June 25, 1987: Ronald Reagan Never Noodled

In addition to his significant and far-reaching designation of ketchup as a vegetable, President Ronald Reagan had another major food moment on June 25, 1987, when he issued the Presidential Proclamation (number 5672, if you’re keeping track) calling for the celebration of National Catfish Day, a day to recognize the value of farm-raised catfish – not the ordinary bottom-feeding catfish found in any catfish hole, but those fine-finned fellows raised on pristine family farms.

More and more Americans, said the Prez, are discovering this uniquely American food delicacy. “They thrive” – the catfish, not the Americans – “in clean freshwater ponds on many American farms, where they are surface-fed soybean meal, corn, fish meal, vitamins, and minerals. Farm-raised catfish not only furnish American consumers with a tasty delicacy but also provide a nutritious, low-calorie source of protein that is also low in cholesterol.”

Top with a dollop of ketchup and you’re on your way to seafood Shangri-la.

Noodling is fishing for catfish using only bare hands, practiced primarily in the southern United States. The noodler places his hand inside a discovered catfish hole. — Wikipedia  And hopes for the best, one would presume.

August 11, 1984: Why Bartlett’s Ignored Reagan

President Ronald Reagan was about to deliver a scheduled radio address on August 11, 1984. While testing his microphone before the speech, Reagan quipped: “My fellow Americans, I am pleased to tell you today that I’ve signed legislation that will outlaw Russia forever. We begin Ronald Reaganbombing in five minutes.”

Reagan’s aides laughed heartily at their boss’ obvious joke; many others didn’t. Some dismissed his remark as an example of poor taste while others thought it to be a major embarrassing political gaffe — certainly not his first. Reagan’s sense of humor didn’t play well with the folks at Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations who pretty much ignored him during their compiling of quotes.

Among the Reagan remarks that didn’t find their way into the noted encyclopedia of clever speech included his 1969 response as governor to student protestors at the University of California at Berkeley — “if there has to be a bloodbath then let’s get it over with,” his comparison between politics and prostitution and these gems:

“I’ve noticed that everybody that is for abortion has already been born.”

I am not worried about the deficit. It is big enough to take care of itself.”

“What makes him think a middle-aged actor, who’s played with a chimp, could have a future in politics?”

The Soviets, for their part, were not amused, and the president’s approval rating among American voters nosedived just long enough to give Democrats the fleeting thought that Walter Mondale might soon be president.

“Poor dear, there’s nothing between his ears.”  –British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher

August 4, 1855: Familiarity Breeds Contempt (Page 76a)

People in Cambridge, Massachusetts, used to pester John Bartlett, who ran the University Book Store, asking for quotations on various subjects. Finally, to make his life easier, he assembled a collection of the more popular quotations. So beginning August 4, 1855, when people asked for a quotepithy quote, he could reply, “Look it up in your Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations and stop bugging me.”  His book contained 258 pages of quotations by 169 authors, primarily from the Bible, Shakespeare, and the important English poets. This was a bit of an undertaking, Bartlett pointed out. How does one decide if a quotation is familiar? A quote may be on a first-name basis with one person while completely unknown to another.

Nevertheless, the book was a big success, and Bartlett authored three more editions before becoming a partner in the publishing firm of Little, Brown, and Company. In all, he supervised nine editions of the work before his death in 1905.

Various other editors stepped in for a series of editions, and in 1955, the 13th Edition was celebrated as the Centennial Edition.  Along about the 15th Edition, the work started annoying critics. One critic said it would be the downfall of the series: “Donning the intellectual bell-bottoms and platform shoes of its era, Bartlett’s began sprouting third-rate Third World, youth-culture, and feminist quotes,” part of “a middle-aged obsession with staying trendy.”  The 16th Edition offended some folks because it included only three minor Ronald Reagan quotations (FDR had 35 quotes, and JFK 28). The editor answered the criticism by saying he didn’t like Reagan.

In the 17th Edition (2003) he took heat for including the likes of J.K. Rowling, Jerry Seinfeld, and Larry David while cutting classic quotes.  He did include six Reagan quotes but admitted “I was carried away by prejudice. Mischievously I did him dirty.”

“Me want cookie!” — Cookie Monster as quoted in Bartlett’s

July 10, 1984: In the Afternoon He Hugged a Tree

To burnish his environmental creds, President Reagan visited the salt marshes and crabbing grounds of the Chesapeake Bay. There he claimed credit for cleanup efforts in the area, provoking a hue and cry among critics who found his environmental policies wanting.

In a bit of derring-do, the President climbed to the top of a 50-foot observation tower at the Bird_WatchingBlackwater National Wildlife Refuge and made eye contact with two wild bald eagles.

Lunching with a group of Republican Chesapeake Bay fishermen at a Tilghman Island fishing village, Reagan asserted that his efforts to protect the environment were ”one of the best-kept secrets” of his Administration, which indeed they were since no one had been able to find them. The grateful fishermen donated two bushels of crabs to his re-election campaign.

When a reporter asked the President where former EPA head Anne Burford who had resigned amid charges of mismanagement fit into his secret record, press secretary Larry Speakes ordered the lights turned off. Reagan, who was used to being in the dark was unfazed. “My guardian says I can’t talk,” he quipped. Thus, his environmental record remained a closely guarded secret.

“Before I refuse to take your questions, I have an opening statement.”  — Ronald Reagan