SEPTEMBER 2016

SEPTEMBER  2016
1856 - When Anti-Muslim Anti-Mexican Hatred was Anti-German, Anti-Irish AND Anti-Catholic

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Tuesday, September 27, 2016

THE MIND OF A POLITICAN

I don't say you have to be crazy to be a politician, but displaying a little screwball logic - “Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice”  or  "Mexicans...they're rapists" - can solidify your base. On the other hand you don't want voters suspecting you might be completely loony - like Queen of the loonies, Michele Bachmann.  Now, navigating a path between those two alternatives can be tricky at times.
For example, in the 1980's a 5'1” tall combative fire cracker named Ruthann Aron (above) used her obsessive-compulsive drive and her pugnacious combative nature to make a fortune in real estate development.   She didn't make a lot of friends, of course. 
Her urologist husband Barry admitted, “She gets in people’s faces in a very straightforward way and doesn’t tap dance too much.”  
Still the lady had big dreams, even of becoming a United States Senator.  Ruthann's first attempt resulted in defeat, but that was not unusual. She could have recovered. But then she became the first candidate on record to actually sue her opponent for slander. Equating political mud slinging with slander - that was when Ruthann went from being odd to being out to lunch, And then she went from erratic to homicidal. Perhaps we should review the details of her story, so any would-be politicians out there can take notes.
Our lesson begins in the “D.C.” adjacent enclave of Montgomery county, Maryland, one of the richest and best educated counties in America. Everybody here, it seems came from some place else – the county was even named for a Revolutionary War hero who never set foot in the state. This is one of those big ponds where little fish either get eaten or grow big  And it has not voted for a Republican Presidential candidate since Ronald Reagan retired. And, as Barry Rascovar noted for the Washington Post in mid-August of 1994, “...the last time there was a truly contested GOP Senate primary was in the early 1960s.” It was here that our diminutive mother of two faced her first test when, after just two years on the County Planning Board, Ruthann Aron decided to run for the United States Senate as a Republican.
It was a clever move. The dysfunctional Maryland G.O.P had little hope of beating the popular Democrat, Paul Sarbanes who had held the seat since 1976 and seemed a shoe-in for re-election. But even if she lost the primary, Ruthann could still lay a foundation for a future in politics.
The only drawback was that there were seven candidates vying for the Republican nomination, so Ruthann decided to stand out, to concentrate in attacking her best known opponent, multimillionaire candy heir and ex-Senator from Tennessee, the handsome Bill Brock III.
Ruthann spent nearly a quarter of a million dollars of her own money buying radio ads, in which two “hillbillies” laughed about the way Maryland voters were being fooled by the “tax-raising, carpetbagging, career politician”, Senator Brock.   The ex-Senator chose to not even mention Ruthann in his few radio ads. No since giving the little lady free publicity. Then, a poll released Labor Day weekend found Brock leading, as expected, with 23% of the vote. But in second place and well within the margin of error for a tie was Ruthann, at 20%.
With just two weeks to go before the primary, Brock decided he could no longer ignore the tiny upstart, and called an afternoon press conference for Thursday, September 8, 1994, on the Rockville courthouse square. As the Baltimore Sun noted, “The minutes preceding yesterday's news conference had the feel of a mock thriller....About 2 p.m. the (Ruthann) Aron camp entered...About 10 minutes later, Mr. Brock arrived with his contingent of sign-wavers.” The Washington Post observed, “As reporters and photographers soaked up the awkward silence, the two camps stared mutely, and the whirring of (film) cameras was all that was heard.”
According to the Post, the biggest bomb shell at the press conference was dropped by a Brock supporter, former U.S. representative Marjorie Holt, who mentioned “...the aura of fraud and breach of contract that constantly surrounds the other candidate.” After that,  the press conference devolved into two competing impromptu verbal slug fests,  during which Brock built on Holt's charge. According to the Post, “She has been convicted by a jury of fraud, more than once," (Brock) told reporters, who bounced between the two candidates like pin balls.” Brock backed up the theatrical press conference with $220,000 in new radio ads, claiming that Ruthann had been convicted of fraud “more than once”, and had to pay “hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines”. Said his narrator in the ad, "Before Ruthann Aron starts attacking anybody, maybe she ought to look in the mirror.”
