I found myself wondering the other day, how politicians got so crazy during my lifetime. And then I was reminded of Representative Marion Anthony Zioncheck (above), who toiled for almost a decade in the lumber camps north of Seattle, Washington, to earn his college tuition. When finally in law school he was elected class president, and then campaigned for a new student union building. His successful tactics so offended the football team they shaved his head and dumped him in a fountain. As a successful criminal attorney he was often cited for contempt, once appealing a $25 fine all the way to the Washington State Supreme Court. Then in November of 1932 the Democrat won a Republican seat in the U.S. House of Representatives by 12 percentage points.
"This was a sophisticated and lucrative operation with a multi-tiered management structure. It was, however, nothing more than a prostitution ring."
Governor Eliot Spitzer, explaining a Staten Island vice ring
In 1934 Marion Anthony Zioncheck was a freshman in the 73rd Congress, one of 311 Democrats to just 117 Republicans. And while this was the congress famous for the Hundred Days of New Deal legislation, the 31 year old Marion earned his reputation as an intellectual bully, calling his G.O.P. colleges “fools and jackasses”. He was once invited to “step out into the hall” so Republican William Ekwall of Oregon could “deal with him.” In a 1934 floor speech he referred to the director of the F.B.I., J. Edgar Hoover, as a dictator and a “master of fiction”. That was politics as usual, but Marion even had a truckload of manure dumped on Hoover's front lawn. That was not usual politics, and the folks back on Puget Sound loved it. Marion was re-elected that year by an even bigger margin.
"The attractive lady...dropped into my lap....I chose not to dump her off."
Senator Gary Hart explaining a photo of Donna Rice sitting on his lap
In April of 1935, as part of the normal grease which helps the House to function, fellow Democrat Thomas Blanton from Texas sought to remove from the official record some of Zioncheck's more nasty attacks on Republicans. But Marion refused to allow it. To make a point he suggested, “I want it put in the record that Mr. Blanton is a son of Texas”. Marion then offered to have the offensive word “Texas” removed, and replaced by a blank space.
Mayor Marion Barry explaining his cities' high murder rate
Fellow Democratic Congressman Blanton called Zioncheck's suggestion “ridicules and asinine”. Marion protested the word “asinine” as “un-parlimentary”. The Congressional staff were forced to look up the exact definition in a dictionary. The interruption only angered Blanton more, and in finishing he slipped and refereed to Zioncheck as the “gentleman from New York”. Anyone else would have ignored the gaff, but Marion pounced, sneering at his fellow Democrat, “I long ago learned not to describe the beauty of a morning sunrise to a cat.” Blanton leapt to his feet, and stormed toward Marion, who met him with balled fists. They were separated by fellow members and Congressman Zioncheck's remarks, now including the ones about Blanton, were removed by vote of 272 to 0. Even Zioncheck did not vote to retain them.
Sen. John Kerry explaining his voting record
Just after midnight on January 1st, 1936, Marion stumbled into the lobby of a D.C. apartment building and hot wired the intercom so he could call every tenant at once. He identified himself and then wished them all a happy New Year. His sleepy victims did not appreciate the gesture, but the press did. It seemed some one had begun keeping newspapers notified of Marion's adventures - as when early in the morning a few weeks later the congressman was stopped by capital police doing 60 mile an hour up Connecticut Avenue. Marion paid a $25 fine. Then in April, it happened again. This time the speed was 70 mile per hour. Marion paid a $45 fine, and the the judge slapped on a $20 fine for contempt. The papers began calling him the 'Salon Congressman” - as in "saloon", and “the House's Bad Boy”. It was even reported he had driven his roadster on the White House lawn. And when the White House did not strongly defend him, Marion mailed President Roosevelt a package of empty beer bottles and some mothballs.
"About this time, the Congressman's car was stopped by the Park Service and Mrs. Battistella was able to open the door... The next thing I knew she was in the water."
