THE FIRST, inevitable question about Political Babble: The 1,000 Dumbest Things Ever Said by Politicians (John Wiley & Sons, 246 pages, $18.95 cloth) virtually sits up and begs to be asked. How on earth did David Olive, who edited this pithy and puckish little compilation, manage to stop at a thousand absurdities articulated by the massed ranks of diplomats, congressmen, mayors, and presidents?
One only has to recall the last two American party congresses to realize that even with cabals of speech-writers and regiments of media advisers, politicians of every creed, race, religion, and philosophy make complete asses of themselves on a regular basis.
This volume divides its victims up into sections: a full chapter on Dan Quayle of course; others on foreign affairs, First Ladies, and scandals. "Outside of the killings, we have one of the lowest crime rates in the country" comes from the former Washington, DC mayor Marion Barry; "Gaiety is the most outstanding feature of the Soviet Union" is offered by Joseph Stalin; "I have opinions of my own - strong opinions - but I don't always agree with them" from George Bush; and "There's no Soviet domination of Eastern Europe, and there never will be under a Ford Administration" from the president of the same name.
The only criticism to make of Political Babble is that it concentrates on the United States to a sometimes irksome degree. Stupidity is not confined within national boundaries - the United Nations was created for the sole purpose of proving that to us. A copy of the book, please, to every MP in the country.