Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Nothing New Under the American Flag

You know the phrase—there's nothing new under the sun. Narrow that down a little, and you can safely say there's nothing new in American politics even when we think we're making history.

I have been reading Charles Osgood's A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the White House, a book full of odd stories about presidential campaigns from Truman through Bush's second term. It seems fumbles, lies, dirt flinging, and snide remarks about political opponents have always been part of running for office.

When Adlai Stevenson was running against Eisenhower, he was accused of being a socialist. Sound familiar? The phrase used against him was actually "creeping Socialism." He said in his defense, "I am no more in favor of Socialism than anybody else, and I particularly dislike things that creep. But if I don't like what they call creeping Socialism, there is something else I dislike just as much, and that is galloping reaction."

In 1976, when Morris Udall was running against Carter in the primaries, he said, "Carter was the first politician in memory to come complete with halo." When he lost in the primaries, Udall said, "The voters have spoken—the bastards!"

Gerald Ford was running for the republican ticket that same year, and Lyndon Johnson said of him, "So dumb, he can't fart and chew gum at the same time."

When Jack Kemp was running in the primaries in 1988, he said of his opponent Bob Dole, "In a recent fire, Bob Dole's library burned down. Both books were lost. And he hadn't even finished coloring one of them yet."

That year Dan Quayle was Bush's running mate. There are so many quotes to choose from to represent Quayle, but we'll just say this: "One word sums up probably the responsibility of any vice president, and that one word is 'to be prepared.' "

"The media is backing off Dan Quayle," said comedian Mark Russell, "They're afraid of another backlash. So they're only asking him questions they think he can handle. Like, how many teams are in the Big 10?" Criticizing the media for asking difficult questions is an old trick, apparently.

The term "pit bull" isn't new either. Quayle was described as being Bush's pit bull, and to that Bill Clinton said, "That's got every fire hydrant in America worried."

And finally, one more comment that should sound familiar: Mike Royko, Chicago's curmudgeonly editorialist, said of Bob Dole, "It's Dole's misfortune that when he does smile, he looks as if he's just evicted a widow."

So, when you think you can't stand one more minute of this never-ending presidential campaign, or if you think it's never been dirtier or pettier or more off topic when it comes to the real issues that are eating us alive, just think about our campaign history. It's old news.


dive said...

Boy oh boy I have got to get that book, Robyn.
Hilarious and educational!

As a galloping (rather than a creeping) socialist I do wish Americans would actually look the term up in a dictionary.
And then shut up about it.

Cheri @ Blog This Mom! said...

I have got to get that book!

I love those quotes. Thanks for sharing them. I'm a big quote fan. If there is an interesting point to be made, find a quote, I say. No reason to reinvent the wheel.

savannah said...

we are amusing, that's for sure! ;) i'm going to buy that book, sugar, thanks for the tip. xoxoxo

Rich said...

Nice article, Scout. I always feel like I'm reading from the news paper in small town now. You make a good and very valid point here. Politics is nasty business and there aint nothin new going on.

RoverHaus said...

Ahhh, what a nice reprieve from all the shameless plugs for (insert your candidate here).

Thanks for a brief little trip through history and enjoying it for what it is!

Shan said...

Did I get a Democratic's take on this book or was it written by one? Ah, that's OK, I still like you Robyn. But now I'm just a tiny bit afraid of you after seeing what you did to those trout. OFF WITH THEIR HEADS!! Am I cheeky today? Off with my head! ;)

dr sardonicus said...

It was ever thus. John Adams' enemies referred to him as "His Rotundity", and Abraham Lincoln was compared to a gorilla. Not even Osgood goes back that far, though...

The most frustrating thing about this year's mudslinging is those holdout Hillary supporters who keep saying they won't vote for Obama because of the things he said about her in the primary.