It is far too early for us to select the Stupid Quote of the Year, but January has produced some marvelous statements that should hold their own against whatever is to come between now and the winner’s coronation next December.

In this regard, we beg your counsel and ask that you help select the Stupid Quote of the Month. Naturally, we will accept your nominations, which you may add to those below. Your comments will be given due consideration, though the final selection will be autocratic.

As we are fair to a fault, we must recognize that these quotes were extracted from the news media. Anybody quoted is free to deny, explain or defend.

Let us begin with an utterance from that resurgent caldera of verbal volcanism, the Board of Education of Oakland, Calif. This month, the school district sponsored a “teach-in” on the potential war with Iraq but couldn’t find anybody to explain the “pro-war” point of view.

The “pro-war” crack itself might qualify as Stupid Quote material, as the Bush administration has been admirably patient and forbearing with Saddam Hussein. Far from rushing to the attack, it has provided that despot many avenues of escape.

But the cherry on this politically correct sundae came from school-board member Dan Siegel, who explained that while speakers would come solely from anti-administration groups – including Veterans for Peace, the Black Radical Congress and the Middle East Children’s Alliance – the one-sided presentations really didn’t need to be balanced.

Siegel explained, “Our teachers and our students here in Oakland are too smart to be victims of propaganda.”

In Oakland’s “best” high school, just 30 percent of the students meet or exceed national norms in math and English. In at least two of its high schools, that figure is only 17 percent.

Districtwide, the percentages of 11th graders rated proficient in U.S. history, math and English last fall were, respectively, 19, 24 and 18. Does Siegel believe the intellectual power of the proficient students is sufficient to keep the other 76 to 82 percent from becoming victims of propaganda?

Our next nominee comes from the junior senator from the state of New York, Hillary R. Clinton, who told a Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday gathering that “of course” we want to judge a person by – in King’s words – the content of his character rather than the color of his skin.

However, she added, “But what is character? The sum total of who you are. The color of your skin and how you deal with it is part of your character.”

Thus the senator accomplished a stunning logical contortion: She agreed with Dr. King while utterly disagreeing with him. If her reasoning is to be followed, we should – at least in part – draw assumptions about a person’s character based on his complexion.

One might argue that Ms. Clinton’s quote elevates racism to a level of genius. We are more charitably inclined to think she didn’t recognize the implication of her words. If applause could be considered a quote, we would include in this list the ovation her remarks elicited.

The Senate also provides this month’s third nominee, a sally into economics by Sen. Tom Daschle that would earn him a failing grade at any university in the land.

Attacking President Bush’s proposed tax cuts, he said, “Economists tell us that the wealthy are far less likely to spend a tax cut than middle-income families. In an atmosphere of economic weakness and tight budgets, should we be giving scarce dollars to the people who can afford to put them under the mattress?”

As with Sen. Clinton’s words, one might argue that Daschle’s half-baked analysis was merely pandering to the lowest common denominator. Again, we prefer to give him the benefit of the doubt and suggest that if he were to ask one of the brighter members of his staff the following questions, he might attain deeper understanding:

  1. Do the wealthy really stash cash under their mattresses, or do they invest it or put it in banks?

  2. Is investing a kind of spending?

  3. What happens to the money deposited in banks? Is it placed under giant mattresses, or is it invested (spent)?

We conclude this collection with the assertion by California Gov. Gray Davis that Indian gambling interests should contribute $1.5 billion to help close the state’s budget gap. We’re sure California’s tribes will be anxious to repay the state for its many past kindnesses. (Unfortunately, we don’t have Davis’ actual quote, so this must fall in the category of dishonorable mention.)

We eagerly await your e-mailed votes and additional nominations.

Note: Read our discussion guidelines before commenting.