A brief timeout for D.C. laughter

Paul F. Boller, Jr. collects examples of Washington wit and published a selection in his book “Congressional Anecdotes.” Excerpts were published in Sunday’s New York Times — perhaps in the expectation and hope that some of us will learn to laugh with Congress rather than at it.
Here’s a sample of Boller’s research:
“Capitol Hill has never lacked for humor, inadvertent or otherwise. Over the centuries its denizens have provided the raw material of comedy — their ranks filled with magnificent egos, fakers and philanderers, not to mention the occasional statesman. As to the latter, the 19th century House Speaker Thomas Reed offered this caution: ‘A statesman is a successful politician who is dead.’
“Most lustrous names have tried their hand at legislative stand-up comedy, or more likely, its sophisticated precursor, the acid riposte. As a young Republican Congressman, Abraham Lincoln once advised that Democrats needed to get over their fixation with Andrew Jackson; ‘Like a horde of hungry ticks, you have stuck to the tail of the Heritage Lion to the end of his life.’
“About 160 years later, the barbed-tongued Barney Frank, Democrat of Massachusetts, silenced a Republican House colleague who had complained that he did not know what was inside a proposed bill: ‘This bill is five and a half pages — even the gentleman from Texas could have read it by now.’
“James E. Watson of Indiana, who served in the House and Senate beginning in the late 19th century: ‘Well, I have friends on both sides of this issue and I like to stand with my friends.’
“Two hard-of-hearing gentlemen, Sen. Lawr-ence Sherman of Illinois and Sen. John Sharp Williams of Virginia, got into a yelling match early in the 20th century. ‘Williams and I are having a hell of a debate,’ Mr. Sherman explained. ‘Neither of us hears a word the other fellow says, and neither of us gives a damn.’

“ASKED IN THE late 19th century if his party might nominate him for president, Thomas Reed of Maine, the House Speaker, shook his head doubtfully. ‘They could do worse, and they probably will.’
“Offered the Whig Party nomination for vice president in 1848, Sen. Daniel Webster of Massachusetts declined: ‘I do not propose to be buried until I am dead.’
“Asked why he accepted the nomination for vice president in 1976, Sen. Robert Dole of Kansas replied: ‘Inside work, no heavy lifting.’
“In 1984, Rep. Morris Udall of Arizona, swore off any intent to run for president; ‘If nominated, I shall run to Mexico. If elected, I will fight extradiction.’
“Rep. Alexander Smyth of Virginia, a garrulous old general from the War of 1812, noted that another of his endless speeches was boring Rep. Henry Clay of Kentucky. ‘You speak for the present generation,’ Gen. Smyth reminded the younger man. ‘I speak for posterity.’ ‘Yes,” Mr. Clay replied with a sigh, ‘and you seem resolved to continue speaking until your audience arrives.’
“Barney Frank, who is Jewish, complained in 1984 about a Republican who declared that the United States was a Christian nation. ‘If this is a Christian nation, how come some poor Jew has to get up at 5:30 in the morning to preside over the House of Representatives?’
“Rep. John Randolph of Virginia, on two of his less-favored colleagues in the early 19th century, Robert Wright and John Rae: ‘A Wright always wrong; a Rae without light.’
“In the summer of 1958, A fistfight erupted on the House floor and Rep. John F. ‘Bowie Knife’ Potter of Wisconsin grasped for the hair of Rep. William Barksdale of Mississippi, pulling off his wig. ‘I’ve scalped him, boys!’ Mr. Potter cried. At which the House dissolved into laughter, ending the brawl.”