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Washington dispatch

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in Leaders & Managers

Here are some squibs from our “elected leaders.”

Answer your own phone. Alan Simpson, former U.S. senator from Wyoming, picked up this call in 1980: “Where is that skinny bastard?” “Speaking,” Simpson replied.

Take advantage of your unfair reputation. James Watson, who represented Indiana in both houses of Congress during the late 1800s, made hay out of his lot. “Well, I have friends on both sides of that issue,” he said, “and I like to stand with my friends.”

Point out the obvious. Rep. Alexander Smyth of Virginia, a general from the War of 1812, was talking trash. “You speak for the present generation,” he lectured Rep. Henry Clay of Kentucky. “I speak for posterity.” “Yes,” Clay replied, “and you seem resolved to continue speaking until your audience arrives.”

Remain modest. House Speaker Thomas Reed of Maine was asked shortly before 1900 if his party leaders might nominate him for president. “They could do worse,” he replied, “and they probably will.”

— Adapted from Congressional Anecdotes, Paul F. Boller Jr., Oxford University Press.

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