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.

No comments: