One lesson from 2008: Screenwriter William Goldman's famous line about Hollywood — "Nobody knows anything" — pretty much applies everywhere. The idled factories, frozen wages and decimated 401(k) accounts suggest that the United States can't even do greed anymore. We seem to choose our business and government leaders by their ability to portray Ronald McDonald or eat a big hoagie.
No politician, CEO or coach in Kansas City did as much damage as Alan Greenspan, the one-time "oracle" who couldn't recognize a speculative bubble if it splattered pea soup on his tie. But we've endured our share of silliness in the last 13 months. Witness the following.
"[T]he Dow will finish the year above 15,000."
— E. Thomas McClanahan*, columnist for The Kansas City Star, predicting the behavior of stock prices in 2008
By December 2008, the Dow Jones industrial average was teetering between 8,000 and 9,000.
*McClanahan is a fool, but his employer made many of the quotes in this article available. To the Star reporters and editors who documented the stupidity, I say thank you.
"He is one of the most popular political figures that I've seen."
— Jeff Roe, political strategist, on Mayor Mark Funkhouser
"And especially after the game, this will be everybody's destination."
— Chuck Tabor, general manager of Jared Allen Sports Arena & Grill
The Chiefs traded Allen to Minnesota in April. A month later, the restaurant closed.
"2008 looks to be a year of rising growth."
— William Poole, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, speaking at the Central Exchange in downtown Kansas City
"Go door to door, and you'll find out this is something Kansans want us to address."
— Speaker Melvin Neufeld, Kansas House of Representatives, on the subject of illegal immigration
Immigration: The hot-button issue that wasn't. In February, Sen. John McCain, who had worked with Sen. Ted Kennedy on an immigration-reform bill that was scorned on talk radio, secured the Republican nomination. A CBS News/New York Times poll conducted in late March and early April indicated that just 3 percent of respondents named immigration as the most important issue facing the country. In November, Sen. Barack Obama — who spent about as much time talking about the college-football bowl system as he did illegal immigrants — won Colorado, New Mexico and Nevada.
"We'll be an exciting football team. We'll be much better on the offensive side of the ball."
— Clark Hunt, Chiefs owner
The Chiefs finished the season ranked 24th in total offense.
"Brett Tomko is going to win 15 games."
— An unnamed baseball scout or executive, speaking to Joe Posnanski at spring training
The Royals released the pitcher in June. His record was 2-7.
"I want us to be better than any team in baseball at getting the bunt down, moving runners over, playing situational defense. The more pressure we can put on another team, the better chance we have."
— Trey Hillman, Royals manager
The 2008 Royals did not excel at what is known in baseball as the "little things." On the defensive side, the team ranked dead last in making outs from balls hit into play. The Bill James Handbook indicates that the Royals were below-average at advancing from first to third on a single and other measures of base running.
"Well, we certainly got change, all right. Since the Democrats have come to power in the House and Senate, pain at the pump has increased by 50 — five zero — 50 percent."
— Kit Bond, Missouri senator
The price of oil, reaching a five-year low in December, showed complete disinterest in U.S. election results.
"The words gross negligence and pitiful come to mind."
— David Cordish, president of the Cordish Co., complaining in a letter to Mayor Funkhouser about a lack of events at the Sprint Center
Cordish's words were (in addition to being bratty) directed at the wrong person. It was Funkhouser's predecessor, Kay Barnes, who presented the plan to build the arena with AEG as a partner. Evidence of AEGs inability to deliver an NBA or NHL franchise, as promised, had accumulated well in advance of Cordish's decision, in December 2007, to give $1,000 to Barnes' campaign for Congress.
"When you're at war, the odds of a recession are less."
— Tom Hoenig, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, speaking to the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce
The National Bureau of Economic Research said in December that the United States was in a recession and had been for a year.
"I was absolutely delighted, not just because of what she brings to the table, but because of how it reflects on McCain's strategic judgment. She's a three-fer. She unites conservatives behind McCain enthusiastically. She reaches out to disaffected women voters who might have been leaning toward Hillary. She's the perfect choice in an election year when energy independence is our number one issue. As governor of the largest oil-producing state, she knows the issue better than anyone."
— Kris Kobach, chairman of the Kansas Republican Party, speaking about Sarah Palin
Kobach's most significant error was his contention that Palin would appeal to Hillary Clinton's supporters. In fact, the Obama-Biden ticket did just fine with women (56 percent). Not only that, Kobach was wrong in real time. A Rasmussen poll conducted in August indicated that men liked the Palin choice more than women.
"I've never had anybody come up and say, 'Boy, you're on the hot seat and you're going to get fired this year if you guys don't win four games or five or six games.'"
— Carl Peterson, Chiefs president and general manager
Peterson resigned after a loss in December ensured that the Chiefs would win no more than four games. Peterson's quote appeared in a Kansas City Star story. In the same piece, Chiefs head coach Dick Vermeil said that if Peterson decided to leave the front office, "He'll have the equal job in a week." Clock's ticking, Dick.
"As a company, we are working to make sure we are inclusive to everyone."
— Kevin Battle, director of operations, the Power & Light District
Battle tried to defend the entertainment district against charges of racism — a tough sell, given that the P&L dress code banned long white T-shirts and other apparel favored by young African-American males.
"I am not convinced that spending more taxpayer money will solve the problem."
— Sam Graves, Missouri congressman, in a statement on the proposed $700 billion bailout of the financial system
Graves might have added: "Now, spending taxpayer money propping up U.S. farms? Oh, I'm all for that." Between 2003 and 2005, farmers in Graves' district received $135 million in direct subsidies, according to data compiled by the Environmental Working Group. Graves personally received a $99,263 farm subsidy.
"It is all a misunderstanding, full of accusations and lies."
— John Toplikar, Johnson County commissioner, on the allegation that he stole an opponent's signs
The "misunderstanding" was captured on video, and Toplikar later admitted that he handled the signs. He is scheduled to appear in court on a misdemeanor theft charge in a few weeks. He lost the election by 42 votes.
"All I wanted to tell you is, I'm going to kill your boyfriend."
— Larry Johnson, Chiefs running back, allegedly speaking to a woman at Club Blonde
After the incident, Johnson was arrested on suspicion of simple assault. Johnson faces another assault charge stemming from an alleged incident with a different woman.
"They can report it to the internal auditor anonymously."
— Jan Marcason, Kansas City councilwoman, encouraging neighbors to complain about Funkhouser meeting with staff at home
Yes, the mayor has acted like a giant dork by insisting that, to flourish, his administration needs a de facto chief of staff who is barely housebroken. But the council hasn't exactly distinguished itself by acting so aggrieved by the mayor's devotion to his wife, Gloria Squitiro.
"I think that's sad and also disrespectful."
— Bill Snyder, Kansas State head football coach, lamenting that his return to the sidelines was reported in the media a day before the official announcement
A control freak, Snyder despises the media because he can't make reporters run wind sprints or look for jobs coaching in the WAC. Maybe Snyder would like to coach a sport in which the media had little interest. Of course, then he would also have to work for decidedly less than $1.85 million a year. Later in the press conference, Snyder drew attention to an already attention-drawing gesture by reminding people that he insisted on the university including the word "family" when renaming KSU Stadium in his honor — a bold move for a guy who let his devotion to career contribute to the end of his first marriage.
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