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Flashback Five – Barney Frank’s “Dining Room Table” Quote Has Big Screen Competition


“On what planet do you spend most of your time? Trying to have a conversation with you would be like trying to argue with a dining room table… I have no interest in doing it.” — Barney Frank

Barney Frank, Democratic Representative from Massachusetts, got a little hot under the collar the other day when, at a Town Hall meeting, a local flashed a picture of President Obama dressed as Hitler. This caused Frank to launch into the above bon mot… and a nation of let out a collective belly laugh. Of course, Frank is hardly the first politician to drop some snaps on the public, at least cinematically speaking. Here’s a look back at some of the nastiest put downs and fiercest quips in political movie history.

1. President Andrew Shepherd, The American President (1995)
“Who’re we calling, sir?”
“I’m calling the organization of the United Brotherhood of It’s None of Your Damn Business, Lewis. I’ll be with you in a second.”

Aaron Sorkin’s White House-based romantic comedy has its share of snappy dialogue, but none so towel-sharp as the above sentence. It could only be said by a President (Michael Douglas) freaking out about ordering flowers for his secret girlfriend, too. We’ve all been there.

2. Bob Alexander, Dave (1993)
“Share? Share? You don’t call a press conference. I call a press conference. You’re nothing. Do you understand? You’re nobody.”
Chief of Staff Frank Langella chews out President-impersonator Kevin Kline when the latter decides to start stepping up his game, and embrace his chance to be POTUS. Naturally, the evil COS doesn’t like his lack of control.

3. President Merkin Muffley, Dr. Strangelove or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964)
“Gentlemen, you can’t fight in here! This is the War Room.”
Probably the greatest political satire of all time (except King Ralph,
of course), it’s hard to pick one quote out of Dr. Strangelove. But if
any embodies the essential contradictions of the movie, it’s the above
line spoken by Peter Sellers’ way in-over-his-head President who’s
trying to deal with the threat of global annihilation in the most
polite way possible.

4. T.T. Claypole, The Best Man (1964)
“Nice thing about you, Joe, is that you can sound like a liberal, but at heart you’re an American.”
The 1964 movie depicts a five-way race for the Presidential nomination
of an unspecified political party (though, let’s be honest: It’s the
Democratic party) which very quickly gets nasty. Governor T.T. Claypole
drops the above slam on Cliff Robertson’s Joe Cantwell, one of the two
lead candidates, at the party’s nominating convention.

5. Prime Minster Count Rupert Mountjoy, The Mouse That Roared (1959)
“My idea was sound. Only an idiot could have won this war, and he did.”
Once again, Peter Sellers creates political comedy gold in this tale of
a tiny duchy that decides to get monetary help through war reparations
by invading the United States… Except they actually win the war.
Interestingly, Sellers (playing the Prime Minister) is calling one of
his other characters (Tully Bascomb) an idiot in the quote.

Honorable Mentions:

1. Nick Naylor, Thank You for Smoking (2005)
“That’s the beauty of argument, if you argue correctly, you’re never wrong.”
Aaron Eckhart’s wunderkind political lobbyist never, ever loses an argument.

2. Mays Gilliam, Head of State (2003)
“The guy’s avoiding me like he owes me child support.”
Chris Rock’s President knows how to bring his lower class background to play when he has to.

3. Tracy Flick, Election (1999)
“You see, you can’t interfere with destiny. That’s why it’s destiny.
And if you try to interfere, the same thing’s going to happen anyway,
and you’ll just suffer.”

Reese Witherspoon will stop at nothing to win her school’s election.

4. Henry Kissinger, Dick (1999)
“I’ll take responsibility here. I’ll be the only person in this
administration who’s willing to take responsibility for anything.”

I think you probably know the context for this quote. Just a guess.

5. Bulworth, Bulworth (1988)
“All we need is a voluntary, free-spirited, open-ended program of
procreative racial deconstruction. Everybody just gotta keep fuckin’
everybody ’til they’re all the same color.”

Warren Beatty’s rapping politican may have taken a break from reality, but he never lets up on the endlessly quotable sayings.

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