Politicians are getting more surreal all the time, and I'm not talking about Lynn Wheeler and Katherine Harris' makeup. I mean the words coming out of elected officials' mouths. It's no secret that our "leaders" have a knack for telling lies, but lately many of them have pushed the B.S. envelope, stretching their natural talents and creating turns of phrase that are often so removed from what most of us call reality, they approach surrealist art. Some politicians' words have soared to such levels of weirdness that they're beginning to rival the lyrics of Bob Dylan songs. At times during the past couple of years while listening to some politician mangle the king's English, I've thought, "Damn, that could've come right off Highway 61 Revisited."
So here's a quiz. Below are 20 quotes. Ten of them are statements by politicians, 10 of them are lyrics from Bob Dylan songs. See how many you can identify. What's amazing is that so many politicos are jumping on the surrealism bandwagon, I didn't need to include any quotes from Dubya, the Dadaist king of surrealist-speak. Answers are at the bottom of the column.
1. "President Washington [and] President Lincoln ... authorized electronic surveillance on a broad scale."
2. "At midnight all the agents and the superhuman crew come out and round up everyone that knows more than they do."
3. "They just arrested, down on the border a couple of weeks ago, three al-Qaeda members who came across from Mexico into the United States."
4. "Her profession is her religion, her sin is her lifelessness."
5. "I think with a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court, you can't play hide the salami, or whatever it's called."
6. "The man standing next to me, his head was exploding. I was praying the pieces wouldn't fall on me."
7. "I have no idea, and I'd be surprised if anybody on Council does."
8. "I looked at my watch, I looked at my wrist. I punched myself in the face with my fist."
9. "A man's rear end is not for another man's private parts."
10. "Here comes the blind commissioner, they've got him in a trance. One hand is tied to the tightrope walker, the other is in his pants."
11. "I would not say that the future is less predictable than the past. I think the past was not predictable when it started."
12. "With his businesslike anger and his bloodhounds that kneel, if he needs a third eye he just grows it."
13. "Louisiana is a city that is largely under water."
14. "Seen the arrow on the doorpost saying, 'This land is condemned, all the way from New Orleans to Jerusalem.'"
15. "[Saddam] has reconstituted chemical and biological weapons programs ... he's trying to produce nuclear weapons and ... he has a long-standing relationship with al-Qaeda."
16. "The rovin' gambler he was very bored, trying to create a next world war."
17. "If he thinks we're trying to assassinate him, I think that we really ought to go ahead and do it. It's a whole lot cheaper than starting a war."
18. "The preacher looked so baffled when I asked him why he dressed with 20 pounds of headlines stapled to his chest."
19. "We're no longer a superpower. We're a super-duper power."
20. "You got gangsters in power and lawbreakers making rules."
Who Said That?
1. Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez, showing his grasp of history and technology.
2. Bob Dylan, "Desolation Row."
3. Rep. Sue Myrick, retelling a rightwing myth as a fact.
4. Bob Dylan, "Desolation Row."
5. Howard Dean, urging President Bush to make public Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers' White House records.
6. Bob Dylan, "Day of the Locusts."
7. City Councilman James Mitchell, when asked how the utilities department chooses what projects to build.
8. Bob Dylan, "Million Dollar Bash."
9. County Commissioner Bill James, arguing against a no-discrimination policy for county-employed gays and lesbians.
10. Bob Dylan, "Desolation Row."
11. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld explaining God knows what.
12. Bob Dylan, "Can You Please Crawl Out Your Window?"
13. Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff. Enough said.
14. Bob Dylan, "Blind Willie McTell."
15. Vice President Dick Cheney, NBC, Meet the Press, March 2003.
16. Bob Dylan, "Highway 61 Revisited."
17. Rev. Pat Robertson, speaking of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.
18. Bob Dylan, "Stuck Inside of Mobile With the Memphis Blues Again."
19. Tom DeLay, explaining why America must topple Saddam Hussein, 2002.
20. Bob Dylan, "When You Gonna Wake Up?"