In case you were wondering, here’s the price of milk

by Andrew Gelman on February 24, 2011 · 7 comments

in Frivolity,Media

Seeing Sarah Palin’s recent witticism:

It’s no wonder Michelle Obama is telling everybody you need to breast feed your babies … the price of milk is so high!

I was reminded of Dan Quayle’s quip during the 1988 campaign:

The governor of Massachusetts, he lost his top naval adviser last week. His rubber ducky drowned in the bathtub.

And this got me wondering: how often do legitimate political figures—not talk show hosts, but actual politicians—communicate via schoolyard-style taunts?

I’m not talking here about dry wit of the Bob Dole or Morris Udall variety, or political gamesmanship such as Ronald Reagan’s “make my day,” or flat-out partisanship like Alan Grayson’s “the Republicans want you to die quickly” or James Watt’s line about “liberals and Americans.” It’s gotta be an actual joke.

There must be some other examples of Palin/Quayle style humor, but I’m not sure where to look.

I keep thinking of Veronica Geng’s hilarious story which includes the line:

In 1950, when Shaw died, his last words were “Don’t tell L.B.J. I don’t want to give him the satisfaction.”

P.S. In case you’re wondering, here’s the price of milk:


The price has declined since 2008 with a slight rebound during the past year. The monthly data stop in Dec 2010 but maybe there’s a big spike during Jan-Feb 2011. I did find this document saying that nonfat dry milk has increased in price by 8% in the past month, so maybe there’s something going on. Although of course this is pretty much irrelevant to choices of how you feed your baby.

P.P.S. The Daily News reports that Palin “made the crack during an appearance at a Long Island country club.” Country club Republicans, indeed.


Alex February 24, 2011 at 2:27 pm

Calvin Coolidge was notoriously anti-social, and he and Dorothy Parker had a long running war of words. To quote wikipedia:

A possibly apocryphal story has it that Dorothy Parker, seated next to him at a dinner, said to him, “Mr. Coolidge, I’ve made a bet against a fellow who said it was impossible to get more than two words out of you.” His famous reply: “You lose.” It was also Parker who, upon learning that Coolidge had died, reportedly remarked, “How can they tell?”

Brian February 24, 2011 at 3:43 pm

On a related matter, it seems that Palin likes to take shots at Michelle Obama. Of course, Palin goes absolutely nuts when people talk about her family, but she seems to think it’s acceptable to go after President Obama’s family. To what degree is Michelle a public figure “eligible” for the rough & tumble of political discourse, or should she be as off limits as Bristol (television star and future political candidate) Palin?

chris February 25, 2011 at 9:07 am

His rubber ducky drowned in the bathtub.

Has Grover Norquist been questioned?

Bill Harshaw February 25, 2011 at 2:30 pm

Allow me to doubt the Geng story. Yes, G.B. Shaw died in 1950, but at that time LBJ was a first term Senator of no prominence. It’s a shame to lose the story. Maybe it was Truman instead of LBJ or Bertrand Russell instead of Shaw?

Andrew Gelman February 25, 2011 at 5:24 pm


Geng was a fiction writer.

manamana March 1, 2011 at 5:10 pm

Lipstick on a pig?

matt w March 3, 2011 at 11:58 am

The official White House page tells the “You lose” with an anonymous young woman (and ascribes it to Coolidge’s wife). It’s probably apocryphal, but I feel virtually certain that the Dorothy Parker version is apocryphal.

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