Congressman Wilbur Mills explaining how his date, aka stripper Fanny Foxe, ended up in the Potomac River
In April Marion met a 21 year old Works Progress Administration typist from Texarkana, Texas, named Rubye Louise Nex. Marion explained to Harold Ickes, Secretary of the Interior, "I met her about a week ago, then she called me up one night. She asked me down and so I went down and looked her over. She was OK.” Marion asked the Secretary to officiate at their wedding, but the Ickes demurred. So Marion and Rubye crossed into Maryland, which had no waiting period for marraiges.. Rubye told the papers “excitement and hubbub” just seemed to follow her new husband, and she was “glad to go along with him”.
"American scientific companies are cross-breeding humans and animals and coming up with mice with fully functioning human brains."
Senate Candidate Christine O'Donnell explaining why she does not trust science
They decided to honeymoon in Florida, but were stopped almost immediately in Alexandria, Virginia, and charged with speeding. Marion posted a $200 bond, and continued on his honeymoon. Four days later their trip was interrupted again, 2 ½ miles south of Shallotte, North Carolina, when a county sheriff pulled Marion over, supposedly because that morning he had missed his court date back in Virginia. The head line read “Zioncheck Again Arrested”, and though one might wonder how in 1934 a county sheriff had heard within four hours about a missed court appearance 300 miles away, no one in Washington thought to ask that. When Alexandria refused to pay for Representative Zioncheck's extradition over a misdemeanor charge, the couple was released - but for the rest of the trip to Miami, Rubye did the driving.
"The governor is hiking the Appalachian Trail."
Spokesman for South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford
At this moment the Peurto Rician legislature passed a bill applying for statehood status. American congressional leadership asked Marion, since he was in Miami, to check out the situation. Marion and his new bride flew there on Monday, May 7th, and what they found was not what Roosevelt's appointed governor, Blanton Winslip, had been telling the White House. Their car was chased by rock throwing youths, shouting nationalistic chants. But the White House was not prepared to listen, telling Marion the governor “is the sole and competent authority to carry out this government's policy”. So Marion went public, warning the Associated Press, “The United States ought to either get in or get out of here. This thing is like a snowball. It grows.” But Marion had under rated the damage already done to his reputation, and his report was dismissed as the ravings of a drunken lunatic.
"I find it interesting that it was back in the 1970s that the swine flu broke out under...President Jimmy Carter. I'm not blaming this on President Obama, I just think it's an interesting coincidence."
Representative Michele Bachmann, explaining the 2011 flue outbreak.
On his return to New York, two weeks later, Marion entertained several reporters in his hotel room, even inventing a new drink - cough syrup, honey and rye, which he dubbed a “zipper”, as in 'zip your lip'. But if Marion thought this meeting was off the record he was sadly mistaken. The alcoholic invention was duly reported, and afterwards the couple were dared by photographers to wade into a fountain. The headlines shouted, “Zionchecks Go For A Paddle”.
Congressman Mark Foley, explaining his attraction to a 16 year old male page
Back in Washington at the end of May, Marion found his apartment occupied by the woman he was subletting from, Mrs. Benjamin Young, who thought he was unfit to be either a Congressman or rent her property . Despite the Zioncheck's lease having another five months to run, she refused to leave. So all three occupied the one bedroom together. Marion returned to work the next day, riding a bicycle to the capital as a publicity stunt and to avoid any further traffic tickets. But as a pedestrian he was arrested by Alexandria police Sargent George Helmuth, for that missed court appearance. He was only in jail long enough for a few more press photos to be taken , which made the front pages from D.C. to Seattle.
Governor Mitt Romney, explaining why he strapped his dog on the roof of a station wagon
A few days later, after yet another confrontation with Mrs. Young, Marion dragged the screaming and kicking woman out into the hallway, where he dumped her. Luckily the press was on hand to snap more photos. These headlines read, “Zioncheck Puts Woman To Rout”, and “Zioncheck Checks Out Landlady”. Mrs. Young claimed a broken hip, but refused to be examined. Reporters quoted her as saying, “We've got to see whether this country is going to be run by Bolshevism or Americanism” Mrs Young insisted the police report her as 92 years old. Her driver's license said she was 42.
