Simanaitis Says

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CURRENT POLITICS ARE LAMENTABLY lacking in so many aspects, among them any sense of repartee, wit, or humor. Here are earlier examples as gleaned from Dr. Mardy Grothe’s Viva La Repartee.

Viva La Repartee: Clever Comebacks and Witty Retorts from History’s Great Wits and Wordsmiths, by Dr. Mardy Grothe, Harper, 2005.

President John Adams. “In 1798,” Grothe described, “a shocking rumor about second president John Adams was being whispered all around the country. According to the story, Adams had sent Charles C. Pinckney, one of his top generals, to England to bring back four young women as mistresses, two for the president and two for the general.”

John Adams, 1735–1826, American statesman, Founding Father, 2nd president of the United States, 1797–1801. Portrait by Gilbert Stuart, c. 1800–1815. 

Grothe continued, “When asked about the rumor, the president could have flatly denied it or expressed outrage at the mere mention of it. Instead, he replied, ‘I do declare, if this be true, General Pinckney had kept them all for himself, and cheated me out of my two.’ ” 

Candidate John F. Kennedy. On more recent times, Grothe recalled when JFK’s candidacy was “dogged by rumors that his wealthy father was planning to use the family fortune to ‘buy the election.’ As the rumor began to develop traction, it threatened to distract Kennedy and take his campaign off message” 

John Fitzgerald Kennedy Sr., 1917–1963, 35th president of the United States until his assassination in 1963. 

JFK’s response: He joked at an annual Gridiron dinner that his father telegrammed, “JACK, DON’T BUY A SINGLE VOTE MORE THAN NECESSARY. I’LL BE DAMNED IF I’M GOING TO PAY FOR A LANDSLIDE.” 

Conservative William F. Buckley. “In 1965,” Grothe recounted, “William F. Buckley Jr. ran for mayor of New York City on a ticket of the newly formed Conservative Party. While nobody gave him much of a chance to win, his candidacy brought panache and humor to the campaign.” 

Late in the campaign, a reporter asked Buckley, “What’s the first thing you will do if you are elected mayor?” Buckley replied, “Demand a recount.” 

William Frank Buckley Jr., 1925–2008, American public intellectual, conservative author, political commentator, founder of National Review, 1955.

I’m reminded of other Buckley witticisms shared here at SimanaitisSays. My favorite is a response to an angry Letter to the Editor demanding “Cancel my subscription.” Buckley responded, “Dear Mr. Morris: Cancel your own goddamn subscription. Cordially, WFB.” 

President Calvin Coolidge. Grothe described when Calvin Coolidge and wife Grace visited a Kentucky poultry farm: “They were given separate tours, and when Mrs. Coolidge’s group came through, the guide said, ‘The rooster here performs his services up to eight or nine times a day.’ Mrs. Coolidge got a good laugh when she replied, ‘Please see to it that the president is given that information!’ ”

John Calvin Coolidge, 1872–1933, 30th president of the United States from 1923 to 1929. 

“When the president’s group came through a short while later,” Grothe said, “the guide relayed the First Lady’s remark. Coolidge thought for a moment and asked, ‘Same chicken each time?’ ‘No sir,’ the guide said, ‘different chickens each time.’ The president, who had a terrific sense of humor despite his reputation for being solemn and serious, said, ‘Then see to it Mrs. Coolidge is given that information.’ ”

Grothe added, “Coolidge’s reply… even inspired members of the scientific community. Animal scientists now refer to the phenomenon whereby a male animal is able to achieve extended sexual arousal with a variety of females as the Coolidge Effect.”

Dr. Strangelove, one of the three roles played by Peter Sellers in the 1964 political satire movie.

Which reminds me of Dr. Strangelove’s plan for surviving a Doomsday retaliation. ds

© Dennis Simanaitis,, 2022     


  1. Bob Storck
    July 4, 2022

    “A member of Parliament to Benjamin Disraeli: ‘Sir, you will either die on the gallows or of some unspeakable disease.’

    That depends, Sir,’ said Disraeli, ‘whether I embrace your politics or your mistress.”

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