MARCH 2020

MARCH   2020
The Lawyers Carve Up the Golden Goose


Friday, July 19, 2013


“'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 carries 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, So when the Republicans gazed out from their convention held in the Cow Palace, which was bordered by Geneva Avenue, they saw a 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 hired to provide music for campaign stops that Nixon's walk-on 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 famous “Chinatown Caper” - so legendary it is now unclear if it occurred in 1956 or 1962, when Nixon was running for Governor of California. The story is ascribed to both campaigns, but it was in 1956 that a newspaper first broke the story that Richard Nixon's brother Donald had received an unsecured $205,000 loan from Hughs Tool Company, owned by Howard Hughs. 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 Richard 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. It made no difference in the election because Eisenhower (and Nixon) won. But Nixon was beginning to develop a complex about Dick Tuck, and ordered his staff, “Keep that man away from me.”
''I always used to hate the word 'prank'.”
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 somehow managed to have all the fortunes in the fortune cookies read, “Knowland for Premier of Formosa”. It was a prank, not meant to disenfranchise Republican voters, smear a candidate, or to lock conservatives out of the electoral process.
Pat Brown won that election, but that wasn't the point of the joke.
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 expectantly 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. Nixon lost that election, by a hair. And in 1962, he also lost the election for Governor of California, petulantly telling the press, and Dick Tuck, that they would no longer have Richard Nixon to kick around anymore.
“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 run 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. 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 June 6th, after the California primary, Dick Tuck was just behind Senator Kennedy when he was shot, and tended to the dieing candidate. And that was the end of Dick Tuck's political activities that year. But not the end of his influence.
"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. (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 some prank 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 March 13, 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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Wednesday, July 17, 2013


I suspect that most of us have family members who make us wince - the aunt who pretends she doesn’t drink,  the uncle with the odd hygiene habits, and the nervous cousin who never went to college and yet seems to have a rather specific field of chemistry knowledge. If you are so afflicted by relativity, it may be helpful to remind yourself that that at least your family isn’t stark raving mad. And even if they are,  then at least one of them doesn’t think he is royalty. And if one of them does thinks she is a queen, then you can thank God they are not actually royalty. And in the unlikely event that they are actually royalty, well then, at least you can thank heaven they aren't "Herod The Great”. He was also known as “Herod the Builder”, and “Herod the Fecund”, but  he was  probably best known as “Herod the Paranoid Homicidal Maniac”. But then, as I said, no family is perfect, right?Herod (above) was a second son and he certainly didn’t seem destined to be great. But then, neither did he seem destined to be crazy, either. But he was both. At 25 he had a wife (Doris) and a child (Antipater) and an easy job. He was in charge of Galilee, a poverty stricken back water province of the Roman Empire. But then his father was murdered (poisoned), and his older brother committed suicide (he bashed his own brains out). That promoted Herod to the job of King.  And then in 40 BC a rebellion overthrew Herod. Any less of a lunatic would have taken the hint and retired, but Herod refused to accept the harsh reality. With a little help from Rome (the Senate officially elected him “King of the Jews” - without asking the Jews, of course), in 37 BC Herod returned to Palestine, murdered the usurper and took back his throne. By this time he had divorced his dear Doris. So, to reinforce his ties to the religious fanatics (always a good idea in the Middle East) Herod now married the teenage daughter of a priest. Her name was Mariamne.Trying to keep peace within his new family, in 36 BC, Herod appointed his new brother-in-law High Priest. But two years later the new brother-in-law had a little too much to drink at a party and said something offensive about.Herod, to Herod.  So, Herod had the  brother-in-law water-boarded to death right in front of the guests. It seems homicide was Herod's new "normal:".  Then in 29 B.C. Herod had his wife Mariamne executed because he suspected she was conspiring against him. And if she had any brains, she was. Then, when his now ex-Mother-in-Law said Herod was so nuts he was  “unfit to rule”,  he had her eliminated too. Then in  28 B.C. Herod had his other ex-brother-in-law (and the husband of his daughter) executed. And because he was now out of in-laws, in 23 B.C. Herod married his third wife, Miriamne II (And then a fourth wife, a Samaritan girl named Malthace, followed by a fifth wife, known as Cleopatra of Jerusalem). Herod now had enough in-laws to drive anybody crazy -  not that he needed an excuse. His nuclear family tree was starting to look like it had reached critical mass.As was to be expected, by 12 B.C., Herod had become convinced that his sons by Miriamne I, Alexander and Aristobulus, were out to murder him. Again. if they had any brains. they were.  Anyway, the Emperor Augustus talked Herod out of killing his sons immediately. But when Herod got hold of a conspiracy theory he was like a paranoid dog in taxidermy school - he was convinced everybody was after his bones. It took him five years but Herod finally compiled enough evidence to convince Augustus that the he, Herod, King of the Jews, was never going to let the matter drop. So with the Emperor’s reluctantly acceptance, both of Miriamne I’s sons were tried and executed in 7 B.C. That left Antipas, his son by Doris (remember her?) as the next in line to the  throne. And in keeping with the tradition of dedicated paranoids running Israel and Palestine, in 4 B.C. Herod had him executed, too.
What happened next must have left Herod speechless. He died - of natural causes, in his own bed. I'll bet nobody in the Middle East saw that coming. After his passing, Herod's kingdom was divided between his son Phillip (by Cleopatra) and his sons Archelaus and Antipas (by Malthace). But it was Herod Antipas who managed best to carry on his father’s high standards for familial homicidal lunacy, when he divorced his wife to marry his brother’s wife, Herodias.
It may have been a "love match" (we can certainly hope) but it also ticked off his brother Archelaus, and two other people Antipas really didn’t want to have ticked off  at him. First, it angered Antipas' ex-father-in-law, King of Nabtea, who promptly declared war on Antipas. And second, it offended a local religious fanatic you may have heard of, John the Baptist. John condemned the marriage not only because Herodias had been his brother’s wife, but also because the new bride was Herod Antipas’s half sister. This family tree has a million branches, and  not one of them is straight.It was a typical Herodian Family Feud. You see the lady at the center of this scandal, Herodias, had already produced a daughter with husband number one.  The daughter was named Salome, and not only was Herod Antipas her uncle but he was also now her stepfather. The situation made Herod Antipas a bit sensitive to criticism, and he threw John the Baptist in jail, just to shut him up. And that was when, according to scripture, Salome did her little dance and dropped her seven veils. Her step-daddy Antipas then asked what he could do to thank her for the performance, and Salome suggested, probably at the urging of her mother Herodia, that he could give her the head of John the Baptist: prophet on  a plate, blue plate special. It seems a little strange that Josephus, who never met a tall tale he didn’t like, never mentioned this one, but it’s in the bible and I guess that means it just must be true. And the truth is, I’d believe just about anything crazy about this family.
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Sunday, July 14, 2013


