What Was The Worst Political Joke in U.S. History?

There are many candidates for this distinction, but the consequences were certainly devastating for Gov. John Gilligan (D-OH) in 1974. He is shown in 2009 with his daughter, Obama’s HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. She is a former Kansas Governor and they are the only father-daughter governors in U.S. history.
The 1974 election occurred in the wake of the Watergate scandal, which had forced President Richard Nixon’s resignation. The scandal allowed the Democrats to take 49 seats from the GOP in the U.S. House, and increased their majority above the two-thirds mark. One of the few bright spots for Republicans was Gilligan’s defeat for re-election.
Gilligan was an advocate of the first state income tax, and it was passed during his tenure. It was the major issue in the campaign, and Gilligan made it worse when he visited the state fair. He was asked if he was planning to attend the sheep shearing contest, and responded “I don’t shear sheep, I shear taxpayers.”
The comment was repeated endlessly and Gilligan lost by fewer than 1500 votes. Jack Germond of the Washington Star believes the joke may have also cost him the presidency.
He wrote: “Even before the returns were in from the 1974 elections, I had 1976 all figured out. After Watergate, Americans would be sick of anything connected to Washington, so the Democrats would nominate a governor.
“I even knew which one, John Gilligan. . . . My scenario fell apart, however, when Gilligan lost his campaign. . . Gilligan’s quick mouth didn’t help matters.”

Question: How Did Ed Muskie Lose in New Hampshire in 1972?

ANSWER: Senator Ed Muskie (ME) actually won the New Hampshire Democratic presidential primary by 10%, but the news media interpreted it as a significant loss because he ran behind the expectations his own campaign had set.
Muskie had been the 1968 Democratic Vice Presidential nominee and would go on to serve as Secretary of State in the Carter Administration. The Senator received excellent reviews after his 1970 nationally televised address which was the Democratic Party’s official response before the midterm elections.
Senate Majority Whip Ted Kennedy (D-MA) could have easily won the 1972 nomination if it had not been for the 1969 Chappaquiddick incident, and he was not a candidate.
During his 22 years in the Senate, Muskie was always a liberal, but he was not the leftwing choice that year. Muskie was the frontrunner among the party establishment and moderates. The liberal choice in 1972 was Sen. George McGovern (D-SD), and his slogan was “Right From The Start.” Similar to Barack Obama and the Iraq War in 2008, it meant McGovern was an early opponent of the Vietnam War.
Muskie was widely expected to be the nominee throughout 1971, but the first major warning was the Iowa precinct caucuses. Muskie won but McGovern did far better than expected. Muskie received 36% to McGovern’s 23%.
The mainstream media said McGovern had momentum but they expected New Hampshire to be landslide victory for Muskie. Many comparisons were made to the huge win of Sen. John F. Kennedy in the 1960 New Hampshire primary.
Both Kennedy and Muskie were Catholics from adjoining states and were well known in New Hampshire. The state Democratic Party was led by Sen. Thomas McIntyre (D-NH) and they were in full support of Muskie.
McGovern devoted 24 days to the state, while Muskie spent 13. The Maine Senator was significantly criticized by the conservative Manchester Union Leader, but that was to be expected. The Senator made a significant mistake when he decided to hold a rally in front of the Union Leader on a Saturday morning two weeks before the primary.
Speaking of the publisher, he said: “This man doesn’t walk, he crawls. . . By attacking me, by attacking my wife, he has proved himself to be a gutless coward.” Muskie himself later called it “a watershed incident.”
David Broder of The Washington Post wrote: “With tears streaming down his face and his voice choked with emotion, Muskie stood in the snow outside the Manchester Union Leader this morning and accused its publisher of making vicious attacks on him and his wife, Jane…
“In defending his wife, Muskie broke down three times in as many minutes — uttering a few words and then standing silent in the near blizzard, rubbing at his face, his shoulders heaving, while he attempted to regain his composure sufficiently to speak.”
Muskie won the primary by a 46% to 37% margin, but he failed to achieve the 50% goal his campaign had set or the 60% the news media had expected.
Coming in fourth in the Florida primary in March sealed Muskie’s fate, and he withdrew the following month. McGovern would go on to take the Democratic nomination, only to lose in a landslide to Richard Nixon that November.

Now The Shah's Children Are a Part of Iran's Tragedy

President Jimmy Carter and the First Lady are shown with the Shah of Iran and his family at the Niavaran Palace in Tehran on New Year's Eve, 12/31/1977.

The two young children in this photo have both committed suicide. Princess Laila died in 2001 and the death of her brother, Prince Ali Reza, was revealed today.
In his televised toast that night, Carter said “Under the Shah’s brilliant leadership, Iran is an island of stability in one of the most troublesome regions of the world. There is no other state figure whom I could appreciate and like more.” This was their last meeting. Continue reading

Trivia Questions About the First Ladies

1) Which brilliant First Lady used her own money to send 46 disadvantaged young people to college? The press never knew of her generosity and neither did her husband. He only discovered what she had done after her death. Continue reading

