Friday, September 21, 2007

A paean to brickbats

Finally off jury duty -- the case was going to extend into next week, at which point I would be bankrupt and my eight-year-old daughter turned into a latchkey kid. I skipped out of the room with a positively Clintonian (Bill) mixture of guilt and relief, as hardier souls mired in the voir dire stared at me in resentment. But the judge understood: "Mr. Cummins," he said, "as soon as I knew the case was going over, I said, this man is going to have a problem with that."
Bless you, Judge Harold Fullilove...
As I said yesterday, I do wax nostalgic about certain campaign conventions of the past, one of them being the direct and immediate response of hurling objects at a candidate whose opinion you disagree with. In this day and age, however, you're likely to get tasered merely for hurling words (you all saw the John Kerry fracas, right?) But one of my favorite candidates of all time--Wendell Willkie, the bigger-than-life Thomas Wolfe of presidential politics--was a magnet for tossed objects. Willkie was a Republican, but a crusading, maverick one with strong populist support who gave Franklin Delano Roosevelt a pretty good run for his money in 1940. Roosevelt even considered briefly trying to smear the married Willkie by revealing that the handsome, tousle-haired lawyer was having an affair with one Irita Van Doren, a New York writer and editor who was the former wife of Carl Van Doren (uncle to Charles Van Doren of 1950s quiz show notoriety).
This didn't happen, for interesting reasons which I will go into at another time, but Roosevelt was probably the only one who ever held his fire when Willkie was concerned. Whenever the Republican stepped up to speak at podiums in Democratic strongholds like Detroit, Chicago, Cleveland, etc., he had to duck a veritable hailstorm of objects. One reporter covering the campaign counted cantaloupes, potatoes, onions, tomatoes,oranges, eggs, ashtrays, phonebooks, and even a bedspread.
Willkie usually took such attacks in stride, although outside Detroit he lunged at one protester who had spattered his wife with an egg.
Hurled tomatoes have gone the way of torchlight parades and hard cider, and I suppose its a good thing, but...they did bring a delightful anarchy to the campaign trail...

But enough of me spouting off. Here's a little pop quiz: which U.S. presidential campaign contained the following immortal slogans:
"Let's be done with wiggle and wobble."
"America first!"
"A return to normalcy!"
First in with the correct reply gets one free copy of Anything for a Vote.

No comments: