Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Kissing Cousins....

Hope everyone had a jolly and not scowly Christmas feast, with talk of presidential politics kept to a minimum around the groaning board. We managed here in New Jersey to pull this off, with one significant exception, which was a little tiff which exploded into brief bang-up of an argument over whether or not Obama really had enough experience to be president, something I think will be the main thing tossed his way should he get the Democratic nod.
But a few deep breaths and some inhalations of turkey and mashed potatoes calmed this one down.
A few days before Christmas I spoke on the air with WAOK radio jock Shelly Wynters down in Atlanta and took some phone calls about possible dirty tricks coming up. To my surprise, one caller was quite worked-up about the fact that Rudy Giuliani's first marriage had been to his second cousin, something that hadn't even concerned me. When I said Rudy's enemies had much more to throw at poor Rudy than the "cousin thing"--both the caller and Shelly broke out laughing. It was like they were saying, "Dude, you don't know how people really think!" Another caller quizzed me closely to see if I shared his concern that George Bush would not let elections occur next November--some excuse would be made (a faked terrorist attack) to shut down the gov and keep Bush in office under martial law. Rumors like this have surfaced at different times in American history and have always been dismissed as the doggerel of far-far-far out fringe groups. However, I talked with a few friends about this later and found that there are a number of people who really believe in this as a scenario. Despite my credentials as a dirty tricksologist, it never even occurred to me, but then again, it wouldn't occur to me to marry my cousin, either.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Love Child

Well, can anything top Mike Huckabee's kid torturing and killing a dog? How about John Edwards' love child. The National Enquirer is now trumpeting the alleged fact that a former campaign worker for Edwards, Rielle Hunter, is six months pregnant with his child. Edwards has been dodging affair rumors for months; if Rielle does turn out to be carrying a little Edwards, this will trump the Clinton scandals of the 1992 campaign--in fact, many blame the Clintons for spreading this particular piece of dirt, ironically enough. There is a further problem for Edwards in that the story comes with a a further note attached--political operative Andrew Young, close to Edwards, is supposedly claiming he is the father--which seems a transparent cover-up.
Of course, Rielle denies all this adamantly -- not the pregnancy, but the involvement of both Edwards and Young. Is it true? Sans DNA or incriminating photos--remember Senator Gary Hart on the yacht with Donna Rice in 1988?--who can tell. Certainly, love child smears have long been popular, indeed staples, of political smearing. They've been used against Thomas Jefferson, Grover Cleveland, Warren G. Harding, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, Clinton, of course. and John McCain, just to mention a few.
In some cases--Jefferson, Cleveland, Harding--this happened to be true. In others, not. But as I have been saying, it is all getting nastier and nastier, proving the main point of Anything for a Vote: dirty campaigning is not the exception to the rule in American presidential politics--it IS the rule.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Rough! Rough!

Well it's all getting nastier and nastier, isn't it, as January 3, 2008 rolls around. No time for holiday cheer. Mitt Romney, was just profiled in the NY Times saying he was inspired by his father, Michigan Governor and 1968 presidential candidate, to run for office. George Romney, if you will remember, said that he had been "brainwashed" by Army officials during a visit to Vietnam, a bit of startling honesty which got him immediately hounded out of the race. Mitt, despite avowed father-worship, does not possess the same startling honesty. A photo sent to numerous news agencies shows him at a 1994 pro-choice fundraiser during his Massachusetts Senatorial race against Teddy Kennedy. His response is that this is old news--sure, he says, he was "pro-choice, or effectively pro-choice," then--love that little qualification--but now is is pro-life. (Effectively pro-life?) His wife wrote a presumably effective check to Planned Parenthood for $150 at about the same time. At least, it didn't bounce.
Hillary is now embarked in her "likability tour" in Iowa, which is sort of pointless. Bill is likable, she's not, except in private, where she apparently can be quite charming. Reminds one of the attempts of Herbert Hoover's Republican handlers to take His Stiffness and turn him into a human being in 1928. Pictures sent to newspapers showed him romping with a large dog. "That Man Hoover--He's Human!" the suggested headlines read. Trying to make candidates into something they aren't is always an iffy proposition. Alf Landon, making his hopeless run against FDR in 1936, was a very likable guy, but Republicans wanted him to seem more authoritative. They hired a film director named Ted Bohn—a forerunner of modern political candidate groomers—to teach Landon not to smile with his mouth hanging open, to walk slightly ahead when in a group in order to dominate pictures, and to shake hands with his chin up to give the impression of firmness. It did no good at all. As Hillary says: “There are people who will never vote for me,” she said. “It breaks my heart, but it’s true.”
The candidate who is the most fun to watch right now is Mike Huckabee. I agree with the Republican strategist who says nominating Huckabee would be "an act of suicide" on the part of the Republican Party, but the fact that someone dredged up the story that Huckabee's son, as a boy scout in 1998, allegedly helped kill a dog (by hanging it and cutting its throat?) is interesting. Huckabee, for the record, has not quite responded to the dog allegations, although he does say: "It was mangy. It was going to attack."
Sort of like Mitt?

Monday, December 17, 2007

Gentlemen, Cock Your Pistols

Former Nebraska Senator Bob Kerrey endorsed Hillary Clinton yesterday but spent a good deal of time talking about Barack Obama's supposed Muslim religion, pointing out that his middle name is Hussein and that he has Muslim ancestors. This was supposed to be compliment to Barack and may actually have been--Kerry tends to march to the beat of a different drummer--but coupled with another bit of news coming out of Nashville leads me to wonder why Barack doesn't just challenge all those making such sweet comments about his drug use and supposed religion to a duel?
Duels have long ago disappeared from American politics, but the threat of them once continually hung over political discourse in the late 18th, early 19th centuries. In Nashville, they are looking for the body of Charles Dickinson, who was killed by Andrew Jackson in a duel. This in 1806, in a dispute over horse racing, well before Jackson first became president in 1828, but in the 1828 contest against John Quincy Adams Jackson was charged with having fought literally hundreds of duels--in reality, Jackson fought at least two, killing only one man, Dickinson, whose own bullet nearly pierced Jackson's heart. Jackson also carried a bullet in his shoulder from a shoot-out with Senator Thomas Hart Benton in a Nashville hotel in 1813, but that was less an official duel than spur-of-the-moment bang-bang.
But having the reputation of being willing to challenge someone to a duel was certainly a valuable thing for Jackson or any politician. Actually, one of the funnier dueling moments stemming from a presidential election took place in 1826. In April of that year, the hot-tempered Virginian Senator John Randolph made a speech on the Senate floor accusing Henry Clay of throwing the contentious 1824 presidential contest (so close it was decided in the House of Representatives) to John Quincy Adams—specifically, he called him a “blackleg,” slang for a cheating gambler. This was too much for Clay, who challenged Randolph to a duel.
The two met early in the morning at a deserted spot along the Potomac. They took their positions, backed up by seconds who included the aforementioned Senator Thomas Hart Benton, but a comedy of errors ensued. First, Randolph accidentally discharged his gun and had to be given another one. Then both men shot, and missed. They reloaded and Clay fired. His bullet pierced Randolph’s coat without hurting him. Randolph paused a moment, then turned – and deliberately fired his pistol straight up in the air.
“I do not fire at you, Mr. Clay,” he said, and the two men shook hands and were thereafter friendly acquaintances. Senator Benton dryly remarked that it was “about the last high-toned duel” he ever saw.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Hey, I'm Really Sorry

Tis the season of forgiveness....all these apologies going on. Mike is apologizing to Mitt for saying that Satan and Jesus are bros in the Mormon religion, Hillary apologizes for Obama for comments made by her campaign chairman in New Hampshire about Obama's youthful drug use. I have to say, back in the good ol' days, no candidate would have thought about apologizing to another. Do you really think Teddy Roosevelt would say "sorry" for calling William Howard Taft "a fathead with the brains of a guinea pig." Roosevelt could be a pretty nasty guy. He also called William Jennings Bryan "a kindly man and well-meaning in a weak way...but he is the cheapest fakir we have ever proposed for president." And he suggested, when rumors arose during the 1912 contest that Woodrow Wilson had had an affair: "You can't cast a man as Romeo who looks and acts so much like an apothecary clerk."
Now, those are insults,guys. And none of this wishy-washy, hypocritical "I'm sorry" either....

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Altered Candidates

Well, nice to see the "Drug Smear" rearing its ugly head in 2008--I had been expecting it, but perhaps not this soon. The Daily Kos reports that Billy Shaheen, co-chair of Hillary Clinton's campaign in New Hampshire, recently "pondered" Barack Obama's supposed drug use, saying, usefully, that Obama's mention of his drug use in high school gives "so many openings for Republican dirty tricks. It's hard to overcome."
Uh-huh. And how about Democratic dirty tricks, Billy? His is a classic intraparty smear job, as the Kos points out, posing as "concern" for Obama,but really leaving the impression in reader's minds that a)Obama was a really big druggie and b)he is now a vulnerable candidate.
This is Cheap Shot 101 and--naturally--I mention it in my book as one of my Top Ten Classic Attacks in Presidential Elections. It's Number 2: "You're Drunk All The Time!"
Charges of inebriation have been leveled at candidates throughout American history. In 1852, the admittedly hard-boozing Franklin Pierce was called "the hero of many a well-fought bottle." Ulysses S. Grant, a "soak" in the parlance of the day, got his share of it too, with this little ditty sung by Democratic voters:
"I am Captain Grant of the Black Marines
The stupidest man that ever was seen.
I smoke my weed and drink my gin
Paying with the people's tin."