I guess the 1828 campaign officially started on Saturday, December 29, 1827, because that was the day Andrew Jackson left his 1,000 acre plantation, The Hermitage, 10 miles east of Nashville, Tennessee, on the Cumberland River, bound for New Orleans. It was his abiding ambition for vindication that drove the 51 year old lean and craggy politician to leave his home and sickly wife at the start of winter. After snubbing him the year before, the state of Louisiana had invited Jackson back to the city he had defended in 1815 for a four day celebration. The trip was part of the master plan to give Jackson what he wanted most in the world – to defeat Henry Clay and John Quincy Adams, the men who had "cheated" him out of the White House four years earlier. But the plan was not Jackson's. It had come from the byzantine imagination of the “Little Magician”, Martin van Buren.
It was said of Martin van Buren (above) that he “learned his principals from Thomas Jefferson and his tactics from Aaron Burr.” Van Buren was the current leader of the Albany Regency, which controlled New York state politics. And two weeks earlier, on Thursday, December 13th 1827 , he had written one of the most amazing letters in American political history. It was addressed to Virginia Senator Littleton Waller Tazewell, in which the little magician blatantly suggested a joining of "the planters of the South” and what he called “the plain Republicans of the North." Although this alliance had to begin with a cult of personality built around Andrew Jackson, wrote van Buren, eventually party ideology would allow the “clamor against Southern Influence and African Slavery” to be “made ineffectual in the North”. In other words, if the south allowed northern bankers to set the nation's economic agenda, then the bankers would defend the social agenda of slave owners. 
The offer electrified Senator Tazewell, and he forwarded its contents to the editor of the Richmond Enquirer, Thomas Ritchie. Tazewell explained to the newspaperman that the election of Jackson was of secondary importance, whereas “our great wish is to inculcate and to keep alive by frequent repetition and argument,” the constitutional rights of the slave owners, and “to support those who support them, and to oppose those who oppose them.” Tazewell then predicted, “ Should we then succeed... it is possible, nay probable, that our party will soon be in danger of separating...” In this Tazewell was quickly proven right, as this larger “corrupt bargain” would be the foundation of the Democratic Party. Tazewell then closed the letter; “Many reasons exist why this communication should be considered by you as strictly confidential for the present at least.”
On January 8th  1828, Andrew Jackson (above) made his only campaign appearance that entire year, at the four day long 13th anniversary celebration of the Battle of New Orleans. He had been coached by Andrew P. Haynes, from South Carolina, to make only three speeches during his four days in the city, in which he made only two points – First that like Cincinntus, the Roman Senator, he had left Tennessee only to defend his county, and second, he made mild reference to vicious attacks against his dear wife Rachel. The speeches, one delivered to the largest single crowd ever assembled in the United States up to that time, were written by Major Henry (Black Horse) Lee IV, son of the patriot “Light Horse” Henry Lee, and a speech writer for Vice\.President, John C. Calhoun.
The connection between Henry Lee (above) and Jackson was a bit complicated. See, Henry and his wife Ann had one child, a daughter, who fell down a stairway and died in 1820. Grief drove Ann to a morphine addiction, and it drove Henry into the bed of Ann's younger sister, Elizabeth, who was also his legal ward. That drove Ann to seek comfort with Rachel Jackson, Andrew's wife, at the Hermitage. Then, just to add insult to injury, Henry embezzled from Elizabeth's dowry. When that was discovered, Henry tried to marry the poor Elizabeth off, but it all exploded in scandal and law suits. In 1822 Henry had to sell the Lee Plantation to replace the money in his sister-in-law's dowry. Then he showed up at the Hermitage, hat in hand and contrite. Ann, who had gone cold turkey on her drug addiction, decided to return to her husband for whatever reasons... let's say love. But it all provided Andrew Jackson with a first class speech writer, and a connection with John C. Calhoun. It could almost be the origin of the phrase about politics and bedfellows. But it ain't.
Anyway, Jackson's supporters had won big in the 1826 mid-term elections. Sworn in on March 4, 1827, the 20th congress had 111 Jackson supporters in the House, to 101 Adams men, and Jackson had a 27 to 21 majority in the Senate. Andrew Stevenson (below), a Jackson supporter representing Virginia's ninth district, was even elected Speaker of the House. For the next year President Adams had found himself living in what was referred to as “The Era of Hard Feelings”. The 20th Congress treated Adams much as the 113th Congress would treat President Barack Obama. Anything he liked, they hated. Anything he opposed, they insisted on.
