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Friday, February 24, 2012

February 24 Presidential Losers: James Blaine

James Blaine, 1884

Early on it seemed Blaine was the man to beat: the Republican candidate after a quarter century of Republican administrations, former Speaker of the House, former presidential nominee, and known as the “Magnetic Man” for his personal charisma and charm. 1 His other nickname was “the Plumed Knight,” which is very flattering but shows Republicans weren’t that good at coming up with nicknames.  On top of all this, the Republicans' Christmas wish was granted when it transpired Democratic Candidate Grover Cleveland had fathered an illegitimate child who’d been sent to an orphanage while the mother had gone to an asylum.  Outraged at this calumny, Cleveland hotly denied that the mother had gone to an asylum.  A popular anti-Cleveland rhyme went, “Ma, ma, where’s my pa?”  This changed after the election to, “Gone to the White House, ha-ha-ha,” when letters surfaced revealing Blaine was on the receiving end big-time of graft from the Union Pacific Railroad and others.  (These were called "The Mulligan Letters," which is a very cool nickname.)  One of the incriminating letters actually ended with the instructions “Burn this letter,” which makes you wonder just how big a chump Blaine was.  If a letter confirming you’re taking bribes tells you to burn it, you damn well burn it and don’t shilly-shally; the words “burn it” should be sufficient to any reasonably cautious person, and you don’t need to add, “or else this letter may come to light exactly when it will do you the most damage and you’ll lose a national election to a fornicator and go down in disgrace.”  Additionally, some unfortunate anti-Catholic remarks by a Protestant Blaine supporter helped throw New York into the Cleveland camp.  That’s the way it is with bigotry; you can’t go around despising people just because of their religion, but only when it’s politically effective.


Grover Cleveland: 219
James Blaine: 182

1. Or else for the tendency of nails, paperclips, and iron shavings to cling to his skin.

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