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....