(The weed here is tobacco and the Black Marines referred to Grant's supposed support of Reconstruction efforts in the South.) Okay, so maybe Grant and Pierce did drink a bit, but Rutherford B. Hayes, in 1876, was called a souse and the guy was a teetotaler. In 1896, William Jennings Bryan was accused of being a drunk. He wasn't but he did enjoy relaxing rubdowns with gin, which may have led to that impression. Al Smith, who openly supported repeal of Prohibition was branded a lush who would install a bootlegger in his cabinet. And all the guy did was have a martini before dinner. Etc. Etc. It's just surprising any candidate thinks this type of thing will work, short of video of the supposed drug or alcohol abuser falling down and vomiting during a press conference. Certainly, it didn't work with Bill Clinton, who was able to get away with the hilarious statement that he "didn't inhale" and it didn't work with George W. Bush who, of recent candidates, was probably the hardest partier of them all back in the day.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

"Yo, Jesus! It's the Devil! Pick up, bro!"

Only twenty more days until Christmas and, no, I'm not miscounting. I'm talking about January 3, in Iowa, where, it now appears, almost anything can happen. My stocking overfloweth with discord and strife. Hillary, it is rumored (and of course it would be rumored) now has Bill working to bail her out of her downward slide ever since the Philadelphia debate last month. Obama, of course, has Oprah on his side--but will this backfire?
On the Republican side, there is Mike Huckabee, the Comeback Kid. One of the scariest things about Huckabee, as the New York Times reports, is his avowed love of Tim LaHaye's "Left Behind" series of novels, Christian screeds about the end of the world and the Resurrection. One wonders whether or not Huckabee can endorse a "novelist" of this stripe and win the general election. And Huckabee is also quoted as saying 'Don't Mormons believe that Jesus and the Devil are partners?" Whew -- up close, this guy is not quite so folksy and charming. I consider Mitt Romney a bit of a stiff, but it is strange that Huckabee takes this line with him. Tim La Haye's books are far scarier than anything they could dream up in Salt Lake City. But that's America for you. And. after all, eternal salvation and eternal damnation have always had their place in presidential politics. In 1960, ex-president Harry Truman firmly told voters that they "might go to hell" if they voted for Richard Nixon. And you know--he was sort of right.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Smear Your Favorite Candidate

Usually political professionals are the ones who get to really dirty up the opposing candidate in presidential contests, but now you, too, can have your chance, and right from the privacy of your own home. Yesterday, my eight-year-old daughter Carson introduced me to the computer game "Presidential Paintball," which you can find on miniclips.com, the game site that is all the rage among the eight-year-old set. Presidential Paintball features Rudy, Mitt and John McCain vs. Hillary, Obama, and John Edwards in vicious paintball wars. Just pick your candidate and start firing.Carson's thoughts: "Hillary is a terrible player. Mitt is good. John McCain is way too slow."
Actually, Rudy seems the fastest, especially when firing at Hillary--he knocks her off before she can even began to press "R" for reload.
Anyway, try it out. Presidential Paintball is the most fun I've had since playing my Watergate board game--yes, I have a vintage edition of one--way back in the seventies.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Forget about Mitt -- How About That Gennifer?

I was going to blog today about Mitt Romney and his supposedly landmark speech on religion, but, in my humble opinion, it turned into such a bust, such a political toeing-of-the-line--as compared to JFK's talk to the Southern Baptist ministers years ago, where the guy basically told them a)he wasn't controlled by the Pope and b) religion had nothing to do with running for President. Romney told his carefully assembled audience (JFK's group was a highly skeptical one) that since the Founders had written religion into government, who was he to change that?
Well, yeah--they also wrote in a ridiculous electoral college voting system and many of them kept slaves and George Washington hated to shake hands, preferring to bow. Mitt should start bowing on the campaign trail--George did.
Well, enough. I much prefer yesterday's Huffington Post interview with Gennifer Flowers, who was at the scandalous epicenter of Bill Clinton's run for the presidency in 1992. Flowers, today, as then, a chanteuse--she is currently working in a revue called "Bottom's Up!" in Vegas--opines that she might vote for Hillary. ("I can't help but want to support my own gender, and she's as experienced as any of the others, except maybe Joe Biden.")
We have yet to have any real sexual scandal in the 2008 race--we may get into it a bit more with Rudy G. and his "trysts" with Judy Nathan on New York city's bill while he was married to Donna Hanover. But, so far, nothing like 1992.
After getting a strong start in the primaries, Clinton's candidacy had nearly collapsed in New Hampshire after numerous revelations about his womanizing.
Gossip had swirled around Clinton in this regard for years. An Arkansas State trooper who was part of Clinton’s bodyguard swore he had heard Hillary yell one night: “I need to be fucked more than twice a year!” Republicans sleaze-meisters whispered that Clinton had had a child with a black woman. In 1990, a lawsuit (later dismissed) had been filed by a disgruntled Arkansas state employee claiming that Clinton had had relationships with five different women. Other rumors accused him of rape and of feeling up a woman in the bathroom at his own wedding.
The only sexual misconduct charge that was to stick to Clinton for the moment was that he had had an affair with singer and former Arkansas state employee Flowers of whom he reportedly said, “She could suck a mole through a garden hose.” After the “smoking bimbo” revelation in the Star tabloid—Gennifer had taped phone conversations with Clinton—the Arkansas Governor was met at every campaign stop by what his staff called “the clusterfuck:” a semi-circle of reporters with microphones shouting leading questions at him.”
But Clinton, appearing on the television news show “Sixty Minutes” with Hillary, admitted only that he caused “pain in my marriage” and thus managed to escape unscathed—as he was to do on the issues of smoking marijuana (incredibly, he said he “didn’t inhale”) and draft-dodging back in the sixties (“dodge” was perhaps too strong a word, but he had avoided military service until he lucked into a high draft lottery number).
So Clinton was indeed the Comeback Kid, although to Republicans he was “Slick Willie.” They hated him passionately and almost hysterically, the way Democrats loathed Richard Nixon. One wealthy Republican businessman in Chicago spent 40,000 dollars at the beginning of the campaign unsuccessfully digging for dirt that would torpedo Clinton. It did little good—Clinton jumped out to 13 point lead in the polls after Labor Day. Desperate Republicans strategists even asked two aides to Great Britain Prime Minister John Major, who had won despite a weak economy and poor personal ratings, for advice. (Their only suggestion, which was not taken, was to plaster pictures of Gennifer Flowers on huge billboards all over the country above the words AND NOW HE WANTS TO SCREW THE COUNTRY, TOO.)
And now Hillary is running for President. And Gennifer might vote for her. What a wonderful country we live in.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

It's Getting to feel a lot like Christmas

...if you love dirty political campaigning that is. I mean, here we have the old Muslim Obama slur rearing its ugly head again as well as Mike Huckabee, now that he thinks he actually has a shot at things, refusing to answer a question as to whether or not Mormonism is a cult. Loaded question, to be sure, but, hey Mike, you're supposed to be the "non-politician" in the bunch.
And speaking of Mormons, I can't wait to see what Mitt has to tell us this morning re his religion. Many pundits are recalling JFK's famous speech during the 1960 campaign, in which Kennedy went to Houston to personally address a prominent group of Protestant ministers and convincingly deny that he had any “allegiance” to the Pope. But Mitt's situation is a trifle different. For one thing, he says he will not address the issue of Mormonism head on. For another, he is the first Mormon to run for President--to some extent, Kennedy's way was made smoother by the campaign of Al Smith in 1928. Smith, the very first Catholic to run, was treated abominably by the Republicans and many people alive in 1960 had clear memories of this. Secondly, even more than Catholicism in 1928 or 1960, Mormonism has tons of superstition and prejudice associated with it--hey, it's a cult run by polygamists and all those young white guys in shirts and ties, right?
Don' know if Mitt has the dexterity to defuse this issue, especially since early excerpts of his speech don't really address it. He seems to be sticking to the high road, but let's watch and see....

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Greatest Campaign Commercial of All Time

As I mentioned the other day, there have been some truly classic presidential campaign attack ads out there -- 1988 featured "Revolving Door" and "Tank," but there probably has been none so completely effective as "Daisy," used by Lyndon Johnson's campaign in 1964. Daisy did not, once, mention Barry Goldwater by name, but it didn't need to. Everyone who saw this alarmist nuclear era smear knew just who was being talked about.
On September 7, 1964, during NBC’s top-rated “Monday Night at the Movies,’ viewers were treated to a lovely shot of a little blonde girl walking through a field. She stops to pick up a daisy, and begins pulling the petals off and counting in a high, innocent voice, “1...2…3...4," charmingly getting her numbers wrong. At the same time, a military voice begins a count down: “10…9…8…7…6” At the counting reaches zero, the little girl looks up, startled. You stare into her frozen face and…a huge mushroom cloud explodes, filling the screen. Over the mushroom cloud, Lyndon Johnson’s voices says. “There are the stakes. To make a world in which all of God’s children can live, or to go into the dark. We must love each other or we must die.”
Produced by Doyle Dane Bernbach, the ad aired only once—one paid appearance, that is. To the delight of the Democrats, newscasts continuously replayed the spot in its entirety, driving home the message and give free exposure. The more the Republicans screamed, the worse it was.
You can watch it here, courtesy of YouTube. You absolutely can't take your eyes off it.
Also, I want to throw in a plug here for another classic campaign commercial, Ronald Reagan's 1984 "Morning in America" bit. Not an attack ad per se, but a glorious bit of whitebread propaganda which is quite hilarious to watch--at one point, Reagan takes credit for the fact that "6500 young Americans" will be married in a single day. (No mention that half of them would be divorced within ten years.)

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

December Surprise

Yes, Rudy, Mitt, Mike, Fred--there is a Santa Claus! Some might think it a little early to be handing out Get Out of the Doldrums Free Cards, but I love the way this news about Iran's halting its nuclear arms program as far back as 2003 is shaking out. While certain pundits say that it makes the Bush Administration seem a little, well, foolish--a few weeks ago, they were pounding the podium and calling for war--I would agree that this is a gift to Republican candidates just before the crucial winter primary season begins.
After all, they now no longer have to defend an Administration which is already in one unpopular war and had seemed interested in entering into another one. If Republicans want, they can attack the intelligence community's vicissitudes, but they don't have the Bush war-monger anchor around their necks, particularly since the surge in Iraq appears to be calming the waters there. In my mind, this is really a devilishly clever move--has Karl Rove moved back in?-- which will improve the chances of whatever Republican makes it to the top after the bloody mauling of Iowa, New Hampshire and Super-Duper Tuesday.
More on that famous attack commercial I promised you yesterday in a few hours....

Monday, December 3, 2007

Going Negative

Now as we are just one month away from the Iowa caucus, presidential races on both sides of the political spectrum are tightening incredibly with half of Iowan voters saying they could change their minds at any moment. Expect attack ads in that state and in New Hampshire to reach a frenzied peak in the next few weeks. Remember, while most people say that they dislike attack ads, they also work quite well, leaving an indelible impression in the viewer's mind.
It's also important to note that there is a difference between attack ads, and releasing negative information about your opponent. The latter is part of what democracy is all about and may even have a legitimate value. We probably did need to know, in 1972, that George McGovern's vice-presidential running mate, Senator Thomas Eagleton, had had shock treatments and been treated for alcoholism, although certainly the intent in releasing the info was to smear the poor bastard. (Anyone remember how McGovern was behind Eagleton "1000%" and then dumped him, pronto?)
But most real attack ads are alarmist in nature, distorting the truth and intending to scare and anger the viewer. The 1988 George Bush-Michael Dukakis contest was famous for its attack ads. Bush campaign manager Lee Atwater, media advisor Roger Ailes, and political pro Ed Rollins pursued a strategy of “raising the negatives” by churning out commercials attacking Dukakis for being too liberal on drugs and crime and too much of a girly-man on defense. When he was dying young of a brain tumor a few years after the campaign, Lee Atwater apologized for only one thing: his vow to “make Willie Horton Michael Dukakis’s running mate.”
Horton was a 39-year-old black convict who, during Dukakis’s tenure as governor, had taken part in a weekend furlough program in Massachusetts. Instead of returning to prison, however, Horton fled to Maryland, where he raped a white woman and stabbed her white fiancĂ©e. The colors matter here, because the Republicans were about to make the most racist series of attacks in modern American electioneering history.
To begin with, Republicans renamed Horton. In actuality, his name was not Willie, but William. He was known to his mother, family, friends, enemies, cops and parole officers as William. Newspaper accounts of his crimes referred to him as William. And yet the Republican attack ads called him “Willie.”
What kind of attack ads?
A few samples:
•“Get Out of Jail Free Card”
Modeled after the Monopoly card and distributed to 400,000 Texas voters, this tiny mailbox stuffer read: “Michael Dukakis is the killer’s best friend and the decent honest citizen’s worst enemy.”
• “Pro-Family Letter”
This was the Maryland Republican party fund-raising letter which coupled pictures of Willie Horton and Michael Dukakis over the headline: “Is This Your Pro-Family Team for 1988?”
But the most notorious one--and here it is, courtesy of YouTube--was the infamous "Revolving Door" commercial. This stark black and white TV spot showed convicts marching through a turnstile into jail and immediately back out again. No matter that the “convicts” were out-of-work Republicans instructed not to shave for the day. The point had been made.
Things go so bad that the Bush campaign claimed in an ad that Chicago mass murderer John Wayne Gacy would be released on furlough if Michael Dukakis were elected. Even the serial killer clown was offended. Gacy dispatched an angry missive from prison: “It is an insult to the voting public that [Republicans are] exploiting the name of John Wayne Gacy to scare people into voting for George Bush.”
Tomorrow: the most famous attack ad of all time.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Fictional Characters

I have to say that the Republican YouTube debate last night was much more fun than any I've watched so for for either party. How lovely when you have a retired general outing himself nationally to question treatment of gays and lesbians in the military, Rudy Giuliani accusing Mitt Romney of living in a "sanctuary mansion," the resurgent Mike Huckabee claiming that Hillary Clinton should be sent on "the first rocket to Mars," and John McCain, increasingly recovering his old form, coming out strongly against the torture known as "waterboarding," jabbing away at Mitt Romney's refusal to identify it as such. "Life is not 24 and Jack Bauer," McCain said.
Exactly--but so many people, including politicians, mistake television for reality. This happened, some of you may remember, back in 1992, as George Bush fought Bill Clinton for the presidency. Vice-President J. Danforth Quayle--and how some of us miss him!--searching for an issue, hit upon the idea of going after the quite popular "Murphy Brown Show." In the show, Brown (played by actress Candace Bergen) was an anchorwoman who had decided to give birth to a child out of wedlock. Quayle thundered that bearing a child alone “mocks the importance of fathers” and was an example of the “poverty of values” that afflicted television.
This was not a smart move, since even Republicans loved to watch "Murphy Brown" and because Quayle, weirdly, was acting like this sitcom character was actually a real person. White House staffers now decided that Quayle should actually change his tune and praise Murphy Brown for her courage in having the baby (rather than, say, an abortion). Bush saved Quayle from this humiliation, and the whole situation died when, in early June, the Vice-President visited a New Jersey elementary school and corrected student William Figueroa’s spelling of “potato,” claiming it was “potatoe.”
Wrong. But this new source of ridicule for Quayle sent the Murphy Brown controversy spiraling into the old news file.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Dueling Smears

The Washington Post blogged Anything for a Vote yesterday in discussing whether or not the 2008 campaign is getting dirtier. The answer is, as I've said below, yeah, a bit, we but haven't seen real mudslinging yet.
I talked later with a Christian Science Monitor reporter who mentioned the rumor that the Clinton campaign was holding back real dirt on Obama, waiting for the opportune moment to use it. This put me in mind of one of the most fascinating episodes in smear campaign history, during the election of 1940, when President Franklin Roosevelt and his Republican opponent Wendell Willkie both had great mud to throw at each other--but held back. Roosevelt had won by a landslide in 1936 over Alf Landon and was now going for an unprecedented third term, but he had stiff competition from Willkie, who was a former Democrat and a charismatic presence on the campaign trail.

The Great Republican Smear
Henry Wallace was Roosevelt’s Secretary of Agriculture and a good one, too, but this liberal politician had a dreamy, spiritual side. To the horror of President Roosevelt’s men, just after Wallace accepted the v-p nod, Republicans passed Roosevelt’s chief of staff Harry Hopkins photostats of letters written by Wallace to a strange Russian mystic named Nicholas Roerich, whom the Secretary of Agriculture had befriended. In one note Wallace wrote: “I must read Agny Yoga and sit by myself once in a while. We are dealing with the first crude beginnings of a new age. May the peace of the Great One descend upon you.”
Another letter to Roerich talked about current events in a weird code: “The rumor is the Monkeys are seeking friendship with the Rulers so as to divide the Land of the Masters between them. The Wandering One thinks this is very suspicious of the Monkeys.”
Translation: the Japanese (the Monkeys) wanted to divide Manchuria (the Land of the Masters, which the Japanese had invaded) with the British (the Rulers). And Roosevelt (the Wandering One) didn’t like it.
Supposedly the originals of these letters were being held by the treasurer of the Republican National Committee in a bank vault. Did the Democrats want people to know that a whack job like Wallace was only a heartbeat away from the presidency? This alarmed the Democrats greatly, but oddly enough, at Wendell Willkie’s personal order, these letters were never used.

Was this because of…

The Great Democratic Smear
Roosevelt knew that the married Wendell Willkie had a mistress in New York, a writer and editor named Irita Van Doren, former wife of Carl Van Doren (uncle to Charles Van Doren of 1950s quiz show notoriety). As it turned out, Irita—whom Roosevelt referred to as “an extremely attractive little tart”—used to be the mistress of Jimmy Walker, flamboyant New York mayor. This liaison outraged Walker’s wife so much that Jimmy was forced to pay her $10,000 dollars each time she made a personal appearance with him.
Roosevelt wondered humorously to aides if Willkie’s wife had to be hired in the same fashion to smile at the press during campaign stops. Perhaps the story of Willkie’s girlfriend should be spread?
There is no direct knowledge of communications between Roosevelt and Willkie, but, interestingly enough, neither smear story became public knowledge during the campaign. Two wrongs may not make a right, but they can sometimes constitute a pair of gunslingers staring at each other down Main Street, each afraid to reach for his gun.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Not looking terribly snippy

Did you see the picture of Bush and Gore posing together in the Oval Office during the President's obligatory photo op with the Nobel Prize winners yesterday? Were there ever two more uncomfortable men?
A picture worth well over a thousand words, but I'll only provide a few. The telephone conversation below took place in the wee hours of the morning on the day after Election Day, 2000. Gore is in Nashville, Bush in Texas. Gore, if you will remember, had conceded the election to Bush when he received the erroneous information that Florida had gone to the Republican. Now he is calling to un-concede.
Gore: “Circumstances have changed dramatically. The state of Florida is too close to call.”
Bush: “Let me make sure I understand. You’re calling me back to retract that concession?”
Gore: You don’t have to be snippy about it.”
(Bush then explains that his “little brother,” Jeb Bush, Florida governor, has assured him of victory.)
Gore: “Let me explain something. Your little brother is not the ultimate authority on this.”
Bush: “You do what you have to do.”
Ah, brings it all back, doesn't?

