Funny Quotes by U.S. Presidents and Vice Presidents
We often hear, "Kids say the darndest things." And surely they do. But presidents and vice presidents say silly things as well. We jump down their throats or insult them as being stupid and ignorant (in some cases it's true). But in my view, there are times they are plum worn out or are under great stress from governing this country, and they don't think before they speak. Most importantly, they are fallible human beings.
Sometimes they haven't done their homework or arithmetic, and some naturally possess a strong sense of humor. I particularly appreciate Ronald Reagan's, George W. Bush's, and Obama's humor. While I did not vote for Obama or support him in most areas, he was hilarious at those White House Correspondents dinners.
This country is a bad neighborhood in many ways. Fortunately, there is a lot of good if you keep your eyes open, or work hard to make it a better place on your own. To lighten things up a bit, I thought it would be fun to see the humor and humanity of fallible individuals holding the highest offices in the land. There are a few that might disgust you, but look at the bright side—they're not in office anymore.
- "I stand by all the misstatements that I've made." Dan Quayle, 1989 Interview with Sam Donaldson and Diane Sawyer
- ''Our enemies are innovative and resourceful, and so are we. They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we.'' —George W. Bush, 2004 Signing ceremony for a defense-spending bill
- "I was known as the chief grave robber of my state." Dan Quayle, August 17, 1988 Press Conference with George H.W. Bush.
- "There may be somebody with tomatoes in the audience. If you see somebody getting ready to throw a tomato, knock the crap out of them, would you? Seriously. Okay? Just knock the hell—I promise you, I will pay for the legal fees." —Donald Trump, Cedar Rapids, Iowa rally, Feb. 1, 2016
- “My fellow Americans, I am pleased to tell you I just signed legislation which outlaws Russia forever. The bombing begins in five minutes.” —Ronald Reagan, hot mic, off-camera joke while preparing for his brief weekly address on National Public Radio
- "Frederick Douglas is an example of somebody who's done an amazing job and is being recognized more and more, I notice." —Donald Trump, Black History Month breakfast. (Psst, Douglas died in 1895).
- "The Holocaust was an obscene period in our nation's history. [on followup] No, not our nation's, but in World War II. I mean, we all lived in this century. I didn't live in this century but in this century's history. —Dan Quayle, 1988 press conference
- ''My choice early in life was either to be a piano-player in a whorehouse or a politician. And to tell the truth, there's hardly any difference.'' —Harry S. Truman 1962
- "The assets of Ayatollah Khomeini and his office will not be spared from sanctions." —Donald Trump, June 24, 2019 signing of an executive order to impose sanctions on Iran (Khomeini died in 1989).
- "For seven and a half years I've worked alongside President Reagan. We've had triumphs. Made some mistakes. We've had some sex...uh...setbacks." —George H.W. Bush, campaigning 1988
- ''They misunderestimated me.'' —President George W. Bush, Nov. 6, 2000, Bentonvile, Arkansas
- "I was known as the chief grave robber of my state." Dan Quayle, Press Conference with George H.W. Bush, August 17, 1988,
- "Whenever I hear anyone arguing for slavery I feel a strong impulse to see it tried on him personally." —Abraham Lincoln, Address to Indiana Regiment August 14, 1862
- "There's an extra spring in my step tonight. I don't know about you guys, but I am so relieved that the whole birther thing is over. I mean, ISIL, North Korea, poverty, climate change, none of those things weighed on my mind like the validity of my birth certificate." —Barack Obama, responding to Donald Trump's insistence that Obama wasn't a natural citizen.
