Tuesday, March 18, 2008

"An Ass in the Shape of a Preacher"

As Hillary Clinton pulls together a sizable lead in polls taken among Pennsylvania voters, it appears the brouhaha over Obama's pastor and a (now ex) member of his religious advisory panel, Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright, has really hurt the candidate, perhaps even worse than NAFTA did in Ohio. (Wright has called America "the U.S of K.K.K.A" and made other inflammatory statements.)
Presidential candidates and preachers have a long and checkered history which essentially states that never the twain shall meet comfortably, be they Billy Graham with Richard Nixon of Fulton Sheen with JFK.
Perhaps one of the worst conflagrations having to do with minister and politician--one that may have cost a candidate the presidency-occurred in 1884.
Republican James G. Blaine was in a tight race for the White House with Grover Cleveland--smears against Cleveland for having fathered a child out of wedlock had not quite overcome charges that Blaine was on the take--and on October 29, Blaine took his campaign to the pivotal state of New York. He came into New York with a hairpin lead in the state and on that fateful Wednesday morning sat down to a breakfast meeting at a Fifth Avenue hotel—just another rubber chicken whistle stop for the weary Blaine. Unfortunately, during the unending speechifying, a local Presbyterian minister by the name of S.D. Burchard got carried away in attacking the Democrats and called them the party of “rum, Romanism, and rebellion,” essentially slurring them as Irish-Catholic drunks. Even more unfortunately, Blaine apparently wasn’t listening and did not denounce Burchard’s intemperance when he got up to speak.
A Democrat attending the meeting took down Burchard’s words and raced to local party headquarters, where literally overnight, Democratic campaign operatives printed thousands of handbills trumpeting the fact that Blaine was a “Catholic-hater.”
In a city full of Irish-Catholic working-class immigrants, this did not sit well.
James G. Blaine lost the state by a mere 1,149 votes. Had it not been, as he later put it, for “an ass in the shape of a preacher,” he would have won New York and become President of the United States.

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