“Richard, an opinion is a bit like a bum, everybody has one and most are full of sh*t.”
That’s the sanitised version of one of the blunter pieces of advice I’ve been given by a politician in my role as a media advisor over the years. And I have to say its simple message about not all arguments being born equal has proven true enough.
It’s made the list of my favourite political quotes and witticisms, which I’ve been collecting since I was old enough to vote. This remains a favourite: “You want a friend in Washington? Get a dog.” Now I don’t live in Washington but I did buy a dog and called it Truman after the US President who made that remark.
Author Mark Twain suggested a canine may also be a smarter companion than one you may find in America’s political swamp: “Reader, suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a member of Congress. But I repeat myself.’’
I may not be the biggest fan of Ronald Reagan but he was great for a one-liner – the then 73-year-old delivered this one during the 1984 Presidential debate with Walter Mondale: “I want you to know that also I will not make age an issue of this campaign. I am not going to exploit, for political purposes, my opponent’s youth and inexperience.”
JFK was more philosophical: “You know nothing for sure… except the fact that you know nothing for sure.’’
While Lincoln wished some people would just shut up: “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.”
In Australia, Whitlam had a long list of memorable bon mots, but I’ll overlook his Kerr’s cur comments to provide an insight into his take on politics: “The punters know that the horse named Morality rarely gets past the post, whereas the nag named Self-Interest always runs a good race.”
Keating was the king of put-downs in Australia, and John Hewson was often on the wrong end of the political pineapple: “It was the limpest performance I have ever seen … it was like being flogged with a warm lettuce. It was like being mauled by a dead sheep.”
Churchill was Britain’s heavyweight champ: “In those days he was wiser than he is now – he used frequently to take my advice.”
But my all-time favourite quip from a politician is from former Sunshine Coast Mayor Bob Abbot, who gave this answer when asked what advice he had for retiring councillors about life after politics:
“Don’t wear a red shirt in Bunnings.”