Monday, November 26, 2007

1876 And All That

Had a great conversation on radio yesterday AM with John Rothmann of station WKGBO-AM in San Francisco. We ranged far and wide over dirty American presidential elections, devoting special time to 1800, 1824, and 1876. The latter leads my Top Ten list of nasty presidential battles and is "the most stolen" election of any of the stolen presidential contests.
The above cartoon, by the famous Harper's Weekly cartoonist Thomas Nast, shows the victorious but battered GOP elephant sitting at the grave of the Democrats, bemoaning: "Another victory like this and I am undone."
In 1876, Ulysses S. Grant was hungered for a third term, but the stench of scandal and cronyism hung so heavy over his administration that Republicans finally said no mas. Instead, in their convention in Cincinnati in mid-June, they chose Rutherford B. Hayes, Governor of Ohio, who would run on a platform holding elected officials to rigid standards of probity and responsibility. No one ever claimed the 53-year-old Hayes, was the most fascinating guy in the world. But he was a former Congressman and honest-to-goodness Civil War hero (four times wounded), the happily married father of seven, and just about as hard working and sincere as a politician can get and still be a politician. His running mate would be New York Congressman William Wheeler
1876 found the Democratic Party desperate for a presidential victory—after all, they hadn’t won in 16 years—and certain they could take advantage of a Republican party weakened by the series of corruption scandals that had rocked the Grant administration. They picked as their nominee Samuel J. Tilden, Governor of New York. Tilden was the Rudy Giuliani of his age–as a crusading Manhattan DA he had smashed Boss Tweed’s powerful ring of corruption and sent the Boss himself to prison. Tilden was brilliant, but you wouldn’t want him kissing your baby. He was an icy, aloof bachelor, whose penetrating intellect made even his friends uncomfortable, and who was prone to bouts of ill health. And when wasn’t really sick, he was imagining he was—he comes down in history as a man with intense hypochondria who once saw a doctor every day for a month. To make matters worse, he had taken no part in the Civil War—in fact, he had amassed millions from his railroad and iron mines during the conflict. His v-p would be the Indianan Thomas Hendricks.
Although the candidates were still not making public appearances, their political machines were percolating. Tilden began a public relations campaign to overcome his cold fish image. Hiring editors, writers and artists, he set up a “Newspaper Popularity Bureau” whose sole purpose was to manufacture a warm, loveable Samuel J. Tilden and sell him through press releases to newspapers all over the country. As the election heated up, he created a so-called “Literary Bureau,” in which teams of writers churned out anti-Hayes material, including a 750-page book which attacked Hayes for supposedly stealing money from Confederate war dead and for being a party to Grantian scandals—“wicked schemes for peculation.”
In all honesty, though, Tilden’s dirty tricks couldn’t hold a candle to those of Zachariah Chandler, the bewhiskered, bejeweled and often besotted Republican National Chairman who was also Hayes’ campaign manager. It all began with a fundraising letter sent by Chandler to Republican appointees currently holding office: “We look to you as one of the Federal beneficiaries to help bear the burden. Two percent of your salary is___. Please remit promptly. At the close of the campaign, we shall place a list of those who have not paid in the hands of the head of the department you are now in.”
After threatening his own party members, Chandler turned on Tilden, accusing him of everything from sympathizing with slaveholders to having a scheme to pay off the Confederate debt if he took office.
Naturally, the Democrats were not idle while all of this was going on—in fact, their smear campaigns showed a great deal of creativity. They accused Hayes, a genuine Civil War hero, of literally robbing the dead—of stealing 400 dollars from a Union solder executed for desertion. (Strangely enough, Hayes actually did take the money before the man was shot, but only to pass it on to his family members—a fact Hayes was unable to prove until after the election.)
But dirty tricks doesn’t even began to describe what both parties did in the South. The Republicans–the party of the Great Emancipator, Abraham Lincoln—wanted freed blacks to vote and thus prodded many of them to the ballot boxes at gunpoint. And the Democrats, particularly in South Carolina, started violent race riots, in some cases shooting and killing blacks who attempted to exercise their franchise. On both sides, men voted ten or twenty times, and local party bosses stood by ballot boxes, tearing up any votes for the “wrong candidate.”
In the end, however, it seems incontrovertible that Tilden won the popular vote by 250,000 (out of a total of 8,320,000 votes cast). But here the Republican political machine got to work, essentially demanding that the "returning boards" (those men who tabulated the electoral votes in each state) in Florida, South Carolina and Louisiana "hold their state" for the Republican candidate. The struggle over the twenty remaining electoral votes lasted from November 8th to March 2nd, 1877. The returning boards simply threw out enough Democratic votes to swing Florida, Louisiana and South Carolina to Hayes. Democrats cried foul. Officials of both parties flocked to the South and President Grant sent Federal troops, just in case. In the end, an Electoral Commission was established, consisting of 5 U.S. Senators, 5 Congressmen, and 5 Supreme Court Justices, all of whom split evenly along party lines. With the Commission tied at 7-7, the Supreme Court Justice who had the deciding vote resigned—and a Republican justice took his place. Hayes was voted into office with 185 electoral votes to Tilden’s 184.
. In the end, fittingly enough, this dirtiest of all 19th century elections finished with a secret dirty deal. Southern Democrats promised not to contest the Election Commission’s results if Hayes, once in office, would pull Federal troops out of the South and appoint at least one Southerner to his cabinet. Reconstruction collapsed—and the future of civil rights was set back for decades—but Hayes was awarded the presidency. March 4th, 1877, was Rutherford Hayes inauguration day, but things had become so heated—someone had already fired a shot through the window of Hayes’ home—that he had to be secretly sworn in.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

A lovely Turkey Day battle

Isn't it wonderful--well, I think it is, anyway--to be in the middle of an increasingly fractious presidential contest on Thanksgiving Day? To have dirty politics to entertain us as well as football. I mean, here we are, just beginning our great American electoral dinner--the food is barely set out on the table--and Obama and Hillary, napkins tucked around their necks, are really starting to duke it out. Who does she think she is, Treasury Secretary? Obama says. And what about all that secret dirt she supposedly has on me? And Hillary jabs right back, what, does Obama really think living in a foreign country at age 10 gives him a presidential perspective? While these two fight, the middle child, John Edwards, sneaks in his own digs from the other side of the table: "Now we know what Senator Clinton meant when she talked about 'throwing mud' in the last debate," his spokesman said yesterday."Like so many other things, when it comes to mud, Hillary Clinton says one thing and throws another."
And Iowa is still seven weeks away. Just think what Christmas will be like!

Monday, November 19, 2007

Thank you, Caspar

As a quick addendum to the below, its nice to see that John Edwards agrees with me re Hillary's sensitivity to some of the very mild mudslinging going on in the campaign so far. On CBS's "Face the Nation" yesterday, Edwards said: "If anybody, including Sen. Clinton, thinks this is mudslinging - this is milquetoast, compared to what we're going to see next fall.''
You go, John. The Edwards campaign, if will be remembered by intrepid readers of this blog, was the only one to acknowledge receipt of Anything for a Vote. Although he just sort of generally thanked me for my "support," I have a feeling he's been dipping into it. And to use a word like "milquetoast," even if somewhat incorrectly ("milquetoast" comes from a 1920s cartoon featuring a meek and mild character named Caspar Milquetoast and is not generally used as an object) adds the crowning touch. Milquetoast? Just wait until the milquetoast really hits the fan and Hillary--and John and all the rest-- will need as much asbestos as they can get their hands on.

Asbestos and lace

Spoke with Lewis Lapham on Bloomberg Radio show The World in Time yesterday (it also went out on Sirius, XM and WorldSpace Satellite. If you missed it and have any interest, you can find it on Lapham's site (laphamsquarterly.com).
It was nice to talk to Lewis Lapham, former Harper's editor and, since 2006, host of his weekly radio show and editor of Lapham's Quarterly. We are in agreement, I think, that people get a little too hysterical over some of the "dirty" politics currently being played as candidates jostle for position in the run-up to Iowa, New Hampshire, and Mega Tuesday. Hillary's claiming during the debate last Thursday that she needed an asbestos pantsuit to ward off attacks from her fellow Democrats is quite hilarious. She ain't seen nothing yet--that asbestos will soon have to change to chain mail. But if we're psychoanalyzing her I find it quite interesting that she felt she had to protect herself from toxic attacks with one of the most toxic substances around--I'm not talking here about pantsuits, which are pretty toxic, but asbestos. Check out http://www.scrappleface.com/?p=2781 for some amusing comments on this...

Friday, November 16, 2007

Does Carville really look like a Republican?