"Not only did I grope him, I tickled him until he couldn't breathe and four guys jumped on top of me."
Congressman Eric Massa explaining his boisterous lifestyle
Rubye could take no more of the circus, and walked out. And while she was gone, Marion threw a temper tantrum, tossing dishes and furniture about the apartment. Eventually the police were called again, and Anthony was arrested again. This time a friend bailed him out, but warned him the Democrats would offer no further public support. From this Marion became convinced that his 21 year old bride had been kidnapped by the 66 year old Vice President, fellow Democrat John Nance. The next time the police were called, Marion was committed to a hospital for "mental observation".
Congressman Tom Delay, explaining why he is smiling in his mug shot
They locked him up in the Gallinger Municipal Hospital Psychopathic Ward, aka the Washington Asylum. Rubye came to the hospital, but only to speak with Marion's doctors. The newlyweds never visited. During his three week evaluation, Marion announced he would not run for re-election. Just as a grand jury was convening to consider his sanity, Marion's friends got him shipped to a clinic in Baltimore, Maryland. He stayed there for a few days, before climbing a fence and disappearing. He surfaced a week later with Rubye in Chicago, fresh and seemingly recovered, and boarded a train for Seattle.
Senator Zell Miller explaining how much he disagreed with interviewer Chris Matthews
On his return home, Marion's mother urged him to run for re-election, saying it was the only way to prove he was not crazy. And on Monday, August 3, 1936, Marion paid the $100 fee and filed papers to run again in November. That night he told a Seattle radio station, “I have been pictured as a vicious wide eyed radical ever since I was president of the student body at the University of Washington. Now I'm going to go back to congress...I'm going to clear up of things that were falsely said about me.” He opened a campaign office on the 5th floor of the Arctic building (now a hotel) in downtown Seattle, at the corner of Third Avenue and Cherry Street. But Rubye insisted Marion see a psychiatrist, which he finally did on the afternoon of Friday, August 7th, , when he was evaluated by Dr. Edward Hoedemaker.
Senator John Edwards, explaining the timing of his infidelity around his wife's cancer.
Doctor Hoedemaker warned Rubye and Marion's brother-in-law, Bill Nadeau, who were to drive him to a political meeting that night, that they should keep a close eye on the congressman. After leaving the doctor's office they stopped off at Marion's headquarters in the Arctic building , so Zioncheck could pick up some papers before addressing a postal workers banquet. When he did not come out after a few minutes, Bill went in after him. He found the office locked. A janitor opened the door, revealing Marion writing at his desk.
Congresswoman Katherine Harris, explaining her reasons for being a Republican
Bill looked at what Marion was writing, which he assumed were remarks for that night's meeting. The note read, “"My only hope in life was to improve the condition of an unfair economic system that held no promise to those that all the wealth of even a decent chance to survive, let alone live." The note made no sense to Bill, so he told Marion, , “Come on, kid. We'll be late. Forget it”. As his charge stood, Bill held up Marion's suit jacket for him to put on. But instead Marion made a dive for the open window. Desperately Bill reached for the Congressman's feet. By the time he reached the window, Marion was already dead on the sidewalk five floors below.
New York City Mayor David Dinkins, explaining why he did not pay his taxes
Marion Anthony Zioncheck tumbled 60 feet past the cream white terra cotta exterior of the Arctic building, and landed on his head, spattering a passing loan broker, W.H. McFarlane, with his blood and brains. Rubye was the next to reach the body. She fainted on the sidewalk. Two thousand attended Marion's funeral, at which the Reverend Fred Shorter called him “a shell shocked comrade who died at the barricades, fighting to the very last for the poor and dispossessed.” It might be added, with hindsight, that Marion was at least a manic-depressive who was self medicating with alcohol, or at worst a victim of schizophrenia, which often onsets during the late twenties and early thirties. But whatever his illness, he was certainly not helped by the soulless cut-throat nature of Washington politics. But it makes me wonder why so many of those drawn into politics are so freaking nuts, to begin with. And why we keep electing them.