|Definitive Dan |
By Vaughn Ververs
© National Journal Group Inc.
Tuesday, March 13, 2001
Last Friday we learned that three of Bill Clinton's presidential utterances had made it into the latest edition of "Bartlett's Book of Familiar Quotations." Think about that -- just three sentences spoken during eight years of leading the free world were judged to be worthy of inclusion.
Perhaps not coincidentally, last Friday also marked the 20th anniversary of Dan Rathers' tenure as anchor of "CBS Evening News." In those two decades, Rather has seen CBS fall and rise, he's tied himself to trees in the middle of a hurricane, become the main target of Republicans who view him as liberally-biased and been the subject of a hit pop-rock song.
Whatever you think of him, it's hard to argue with the notion that Rather is, at least, entertaining -- and very, very quotable. His folksy (strange, bizarre -- pick your own adjective) sayings and colorful Texas-style metaphors have become a fixture in TV news, especially as the "Ratherisms" have evolved. And while he's known to go off on almost any subject, Rather seems most at home applying them to politics.
In 1996, Rather was asked whether he would continue anchoring well into the new century and replied: "I'd love to, but that's not going to happen. You can sooner expect a tall, talking broccoli stick to offer to mow your lawn for free. Television is a young person's game and I'm living on borrowed time." The year is now 2001. Rather is still here and the lawn-mowing broccoli sticks are still in the ground.
Perhaps Dan will someday have his own chapter in "Bartlett's," filled with "Ratherisms." To that end, we present the following (political) suggestions for consideration, gathered from The Hotline database and other sources:
The Historic 2000 Presidential Election
"This presidential race is crackling like a hickory fire."
"The presidential race still hotter than a Laredo parking lot."
"Al Gore may be as cross as a snapping turtle about this Tennessee situation."
"If you're in the kitchen, Mable, come back in the front room. ... They'll be doing backflips in Nashville."
"This knock-down, drag-out battle drags on into the night, and turn the lights down, this party just got wilder."
"Let me pause and say folks, this thing is so wild, wacky and wooly, nobody knows how it's going to come out."
"Let me tell you, I don't give people advice, but if the kids haven't gone to sleep, get 'em in the room, because people are going to be talking about this presidential race for a long time to come."
"Call a doctor, call the police, call a psychic.... Al Gore's situation is he's basically got his back to the wall, his shirttail on fire, and a bill collector's at the door, but he's not yet finished."
"If Gore comes back now, it'd have to be rated as one of the greatest comebacks since Lazarus. It's possible."
"This is very tough for the families to go through, very tough for the candidates to go through, very tough for the people in these campaigns, who pour their heart and soul into these things. But let's have some perspective. A cop on the beat -- walking the beat has a lot of pressure. A salesman trying to meet his quota has a lot of pressure, so while there's empathy, even sympathy for these two candidates, let's keep in mind that they chose to do this."
"The Sunshine State will have plenty of sunshine for Al Gore."
"You can bet that Governor Bush'll be madder than a rained-on rooster that his brother, the governor, wasn't able to carry this state for him."
"One of the closest elections in U.S. history; Bush has won it. The son also rises."
"Sip it, savor it, cup it, Photostat it, underline it in red, press it in a book, put it in an album, hang it on a wall -- George Bush is the next president of the United States."
"Hold onto the bedstead or something -- 629 votes separate Bush and Gore in Florida.... We're not dialing back, at least not yet."
"CBS News has now, for the second time tonight, pulled back Florida. We are now putting Florida in the undecided category.... We do the best we can on these calls."
"Now that will have the Bush people in Austin jumping out of their seats like they were stabbed with hatpins."
"Now, if you're disgusted with us, frankly, I don't blame you."
"Vice President Al Gore, the vanquished, in a night that is, for him, a requiem for a heavyweight."
"We made a mistake. We were wrong. We were just flat wrong. ... This is my story. This is my song."
"Let's pause and take a deep breath, appreciate it for what it is. This is the dance of democracy. This is as close as we come to a kind of a sacred time in this country. Election Day, where people go and pull the curtain behind them, no one but you and the electronics -- or however you vote -- just you and the ballot. This day votes only talk, everything else walks."
The Universal Ratherisms (For Use In Any Campaign Season)
"Seldom is heard a discouraging word for any Republican in the Southwest."
"I'm prepared to say that they're playing what amounts to a sudden death overtime."
"We may not know for sure even after you've finished the next pot of coffee."
"You'd have to say this thing is as tight as rusted lug nuts on a '55 Ford. Doesn't get much closer than this."
"The way this night is going, wild and wooly as it is, who can say?"
"His lead is now shakier than cafeteria Jell-O."
"It's spandex tight."
"When it comes to reporting a race like this, I'm a long-distance runner and an all-day hunter."
"They put up and now they can shut up, because they've won."
"This race was as hot and squalid as a New York elevator in August."
"This much tension you can't cut with a saw, it requires a blowtorch."
"Very tough and tight all night long, close as the pages in a book."
"This race is as tight as a too-small bathing suit on a too-hot car ride back from the beach."
"This campaign and election has provided full employment for TV pundits; for what, I'm not quite sure."
"As secure as a double knot tied with wet rawhide."
"We may see Michael Jackson's baby before we know the outcome in the House."
The ads "were so nasty people had to send the kids out of the room... You couldn't watch without a V-chip."
"If you believe there's going to be meaningful campaign finance reform in the next Congress, you'll believe that rocks grow and water runs uphill."
"A real ding-dong battle."
"Names heard usually only on merchant ships or on cable TV in the wee early hours of the morning."
"It was always a big rock up a high hill. The rock just got bigger and the hill just got higher."
"Off to a big start rolling like a big wheel through a cotton field."
"If you like politics, this will melt the wax right out of your ears."
"There are a lot of Senate races hotter than a hickory fire at this hour."
"These states swing like a pendulum do."
"For politicians out there, there's material here that will make their fingernails sweat."
"If Texas isn't the Big Enchilada, it's a huge taco."
"You can bet the baby's milk money."
"Like raven on a road kill."
"You trust your mother, but you cut the cards."
"If a frog had pockets, he'd carry a handgun."
So there you have it. We here at "Talking Heads" can't wait to see what Rather comes up with for Election Night 2002.
Vaughn Ververs is editor of The Hotline, the National Journal Group's daily briefing on politics.