On Tuesday, September 13, Ruthann lost the primary by 50,000 votes. Even worse, a poll released just before the election showed that rather than laying a foundation for her future, her campaign style had left her in a hole by raising her negative ratings to 16%.  Her reputation was not even helped when Block was easily beaten by the Democrat Sarbanes in the November general election. So, finding herself in a hole, Ruthann decided to keep digging.  She sued Brock for defamation of character. No politician had ever done that before.
It took over a year for what the Sun called Ruthann's “frivolous lawsuit” to work its way to trial, which it did in early 1996. “Jurors have been schooled”, wrote the Sun, “in subliminal suggestion...the role of Russian composer Peter Ilich Tchaikovsky in an effective campaign commercial....harked to the tonal difference between a major chord and a slamming jail door, listened again and again to the definition of "Ronald Reagan's 11th Commandment" (Thou shalt not speak ill of a fellow Republican) and been told that staff members look at members of Congress the way undertakers look at corpses.”
Chief witness for Brock was Arthur G. Kahn, lawyer in a 1984 suit against Ruthann's real estate company, Research Incorporated. Kahn testified his clients had invested in a shopping mall Ruthann was promoting. The mall had never been built, but Ruthann sold the rights to the project to a third party for $200,000. And kept that money. The jury awarded her partners $175,000, which Ruthann paid only after Arthur Kahn agreed to request the judge wipe the verdict from the record. It had been a civil suit, and she had lost, but there was no conviction, and the verdict had been vacated, so technically there was no record, so technically what Brock had said at the press conference had been untrue ...but the jury decided that was splitting hairs, and, besides, my bet is they just did not like Ruthann very much. Who did? They found for Brock. Ruthann had lost again. And now she was really, double-dog-done in politics
And that should have been the end of Ruthann's public activities, unless she had thrown herself into charity work or earned a Nobel Peace Prize or something.
Instead, on June 7, 1997, Ruthann Aron was arrested for hiring a hit man to murder her old nemesis Arthur Kahn. And, as an afterthought, her own husband Doctor Barry Aron (above, right), as well. They had her on tape with an undercover cop spelling out the intended victim's names. They had video of her dropping the down payment off at a hotel. It was an open and shut case.
Ruthann insisted at both of her trials (the first jury hung, 11-1 for conviction) that she was crazy. And it's hard to disagree with that. The why and whereof is irrelevant for purposes of this discussion. Let's just say she was nuts and let it go by saying the jury found her guilty anyway. At her sentencing Ruthann's lawyer pointed out what her career in politics had cost the little lady. "She's lost her credibility, her reputation, her family as she knew it, her dignity, her lifestyle, her husband, almost everything she had”, he said.  She still got three years in jail with a suspended sentence of ten more years hanging over her head.
Barry the urologist not only filed for divorce, he sued Ruthann for $7.5 million. And she counter-sued him for $24 million. Some people never learn. But it could have been worse. Just before her arrest, Ruthann had been considering a switch to the Democratic party.
The lesson from our little tale is that if you sleep with a politician, you may not find love, but you will defiantly get screwed. Those people are nuts.
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Monday, September 26, 2016

THE CURSE OF BEING BOB

I am tempted  to label the late Robert Lincoln as a "shlimazel", but its a Yiddish term and not generally well known. Most people would probably call him a Jonah – but that would not be entirely accurate. See, according to chapter ten in the Qur'an, God gave Jonah a dangerous job, and to avoid the assignment he jumped ship for someplace else. God sent a terrible storm to swamp the boat, and when Jonah confessed his sin to the the terrified crew, after a few moments of theological discussion, they threw the wayward prophet overboard. That is when, in the words of the Christian hymn “...A whale came up and swallowed him whole.” During the three days Jonah was inside the great fish he prayed for forgiveness, and guided by God, the fish “threw Jonah out on a bar of sand.” Every year on Yom Kippur Jews read the Book of Jonah and ask for God's forgiveness. And now you know why Christians, Jews and Muslims have spent the last 2,000 years slaughtering each other; its because they share so many stories like this one, which differ only in tiny details. But as Jeb Bush can tell you, its the details that can cost you an election. But I digress...
