'Sunday Morning' and CBS News Radio Host Charles Osgood on Looks at Campaign Humor

This is a rush transcript from "Hannity & Colmes," May 16, 2008. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

ALAN COLMES, CO-HOST: Sean and I recently sat down with the host of CBS News' "Sunday Morning," author of the new book, "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the White House: Humor, Blunders and Other Oddities from the Presidential Campaign Trail," Charles Osgood.


SEAN HANNITY, CO-HOST: First of all, it's getting pretty vicious out there in the political world.


HANNITY: What are your thoughts?

OSGOOD: Well, the idea of this book — I don't have anything about this campaign...

HANNITY: I understand.

OSGOOD: ... in this book, because obviously, that situation changes with every day. With every hour it changes. So you can't put it in a book.

But we looked at past campaigns, and I was struck, as I was putting this together, with how different this one is. Occasionally, somebody gets off a good line. When Huckabee was still one of the — one of the candidates, he got off a lot of good lines. I guess it shows just being funny is not enough!

HANNITY: That's true. You go — you go through a lot of the different campaigns. You know, you start with Truman and Dewey and, of course, this headline "Dewey Defeats Truman." And then you have some other, who was it, Stevenson who made the line about lying and telling the truth?

OSGOOD: Yes. In fact, the "truth and lies" — I think Stevenson said that he had actually been tempted by the idea of making an offer to the Republicans.


OSGOOD: That said if they would stop telling — "if they would stop telling lies about me," he said, "I'll stop telling the truth about them."

HANNITY: Well, it sounds a lot like — what was it — George Bush or Bob Dole. Bob Dole, when is he going to start lying about my record?

As I was reading through your book, and I'm enjoying it. I haven't finished it yet, but it is humorous. There are blunders as historical context. I was sort of trying to put it together to where we are today.

And with the Internet and the new media and the 24-hour news cycle, it's a very different time. And it seems more vicious. Now, am I wrong?

OSGOOD: There was some viciousness back then, too. No question about it. I mean anybody who thinks Harry Truman didn't really give them hell...

HANNITY: He gave them hell.

OSGOOD: He sure did. And I don't think anybody thought the less of him for it.

But there was also — there was also a certain — you could give somebody hell and still be decent to him and actually have him as a friend.

I happened to know Everett McKinley Dirksen, who is a wonderful man, a — the former Republican leader of the Senate. Sometimes a Majority Leader and sometimes — and the House, you remember, was Lyndon Johnson. And those guys would be at each other all day long about issues.


OSGOOD: But at the end of every day they had a drink.

COLMES: Yes. Tip O'Neill said that it all ends at 5 p.m. and, you know, it's not personal. That's changed in Washington, hasn't it?

OSGOOD: I think it has. And I think one of the things that's showing up in this election, just because it started so early, I think that when you're — when you're managed as closely as these — as these people are, that people are afraid to try to be funny because — and if you are funny, it can be humor with a, you know, with a victim.

COLMES: You're right. Does the funnier person normally win or lose?

OSGOOD: I think Huckabee — Huckabee did pretty well.

HANNITY: He did very well, considering.

OSGOOD: However, I think people tend to vote for people that they like and to vote against people who they dislike.

COLMES: And the humor...

OSGOOD: You like somebody who's smiling. You guys are both very positive, upbeat guys.


COLMES: Well, you're half right!


COLMES: The fact of the matter is that, yes, likeability is very important. I mean Ronald Reagan talking about "being morning in the America" after what was called "the malaise speech." And I think the word "malaise" was never in that speech.

OSGOOD: It was called that.

COLMES: But it was called that. But people like a sunny personality, and humor, of course, can help get you elected.

OSGOOD: And he — he could take what was really a disadvantage for him. He was the oldest president we ever had...

COLMES: Right. He joked about his age.

OSGOOD: He did joke about his age. He'd say, "Well, you know, Thomas Jefferson was a friend of mine. And you're no Thomas Jefferson."


COLMES: Right.

OSGOOD: He also said it was much easier to be president when he was a boy, because there were only 13 states.

COLMES: How many — how many of these came from speech writers and how many, you know, were actually — originated with the actual person?

OSGOOD: I don't know. But sometimes you get the feeling that somebody has a good line, and — and it's almost too good for them. And they — they're just waiting for the moment...

HANNITY: Reagan was quick, though. He was — he had a good sense of humor. He was a warm person.

COLMES: He at least knew the moment to go in. He had great timing.

OSGOOD: He had things also that he would say that, like, "There you go again."

COLMES: Right.

OSGOOD: He would say it with a smile.

COLMES: But you couldn't — you can't plan something like that. That was just kind of one of those great...

Well, best of luck with the book. It's really a great look. And it helps you remember who was running in each election, too.

OSGOOD: Yes. At least it takes you back to 1948. We could have gone all the way back to the first...

COLMES: Thank you very much. Best of luck with the book. Thanks for coming on.

HANNITY: Charles, we love having you. Thank you. Good to see you, my friend.


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