A Liberal Democratic Senator Every Conservative Republican Should Admire

Yesterday’s big news was about a possible upset in the Massachusetts special election to fill Ted Kennedy’s vacancy. A political earthquake similar to this happened before. Democrats won the 1957 special election to fill the vacancy caused by the death of Senator Joseph McCarthy (R-WI). The GOP candidate appeared to have many advantages going into the election. He was undefeated former Gov. Walter J. Kohler (1950-1956) who had a high approval rating. The Democrats nominated William Proxmire who had only served one term in the state legislature (1950-1952), and had lost statewide campaigns in 1952, 1954 and 1956.
Kohler significantly outspent Proxmire, but the deepening economic recession was a big advantage for the Democrat. Proxmire was skilled at obtaining free publicity and was even able to use previous defeats to his advantage. The Democratic candidate said: “My opponent doesn’t know what it is to lose. I do. And I’ll welcome the support of voters who do too. I’ll take the losers. I’ll take the debtors. I’ll take those who’ve lost in love, or baseball, or in business. I’ll take the Milwaukee Braves.”
Proxmire graduated from Yale University in 1938, and enlisted as an Army private in the days after Pearl Harbor. He was discharged in1946 as a first lieutenant. He earned his MBA from Harvard two years later and stayed on campus to complete a degree in public administration.
The Proxmire seat remains in Democratic hands today, but unfortunately few members of his party are similar to the late Wisconsin Senator.
He served from 1957 to 1988, and was the original Porkbuster. He was known for his devotion to curbing governmental waste and mismanagement, and beginning in 1975 he issued a monthly Golden Fleece Award. The award was bestowed on the most “wasteful, ridiculous or ironic use of the taxpayers’ money.” He also issued merit awards for successful actions of government agencies which resulted in increased efficiency. A few examples of Golden Fleece Awards are:
* The National Science Foundation for spending $84,000 to learn why people fall in love. Proxmire said such a study was better left to “poets and mystics, to Irving Berlin, to thousands of high school and college bull sessions.”
* The National Institute for Mental Health which spent $97,000 to study what happened in houses of prostitution. The researchers said they made repeated visits in the interests of accuracy.
* The Federal Aviation Administration for spending $57,800 on a study of the physical measurements of 432 airline stewardesses, paying special attention to the “length of the buttocks” and how their knees were arranged when they were seated.
* The Justice Department for spending $27,000 to determine why prisoners wanted to get out of jail.
* The Department of Defense for spending $3,000 to determine if people in the military should carry umbrellas in the rain. He also brought attention to the $7,000 coffeepot, the $400 hammer and the $792 doormat.
* The Department of Agriculture for spending $100,000 to study whether fish that had consumed tequila were more belligerent than fish that had stuck with gin.
Another Proxmire campaign was to cut back on the use of government limousines. In testimony before the House Committee on Government Operations he said “The limousine is the ultimate ego trip, the supreme sign of success. It shouts: “Hey, this guy is really and truly Mr. Big.”
President Jimmy Carter took his advice and used a Town Car instead of a limousine. Carter also accepted Proxmire’s recommendation and surprised everyone by walking down Pennsylvania Avenue after his Inauguration.
Proxmire opposed new federal spending even when it was for his state. He deleted money for a lake improvement project in LaFarge by saying it was wasteful. The lake then became a mudhole, and a sign was erected calling it Lake Proxmire. Many of the financial problems which are being encountered by states and cities today were pointed out by Proxmire decades ago. This was especially true when he served as Chairman of the Banking Committee when it considered the $2.3 billion federal loan guarantee to New York City (which was then on the brink of bankruptcy).
Proxmire publicly criticized Mayor Beame and the city as profligate, and excoriated the City Council for seeking a 50 percent pay raise during a financial crisis. More importantly, he also said municipal workers made too much money and their pensions benefits should be revised because they were far better than the private sector. Few Democratic lawmakers would say that today.
Proxmire was a liberal and his foreign policy and national security views were misguided. His opposition to the C-5A transport, the Patriot missile, the F-16 and the F-18 fighter jets were not wise. Nevertheless, he deserves tremendous credit for efforts to improve governmental management.
Government waste, excessive spending and budget deficits were the prime targets of his books; “Report from the Wasteland” (1970), “Uncle Sam: The Last of the Bigtime Spenders,” (1972), and “The Fleecing of America” (1980). In each of his last two Senate campaigns, Proxmire refused to take any contributions and spent less than $200 out of his own pocket.
Proxmire retired from the Senate in 1988 after 32 years of service. He said, “I have spent my career trying to get Congressmen to spend the people’s money as if it were their own. But I have failed.” He served as Honorary Chair of the Advisory Board of Taxpayers for Common Sense. Suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, Proxmire died on December 15, 2005 after spending four years in a Maryland nursing home.
His name continues to be heard in Wisconsin politics. Former Rep. Mark W. Neumann (R-WI) is now running for Governor. Similar to Proxmire, Neumann frustrated many of his colleagues with his pledge not to vote for any bill which increased the deficit. Neumann believes tax-cutting is not enough, and as a lawmaker he advocated paying down the accumulated national debt and reducing the size of government. His campaign is featuring this 1995 letter the then Congressman received from Proxmire:
“Congratulations on your courage and conviction… I have rarely been so impressed by any Member of Congress as I was by your ‘flat-out act of conscience.’ Yours was truly a class act. Wisconsin should be very proud of you.”
PHOTO: Triumphant Democrats march to the State Capitol in Madison, Wisconsin on August 27, 1957 as three time loser William Proxmire easily wins the special election caused by the death of Senator Joseph McCarthy (R-WI). Proxmire’s victory sent shock waves through the political world and a year later Democrats would win an unprecedented 13 seats in the U.S. Senate and catapult into the lead for the 1960 presidential election. Democrats would also win both 1959 Senate elections in the new state of Alaska, and the results were split in the new state of Hawaii. The results were an aggregate gain of 16 seats for the Democrats and a party balance of 65-35. Democrats gained three open seats in California, Indiana, and New Jersey, and defeated ten Republican incumbents: William C. Revercomb (WV), John D. Hoblitzell, Jr. (WV), John W. Bricker (OH), Edward Thye (MN), William A. Purtell (CT), Frederick G. Payne (ME), Charles E. Potter (MI), Arthur V. Watkins (UT), Frank A. Barrett (WY) and George W. Malone (NV).