Anyway, a Jonah is somebody you don't want on your boat, or babysitting your 401K. A Jonah is cursed, and he drags his curse around with him, rubbing it off on unsuspecting victims who are drowned because God is actually trying to punch the ticket of the guy in next stateroom. And a "shlimazel"  is just like a Jonah, except that God is not involved. Thus I think of the very late Robert Lincoln as a "shlimazel". Allow me to explain.
On the day President Abraham Lincoln died, his eldest son, the late Robert Todd Lincoln, (above), called Bob by his father,  had just gotten back from the Confederate surrender at Appomattox Court House. He was late, of course, and when his parents invited Bob to go to the theater with them, Bob begged off and stayed home. He went to bed early and had to be awakened when word arrived that his father had been shot. He made it to the bedside before his father died, but then Bob had to share his private grief with the grief of millions of strangers. And maybe that was what infected Bob, and turned him into a "shlimazel"..
As the son of Abraham, it was inevitable that Bob Lincoln would be drawn into Republican politics, but he resisted as long as he could - late again. He never stood for election, and when President Rutherford B. Hayes offered him the post of Assistant Secretary of State, Bob said “No, thanks”. But, finally in 1881, he accepted the position as Secretary of War under President James Garfield. That job lasted barely six months, because that was only as long as his new boss lasted.
Just after nine on Saturday morning, 2 July, 1881, at the very beginning of another disgusting hot, humid Washington three day holiday weekend, Bob Lincoln was pacing around the central waiting room of the Gothic eyesore that was the Potomac and Baltimore railroad station (above), at the corner of Constitution Avenue and 6th street. The late Bob Lincoln was early this morning, I guess because he himself wasn't going anywhere. He was there to log-in a little suck-up time with his boss, President James Garfield, who was about to leave for a two week vacation on the 9:15 train to Baltimore.
Yes, Garfield had only been on the job for about three months, and it seemed a little quick to be taking a vacation, but he was the boss and the rules are different for bosses. So here was poor Bob, wandering around this cavernous hothouse, pathetically hoping to make some headway against his biggest rival in the cabinet, the even bigger suck up, Secretary of State James Blaine, known about town as the “monumental liar from the state of Maine”. Blaine at this very moment was walking into the station arm and arm with President Garfield. And that was when Charles Guiteau fired off two rounds of a Bulldog .44 caliber pistol right into Garfield's back.
Bob was not a cop. He did not run to the sound of the gunfire. But when he heard people shouting that the President had been shot, Bob ran toward the Constitution Avenue entrance. Once again he was late. He found Garfield lying on the floor of the “Ladies Waiting Room”. Guiteau had already given himself up, eagerly confessing to everyone and anyone within earshot. Bob and Blaine and Garfield's two sons helped the President to his feet, and escorted him up stairs, away from the lookey-loos. Here he was examined, and since the wounds did not appear to be life threatening – because he was not already dead - it was decided the President should be taken back to the White House. Bob left him there, and returned to his own weekend.
It had all the makings of an obscure footnote in history, until the doctors showed up. There were sixteen of them, and several of them shoved their dirty fingers into the President's wounds, looking for the bullets. They did not find them, but within a few days Garfield found he had a raging infection. What finished the poor schmuck off, on 19 September, 1881, was a heart attack, which is what kills you after two months of fever and diarrhea. Bob Lincoln was not at the death bed. He had already done his part.
Bob left government service after that and went back into private industry, as a lobbyist for the railroads. And it was as President of the Pullman Cars Association that he was invited to a Presidential reception at the Pan American Exposition in Buffalo, New York, on the afternoon of 6 September, 1901. Bob was late again, and as he was just running up the short steps of the Temple of Music Pavilion (above - X marks the spot), he heard two quick gun shots.
William McKinley, the third President of the United States to be assassinated, had just been assassinated. Bob raced into the exhibit, in time to see McKinley drop to the floor. He needed to rush, because thanks to the advances in medicine in the intervening quarter of a century since Garfield's murder, McKinley suffered for only eight days, before the doctors helped him to die on 14 September, 1901. Bob Lincoln slink-ed out of town, determined to avoid contributing to any further bloody historical events. It would be the last time an American President would be assassinated until 1963, and some have hinted that was because Bob Lincoln chose not to be near another President. When it was suggested Bob might wish to attend another Presidential speech, Bob responded, “No, I'm not going, and they'd better not ask me, because there is a certain fatality about presidential functions when I am present.” But it turned out Bob's affliction not only affected Presidents.
