xxiv) Need to Understand the Power of Humour

An example is a joke. One of the greatest impacts of a joke was during the 1984 US presidential campaign. President Ronald Reagan had lost the first debate to the Democrat candidate (Walter Mondale) after he appeared tired and got his words mixed up, eg called military uniforms costumes, confused Washington with Louisville, etc. As Reagan was the oldest president in history, people wondered whether he was going senile!!! During the second debate when Reagan was asked about his age as an issue, he replied

"...I want you to know that......I will not make age an issue in this campaign......I am not going to exploit, for political purposes, my opponent's youth and inexperience..."

Ronald Reagan as quoted by Theo Zenou 2018

NB Walter Mondale was 56 and had served as a vice president; hardly a novice

This powerful statement by Reagan neutralised the issue of his age. By using humour, Reagan had instantly reframed the debate by going from defence to offence. He used humour to disarm criticism, ie don't answer the question, the way it was asked.

This "age" statement had been written by Doug Gamble. Another one Gamble wrote for Reagan was

"...I've given my aides instructions that if trouble breaks out in any of the world's hot spots, they should wake me up immediately - even if I'm in a Cabinet meeting..."

Ronald Reagan as quoted by Theo Zenou 2018

"...making light of oneself achieves something else needed for a campaigner: it radiates confidence..."

Theo Zenou 2018

When Reagan was making fun of himself it was regarded as charming. On the other hand, Richard Nixon was a notorious neurotic. If he had tried to use self-deprecating humour, people would have thought it was phoney.

These jokes are known as soundbites and are what is remembered from a speech.

Other memorable soundbites include

"...politics is too serious to be left to politicians..."

Charles de Gaulle as quoted by Theo Zenou 2018

"...politics is too important to be left to politicians..."

President John Kennedy as quoted by Theo Zenou 2018

During the Australian Prime Minister's (Harold Holt) visit to White House (1966), when Lyndon Johnson was President, he made a famous statement to support his American ally, ie

"...all the way with LBJ..."

Wikipedia 2019

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