Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Gu-reeat Stuff!

Is it not a wonderful thing to see Hillary and Obama sniping at each other, as they did in yesterday's debate? Ouch, it was nasty! Race was set aside (well, there was some discussion of Toni Morrison's comment that Bill Clinton was our "first black President," with Obama wondering about Bill's dancing style) but the two candidates accused each other of corruption, lying, and otherwise being ill-fashioned human beings. Hillary said Obama associated with slumlords; Obama repeated the Republican mantra that Hillary is really only a cut-out for Bill. And Poor John Edwards, like Jack Horner darting for a plumb, barely got a word in edgewise.
Reminds me of some of the great nasty exchanges in candidate history--most not contained in the tame debates of contemporary times, which began in 1960 and are creatures of television. Reagan telling Carter: "There you go again, Mr. President" barely measures up to some of the highly personal nastiness in American history (although in one of the 2004 vice-presidential debates I was pleased to see Edwards digging at Cheney because of the latter's lesbian daughter).
No, I'm talking about the likes of the Abraham Lincoln-Stephen Douglas debates in 1858. This was during their senate race, but they presaged their presidential competition two years later. Honest Able could be quite droll; he had the habit of mocking Douglas’s rolling stentorian tones, sounding like Tony the Tiger as he satirizing the Little Giant’s “gu-reat pur-rinciple” of popular sovereignty. What popular sovereignty really meant, Lincoln would point out, was: “If one man chooses to make a slave of another, neither that other man nor anybody else has a right to object.”
Or Theodore Roosevelt calling President William Howard Taft a "rat in a corner," or Thomas Dewey, certain of a victory which never came, telling President Harry Truman in 1948 to "keep his hands off" foreign policy. No incumbent president running here, so the candidates are taking it out on each other. We'll see who it backfires on. My guess is Hillary.....but it's great fun for a dirtytricksologist to watch.

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