Six years later, on Tuesday. 9 August, 1910, Bob and his family boarded the SS Kaiser Wilhelm der Grosse, in Newark, New Jersey. They were looking forward to a few weeks holiday touring Europe when in the midst of the bon voyage celebrations an angry ex-city worker took a shot at brand new New York City Mayor, William Gaynor – shades of Garfield's shooting!  Gayner was hit in the throat, and in the famous photograph taken just seconds after the shots (above), the old man in the white hat rushing to assist Mayor Gaynor, is none other than the late Bob Lincoln - and thus we  have photographic proof that Bob was a "shlimazel"!  The doctors largely left Mayor Gaynor alone, and he died of his wounds, three years later.
The only other public occasion which involved a living President and Bob Lincoln was on Memorial Day, Tuesday, 30 May, 1922. Bob (above, on the right) was 78 years old by then, when he attended the dedication of his father's memorial in Washington, D.C.  In fact there were three Presidents present at that ceremony. The fat man, (above left) was Chief Justice William Howard Taft, who had been President in 1911 when he signed the bill authorizing the construction of the Lincoln monument. He survived his close encounter with Bob by another eight years. Vice President “Silent Cal” Coolidge was also there (not shown). He would become President, after the death of President William G. Harding (above center), who gave a rousing speech at the dedication. But Harding would not die until August of 1923, fifteen months and a day after rubbing shoulders with Bob – which seems like a rather extended time frame for an effective curse. And Coolidge would last another nine years before he died. The curse, it seemed, had been either broken or maybe it was just exhausted. Bob sure seems to have been. 
In fact, Bob Lincoln himself (above) would die sooner than any of his final potential victims. He suffered a fatal cerebral hemorrhage in the summer of 1926. When he died Bob was the last surviving member of the Garfield cabinet, having outlived his rival James Blaine, who did not even make it out of the nineteenth century (he had died, January 1893) . Bob Lincoln was also the only man in American history to have been present at the murder of two American Presidents, not to mention his relation to a third -  his own farther. Bob  was also the only child of Abraham Lincoln to reach adulthood, and to have children of his own.  But sadly his last heir - and thus Abraham Lincoln's last blood relative - died in 1985.  The line of Lincoln is no more. Bob could not be blamed for any of the unusual coincidences that marred his life, but neither could they be ignored. To call them bad luck seems a pathetic explanation. To call Bob a Jonah seems over-wrought.  I think he was just an innocent "shlimazel".  But I still wouldn't want to have lunch with him.
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Saturday, September 24, 2016

NIXON, TUCK AND ROLL

“'I've made a lot of candidates look foolish, usually with a lot of help from the candidates themselves.”
His name is legend, so secure that in his mid-eighties his business card carried merely his name and the definition of the phrase Political Prank: “a political activity, characterized by humor, devised to unmask, ventilate, bring to light, debunk, hold up to view, etc., the comical, ludicrous, or ridiculous, etc., incongruities, follies, abuses, and stupidities, etc., esp. of a candidate for office.” His sobriquet's - none self applied - include the Democratic harlequin, the Democrat Pixie, the merry trickster, the leprechaun, Richard Nixon's doppelganger, a Gaelic Father Christmas without beard and who gives the impression that he sends his clothes to the cleaners for rumpling, and most accurately, the self appointed Inspector Javert to Richard Nixon's Jean Valjean. It was Dick Tuck who tormented the central years of Richard Nixon's life. It was Dick Tuck who was blamed by Nixon's closest advisers, for the scandal that brought down their President. And it was Dick Tuck who always understood, that nobody pays to see the picador, except the matador.
“I think newspapers should stop publishing inaccurate polls until we do away with the secret ballot. Or run headlines: Poll Right--Election Off 4%.”
