We're almost here. President Obama's 2015 State of the Union address is right around the corner, and if there's one thing you can be sure of, it's this: you're going to be hearing a ton of soundbites in the hours and days following. These sorts of speeches are practically made to be diced up into smaller, component parts, inserted into stories and news items on any of the myriad proposals that Obama will be pitching to Congress — and, of course, to the nation.
But when you break major speeches and presidential moments into such small little pieces, something can get lost — namely, your ability to distinguish between real presidential rhetoric, and the work of some of the entertainment industry's finest imitators. Do you think you can tell the difference between a real presidential quote, and something whipped up in a writer's room someplace? Here's your chance.
1 Who Said It?
“… I will not back down from protecting our kids from mercury poisoning, or making sure that our food is safe and our water is clean. I will not go back to the days when health insurance companies had unchecked power to cancel your policy, deny your coverage, or charge women differently than men.
“And I will not go back to the days when Wall Street was allowed to play by its own set of rules.”
President Barack Obama, 2012 State of the Union
See, that wasn’t too hard, was it? This should be a breeze!
2 Who Said It?
“The era of big government is over. But we cannot go back to the time when our citizens were left to fend for themselves. Instead, we must go forward as one America, one nation working together to meet the challenges we face together. Self-reliance and teamwork are not opposing virtues; we must have both.”
President Bill Clinton, 1996 State of the Union
“The era of big government is over” — a famous quote in the legacy of former President Bill Clinton, which signaled a second-term thick with ideological compromise between his administration and the congressional GOP, a fact which still rankles many liberals.
Okay, the first two were nice, easy warmups. Time to get serious.
3 Who Said It?
“Well, first of all, let’s clear up a couple of things. 'Unfunded mandate' is two words, not one big word. There are times when we’re fifty states and there are times when we’re one country, and have national needs.”
President Jeb Bartlett, 'The West Wing'
4 Who Said It?
“I want the people to know that they still have 2 out of 3 branches of the government working for them, and that ain’t bad.”
5 Who Said It?
“I will follow the precedent that has been followed by and defended by every President … of never doing anything that weakens the Office of the President of the United States, or impairs the ability of the Presidents of the future to make the great decisions that are so essential to this Nation and the world.”
President Richard Nixon, 1974 State of the Union
To say he failed in living up to that standard would be, well, a pretty big understatement.
6 Who Said It?
“Tonight I ask you to pass legislation to prohibit the most egregious abuses of medical research: human cloning in all its forms; creating or implanting embryos for experiments; creating human-animal hybrids; and buying, selling or patenting human embryos.”
President George W. Bush, 2006 State of the Union
You’re forgiven if you thought this one was a fake — suffice to say, the phrase “human-animal hybrids” was a first in the pantheon on State of the Union addresses, and hasn’t been broached since.
7 Who Said It?
“…in my day, little boys didn’t call their elders by their first names.”
8 Who Said It?
“We will continue to fulfill the obligations that spring from our national conscience. Those who, through no fault of their own, must depend on the rest of us—the poverty stricken, the disabled, the elderly, all those with true need—can rest assured that the social safety net of programs they depend on are exempt from any cuts.”
President Ronald Reagan, 1981 State of the Union
That’s right, it was Ronald Reagan. That old raving leftist, always with the promising to protect the social safety net.
9 Who Said It?
“Good morning. In less than an hour, aircraft from here will join others from around the world. And you will be launching the largest aerial battle in this history of mankind.”
10 Who Said It?
“We’ve made a good start on turning the gobbledygook of Federal regulations into plain English that people can understand. But we know that we still have a long way to go.”
President Jimmy Carter, 1978 State of the Union
Frankly, rolling with the boyish first name “Jimmy” when you’re the so-called Leader of the Free World is a pretty gutsy move on its own. Slipping the word “gobbledygook” into a State of the Union address, all with Carter’s characteristic Southern rasp? That’s downright heroic.
11 Who Said It?
“Never again will I allow our political self-interest to deter us from doing what we know to be morally right. Atrocity and terror are not political weapons. And to those who would use them, your day is over. We will never negotiate. We will no longer tolerate and we will no longer be afraid. It’s your turn to be afraid.”
12 Who Said It?
“This Nation in the past two years has become an active partner in the world’s greatest war against human slavery. We have joined with like-minded people in order to defend ourselves in a world that has been gravely threatened with gangster rule.”
President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, 1944 State of the Union
While reference to the “greatest war against human slavery” might’ve brought the American Civil War to mind, FDR was referring to the raging horrors of World War II in 1944.
13 Who Said It?
“Now the pockets, when you sit down, everything falls out, your money, your knife, everything, so I need at least another inch in the pockets. And another thing — the crotch, down where your nuts hang, is always a little too tight, so when you make them up, give me an inch that I can let out there, uh, because they cut me, it’s just like riding a wire fence.”
President Lyndon Johnson, 1964 Pants Ordering
Shocked? Well, don’t be. Foul-mouthed, blunt and deeply unpleasant — in other words, Lyndon Johnson all over. For all his towering achievements in some areas, this was a man widely known to be verbally abusive to his wife, after all. And his sense of presidential decorum was no more sterling when he was ordering some new pairs of slacks over the telephone. You can listen to the full conversation here, but be forewarned, there’s also belching and the word “bunghole” involved.