November 24, 2004

A Rather Abrupt Announcement

A few weeks ago, right before the U.S. election, I posted an entry with a series of what I felt were interesting quotes in the news. Well, people keep talking, and the re-minted President of the United States is busy spending the "political capital" he earned, so here's Round II.

"The objective of securing the safety of Americans from crime and terror has been achieved."

U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft, in his letter of resignation to President Bush. It would appear to be a foolishly definitive assertion to make -- one that could come back to haunt him and the President. For example, all other judgements of the situation in Iraq aside, I somehow doubt that Americans there feel safe from terror. Of course, securing the lives of Americans in Iraq is not exactly the job of the Department of Justice, which brings us back to the Attorney General's seemingly shameless self-aggrandizement and legacy-forging.

"I would say they're one stage below (now) [...] It's a village with a lot of territory."

Prime Minister Paul Martin discusses the status of Canada's northern territories with Sao Paulo state governor Geraldo Alckmin during his trip to Brazil. Martin said the territories would eventually be provinces. The "village with a lot of territory" refers to Iqaluit and Nunavut. Some days, the Prime Minister seems to have about as much luck getting a good sound bite as he does getting a decent picture taken of him.

"What is wrong with everyone nowadays? Why do they all seem to think they are qualified to do things far beyond their technical capabilities? People think they can all be pop stars, High Court judges, or brilliant TV presenters or infinitely more competent heads of state without ever putting in the necessary work or having natural ability."

Prince Charles caused an uproar in the U.K. with this quote last week, extracted from a memo that was not meant to be publicly aired. Note that different variations of this quote have been reported in the media, so the above may not be strictly accurate. Debate over what the prince meant -- and whether he was right -- continues to rage (or at least simmer).

Of course, when you've got the spoken word on the brain, it's hard to ignore this announcement: Dan Rather, who has served as the CBS news anchor for over two decades after taking over from the giant of news anchors, Walter Cronkite, has announced that he will retire in March 2005.

Rather was, as usual, in fine form on Election Night 2004. Here are a few Ratherisms I took down that night (as accurately as I could manage):

"... then some overpaid anchorman comes on and says "that state is not going to be going your way"" [describing how election nights play out and the role the news media play]

"This is the kind of night that gives campaign managers hives, or something ... that's probably why a lot of them drink a lot."

"This doesn't mean he is going to win, but it does mean you can sing a verse of "Johnny be good now"" [assessing the implications of the calling of Michigan for Kerry]

"If this gets any closer, someone is going to have to call 911, call the police, call a nurse, call somebody..." [Rather appears to panic as Kerry takes Hawaii]

Not surprisingly, the web yields a veritable treasure trove of Rather blather, including this site. As Bryan Curtis noted on

Of all the gloriously absurd moments in the Memogate scandal, only one qualifies for Dan Rather's greatest hits. Asked last week if he would ever concede that the National Guard memos he showed on the Sept. 8 broadcast of 60 Minutes were forgeries, Rather replied, "If the documents are not what we were led to believe, I'd like to break that story." Never before had Rather so perfectly summed up his career as Journalistic Self-Parody: I'll get you the big story, Chief, even if it means interviewing myself.

And few will forget Dan Rather's interview of Saddam Hussein in February 2003 as the U.S. threatened war. The news will never be the same.

Finally, while we're on the topic of the absurd, ever wonder if those infinite monkeys could ever really hold a candle to Shakespeare? Well, don't hold your breath, if you're judging by this particular experiment.

Posted by anatole at November 24, 2004 10:48 PM