Hey! Global warming is not that bad! It’s a balmy 60 degrees here in the Center of the Known Universe today! Man, I wanted to play hookie today. It’s a great day for snuggling! LOL
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The Second Oldest Profession
Americans are notoriously ahistorical: we have no sense of history and as a result, we tend to get cheated repeatedly – by the same tactics! Most of us assume that history runs in circles. You know: the old saw about the more things change, the more they stay the same? Well, that’s an incorrect assumption. History travels in spirals, which is a little different than a circle. But wait! Let me explain through a quick look at the second oldest profession, an offshoot of the oldest, politics and politicians. Or more specifically, politics American Style.
Imagine a race in which the candidates were considered a “pimp” and a “convicted adulterer.” Makes Clinton’s blowjob sound tame huh? Well, the year was 1828 and the real candidates’ names were John Quincy Adams and Andrew Jackson. Andrew Jackson was a hotheaded man who had killed men for lesser offenses. He was also the first popularly elected president. Before Jackson, legislatures and a small aristocratic minority chose presidents.
American politics has always been a mess and nowhere is this more obvious than in presidential politics. For example, the aforementioned Jackson’s wife was charged for being a bigamist. Thomas Jefferson’s election, it was said, would set “the seal of death on our holy religion” and “prostitutes… will reside” in our nation’s highest office. There’s some irony in that even a cursory look into American politics will discover that prostitutes are often evoked. I say that’s a lot like the pot calling the kettle black. In fact, I believe prostitutes should file a civil suit against politicians for slander.
Even Abraham Lincoln, considered by most mainstream historians as the greatest president, was attacked as “a low-bred, obscene clown, “a dishonest baboon,” and “another Benedict Arnold.” George Washington, whose stature in American history cannot be denied, was called a tyrant, a dictator, and an imposter. One political cartoonist even depicted him as an ass. It has been strongly suggested that Washington had no intention of setting a precedent when he declined a third term. He simply refused to take any more abuse.
Humor has also been a central strategy in presidential politics. At a 1963 press conference, a reporter told John F. Kennedy that the Republican National Committee had “adopted a resolution saying you were pretty much of a failure… How do you feel about that?” Kennedy’s reply was a lesson in how to defuse mud slinging: “I assume it passed unanimously,” he said.
William Jennings Bryan, the evangelical deadly serious Democratic candidate of three presidential campaigns got into the act. At one event, he was asked to address a crowd of farmers from the only available elevated stage, a manure spreader. He joked, “This is the first time I have ever spoken from a Republican platform.”
In many cases, some candidates opted to take the silent route, no doubt believing that is better to keep one’s mouth shut and be thought of as a fool than to open it and remove all doubt. For example, in 1868 it was said of General U.S. Grant that he “refused to express his views, concealing the fact that he had none.” similarly, Calvin Coolidge was so renowned for never saying anything that when humorist Dorothy Parker heard he died, she said, “How can they tell?”
While campaign rhetoric has improved very little, political strategies have changed drastically. One change is that the vice President, presiding over the Senate, no longer feels the need to bring pistols to work with him as Martin van Buren once did. No president since John Tyler has felt the need to issue pistols to White House staffers, though Richard M. Nixon may have entertained the thought.
Yes my friends, you might, with good reason, question the vile rhetoric, invective sling by each side of the presidential race, but remember that all’s fair in love and politics, and a little slander or a few well-placed potshots are as American as the proverbial apple pie. Say what you will of the current flock of fools running for the highest office. We may not all agree on every qualification, but certainly all presidents (with the exception of the current commander-in-chief) have passed the standard of republican statesman Chester Congdon, who said in 1916 on another subject, “Damn it gentlemen, what I want for this job is a man the dogs won’t urinate on.”