- "I've noticed that everyone who is for abortion has already been born." —Ronald Reagan, The Anderson-Reagan Presidential Debate September 21, 1980
Wit, Quips, and Wisecracks
- "I have left orders to be awakened at any time in case there is a national emergency - even if I'm in a cabinet meeting." —Ronald Reagan
- The ten most dangerous words in the English language are "Hi, I'm from the government, and I'm here to help." —Ronald Reagan, remarks to Future Farmers of America, Jul. 28, 1988
- "There are three periods in life: youth, middle age and 'how well you look.'" —Nelson Rockefeller, Washington Press Corp, December 15, 1976
- "What this country needs is a really good five-cent cigar." —Thomas R. Marshall, 28th Vice President
- “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing. I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press." —Donald Trump
- "Mothers may still want their favorite sons to grow up to be President but, according to a famous Gallup poll of some years ago, they do not want them to become politicians in the process. —John F. Kennedy, American Association of School Administrators Convention, Atlantic City, New Jersey, February 19, 1957
- "You know, it has been said that politics is the second oldest profession and I've come to realize over the last few years, it bears a great similarity to the first." —Ronald Reagan, Speech at Hillsdale College, Hillsdale, Michigan on November 10, 1977)
- "Give me a one-handed economist! All my economists say 'On the one hand...on the other." —Harry Truman
- "No man who ever held the office of president would congratulate a friend on obtaining it." —John Adams
- "There is no pleasure in having nothing to do. The fun is having lots to do and not doing it." —Andrew Jackson
- “Blessed are the young, for they will inherit the national debt.” —Herbert Hoover
- "People say I'm indecisive, but I don't know about that." —George W. Bush
- "If it were not for the reporters, I would tell you the truth." —Chester A. Arthur
- ''My esteem in this country has gone up substantially. It is very nice now when people wave at me, they use all their fingers.'' —Jimmy Carter
- "I always talk better lying down." —James Madison, on his deathbed
- ''When I take action, I'm not going to fire a $2 million missile at a $10 empty tent and hit a camel in the butt. It's going to be decisive.'' —George W. Bush
- "The time to repair the roof is when the sun is shining." —John F. Kennedy
- "I have often wondered what the Ten Commandments would have looked like if Moses had run them through the US Congress." —Ronald Reagan
- "Being President is like running a cemetery. You’ve got a lot of people under you and nobody’s listening." —Bill Clinton
- "If you could kick the person in the pants responsible for most of your trouble, you wouldn't sit for a month." —Theodore Roosevelt
- ''These days, I look in the mirror and I have to admit, I'm not the strapping young Muslim socialist that I used to be.'' —Barack Obama, White House Correspondents' Association, 2013
- "These stories about my intellectual capacity are really getting under my skin. For a while, I thought even my staff believed it. There on my schedule, first thing every morning it said 'Intelligence briefing." —George W. Bush
- "I'm so over-exposed I’m making Paris Hilton look like a recluse." —Barack Obama. Washington Post, February 24, 2005
Friendly and Not-So-Friendly Barbs
- "To Englishmen, life is a topic, not an activity." —William Harrison
- "Sorry losers and haters, but my I.Q. is one of the highest—and you all know it! Please don't feel so stupid or insecure. It's not your fault." —Donald Trump
- "John Calhoun, if you secede from my nation I will secede your head from the rest of your body." —Andrew Jackson
- ''Despite many obstacles, much has changed during my time in office. Four years ago, I was locked in a brutal primary battle with Hillary Clinton. Four years later, she won't stop drunk-texting me from Cartagena.'' —Barack Obama
- "At a time when funds for the defense budget may be cut, it's comforting to see so many of the big guns from your industry still getting loaded." —Gerald Ford, 1974 Radio and Television Correspondents' Association Dinner
- "I happen to mention that Kamala Harris is the best-looking attorney general in the country. As you might imagine, I got trouble when I got back home. Who knew Eric Holder was so sensitive?" Barak Obama, White House Correspondance Dinner 2013
- "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." —Ronald Reagan, during a 1984 presidential debate with Walter Mondale
- ''The fact is I really do respect the press. I recognize that the press and I have different jobs to do. My job is to be President; your job is to keep me humble. Frankly, I think I'm doing my job better.'' —Barack Obama
- “When they call the roll in the Senate, the senators do not know whether to answer ‘present’ or ‘not guilty.” —Theodore Roosevelt
- "Cheney's a good man. He's got a good heart. [Pause] Well, he's a good man." —George W. Bush, 2006 White House Correspondents Dinner
- "Over the last few months, I've lost 10 pounds. Where did they go? Why haven't I produced them to the independent counsel? How did some of them manage to wind up on Tim Russert?" —Bill Clinton, 2000 White House Correspondent's Dinner
Ridiculous or Appalling
- ''I was under medication when I made the decision to burn the tapes.'' —Richard Nixon
- "I think my strongest asset, maybe by far, is temperament. I have a winning temperament." —Donald Trump, first debate against Hillary Clinton September 26, 2016
- ''When I was in England, I experimented with marijuana a time or two, and I didn't like it. I didn't inhale and never tried it again.'' —Bill Clinton, Sheraton Hotel on presidential campaign trail March 29, 1992
- "A zebra does not change its spots.'' —Al Gore
- ''What a waste it is to lose one's mind. Or not to have a mind is being very wasteful. How true that is.'' —Dan Quayle, address to the United Negro College Fund
- '"I love California, I practically grew up in Phoenix.'' —Dan Quayle
- ''People have got to know whether or not their President is a crook. Well, I'm not a crook. I've earned everything I've got.'' —Richard Nixon, televised New conference Walt Disney World Florida Nov. 17, 1973
- "When the President does it, that means it's not illegal." —Richard Nixon, 1977 interview with David Frost
Can You Believe It?
I could have written this whole article on Dan Quayle. I don't like to call people dumb or stupid, so I'll just say, how the heck did that guy get into office? He doesn't even know basic geography. And what about Nixon—hard to stomach, wasn't it?
There were a lot of funny things I read that I did not put into this piece. My goodness, our nation's leaders are just as flawed as the rest of us. George Dubya has a problem with mispronouncing words or for using malapropisms. He often poked fun at himself at the correspondent's dinners. Let this be a lesson to all of us: Let's be careful who we vote for.
Questions & Answers
© 2019 Lori Colbo