The Best Notable Quotables of 1997:
The Tenth Annual Awards for the
Year’s Worst Reporting
Clinton Camelot Award
(for Creating a Clinton-Gore Mythology)
|"His sturdy jaw precedes him. He smiles from sea to shining sea. Is this President a candidatefor Mt. Rushmore or what?...In fact, when it comes to influencing the public, a single medley of expressions from Clinton may be worth much more, to much of America, than every ugly accusation Paula Jones can muster."
-- Los Angeles Times television writer Howard Rosenberg reviewing Clinton's Inaugural address, Jan. 22. [112 points]
"Still their shared needs and mutual admiration cover an essential difference between the
two men. Both think deep thoughts about saving the world, but they approach the task
quite differently. Clinton is often roundabout, if not waffling. Gore is a plunger who thinks and acts in
a straight line. Because Gore has been a reserved politician, his sometimes messianic zeal has
been overlooked. The Vice President has written that his call to save the environment began with
the shock of a near-fatal car accident to his son, Albert III. Characteristically, Gore felt it
wasn't enough to save one child; he wanted to save all the world's children. By the same token, he has said privately that his absorption with arms control in the 1980s began
with dreams that he could not rescue his family from nuclear war."
-- Newsweek's Evan Thomas, January 27. 
"Gore's commitment to the world of big ideas is no pose. Unlike John F. Kennedy and Adlai Stevenson, who became darlings of the highbrow set without fully earning the honor, Gore is truly engaged in the life of the mind...Had the younger Gore not become a Congressman at 28, a Senator at 36, and Vice President at 44, he might have become the sort of essayist who aspires to membership in the American Academy of Arts and Letters."
-- U.S. News Senior Writer Timothy Noah, January 27 issue. 
"As he begins his second term you may lament that President Clinton leaves little eloquence. But in an age of focus groups and consultants saying, 'Keep it short. Don't take sides,' few politicians do. He faces personal charges about his conduct in a motel bedroom. And
ethical allegations about opening the Lincoln bedroom to the highest contributor. But you come back
to the fact that if Bill Clinton isn't always trusted he has twice been entrusted by the
largest responsibility we have to bestow by voters who can have few illusions. Instead they seem to
trust that as President Clinton displays his own excesses and frailties he forgives and accepts
-- NPR weekend anchor Scott Simon, January 19 NBC Today. 
The Harold Ickes
"System Made Me Do It" Award
"In fact, Senator Specter, as Senator Torricelli mentioned, two votes have left campaign
finance reform legislation pretty much DOA. Do you think that prompts the American people to
wonder about the sincerity of Congress to really enact change and suspect that perhaps this is
an intentional effort to embarrass the Democratic Party?"
"But it's so ridiculous, you know people watching this just think that reform is necessary.
They can't understand why you guys can't get your acts together!"
-- Katie Couric to Senator Arlen Specter, Oct. 8 Today. 
"We begin tonight with stalemate in the Senate. The majority thwarted. Politics
prevails. Campaign finance reform, which the public wants, dead as a doornail, all of the above. After
many months of talking about it, the first real effort to reform how campaigns for federal office
are financed, the push to get some of the big money out of election campaigns has gone nowhere."
-- ABC's Peter Jennings, October 7. 
"Your hearings clearly reinforced the public's already low opinion of politicians and
politics. Beyond that, what did it accomplish?....At the same time you were criticizing the misdeeds of
the Clinton administration, leaders of your own party were opposing changes in the law to
outlaw these huge contributions that helped create this scandal. Do you think that undercut
your credibility with the public?"
-- Questions from NBC's Lisa Myers to Senator Fred Thompson,
November 7 Today. 
"At times it will seem as if an individual, or a presidential campaign, or a political party is
being investigated. That's only partly true. What's really in the dock beginning today isn't any
politician but the system that politicians built. What's important beginning today isn't what one party
can show about the other, but what the campaign-finance system shows about our
political system....The hearings that begin this morning aren't really about John Huang and Charlie Trie
or Abraham Lincoln's bedroom but about the political loophole -- unregulated
'soft-money' contributions to the parties, not to the candidates -- that makes them important. Soft
money exploded in 1996..."
-- Boston Globe Washington Bureau Chief David Shribman, July 8 "newsanalysis." 
Lanny Davis No Controlling Legal
Award (for Clinton Scandal Denial)
|"So a couple of White House aides helped Webster Hubbell find work, and he did find
work, some of it with Democratic donors. It may not look good, but is there any proof anything
was done wrong?...All right, similar kind of question about Jorge Cabrera, a convicted drug
smuggler who gave $20,000 to the DNC, wound up at a fancy dinner with Al Gore, wound up at a
White House Christmas party with Hillary Clinton. But they gave the money back when they found
out about his background. It may not look good, but is there any proof that anything was
-- NBC weekend Today co-host Jodi Applegate to Tim Russert, April 19. [59 points]
"President Nixon was investigated for obstruction of justice. President Reagan was
investigated for not telling investigators what he knew of the Iran-Contra scandal. President Clinton is
being investigated for making telephone calls from the wrong room in the White House."
-- New York Times Deputy Washington Bureau Chief Adam Clymer opening Oct. 15 analysis of Janet
Reno's decision to further probe Clinton's calls. 
"All right. So what if we made this case -- OK, he's pretty tough with fundraising. But
there's no proof that the Chinese had any in, except they gave money. He did a bad deal for you. And
he has turned on his friends maybe a little. But nobody made big money in Whitewater. It was
years ago. He was in Arkansas. He's a good President. I am happy. No boy is dying overseas.
Country seems to be coming around. Supreme Court is pretty good. Are you better off than you were
four years ago? Yes. What I if I made that case?"
-- Larry King to Jim McDougal, April 21 CNN Larry King Live. 
"What we've done is, we've got a face on a corrupt system and we're doubting the probity --who would ever have thought that you would doubt the probity of Vice President Al Gore
and three nuns? So it seems to me you've got to look at the system when the system is
corrupting people that you would not otherwise think."
-- Time columnist Margaret Carlson on CNN's Capital Gang, September 6. 
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