In Politics as in Life, It's Not What You Say But How You Say It

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The late George V. Higgins (1939-1999) achieved literary fame through a series of dialogue-heavy crime novels centered in Boston, "The Friends of Eddie Coyle" among them.

An Associated Press reporter in his younger days, Higgins was fond of quoting this AP dictum: "The quotes make the story."

There are good stories in the press that do not have great quotes, but there is never a great story that does not have them.

For no reason other than pleasure, I'd like to share some culled-at-random quotes that, I believe, would cause the great Mr. Higgins himself to smile, nod or shake his head, if only he were with us still. Apropos of the theme of this blog, they all have a political dimension of some kind:

"Better to be seated at the table than to be on the menu." Joseph Del Grosso, union leader, Newark, NJ, New York Times, 2/27/11

"You have to be, in this business today, prepared to endure an enormous amount of criticism and to be able to weather the storm, and more importantly, be able to go back home and say to the people back home, you may have heard the story this way, but here's why I did this." Eugene O'Flaherty, state representative, State House News Service, 2/9/11

"The neighborhood does not have a problem with restaurant expansions as long as it includes food. We don't want any more beer corrals." William Richardson, president, Fenway Civic Association, Boston Herald, 2/22/11

"There are a lot of high-powered hired guns on this (Right to Repair legislation). Whenever there's this much money going in, you have to be careful of the overblown rhetoric." Paul Brodeur, state representative, The Melrose Patch, 2/24/11

" many people are lost in thought (in Washington, D.C.) because it's such an unfamiliar territory." Robert Gates, U.S. Defense Secretary, New York Times, 3/5/11

"I am curious why it is so onerous to require that people who are working, whether as public or private employees, on the state's behalf should receive a decent wage and adequate health care coverage. If the absence of adequate pay or health insurance is the only way to reduce the cost of delivering necessary services, then no money is really saved, is it?" Christopher Gregory, Boston Globe, 1/14/11

"At no point have I ever tried to defend it (predecessor's severance package), and I don't plan to do that." Andrew Dreyfus, chief executive officer, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts, State House News Service, 3/10/11

"As our economy recovers, we still find ourselves in the midst of a 'blue-collar depression.' I routinely hear about unemployment rates of 30%, 40%, 50% at building trade union halls across the state." House Speaker Robert DeLeo, Boston Globe, 3/15/11

"I don't mean to forgive hypocritical behavior. (But) it's easier to identify inconsistencies when everything you do and everything you say is recorded on YouTube or in The New York Times or Boston Globe. Part of what it means to be a politician is to indicate what you're for and what you're against. I think that the perception of politicians as hypocritical is probably correct, but I don't think that necessarily means they're more hypocritical than the rest of us." Robert Kurzban, professor, University of Pennsylvania, Boston Globe, 3/14/11

"I could point my finger at all the things wrong in the world, and I do. But the most important thing to remember is that almost everything you dislike about the world is also in you." Jeffrey Hollender, author, "Planet Home," New York Times, 2/24/11

"People are tired. We are all worn out from this charade (of a crisis over who will rule Lebanon). But this is our life. Whoever marries your mother, you might as well just call him uncle. You have to face the reality." Ahmad Sultan, engineer, Beirut, Lebanon, New York Times, 1/15/11

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