Take the Candidates at Their Words -- or Not

By Ben Mathis-Lilley and Ben Wasserstein
Ben Mathis-Lilley and Ben Wasserstein are New York-based writers.

Los Angeles Times

November 2, 2004

Before Americans begin this evening's festivities, including watching states turn red or blue, commencing litigation proceedings and going out for small-scale looting, it's time for a fond look back. Below, a brief reminder of the race just over and a guide to understanding, perhaps, why neither candidate has been able to poll over 50%.


The Primaries

"He would drive us deeper and deeper into deficit…. This is the same old Washington talk that people have been listening to for decades. They want something different."

John Edwards on John Kerry, at the Democrats' New York debate, Feb. 29, 2004.

"In the Senate four years — and that is the full extent of public life — no international experience, no military experience, you can imagine what the advertising is going to be next year. When I came back from Vietnam in 1969, I don't know if John Edwards was out of diapers then."

John Kerry on John Edwards, quoted in the Jan. 19, 2004, New York Times.

"We're going to South Carolina and Oklahoma and Arizona and North Dakota and New Mexico, and we're going to California and Texas and New York. And we're going to South Dakota and Oregon and Washington and Michigan. And then we're going to Washington, D.C., to take back the White House. Yeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeah."

Howard Dean, addressing supporters after placing third in the Iowa primary. Jan. 20, 2004.

"Other than 'Sir,' no."

Former Gen. Wesley Clark, asked if he had a nickname, as quoted in the Feb. 2, 2004, issue of Time magazine.

"Joementum is alive and well."

Joe Lieberman, interviewed on CNN before coming in fifth in the New Hampshire primary. Jan. 27, 2004.

"Oh, no. Oh, no, no. Far from it."

John Edwards, responding to a question at the Democrats' New York debate about whether he was vying to be Kerry's running mate. Feb. 29, 2004.


Campaign Blue

"I actually did vote for the $87 billion before I voted against it."

John Kerry, Huntington, W. Va. March 16, 2004, in a speech.

"I don't fall down. That son of a bitch ran into me."

John Kerry, Sun Valley, Idaho, blaming a Secret Service agent for his tumble off a snowboard. March 14, 2004.

"Every performer tonight, in their own way, either verbally or through their music, through their lyrics, have conveyed to you the heart and soul of our country."

John Kerry at a July 8, 2004, New York City celebrity fundraiser. Performers called Bush a "cheap thug" and compared his intellect to that of an egg timer; Whoopi Goldberg's extended ribald routine played off the president's last name.


Campaign Red

"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, Washington, D.C., Aug. 5, 2004.

"I truly am not that concerned about him."

George W. Bush, responding to a press conference question about Osama bin Laden. March 13, 2002.

"I don't think I ever said I'm not worried about Osama bin Laden. It's kind of one of those exaggerations."

George W. Bush, third presidential debate, Tempe, Ariz. Oct. 13, 2004.

"Go [deleted] yourself."

Vice President Dick Cheney to Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) during an exchange on the Senate floor over nasty accusations in the presidential campaign. June 22, 2004.

"The reason I keep insisting that there was a relationship between Iraq and Saddam and Al Qaeda: because there was a relationship between Iraq and Al Qaeda."

George W. Bush, taking questions from reporters on June 17, 2004.

"Too many good docs are getting out of the business. Too many OB/GYNs aren't able to practice their love with women all across the country."

George W. Bush, Sept. 6, 2004, Poplar Bluff, Mo., in a campaign speech.

"This is historic times."

George W. Bush, New York, April 20, 2004, speech.


Expect more of the same in 2032

"It's great to be in a room with so many people who have so much energy about reelecting my dad. And it's so great to be here at Iowa State University … oh, Iowa, oh, gosh. Totally lost it. Ohio State University, too many places in the last week — Ohio State University, and to see all of this energy. Thank you all for working so hard."

Jenna Bush at Ohio State University, Oct. 26, 2004.