I had to laugh at the tempest in a teapot today over James Carville's commenting on CNN after last night's Democratic debate without being id'd as a former Bill Clinton advisor. Even if you didn't know this--and in fact, many people do--you'd have to live in a cave not to know that he is, at the least, a rabid Democrat. It does, however, remind me a little of Gary Will, back in 1980, who actually coached Ronald Reagan for his debate with Jimmy Carter and then went on “Nightline” the same evening, without mentioning his behind-the-scenes participation, and praised Reagan’s “thoroughbred performance.” Although he defended himself at the time, Will now says his role was “inappropriate.” (However, he did not steal Jimmy Carter's top-secret debate briefing book, which Carter as recently as a few years ago claimed Will had done. That it was stolen and given to the Reagan campaign to help the Gipper prepare is indisputable, but the culprit has yet to be convincingly identified.)

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Immigration, again....

Nothing like issue of illegal immigration to get people worked up. Today's NY Times poll taken with Democratic and Republican voters in Iowa and New Hampshire find that the topic is of serious concern to 86% of GOP'ers and 59% of Democrats, giving Iraq a nudge out of the way. Newspapers today also report that Governor Eliot Spitzer of New York will abandon his plan to issue driver's licenses to illegal immigrants, citing strong opposition.
With Hillary's lead a bit unstable (after her own immigration wibble-wobble) and neither Mitt and Rudy pulling away to a clear cut lead in the early Iowa and New Hampshire going, illegal aliens is an issue that could be a deal-breaker for most voters.
It certainly was on October 20, 1880, as James Garfield was locked in a tight election race with Winfield Hancock. In what is probably the first recorded October Surprise, a newspaper improbably called The New York Truth printed a letter purportedly written by Garfield to an H.L. Morey of the Employers Union of Lynn, Massachusetts. In it Garfield wrote that the “Chinese problem” (i.e. the fears of whites in the West that Chinese immigrants would take jobs from them) was not a problem at all, and that employers had the right “to buy labor where they can get it the cheapest.”
This struck terror into those who had been trying to keep the Chinese out of America, particularly Californians. Garfield, who had spent mot of his campaign sidestepping this delicate issue, certainly did not write “the Morey letter,” and was very convincingly able to refute it—investigation showed that there was no Morey and no Lynn, Massachusetts, Employers Union, either. The letter was traced, in fact, to the hand of one Kenward Philp, a Truth journalist who was later arrested and indicted for fraud.
Despite the fact that Garfield was able to prove his innocence, the Morey letter hurt him. It caused him to lose California, which almost caused him to lose the close election of 1880.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Freakonomics meets Anything for a Vote

Thanks to the New York Times Freakonomics site for featuring a Q&A yesterday with yours truly concerning presidential election matters foul and fair (well, mostly foul). Had the usual trail of posted comments following the interview, some quite interesting, some just...weird, like the guy who apparently felt that Lyndon Johnson's sending a CIA agent to infiltrate Barry Goldwater's campaign and steal his policy speeches was not an egregious abuse of presidential power.
Oh well, that's what makes the world such an interesting place. And speaking of Presidential power, I have been meaning for some time to remember to place a link here to one of my favorite sites, which is http://www.millercenter.virginia.edu/academic/presidentialrecordings/
Here you can find private recordings of presidents from Roosevelt to Nixon, from back in the days when these boys were foolish enough to keep tape running while they went about their daily business. The interface on the site is great -- you can listen to Lyndon Johnson, for instance, browbeating a representative of the Haggar pants company into sending him five new pairs of pants for free, or hear JFK call up his doctor and ask for "one of those little blue pills." It was helpful in my research for Anything for a Vote. More than that, it is simply fascinating to hear our presidents, live and in person, making decisions big and small.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

One year and counting...

Welcome to the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November--Election Day locally this year. It is, at least in my locale of northeastern New Jersey, a typical November election morning--grey, cool, and rainy.
After the popular vote came in in 1828, election day was up to states themselves, with balloting taking place anywhere from September to November, with results you might imagine--voting tallies leaking out, more chance to mess around with the totals. In 1845, the first national Election Day was set by Federal law. as the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November. It was a carefully chosen time. In America's mainly agrarian society, the harvest was finished, but winter had not yet set in and the roads were still passable. And having the day on Tuesday avoided people traveling long distances on the Sabbath. By 1880, most states had consolidated all their local senate and congressional offices on this day as well.
Well, I think I'll put on my slicker and head out and vote. Only one year from the Big Day and there is so much delicious nastiness left to come....

Monday, November 5, 2007

Lost Boys, Electric Bitters and Other Characters

While Rudy, Hillary, Mitt, Obama, John et al are certainly no slouches when it comes to possessing little foibles--there's John's 400 dollar haircut, Mitt's varmint hunting, Hillary's laugh, Rudy's hilarious recent prostate cancer ad, about as completely misleading as a political ad can be (and that's saying something).
But, being Mr. Nostalgia when it comes to the rough and tumble of American presidential campaigns, I still yearn for some of the forgotten presidential wanna-bes of old.
One of my favorites was the wonderfully named Champ Clark, Missouri Congressmen. In 1912, Champ was Democratic Speaker of the House and considered a very viable candidate for president against William Howard Taft. But Champ got it into his head to make a few extra bucks by shilling for a patent medicine company. His testimonial read, in part: "It seemed that all the organs in my body were out of order, but three bottles of Electric Bitters made me all right."
Champ became such a figure of ridicule that he was forced to drop out of the race, leaving the field clear for the far more understated Woodrow Wilson.
Another favorite perennial was turn-of-the-century Temperance candidate Silas G. Swallow. Will they ever craft a name like that again? I have also always loved Stephen Douglas, Abe Lincoln's 1860 opponent, the diminutive "Little Giant" with a stentorian voice which seems to have sounded a good deal like that of the old cereal box icon Tony the Tiger. If you think candidates today waffle on subjects like Iraq or abortion, check out this statement from Douglas on slavery: "I am for the negro against the crocodile, but for the white man against the negro." Nice. Douglas was also one of the first candidates to actually take to the campaign trail. Since it was not considered quite couth for presidential nominees to do their own shilling in those days, he hit upon the stratagem of claiming that that he was merely wending his way to upstate New York to visit his dear old mother, and paying a few visits to friends along the way. This caused gleeful Republicans to put out a "Lost Boy" poster: "Left Washington D.C. some time ago to go home to his mother., who is very anxious about him...last seen at a clambake in Rhode Island. Answers to the name of Little Giant. Talks a great deal, always very loud, always about himself."

Friday, October 26, 2007

The James Callender Award

Thanks to the Daily Kos for writing up Anything for a Vote yesterday in a very amusing way--they imagined a world in which Rudy Giuliani (or any of the other 2008 candidates, for that matter) was subjected to some of the outrageous invective 19th century candidates (or their minions) hurled at each other.
The Kos mentions the election of 1800, only the fourth in our history and one of the absolute nastiest, featuring the Federalist John Adams running against his own vice-president, the Republican Thomas Jefferson. As I describe in the book, Jefferson secretly hired a most fascinating sub-figure in American history, the writer James Callender, to pen broadsides against Adams. Callender set at it with a will, describing Adams as a "repulsive pedant" and--and I really love this one--"a hideous hermaphroditical character which has neither the force and firmness of a man, nor the gentleness and sensibility of a woman." (Note that well-placed "which.")
This got Callender thrown in the slammer for nine months under the Alien and Sedition Act, a controversial law, passed during tensions over a possible war with Great Britain, which jailed anyone criticizing the government or president (the same fate occurred to a New Jersey tavern patron who opined one night that Adams had a fat ass). Callender made a convenient martyr for the Republicans, who went on to win the first election every thrown into the House of Representatives.
But my interest today is Callender himself. He was born in Scotland in 1758 and began his working life as a government clerk. But passionate invective from behind the scenes was his true calling. Pamphlets he wrote attacking political corruption were actually financed by brewers who resented high excise taxes. Callender was exposed and forced to flee Scotland for America, where he settled down as a congressional reporter with a nose for scandal. While Callender languished in jail during the election of 1800, Thomas Jefferson became president and then--ain't it always the way?-- turned his back on the writer, who had visions of being rewarded with a political sinecure. Enraged, Callender, increasingly alcoholic, published pamphlets accusing the President, rightly as it turned out, of sleeping with slaves at Monticello. ("For many years[Jefferson] has kept, as his concubine, one of his slaves. Her name is Sally.")
About ten months after he penned this, Callender's body was found floating in the James River. Accident? Suicide? Murder? No one will ever know.
Some feel that James Callender was an early political poltergeist, a provocative writer bucking the repressive atmosphere of the times, a man jousting after the truth. In my opinion he was basically a scandalmonger. Not that there's anything wrong with it. He was an American first, however, the first in a long line of writers hired by politicos to do their dirty work for them, a line that reaches all the way to our present times, to those who set up websites devoted to slandering politicians and plant stories in newspapers. As I come across these smear artists in the next 12 months, I will bestow upon them the James Callender Award--okay, let's call it "The Jimmy"--for Undistinguished and Dishonorable Political Hackery. If anyone has any nominees, send them right over.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007


"The Buchanan Head Tilt"

Monday, October 22, 2007

Hang it all....

