Monday, July 6, 2015

Presidential Losers #49: Bob Dole and Ross Perot

Bob Dole

Ross Perot
In spite of scandals swirling around the Clinton White House involving financial dealings back in Little Rock and allegations of a hibbidy-bibbidy nature regarding Bill himself, the Clinton presidency was very popular.  The economy was improving, and Roseanne had finally been cancelled, so people were feeling upbeat.  

In his re-election, Clinton's margin of victory widened, and Republican challenger Bob Dole earned even fewer electoral votes than George Bush.  Only Ross Perot remained steady, with a solid zero electoral votes.  

Ross was as goofy and paranoid as ever, but even these presidential qualities failed to energize voters.  As Bob, it seemed almost miraculous he could energize himself.  He was no older than Reagan had been - who was? - but he lacked the vim and vigor to make using Grecian Formula convincing.  One pundit said every time he saw Bob Dole, he realized there was an empty coffin somewhere in Transylvania.  


Bill Clinton: 379
Bob Dole: 159
Ross Perot: 0

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Presidential Losers #48: George Bush and Ross Perot

George Bush

Ross Perot1
At one time, with approval ratings in the 90's, Bush must've thought he was unstoppable.  Shows what he knew.  

His campaign pledge, thoughtfully delivered for the benefit of hearing-impaired voters in 1988, had been, "Read my lips, no new taxes."  Unfortunately, what Bush did in office was to raise all the old taxes.  Besides which, the Iron Curtain had come down, and we'd kicked Sadam's butt - or at least the butt of his Republican Guard - so it felt like we no longer needed the virile hawkishness of a Republican president, someone like Reagan who'd unwittingly quipped into a live mike, "We've outlawed the Soviet Union.  Bombing starts in five minutes."  

Now with the country in a recession and the deficit sky-rocketing, Americans were ready for a change.  One person who thought he could provide that change was Ross Perot, who ran a "I'm-mad-as-hell-and-I'm-not-going-to-take-it-anymore" campaign.  

The Texas billionaire first appeared on the political scene claiming that hundreds of POWs had been left behind after the Vietnam War.  Ross engaged in illegal back-door negotiations with Vietnam on the issue.  He failed to secure the release of a single POW, or verify there were any, but he did wrangle an agreement to be Vietnam's business agent once relations with the US were normalized.  So something good did come of it.  

Perot dropped from the race before the election, later claiming some dang Republican operatives were trying to sabotage his daughter's wedding.  One factor might have the performance by his running mate James Stockdale during the vice-presidential debate.  Admiral Stockdale, a Vietnam war hero and former POW opened his remarks with "Who am I?  Why am I here?" a rhetorical question that just gave fodder to Saturday Night Live parodies.   He also neglected to have on his hearing aid, which meant he had to have a question repeated.  

Clinton rolled into the White House, ending the streak of three consecutive Republican victories.


Bill Clinton: 370
George Bush: 168
Ross Perot: 0

Friday, July 3, 2015

Presidential Losers #47: Michael Dukakis

Former vice-president George Bush had been dealt a good hand: a strong economy and stable international relations, virtually ensuring him a presidential victory.  Then the Democrats helped out by nominating Mike Dukakis.  

Mario Cuomo was favored  by many Democratic operatives for his intelligence, but then Mario showed it by refusing to run.  

Gary Hart was attractive to many voters, one in particular.  Regarding allegations of adultery, he told The New York Times that if they followed him around, they'd "get bored."  It was not The Times that followed him, but The Miami Herald who got pictures of Hart with sexy Donna Rice on his lap.  This would have been bad enough, but Hart was wearing a shirt that said, "Monkey Business Crew."  Thus ended Gary Hart.

Dukakis was left.  Dukakis was an old-school New-Deal Democrat from Massachusetts, a self-proclaimed "proud liberal," ie, a sacrificial lamb.  At the convention, Dukakis' name was placed in nomination by a rising star in the party named Bill Clinton.  Bill's speech went on so long, delegates began booing him to finish.  

During the campaign, Bush derided Dukakis for his "Harvard Yard" political views.  When it was pointed out Bush himself had gone to Yale, Bush said that was a different thing entirely.

Dukakis' most memorable gaff was a photo op in which he drove a tank outside a General Dynamics plant to prove his support for the military.  Dukakis had an impressive resume in many respects, but he looked ridiculous with his head sticking out the hatch in a helmet.  This, the voters could never forgive.


George Bush: 426
Michael Dukakis: 111

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Presidential Losers #46: Walter Mondale

In his novel, George Orwell predicted by 1984 we would ruled by ruthless power structure having succeeded in brainwashing the masses.  Instead we got Ronald Reagan.  