But for this election year of 1828, Speaker Stevenson (above) came up with a clever plan. He would allow a bill raising tariffs by up to 48%, to finally make it out of committee. If enacted the new taxes on imported goods would protect New England manufacturers, and would provide money for Henry Clay's “American System” of infrastructure improvements - canals, roads, even filling in the Dismal Swamp. The Jackson men in Congress even agreed to block any attempts to amend the bill, to keep it pure. Now, why would a southerner like Stevenson support a bill that seemed to offer President Adams and his allies everything they wanted?
You see, the bill did not raise tariffs as much as New England manufactures wanted, and Stevenson figured the western frontier states and the south would say it raised them too much. But then the 1828 Tariff bill was never supposed to become law. It was merely a theatrical performance. After shepherding the bill through committee, the Jackson men intended to force Adam's men to vote for the "tariff of abominations”, revealing the most unpopular parts of their agenda, and then the Jackson supporters would very publicly kill the unpopular bill, for a grateful nation.
Except the strategy seemed to backfire. The South and New England voted against the bill as expected, but it passed the house anyway, 105 to 94. Congressmen from the west and the mid-Atlantic states saw investing in the future as making the nation stronger, not weaker. And then the tariff passed the Senate, as well. Now, if Adams vetoed it, he would be the hero. And then, just when it looked like the whole thing would blow up in Stevenson and Jackson's face, Adams (above) swallowed the poison. He signed the bill. He signed it because he felt the nation needed it. He saw the trap and stepped in it anyway. And thus he saved Stevenson and Jackson's political careers.
But just when the Jackson cabal was about to breathe a sigh of relief, another problem dropped into their laps – Adam's Vice President, John C. Calhoun (above), of South Carolina. He looked like a madman, and in some ways he was. He had already agreed to serve as Andrew Jackson's Vice President. And to provide his support, like approving his speech writer, Henry Lee IV, going to work for Jackson. But he didn't just dislike this new tariff, he hated it. It was supposed to have gone down in defeat. And Calhoun felt betrayed by his Virginia allies, like Stevenson.
Those who knew Calhoun called him the “cast-iron man”, because, like Jackson, he refused to bend. He had been born in South Carolina, educated in Connecticut, and elected by the plantation owners of his home state to the Senate because they could trust him. Historian Richard Hofstadter observed half a century ago that Calhoun always sought to protect their privileges. And the powerful in South Carolina were so outraged by the tariff, they refused to collect it for any goods imported through Charleston harbor. Years later, Calhoun would claim that he had voted against this “tariff of abominations” - his description – but as Vice President, he had no vote except in a tie. But his frustration about the betrayal over the 1828 tariff, and its renewal in 1832, would spur Calhoun to write and distribute 5,000 copies his “Exposition and Protest”. In this paper he argued that any state could nullify any vote of Congress it considered unconstitutional. This would serve as the core of States Rights philosophy, which for the next two hundred fifty years would persist, despite Andrew Jackson's denunciation of it, despite the deaths of 750,000 in a civil war sparked by it, through the civil rights movement in the 1960's which defeated it through non-violence, and into its Tea Party manifestations in the new century. It is disturbing the consistency with which states rights has always been argued in conjunction with racism.
But lost in the “nullification crises” sparked by the tariff was its economic impact. The gross Domestic Product of the United States in 1828 was about $888 billion dollars. Four years later, in 1832, the GDP had jumped to over one billion. Partly this burst of growth occurred because the tariff forced Southerners to buy American goods rather than European. And partly it was because the funds collected were being used for infrastructure, the roads and canals that spurred economic development. And partly it was because of the industrial revolution was energizing manufacturing, the very thing measured by GDP.
Politically, the tariff was most popular in those regions where the powerful had the least control over the population, where suffrage was the most universal. And yet the public image of Andrew Jackson was that he was a man of the people. So the tariff helped fuel economic growth, and that growth benefited a politician who was ideologically opposed to high tariffs - Andrew Jackson. The election of 1828 was beginning to look more modern the closer it got to election day 
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