I want to thank Book Editor Jo-Ann Greene of the Lancaster County News for giving the book such a nice review yesterday (you can read it here.) She wrote "sure to be a hit with political junkies, maybe [Anything for a Vote] should be required reading for all political candidates."
I couldn't agree more heartily, Jo-Anne. As I have said below, we did send a copy of the book to all presidential candidates, but John Edwards was the only one who had the courtesy to reply, thanking us politely but rather generically for the gift and for our "support"--the latter, of course, we did not provide.
At the top of Greene's book review of Anything online is an ad for John McCain which, simply from the colors and typeface alone, I at first quick glance took for an advertisement for funeral parlor. I don't mean to keep writing John off (and he did well for himself yesterday at the Republican debate with his dig on the Woodstock Museum, a typical frivolous Democratic boondoggle of the type Republicans love to trot out) but his typefaces are monolithic.
One of the points Jo-Anne Greene brings out about the book--which also titillated Jimmy Malone and John Lanigan of the "Lanigan and Malone" Morning Show" WMJI, Independence, Ohio, with whom I spoke this AM-- was the story of James Buchanan, who became president in 1856. Buchanan was subject to some 19th century gay-bashing. He never married, and so was called "Aunt Nancy" by Andrew Jackson (his long-time roommate, Alabama Senator William Rufus King, was dubbed "Miss Fancy"). Henry Clay like to taunt Buchanan by getting right up in his face on the Senate floor and saying: "I wish I had a more lady-like manner of expressing myself."
Buchanan also had a congenital birth defect which caused his neck to tilt to the left (see photo above) thus causing supporters of his opponent (Republican John C. Fremont) to claim that the guy had tried to hang himself and failed--and would you want a man who couldn't even commit suicide right as your president?
Think about it....

Friday, October 19, 2007

Prejudice bests Principle in a Walkover....

In the Times today, Jennifer Steinhauer reports on John McCain and his sorry road to defeat in the South Carolina primary of 2000, something from which, I believe, he has never really regained his bearings. As I report in Anything for a Vote, it was quite sad to see this heroic American, tortured in North Vietnamese prison camps, laid low by thugs working for his own party.
As Steinhauer points out, it all began with McCain’s stunning 18-point primary win in New Hampshire that fateful winter, sending him to the South with quite reasonable expectations of becoming our next President. But then things got very deeply dark and nasty. In classic “push-polling,” Republican operatives telephoned would be voters to ask them: “Would you be more or less likely to vote for John McCain if you knew he had fathered an illegitimate black child?” (At that time, McCain and his wife had just adopted an orphaned Bangladeshi girl, their daughter Bridget.) Republicans are not the only ones to use push-polling—John F. Kennedy’s men employed it to good effect in 1960 when they asked voters, well after the issue of JFK’s Catholicism was defused, “Do you think they are going to keep Kennedy from becoming president just because he is Catholic?”—but the GOP has cornered the market on the race-baiting variety, which they employed in the 1988 Bush-Dukakis contest, and, most famously, in 1972. Then, minions of that dark prince of dirty tricks, Donald Segretti (whose name means “secret” in Italian) had rude black people call New Hampshire residents at ungodly hours, claiming that they had been bussed in from Harlem to work for Democratic contender Ed Muskie’s campaign.
There were other smears on McCain, as Steinhauer’s article details, with the end result being that he lost in South Carolina. You might not think so, but calling a man a homosexual, drug addict, and coward—even if the evidence plainly contradicts these allegations—works quite well. As Thomas Elder, a canny Whig politician of 1840, wrote to a friend in a eureka moment: “Passion and prejudice properly aroused and directed do about as well as principle and reason in any party contest.”
Actually, Elder was wrong—prejudice beats principle hands down, every time….

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Up Close and Personal

In an amusing New York Times piece today, former talk show host Dick Cavett describes spotting Richard Nixon at a Montauk restaurant many years ago, where the deposed president was dining with his daughter, Julie. Cavett actually grabbed a couple of menus and approached Nixon pretending to be a waiter, which prank Nixon suffered through with little response.
The whole time, however, Cavett was transfixed by Nixon’s famous ski slope-shaped nose, which Cavett describes as being as wide as "your first two fingers.” Apparently many people had this reaction to Nixon when seeing him for the first time close up—his proboscis was a thing of wonder, although on television it did not quite come across in such a striking fashion.
Television is wonderful (here I should hasten to thank Meg Oliver and the CBS “Up to the Minute” crew who were kind enough to have me on their show this morning talking about my book) but it mutes physicality, which often reveals character clues. I remember seeing Teddy Kennedy for the first time in person somewhere in New York in the 1970s and being struck by how brick-red his face was. Even earlier, working for Hubert Humphrey’s 1968 campaign while still a high school student in Detroit, I remember thinking that, in person, Humphrey was not nearly as grandmotherly or doughy looking as he came across on television—an altogether more forceful personality.
The advent of mass media (radio) in the 1920s changed presidential campaigning entirely. Now you didn’t have to show up at a rally to see your candidate; you could stay home and listen to him on the radio. This is one of the reasons why, in 1928, a very wooden Herbert Hoover—so dreadfully without personality that his handlers planted articles in newspapers with such titles as “That Man Hoover—He’s Human!”—was able to beat the effervescent New York Governor Al Smith. Hoover, on the radio, sounded great. But Al, waving his arms around, banging into the old-fashioned “pie” mike, saying “radeeo” for radio, and “foist” for first, sounded like a crazy guy, or a vaudevillian.
There is no substitute for seeing your candidate in person, which is what crowds in Iowa and New Hampshire get to do—fully one-quarter of Iowans, according to a recent poll, have actually pressed the flesh of the contenders vying for their vote. Would that we all could do the same. It must have been great, back in 1908, say, to see William Howard Taft and his running mate, James “Sunny Jim” Sherman on the same platform together—Taft weighed 330 pounds and Sherman 200, making them, pound for pound, the heaviest presidential ticket in history. Or to watch Samuel Tilden, the acerbic and hypochondriacal Democrat vying against Rutherford B. Hayes in the 1876 slugfest, try to kiss a baby—Tilden apparently scrunched up his face as if he had just eaten a lemon whenever presented with one of the little darlings. No sanitizing wipes then, of course.
Well, in the global village, television and the internet rule. But if you get a chance—go out and take a gander at some of your candidates. That little wisp of hair that sometimes sticks out from the side of Hillary’s coif may contain revelations.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

In the beginning....

Thirteen months to go, and even a Dirty Trick fans like myself can get a little weary of the barrage of political chicanery coming down the presidential line. When that happens, I like to go back to the very first time we tried this thing, in 1789.

“Welcome, mighty chief! Once more
Welcome to this mighty shore
Now no mercenary foe—
Aims at thee the fatal blow!”

--Ode to George Washington performed by thirteen girls (one for each of the new states) as Washington journeyed to his first inauguration

In the very beginning—before Mitt, Obama Hillary, John, Rudy et al—in the beginning, electing a president was a clean, sober and dignified business.
Before the first Presidential election, in 1789, Alexander Hamilton envisioned future candidates as men “most likely to possess the information and discernment requisite…to complicated investigations.” Those who chose such men would, by definition, be men of high seriousness and probity themselves—the kind of men who might pick a pastor for their church, or select the head of a new university.
And, the first time, it worked out pretty much that way.
In 1789, America had just been born—since the birth pains included a bloody and divisive war, a calming paternal figure was needed. The only one who really fit the bill was Commander-in-Chief George Washington, who was even then being called “the father of his country.”
Washington was not happy about being the anointed one. He was a genuinely reluctant leader who, at the age of 56, thought he was past his prime to undertake such a challenge (he told his future secretary of war Henry Knox: “My movement to the Chair of Government will be accompanied by feelings not unlike those of a culprit who is going to the place of his execution.”).
But Washington had chaired the Constitutional Convention, which met in Philadelphia in 1787 to create a coherent democratic governing system. His friends Alexander Hamilton and James Madison convinced him that America needed his presence—if only to make sure make sure that the gains of the Revolution did not disappear in factional in-fighting between state’s rights advocates and those who favored a strong central government.
Never mind that the General had some decidedly undemocratic ways about him—such as his habit of referring to himself in the third person and his refusal to shake hands (he preferred bowing). Washington was the man, all the way.
Not only was this presidential election the first in American history, but it was the quickest. Following rules set down in the newly ratified Constitution, each state chose its presidential electors in January, 1789 (all except for New York, which failed to appoint its allotted eight electors in time, and thus sat out this first election). There was no popular vote and there would not be one until 1828. With the first Electoral College thus constituted, the electors cast their votes for two different people—a point that would become extremely controversial in early American history. The man receiving the most votes would become President the person coming second in would be Vice-President.
During these winter months came the only hint of skullduggery in this first presidential election. The crafty Alexander Hamilton urged electors to “waste” their second votes, so that his rival John Adams—patriot and framer of the Declaration of Independence—would have absolutely no chance of becoming President.

This little bit of connivance was quite unnecessary, since Washington had everything sewn up from the beginning and walked away with all 69 electoral votes. The only effect it had was to royally piss Adams off and he would later complain about the “scurvy manner” in which he had been made vice-president.
It was a foreshadowing of things to come, but, for now, all was wonderful. Although a new government could not begin operation until April, instead of the early March date mandated in the Constitution—only a few senators and representatives had shown up when they were supposed to—Washington made his triumphal entry into New York, the nation’s temporary capital, on April 30, 1789. Thousands of spectators thronged the road that led from Mount Vernon, cheering and tossing flowers. Washington was ferried across the Hudson on a fifty-foot barge manned by thirteen white smocked sailors surrounded by a veritable flotilla of ships filled to the gunwales with celebrants who sang his praises to the spring skies.
In more ways than one, the election of 1789 was the smoothest sailing an American presidential candidate would ever have.

