Assessing the Zingers

By Lucy Morrow Caldwell and Derek Thompson

The Democratic National Convention was about unity, patriotism, and impossible promises. It was also about tearing John McCain into tiny confetti-sized pieces. And this year, the Democrats kept the quips rolling. Some were funny. Some were not so funny. Some we still don’t really understand. But they all infused the notoriously ponderous oratory with a welcome dash of spice. Here are a few of the most memorable zingers from four days of Democratic speechifying.

Best Overall

Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts: “Candidate McCain now supports the wartime tax cuts that Sen. McCain once denounced as immoral. Candidate McCain criticizes Sen. McCain’s own climate-change bill. Candidate McCain says he would now vote against the immigration bill that Sen. McCain wrote. Are you kidding? Talk about being for it before you’re against it.”

Best Olympics Tie-In

Rep. Dennis Kucinich of Ohio: “If there was an Olympics for misleading, mismanaging, and misappropriating, this administration would take the gold. World records for violations of national and international laws.”

Most Predictable Home-Ownership Joke

Gov. Kathleen Sebelius of Kansas: “I’m sure you remember a girl from Kansas who said there’s no place like home. Well, in John McCain’s version, there’s no place like home. Or a home. Or a home. Or a home. Or a home.”

Best Acknowledgment of Wonkiness

Al Gore: “John McCain, a man who has earned our respect on many levels, is now openly endorsing the policies of the Bush-Cheney White House and promising to actually continue them, the same policies, all over again. Hey, I believe in recycling, but that’s ridiculous.”

Best Zinger From the Actual Nominee

Sen. Barack Obama: “Sen. McCain likes to talk about judgment, but really, what does it say about your judgment when you think George Bush has been right more than 90 percent of the time? I don’t know about you, but I’m not ready to take a 10 percent chance on change.”

Best Sports Analogy

Gov. Ted Strickland of Ohio: “George W. Bush came into office on third base … and then he stole second. And John McCain cheered him every step of the way.”

Most Likely To Be Used as a Lame Bumper Sticker

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York: “Now way, no how, no McCain.”

Most Strained Metaphor

Gov. Ted Strickland: “And while families are losing sleep tonight trying to figure out some way to make their paycheck stretch through one more day, John McCain is sleeping better than ever. He’s sleeping better than ever because he thinks ‘Americans overall are better off,’ thanks to President Bush … He has no problem hitting the snooze button on the economy, because he’s never been part of the middle class. And I would say to him: Sen. McCain, it’s time for your wake-up call.”

Most Refutable Quip

Gov. David Paterson of New York: “If [McCain] is the answer, then the question must be ridiculous.” (How about: Who is the Republican presidential nominee?)

Most Likely To Have Been Written on a Napkin Just Before Going Onstage

Bob Casey: “John McCain calls himself a maverick, but he votes with George Bush more than 90 percent of the time. That’s not a maverick, that’s a sidekick.”

Best Use of Pavlovian Allusion

Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York: “When the American people demanded change in Iraq, John McCain and his friends said no. When you demanded legislation to lower the price of gas, John McCain and his friends said no. When you demanded middle-class tax relief, John McCain and his friends said no. When Barack Obama wins in November, John McCain will go back to the senate, and he and his friends will go back to saying no, no, no, to the change our country needs.”

Most Likely To Have Been Inspired by Dirty Jobs

Rep. Rahm Emanuel of Illinois: “A strong economy depends on a strong middle class. But George Bush has put the middle class in a hole, and John McCain has a plan to keep digging that hole with George Bush’s shovel.”

Any great quips we missed? Do you have a favorite? Looking forward to a zingmeister at the Republican National Convention? Send your comments to