Whether it's an unscripted remark or a sentence that sums up an election, politicans can say a lot with just a few words. 2010 supplied a wealth of memorable one-liners, thanks partly to the rise of the Tea Party movement, which supplied a crop of political renegades who often said — or tweeted — whatever came to mind. Here are the 7 most memorable political quotes of the last year:
1. "I'm not a witch" — Christine O'Donnell
After shocking the political world by defeating Republican Mike Castle in a Senate primary in Delaware, O'Donnell came under fire for an old video clip in which she admitted she had once "dabbled into witchcraft." To beat back the charges, O'Donnell released a memorable campaign ad that opened with the instantly infamous line "I'm not a witch." The commercial was subject to "sharp mockery" everywhere from "Saturday Night Live" to YouTube; O'Donnell lost the general election by 16 percentage points.
2. "This is a big f---in' deal" — Joe Biden,
As President Obama prepared to sign his historic health care bill into law in March, microphones picked up Joe Biden — known for the occasional slip of the tongue — leaning in and uttering an expletive-laced remark meant only for the president's ears. The White House responded lightheartedly to the error, as did many amused commentators. "Another classic Joe Biden 'gaffe,'" said Alex Pareene at Gawker, "which is when he says a truthful and often totally endearing thing in public."
3. "Peaceful Muslims, pls refudiate" — Sarah Palin
During the past year, the ex-Alaska governor often took to Twitter to express her influential political opinions. But when she inadvertedently coined the word "refudiate" — a combination of "refute" and "repudiate" — in a July tweet about moving the so-called "Ground Zero mosque," she stirred a debate about language, too. After deleting the tweet, Palin invoked Shakespeare as a proponent of an evolving lexicon. In the end, the New Oxford American Dictionary named "refudiate" its word of the year.
4. "The rent is too damn high" — Jimmy McMillan
As a fringe New York gubernatorial candidate, McMillan and his Rent is Too Damn High party made headlines — and provided some comic relief — when he upstaged the two establishment candidates, Andrew Cuomo and Carl Paladino, during a "Theatre-of-the-Absurd gubernatorial debate" in October. With his black gloves, "Chester A. Arthur muttonchops and Colonel Sanders goatee," McMillan cut a striking figure as he repeated his catchphrase again and again, eventually getting Cuomo to concur: "I agree with Jimmy. Rent is too damn high."
5. "If this Congress keeps going the way it is, people are really looking toward those Second Amendment remedies..." — Sharron Angle
Angle, the Republican Senate candidate from Nevada who came close to unseating Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in November, had to explain away comments she had made in a January radio interview, in which she seemed to endorse a call to arms against Reid and other politicians. In an interview months later, Angle clarified that she "was speaking broadly, as you saw, about the Constitution, and that was the context of that rhetoric."
6. "Shellacking" — Barack Obama
The day after Democrats lost a whopping 65 seats in the House of Representatives, President Obama termed the defeat a "shellacking," much as George W. Bush had termed his party's midterm losses a "thumpin'" in 2006. The president's word choice "may not seem so provocative," said Chris Richardson in The Christian Science Monitor, "but when history books write about this administration they may well point to this moment as Obama's turning point."
7. "We have to pass the (health care) bill so you can find out what is in it."--Nancy Pelosi
When Pelosi gave a March speech to the National Association of Counties shortly before the health care reform bill became law, she was seeking to rebut distortions of the legislation. Instead, she unwittingly provided fodder for her critics, who claimed that the bill was too complex. "Like a Tupperware container full of smelly mystery meat," said Peter Suderman at Reason, "Nancy Pelosi says that the only way we can find out exactly what's in the health care bill is to try it."
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- This is what happens when Republicans actually enact their radical agenda
- The Obama administration's nonstop incoherence on ISIS
- How to be the most productive person in your office — and still get home by 5:30 p.m.
- 6 super-helpful iOS8 tricks you probably don't know about
- 43 TV shows to watch in 2014
- How I dug myself out of debt — and stayed that way
- 6 things the happiest families all have in common
- Why so many Christians won't back down on gay marriage
- The science of sex: 4 harsh truths about dating and mating
- Russia is stealthily threatening America with nuclear war
Subscribe to the Week