Friday, October 12, 2007

A Gore-geous Award

Woke up this AM thinking about Teddy Roosevelt -- I swear, this is true -- and then clicked on the computer to see that Al Gore has won the Nobel Peace Prize. Way to go, Al. It's hard to tell what affect this might have on Gore's chances to win the presidency, should he actually run. (With Hillary appearing so strong right now, there is far less chance that he will toss his hat into the ring.) Teddy R. was sitting President at the time that he won his Nobel Peace Prize in 1906, for brokering the Treaty of Portsmouth, which ended the Russo-Japanese War. Sort of hard to think of Teddy as a peaceful guy --on one safari he was personally responsible for killing nine lions, eight elephants, twenty zebras, seven giraffes and six buffaloes. Henry James, not a fan, called him "a monstrous embodiment of unprecedented and resounding noise."
In 1912, when Teddy became a third party candidate against William Howard Taft and Woodrow Wilson, he coined the phrase about throwing hats into the ring. (He also said: "The fight is on and I am stripped to the buff!" which I would give a year's royalties to hear a modern candidate proclaim.) Teddy didn't win but his Nobel didn't hurt him, probably because he was obviously a non-peaceful kind of guy, but if Gore runs, there is a chance, politics being what it is, that he will be caught in number one of my Ten Classic Smear Attacks in Presidential Elections: "You're Not Tough Enough!" (Its flip side being "You'll Drive Us Into War!").
Still, way to go, Al. You've come a long way from 2000. Al may not be the kind of guy who strips to the buff, he did give us this immortal exchange when he called George Bush up on election eve to tell him he wasn't going to concede, after all:

Bush: "Let me make sure I understand. You're calling me back to retract that concession?"
Gore: "You don't have to be snippy about it!"

Teddy would have been proud....

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Back to Debate 101

Well, the debate reviews are in. Fred Thompson knew who the Prime Minister of Canada is, Mitt Romney seems to feel consulting lawyers on national policy is the best way to run the government, and Rudy Giuliani loves Yankee manager Joe Torre. John McCain had the best line of the day. When asked the impertinent question, would he support the Republican candidate, he responded: "Of course, I would support me."
Boring stuff, though, in the main, with everyone doing his level best not to look or sound bad, but no one saying anything of note. There hasn't been an interesting candidate or presidential debate since 2004, when George Bush had that strange bulge in his back which many people (including a prominent NASA scientist) thought was a transmitter, but which the White House tried to claim was merely "a wrinkle in the fabric."
Given the general meaninglessness of these affairs, the extraordinary triumph of style over substance, it's my idea that debates should be staged like those described by Karen Houppert in a recent article in Washington Post Magazine. Called kritik, or performance debate, debaters use "rap, hip-hop, poetry and performance art to help make their points accessible and moving. ("Other cats spit raps about gats and staying strapped because that's all they got / focus on what's not / well, it's times like this / somebody should speak up and say it's ludicrous," high school senior Damien Poole rapped to the Baltimore judges during a debate about violence at a tournament in April.) These rebel debaters are likely to go off topic or "kritik" the topic, rules or nature of debate itself."
Wouldn't it be much more fun to see Rudy and Mitt (or Hillary and Obama, for that matter) doing spins on the floor, laughing, getting in the faces of their opponents, or yelling at the moderators? Also, high school and college debaters are only assigned what side of a given topic they need to argue a few minute before they enter the debate room. So they are forced to know the pros and cons of every issue.
It's too much to hope for, I know....but I still hope for it anyway. As a Dirty Tricks historian, I know that nothing is too outlandish when it comes to presidential politics.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

La Macaca is back!

The news is that former Senator George Allen (R-Va.) who blew a senatorial race and presidential aspirations in 2006 when he referred to a Democratic volunteer for his opponent, Jim Webb, as a "macaca" has been named a top advisor to Fred Thompson's faltering White House campaign and will in fact be present, tonight, spinning away, after the Republican debate in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Interesting choice for Fred, whom most pundits feel is fighting for his political life tonight. Of course, Allen is still popular with conservative southern Republicans, many of whom have macacas in their closets, but how will he play on the national scene? One of Thompson's other choices as a spinmeister is Vice-President Dick Cheney's daughter, Liz Cheney. I have a feeling the spin will be more interesting than the debate.
But thinking of Allen got me to thinking about other presidential wannabees who struck out after making one wrong comment. There is Mitt Romney's dad, George, of course, the Michigan governor who came back from Vietnam in 1967 and claimed that he had been brainwashed. See you later, George. Senator Joe Biden hasn't helped himself any with his clumsy comment earlier this year about Barack Obama ("bright and clean and a nice-looking guy") nor did Senator John Kerry win m any fans with his remarks in November of last year about "working hard in school" or being sent to Iraq.
None of these comments, with the exception of Allen's, is necessarily all that bad, including Biden's which reveals not incipient racism but a tangled tongue. But it shows that Americans want their candidates to be on the ball at all times--why give the opposition something they can use against you?
Probably one of the worst presidential campaign gaffes of all time came from a gentleman named Horatio Seymour, the Democratic nominee against Ulysses S. Grant in 1868. Of course, New York Governor Seymour didn't stand a chance against the popular Civil War hero Grant and had in fact already made one faux paux he was famous for (when speaking to a mob of violent draft rioters in Manhattan in 1863 he addressed them as "my friends"). But he was so overwhelmed on being nominated for president at his party's convention that he stood up on the platform and said, in an inadvertent rhyming couplet, "May God bless you for your kindness to me, but your candidate I can never be."
And then he burst into tears. He finally calmed down enough to accept the job, but Republicans never let him forget it. Whenever he appeared in public, they chanted this little ditty;
"There's a queer sort of chap they call Seymour,
A strange composition called Seymour,
Who stoutly declines
Then happiness finds
In accepting, does Horatio Seymour!

Needless to say, Horatio did not fare well....
A report on the debates tomorrow....

Thursday, October 4, 2007

An Above Average Candidate

This September, as Republican delegates stroll through the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, they will doubtless pass by the Stall of Shame, where Idaho Senator Larry Craig was arrested last June on charges of playing footsie with an undercover cop. Republicans had hoped that the whole thing would go away quick, but today Judge Charles A. Porter of Minneapolis handed down a decision denying Craig's bid to withdraw his guilty plea--and Craig still refused to resign as he had promised.
What I loved about Judge Porter's decision was his statement that Craig "a career politician with a college education, is of, at least, above-average intelligence.” In 1920, The New York Times editorialized that Republican candidate for the president Warren G. Harding was "a very respectable Ohio politician of the second class." Ouch! But Harding won. I wonder if Craig might try a little third party run, given the current disarray among his party's candidates. A little "above-average" intelligence will take you a long towards the presidency....

The Power of Anything for a Vote

A few week ago, my publisher, Quirk Books, and its esteemable publicity person Melissa Monachello sent out to all presidential aspirants copies of Anything for A Vote along with a press release (which I conspired in writing) comparing various candidates to their counterparts of days gone by.
We are pleased to see that Senator Barack Obama has taken us to heart. Yesterday, he unveiled his new look, as it were, with numerous references to him being the new Jack Kennedy. And wouldn't you know it -- our press release touted him as exactly that! Of course, our tongues were ever-so-slightly in our cheeks, but still, it's good to know Barack is paying attention.
Of course, he's got some big wingtips to fill re Jack. I'm talking about the sex appear quotient, of course. While Richard Nixon sweated out prep for the famous 1960 presidential debates in Chicago, wearing a wet towel around his head and pacing his hotel room, Jack got off the plane at O'Hare and asked an aide: "Any girls lined up?" After he appeared on national television, John F. Kennedy became a glamorous sex symbol for women, who responded to him the way they did to pop stars like Elvis Presley. Journalists accompanying him on his campaign divided the women into categories—“jumpers,” who would try to leap on his campaign car, “runners,” who would chase after him everywhere, “clutchers” who, given the chance, would grab his arms and not let go, and screamers, who would let out loud wails of “Oh, Jack, I love you! I love you!”
Obama, you've got a little ways to go in that regard, but we believe in you. In the meantime, thanks for listening!

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Thanks also to Political Wire

The blog Political Wire featured Anything for a Vote today--in particular, a portion of my Top Ten list of the dirtiest elections of all time. The only difficulty I had putting that list together, of course, was knowing when to stop. I kept saying to myself, so many dirty elections, so little time. I mean, there have been 56 presidential elections in U.S. history, and the first list I made up, which was impossibly unwieldy, listed 18 really, really dirty ones. Not that the rest were that clean, either, but I had to draw the line somewhere.
I became gripped by a kind of madness as I was writing the book. People shied away from me at parties--Good Christ, here he comes, Sheila, quick, hide!--because I was bubbling with a volcanic slurry of anecdotes.
"Uh, Sheila," I'd say. "Listen, do you know that in 1800 the Federalists stole votes from Thomas Jefferson simply by claiming that he was dead? Isn't that simplicity itself? He's dead! You can't vote for him! Of course, it wasn't true, but--how elegant!"
Sheila would disappear, to be replaced by some panicked-looking stranger.
"What did you say your name was again? Forget it. Listen: Lewis Cass ran as Democratic candidate for president in 1848--one of the most obscure presidential nominees of all times. The Whig candidate Zachary Taylor beat him. But, listen, where are you going? Cass was a really nice guy, and smart--former governor of the great state of Michigan--but his name rhymes with "ass" and "gas!" Get it? The Whigs had a field day. He was depicted in editorial cartoon as "General Gass" with cannon sticking out of his butt firing noxious fumes, or as "The Gas Bag," with a huge rear end, lifting off into the sky. Wouldn't it be great if they did that to someone these days? I mean, not great, but it would be sort of...oh, okay. Yeah, I have to go, too."
I've calmed down since then, but only somewhat. 13 months from Election Day, I feel a really dirty election coming on. I hope it'll make my Top Ten list.