Dick Tuck spent the Second World War in the Pacific, dismantling bombs, and his post war career, planting them. In 1950, as a GI Bill student at U.C. Santa Barbara, Dick Tuck was working for Democratic Congresswoman Helen Gahagan Douglas, in her run for the U.S. Senate. According to Dick, an absent minded professor asked him “out of the blue” to act as campus “advance man” for the Republican candidate, Congressman Nixon. Tuck knew almost nothing about his soon-to-be nemesis, but instantly seeing the potential for humor, Dick accepted the job.
“I would have trouble convincing anybody that anything I've ever done is serious--except Richard Nixon.”
He rented the largest auditorium the Young Republican's budget would allow, and then invited only about 40 young Republicans. Introducing the Congressman to the empty cavern, Tuck rambled on for twenty minutes, before suggesting Nixon would now speak on the International Monetary Fund. Taking the microphone, Nixon was nonplussed. After stumbling through a short address and as soon as the last sad clap echoed through the empty auditorium, Nixon asked Tuck his name, and then told him, “Dick Tuck, you've made your last advance.” Luckily for future generations, that proved not to be true. Jokes aside, Nixon won the election.
“I don't consider the Boston Tea Party a prank. Rather, it was a staged event with an important political message.”
The two did not meet again until 1956, when Nixon was repeating as President Eisenhower's running mate. At the Republican convention, Tuck learned the San Francisco Department of Public Works sent their garbage trucks down Geneva Avenue on their way to the Junipero Serra Landfill. So Dick Tuck bought advertising space on each of those trucks. Thus, should any Republicans gaze out from their convention held in the Cow Palace, which was bordered by Geneva Avenue, they would see an endless stream of garbage trucks each carrying signs that said simply, “Dump Nixon.” It did not turn the election around, but it certainly bothered Nixon.
“The fact that your grandfather was a horse thief, that's not relevant.”
As the campaign progressed, Tuck would pose as a Republican operative, and convince bandleaders at campaign stops that Vice President Nixon's walk-on music should be his favorite song - “Mack The Knife”.  Needless to say, it was not Nixon's favorite song. Posing as a fire marshal to the local press, Tuck would low ball turnout estimates for Republican rallies. Wearing a stolen conductor's cap, Tuck signaled the engineer to pull out of whistle stop, while Nixon (above) was still speaking from the rear of the last car. And then there was his famous “Chinatown Caper”,  when in 1962  Nixon was running for Governor of California. It started when a newspaper first broke the story that Richard Nixon's brother, Donald, had received an unsecured $205,000 loan from Hughes Tool Company, owned by Howard Hughes. Tuck thought it was a great story, but the national press was not talking about it. So Tuck decided to fix that.
“'I've never had a job, and it's too late now.”
At a stop in Los Angeles' small Chinatown, Vice President  Nixon (and his brother Donald) arrived to find the backdrop was a large hand painted sign that was assumed to read in Chinese characters “Welcome”.  But as Richard began speaking, an elderly Chinese dignitary whispered to Donald that the sign actually said, “What about the Hughes Loan?” Dick Tuck had, of course, paid for the substitution, although how he got up it put at the rally was never explained. In any case, Donald Nixon abruptly bolted from his seat and ripped the sign to shreds, in full view of the news cameras. Now the national press had to explain the details of the loan. Nixon famously lost that election, and retired from politics, grousing to the press, "You won't have Dick Nixon to kick around anymore." So it was understandable that Nixon pointed out Dick Tuck and ordered his staff, “Keep that man away from me.”
''I always used to hate the word 'prank'.”
In the 1960 Presidential election, the turning point was the televised debates between Kennedy and Nixon. The morning after the first debate, the pundits were obsessed with who had won, and whether Nixon looked like he needed a shave. Then a woman wearing Nixon buttons embraced Nixon as he stepped off an airplane. She loudly exclaimed, “Don't worry, son! He beat you last night, but you'll get him next time.” She, of course worked for Dick Tuck. 