Carter had been a banana to the Reagan steamroller in 1980, and Mondale was Carter's second banana.  You could predict the outcome.  Mondale briefly energized his campaign by selecting Geraldine Ferraro as his running mate, the first woman ever to appear on a major party's presidential ticket. Unfortunately, Ferraro's husbands had some itty-bitty ethics problems, involving some tiny bank fraud and minor bribery.  

Mondale and Ferraro stood for bizarre, unpalatable ideas: equal rights for women, reproductive rights, that sort of nonsense, and in the charisma department, compared to Walter Mondull, as his friends called him, a man so colorless, even color photographs of him come out black and white, Reagan was like a movie star.  (Come to think of it, Reagan was a movie star.)  

At 73, Reagan became the oldest candidate ever elected president, but he refused to let age be an issue in the election, saying in a debate, "I am not going to exploit, for political purposes, my opponent's youth and inexperience."  Mondale himself laughed, but later said he was crying on the inside (we really dodged a bullet not having him as president).  He told his wife, that "that was the end of the campaign.  It was over."  Mondale, however, was mistaken.  The campaign was over on July 16 when he received the Democratic nomination.


Ronald Reagan: 525
Walter Mondale: 13

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Presidential Losers #45: Jimmy Carter and John Anderson

Usually a president will be strong in foreign policy and weak on economic policy, or else weak in fiscal policy and strong in international affairs.  Jimmy Carter was the rare president who proved equally effective in both.  

In a tiny insignificant country called Iran, students had taken Americans hostage.  Carter's rescue attempt, "Eagle Claw," accomplished little more than the deaths of eight servicemen.  

At home, energy prices were spiraling, making filling up the car and heating the house into major expenses, but with the interest rate topping out around 18%, Americans could console themselves that they probably couldn't afford a home or car anyway.  

Carter's response was a televised "fireside chat" in which he addressed the American people in a sweater.  The implied message seemed to be: if you want to stay warm, better get a sweater and build a fire.  Somehow this failed to reassure the voters.  Carter also put in solar panels, which President Reagan subsequently removed.1

The other candidate was a moderate Republican, John Anderson.  Like Carter, Anderson was a man of principle, willing to champion unpopular causes.  As with Carter this spelled inevitable defeat.  Anderson was not afraid of bipartisanship, going so far as to tell an audience he supported Carter's grain embargo to the Soviet Union.  Unfortunately, he was speaking in Iowa, where the only thing folks hated worse than the Ruskies was the chance not to sell them grain.  Anderson got a measly 6.6% of the popular vote.  

Jimmy fared better, but not enough better, and Reagan won the biggest landslide by a non-incumbent candidate.


Ronald Reagan: 489
Jimmy Carter: 49
John Anderson: 0

1. When Nixon was in the White House, he kept the air conditioner going so he could have a fire in the fireplace.  Now that was presidential!

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Presidential Losers #44: Gerald Ford

See Footnote
The election of 1876 centered on the biggest presidential scandal up to that time - the engineered election of Rutherford "Rutherfraud" B Hayes.  For the Bicentennial, we out-did ourselves.  

As he was proud of saying about himself, Nixon was no quitter.  This is what he said the day he quit.  Vice-president Spiro Agnew, having earlier resigned in disgrace, Nixon selected Gerald Ford as the new VP.  He'd been second banana less than ten months before Nixon's resignation and his ascension to the top spot.  

In his speech accepting the presidency, Ford said, "Let us restore the golden rule to our political process, and let brotherly love purge our hearts of suspicion and hate."  Less than a month later, in a touching display of brotherly love and golden-rulism, Ford pardoned Nixon for any crimes "he may have committed against the United States."  

Lyndon Johnson once opined that Ford was too dumb to fart and chew gum at the same time, but this underestimated a canny economic mind.  Battling a sagging economy and rising prices, in a nationally-televised speech Ford introduced the "WIN" button, urging Americans to wear the red-and-white button standing for "Whip Inflation Now."  

It is unclear how many Americans actually wore the button, but no economist has ever been able to calculate the effect wearing these buttons had on the nation's economy.  

Against Ford was a relative unknown from Georgia, Jimmy Carter; but following years of political scandal that seemed to touch virtually every politician in DC, the last thing Americans wanted was a known.  Given this, it's surprising Carter didn't have a bigger victory, winning by the popular vote by a margin of only 2 percent, but a win is a win is a button.


Jimmy Carter: 297
Gerald Ford: 240

Footnote: One of the great non-stories of Ford's presidency was the supposed inability of political cartoonists to caricature him.  It was really no big deal, however; as Atlanta Journal cartoonist Clifford "Baldy" Baldowski pointed out, drawing Gerald Ford was basically the same as the Frankenstein monster without those little bolts coming out of his ears.