George Washington was an Englishman, a subject of the crown, for most of his life. He was the son of English parents, an officer in the English army and the first Teflon president of the United States.
No one said anything bad about George Washington. Not aloud anyway. He was the father of his country. Without him there probably would not have been a country - just a bunch of whipped and chastised colonials begging forgiveness from king and parliament.
Seeing a couple of dozen GOP candidates on stage during 26 (or was it 32) debates, stirred a feeling of nostalgia in this one nation under God. We had a candidate who was for and against every major issue, another who was hell bent to do three things but could only remember two of them, a pizza king ambitious to be the second black president and who proposed building an electrified fence between Mexico and the United States. The fence was to be signed: “Touch this fence and die!” There was also a woman in the mix of candidates but what she said was entirely too silly to remember.
The Democrats didn’t raise a chorus line of contenders. President Barack Obama made no secret of running for re-election and the rest of the D’s couldn’t contend.
Since no man living has the courage (or cash) to challenge the incumbent, what if we pull a few candidates out of the past to leaven the mix. My first choice would be Andrew Jackson.
Peers (and he had damn few) called him “Old Hickory” because he carried a stout hickory cane. He used it to beat anyone who sassed him half to death.
Some say he fought 100 duels. Others set the total at a modest 37. No matter. He was ready to stand up and shoot at anyone who wanted to shoot at him.
Think politics are rough and tumble with today’s super PACs and billionaire campaign contributors? Jackson’s opposition hired a gunslinger to end Ol’ Hickory’s career.
The gunman, Charles Dickinson, was reputed to be the best shot and fastest man with a pistol in all of Tennessee. Jackson was neither fast nor particularly accurate but had a whole slop jar full of guts.
Dickinson published a letter slurring Jackson’s wife and accusing him of welshing on a bet. Jackson invited the cad to take a shot at him.
Jackson and his second plotted strategy. Ol’ Hickory would hold his fire, giving Dickinson first shot. Then, he would take careful aim and return fire.
Dickinson’s rapid first shot plugged Jackson in the chest. Jackson’s unhurried return shot killed the fastest pistolero in Tennessee.
Jackson later said, “I would have killed that man if he had hit me in the brain.” He would have, too.
On the last day of his second term, Jackson said that he had but two regrets, that he “had been unable to shoot Henry Clay or to hang John C. Calhoun.”
Aaron had a Burr under his saddle and a strong dislike for Alexander Hamilton. When Burr challenged Hamilton to a duel, the latter was not sure if his one-time colleague was serious.
Burr shot Hamilton deader than a wedge. Burr was the first vice president to shoot a civilian while in office. You know who was second.
Franklin Pierce, 14th president of the United States, had more bum luck than Charlie Brown. Handsome, personable and bright, he picked a contentious time to run for his country’s highest office. South and North had rattled sabers for two decades before the Mexican-American War provided a distraction.
The war won the United States a raft of conquered territory. Southerners thought the new land should be carved into slave states. Northerners wanted slavery prohibited in the new territories.
Pierce went to the 1852 Democratic National Convention with high hopes. He emerged with his expectations severely battered. He was nominated but not until the 49th ballot.
After that, it seemed that everything he did displeased everyone. He is remembered as one of the worst presidents in history.
Finally, in the year of unending GOP primary debates, we must add a few words about the year that started it all.
Vice President Richard Nixon and Sen. John Kennedy faced off in the first four presidential debates in 1960.
Nixon had injured his knee and spent two weeks in the hospital where he lost 25 pounds. He arrived at the studio wearing an ill fitting shirt and a bad hospital pallor. Kennedy had spent that time in California where he acquired a radiant tan. Nixon would later say he had never seen Kennedy looking so good.
Vanity may have cost Nixon the election. He refused the makeup that would have darkened his ashen face and lightened his perpetual “5 o’clock shadow.”
In 1960 a man wearing stage makeup still evoked snickers in most circles.
Seventy million tuned in to watch the first Nixon-Kennedy debate. A large majority of those who saw the debates on television declared Kennedy the winner. Most reckoned him the victor by a large margin.
Those who listened to the debates on radio said Nixon won.
Many political scholars have since decided that Kennedy would have won in any case. A large number of Republicans are convinced that Chicago Mayor Dick Daley stole the election for Kennedy.