In explaining how his pranks differed from those of the Republicans who followed him - Donald Segretti for Nixon, Lee Atwater for Bush Sr., and Karl Rove for Bush Jr - Tuck explained, “It's just the difference between altering fortune cookies to make a candidate look funny and altering State Department cables to make it look as if a former President were a murderer.” The fortune cookie line referred to 1958, when Dick Tuck was working for California Democratic Gubernatorial candidate Pat Brown (Governor Jerry Brown's father), running against Republican Senator William Knowland. At a fund-raising dinner for Knowland, Tuck managed to have all the fortunes in the fortune cookies read, “Knowland for Premier of Formosa”.  It was a prank, not meant to disenfranchise voters, smear a candidate, or to lock conservatives out of the electoral process. And damn it, it was funny.
“What kind of a person would answer a pollster's questions? And tell the truth yet?”
In 1966 Dick Tuck staged a homage to Richard Nixon, by running himself for a seat in the California State Senate. He made that announcement from Glendale's sprawling Forest Lawn Cemetery, explaining to curious reporters that just because people had died, did not mean they had lost their right to vote.  His campaign slogan was, “The Job Needs Tuck, Tuck Needs the Job.” Richard Nixon immediately sent Tuck a congratulatory telegram, and offered to campaign for him. Tuck responded by inviting Nixon to a debate, and even offered to shave for it. On election night, Dick Tuck fell behind early, but urged the press to “wait until the dead vote comes in.” The dead vote never showed up, and when it was clear Tuck had come in third out of field of eight Democrats, Tuck held a Nixonian press conference, telling the cameras, “The people have spoken. The bastards.” It proved to be the most famous thing Dick Tuck ever said.
On Ronald Reagan: “Anybody who takes off the month of August can't be all bad.''
In 1967, Tuck (above) went to Gary, Indiana, to run the mayoral campaign of Richard Hatcher. The local political machine had a history of stealing elections by sabotaging voting machines, but Dick Tuck solved that problem in typical Dick Tuck fashion. He formed a flying squad of teenage pin ball enthusiasts, and trained them to repair the voting machines. The instant one broke, a teenager showed up to get it running again. Richard Hatcher became the first African-American mayor of a major American city.
“I think air conditioning ruined Washington. Before it, during those muggy summers, everybody went home.”
In 1968, Dick Tuck became an adviser on Senator Robert Kennedy's Presidential campaign, and was occasionally seen walking Freckles, the Kennedy's English Spaniel (above). Teased by reporters, Tuck responded, “To you, this is just a dog, but to me it's an ambassadorship.” But on that fateful night of 6 June,  Dick Tuck was just behind Senator Kennedy when he was shot, and tended to the dying candidate.
 
"I'm leaving politics and going into entertainment. Maybe I'm not changing--maybe politics is changing. It's not the entertainment that it once was.”
Later in 1968, the Nixon Presidential campaign in New York City received an order for several thousand buttons which repeated the phrase, “Nixon's The One”, in everything from Chinese, to Italian, Gaelic, Hebrew, and even Lithuanian. They were to be handed out at various ethnic rallies in the city. But so paranoid had Nixon become about the antics of Dick Tuck, that they were destroyed, just in case he had gotten to them and changed the wording. (He had not.) It was later alleged that Dick Tuck hired pregnant women to wander about at Nixon rallies wearing “Nixon's the One”buttons, but that may just be another legend. However it is clear that Nixon had begun to believe those legends, often lecturing his staff about  the pranks Dick Tuck had or supposedly had, pulled on the Nixon campaign. Nixon began haranguing his staff, “Dick Tuck did that to me. Let's get out what Dick Tuck did!"
“I couldn’t exist in this environment. The problem is there will be no surprises. And there aren’t any independents anymore.”
Dick Tuck's name can be heard repeatedly on the Watergate tapes, always spoken of the way Batman must speak of The Joker, during down times in the Bat Cave. On 13 March, 1973, Nixon can be heard on the Watergate tapes complaining about the ineffectualness of his own operative: “Shows what a master Dick Tuck is ... (Donald) Segretti's hasn't been a bit similar.” Later in 1973, Nixon Chief of Staff H.R. (Bob) Halderman (below, left), spotted Dick Tuck in the hall during a break in the Senate Select Committee hearings on Watergate. He approached the Democratic leprechaun and accused him, “You started all of this.” To which Dick Tuck responded, “Yea, Bob. But you guys ran it into the ground.”
“The people have spoken. The bastards.”
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