Politico Shenanigans

If you have a moment today, surf over to Politico for their take on my book Anything for a Vote. Politico references my list of Classic Campaign Smears, used continually for over 200 years of presidential electioneering
A sample:

5) “You’re A Slut!”
Apparently, Thomas Jefferson, Grover Cleveland, Warren Harding (a rare Republican target for this attack), Woodrow Wilson, John F. Kennedy, Gary Hart, Bill Clinton, and John Kerry just couldn’t keep their minds on business when the ladies were around.

4) “You’re Clearly Not Having Sex With Anyone!”
On the other hand, Americans do want their candidates to have a little red blood. It’s bad form for the commander-in-chief to appear dry, shriveled and sexless, like James Madison, Samuel Tilden, Benjamin Harrison, Alton Parker, Calvin Coolidge, Richard Nixon, and even Jimmy Carter, despite the lust in his heart.

All of which shows that, no matter what the provocation, presidential candidates will find a way to smear their opponents...

Monday, October 1, 2007

Three's Definitely A Party

We hear that conservative Christians have met in Texas (where else?) to consider putting a third party candidate into play. It seems they aren't happy with GOP front-runner Rudy Giuliani (what, just because he's thrice-married, hated by his kids, and not steadfast as the rock of ages on abortion?)
The Democrats would love this to happen, of course, and so would yours truly. There's nothing like a third party candidacy to really let the wild rumpus begin. The last good one was in 1992, when Texas billionaire H. Ross Perot declared his candidacy on the "Larry King Live" show. Ross called his campaign organization United We Stand America and crusaded mainly on the issue of reducing the national debt--anybody remember him on television with his pie charts? With his jug-handle ears and squeaky drawl he was like everybody's old high school math teacher and even began to lead Bill Clinton and the first George Bush in the polls.
But then, of course, he went a little crazy, abruptly withdrawing from the campaign in the summer of '92, claiming that Republican dirty tricksters had wiretapped his office and threatened to publish nude pictures of his daughter before her wedding. This may in fact have been quite true, but sort of beside the point -- that's what dirty tricksters of all stripes do. By the time Perot jumped back into the race in September, his momentum was lost. Even so, he pulled 19 million votes, the most of any third party candidates since Teddy Roosevelt's Bull Moose run in 1912.
And, oh for another Bull Moose right now. In 1912, TR, challenging both his former vice-president, Republican William Howard Taft and Democratic candidate Woodrow Wilson, created his own third party and ran the most wildly anarchic third-party campaign in American history. Referring to Taft, the sitting President, as "a rat in a corner" and "a fathead...with the brains of a guinea pig"--can you imagine any 2008 candidate referring (publicly, anyway) to a competitor in this fashion? More was to come. Roosevelt stumped tirelessly around the nation, sometimes wearing a sombrero and smoking a cigar. Once he horrified reporters by taking over the controls of his locomotive and driving it off the tracks. The culminating moment came on October 14, 1912. Roosevelt was about to give a speech in Milwaukee when a crazed assailant named John Shrank walked up and shot him point blank in the chest. Not only did Teddy insist on giving the speech, blood dripping from its pages (the folded-up papersr of the speech, along with a glasses case, had stopped the bullet from killing him) but he had the presence of mind...god bless him...to blame the attack on his opponents: "It's a natural thing that weak and violent minds should be inflamed...by the kind of artful mendacity and abuse that have been heaped upon me for the last three months."
Roosevelt recovered, but lost the election to Wilson (Taft came in third) but it was one of the most uproarious contests in U.S. history. We can only hope for more of the same....

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Supremely Important

It is a very good thing that the Supreme Court announced yesterday that it will hear arguments as to whether the Indiana Voter ID law is constitutional. Along with the proposed California ballot initiative which, if passed, would change the way electoral votes are allotted in that state (meaning that the Republicans would gain far more than they usually get) and numerous controversies over the use of touch-screen voting machines (mainly, will there be a backup record of these votes) the election of 2008 promises to be a confusing mess once the balloting is over and the counting begins.
Normally speaking, all that is required for a U.S. citizen to vote is a signature in a ballot book. But the Indiana Voter ID law--and others like it around the nation-- insists that voters bring a photo id with them to the polling place, something which is widely seen as an attempt to keep minorities, who often are without proper identification, from voting. Meaning, of course, that Democrats would lose votes.
Those who are proponents of such laws claim that they will cut down on the possibility of voter fraud--voters impersonating other voters, or voting twice, etc.--but in the main, voter fraud in America no longer works this way. It used to. In the 1880s, a decade which is probably more corrupt than any in American presidential electioneering history, operatives of both parties would carry suitcases full of two-dollar bills (the cash was known as "Soapy Sam" for its ability to grease palms) into pivotal states (Indiana was one of them) in order to bribe voters. Each vote, two bucks.
Now, of course, voter fraud is generally perpetrated by political parties who no longer buy votes, but instead attempt to keep people from voting. The most egregious recent example of this was in Ohio, in the 2004 Bush-Kerry contest, when Ohio Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell instituted numerous blatant attempts to keep minority Democrats from voting. These included a process known as "caging." In the summer of 2004 the GOP, using zip codes, sent registered letters to 200,000 newly registered voters in urban areas more likely to vote for Kerry. Thirty-five thousand people who refused to sign the letters or whose mail came back marked “undeliverable” were knocked off the voter rolls only two weeks before the election. People were informed of their right to defend their vote only very late in the process; in one county, sheriff deputies allegedly intimated witnesses by showing up at their homes implying they had committed voter fraud by living at a different address than the one from which they had registered.
Also, early in September of 2004, two months before the election, Kenneth Blackwell used an outdated regulation to restrict voter registration. He claimed that the paper registrations needed to be printed on was eighty-pound, unwaxed white paper (postcard paper). This might make sense for registrations going through the mail, but Blackwell insisted that the regulation covered registrations delivered in person, as well, and also that all registrations on different weight paper were retroactively invalid. On September 28, six days before the registration deadline, protests caused Blackwell to rescind his order. But intense chaos had ensued. According to the nonpartisan Greater Cleveland Voting Coalition, at least 15,000 voters lost their ability to vote because of this.
Bush won Ohio and its twenty electoral votes by 116,00 votes. If it had gone the other way, Kerry would be president right now.
The Supreme Court says it will decide the issue of Voter ID laws by June. Not a moment too soon....

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Frontrunner meltdown

Now that Hillary has announced her new health plan (the one that's going to work, this time) and solidified her position by appearing on all major Sunday AM talk shows, she has been officially declared front-runner, a position, as she is no doubt aware, that carries with it historic perils.
There have been numerous cases of front-runner meltdown in the history of American presidential politics, but none so dire as that of Republican Thomas Dewey in his campaign to unseat Harry Truman in 1948. Historians often focus on the grand, "give-em-hell" campaign run by Truman--and it was indeed a doozy, a 31,000 mile whistlestop whirlwind with Harry making rousing speeches at every hamlet in America--but, in fact, the race was Dewey's to lose and he lost it.
Before the campaign began, Truman was so roundly disliked in America--post war inflation had set in and the Red Scare had begun--that even members of his own party wondered aloud in editorials "Must it be Truman?" A nasty joke going around the country asked: "I wonder what Truman would do if he were alive?"
On the other hand, Americans had New York Governor Dewey, who had honorably lost in 1944 to Franklin Roosevelt. Dewey was young (forty-six, the first presidential candidate to be born in the 20th century) handsome (well sort of--a comment, famously attributed to everyone from Ethel Barrymore to FDR had it that he resembled "the little man on the wedding cake"), and a crime-buster ala Rudy Giuliani, the candidate who most closely resembles Dewey today. But Dewey suffered terribly from two attributes which cannot afflict a winning presidential candidate: complacency and caution. Since all polls had him way ahead, his advisers told him to sit on his hands and simply avoid saying anything controversial. All the way to the end, Dewey thought he had it won. In fact, he became enraged when Truman announced he was going to send a personal emissary to Stalin to try to mediate with the Soviet leader during the Russian blockade of Berlin that summer. Dewey told reporters: “If Harry Truman would just keep his hands off things for another few weeks! Particularly, if he will keep his hands off foreign policy, about which he knows considerably less than nothing.”
On Election Day, even as Gallup gave the election to Dewey and The Wall Street Journal published an article predicting who Dewey's chief advisers might be and New York Times columnist Stewart Alsop wrung his hands, wondering "how the government can get through the next ten weeks" with Truman as lame-duck president, Dewey got his comeuppance: Harry Truman won by more than three million votes.
The lesson for front-runners: act like you're the last dog in the pack and be sure to keep barking and braying...