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 blame the attack on his opponents: "It's a natural thing that weak and violent minds should be 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....