones and Funny Bones" In this intro, Bob Dole expresses his views on presidential humor with rare insight and he provides us with his "Dole poll of presidential wit and humor" in a non-partisan way. 41 presidents are rated as humorists along with a brief discription of why. This is a gem.
Dole goes so far as to rank the first 41 (counting Grover Cleveland only once) elected leaders of the free world in terms of their humor, and the fact that the top ten consist of five Democrats and five Republicans is evidence of the total lack of partisanship Dole brings to this endeavor. Topping the list is Abraham Lincoln, and rightfully so; there are plenty of pages detailing the wit of our sixteenth President, a man who said "I laugh because I must not try" during the terribly difficult days of the War Between the States. Second place goes to Ronald Reagan, the Great Communicator and master of the one-liner. Third and fourth place go to Franklin and Theodore Roosevelt, respectively. These top four really stand a world apart from their White House cohorts. Fifth place goes to none other than Calvin Coolidge. Now, this came as something of a surprise to me, but as Dole demonstrates, Silent Cal was indeed quite a jokester and humorist; in fact, the funniest episode recorded in this book, at least in my opinion, is attributed to Coolidge. Kennedy, Truman, Lyndon Johnson, Hoover, and Wilson round out Dole's top ten. As one proceeds through the book, the material for each president significantly decreases; there just isn't a lot of humorous material to work with for those presidents ranking at the bottom of Dole's charts: Taylor, Harding, Van Buren, Buchanan, William Henry Harrison, Pierce, Benjamin Harrison, and poor Millard Fillmore who seems destined to bring up the rear in just about every kind of presidential survey one can devise. If these men ever said one thing funny, Dole includes it, but there are definitely slim pickings here. As for other presidents who may be of special interest to readers, George Bush (number 41) is twelfth, Washington fifteenth, Jefferson sixteenth, Clinton seventeenth, Carter twenty-second, and Nixon twenty-fifth. Since the results of the 2000 election were not known when this book went to the publisher, Dole has included a final chapter devoted to both George W. Bush and Al Gore.
Basically, Great Presidential Wit is one of the few politics-related books that both conservatives and liberals can both enjoy equally and civilly, as laughter knows no political party affiliation.
These stories and witty sayings are generally quite good. Some you will want to remember. He even has a last section on George W. Bush and Al Gore. You will remember some of these from your own reading of the news and watching Letterman and Leno.
What I like about these little stories is the human touch they add to the too often formal and impersonal view we have of our Presidents. We see their pictures, memorize a couple of dates and maybe some key legislation or war during their time in office and that will be it. We seldom get to know them as people. These stories, in just a few sentences, show their character and view of themselves, their time, and the world in which they lived. Sure, too much can be made of them. But they do add something useful and a chuckle or two never hurt anyone's day.
This is a bit larger volume than the first book, but it doesn't read long. And, like the first one, it is fun to just dip into now and again.