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Tuesday, March 13, 2012

March 13 Presidential Losers: Adlai Stevenson

Adlai Stevenson, 1952

Everyone agrees that Adlai Stevenson was intelligent, articulate, and witty.  Clearly a man like this would never be president.  A voter once said to him, "Every thinking person in America will vote for you," to which Stevenson replied, "That won't be enough, ma'am, I need a majority."  Harry Truman, whose approval ratings had sunk so low, you'd need a shovel and a flashlight to find them, urged Stevenson to seek the Democratic nomination.  Stevenson spent the night in the Lincoln bedroom, awed at the historic furnishings surrounding him.  He spent the night on the couch, unaware that the room had recently been refurnished, and he was sleeping on the only genuine antique in the room. 1
 Up against Stevenson was Dwight Eisenhower; this was like a race for class president between the first-string quarterback of the football team and the president of the chess club.  Eisenhower was a five-star general who'd driven Nazis out of Europe in World War II.  In '32 he'd also helped fight off some pesky World War I veterans who'd come to Washington to demand their pay bonuses.2
 On top of all this, Eisenhower routinely shot in the low '80's in golf.
By comparison, Stevenson was a brain.  OK, so his grandfather had been vice president.  Very big whoop.  Instead of a sexy nickname like "Ike," Stevenson was called "Egghead."  (Get it?  His brain was really big, and he was bald, so his head looked like an egg!  Ha-ha-ha-ha!  Republicans are sooo funny!)  Think about it; with the Cold War heating up, and Commies infiltrating Hollywood and the State Department like termites in cheese,3 who would you want running the White House - a five-star general and a scratch golfer, or a straight-A student who talks about social justice and stuff?
Case closed.

Result

Dwight Eisenhower: 457
Adlai Stevenson: 73



1. Mrs. Stevenson was back home in Illinois.
2. The attack on the "Bonus Army" was really a very peaceful operation and involved some of the brightest stars from World War II - General Patton, General MacArthur, and Dwight Eisenhower, at the time an aid to MacArthur.  There were only 55 injuries, and one woman who miscarried.  One protestor did die later, but doctors said it was enteritis, although the "tear gas didn't do it any good."  In a later biography, Eisenhower recollecting saying he told  "that dumb son-of-a-bitch [MacArthur] not to go down there.  I told him it was no place for the Chief of Staff."  In spite of this, Eisenhower wrote the official report endorsing MacArthur's actions.
3. I'm running out of similes.  Sorry.

1 comment:

  1. I always thought it rather curiously ironic that so many historians compare Adlai Stevenson's political career to Dwight Eisenhower's military career. Ike, of course, earned a great reputation as a staff officer, and was given command of all the allied forces in Europe without ever having held a battlefield command.
    As you point out, Stevenson was brilliant, witty, and very likeable. He was very well respected by Democrats and Republicans alike. (Those were obviouly simpler times.) Like Ike, he was a midwesterner who was able to "manage" a lot of people with very high-maintenance egos...most of whom thought they could do his job better than HE could. Trouble is, he would have probably been a better president than he was a presidential CANDIDATE. (Sadly, you can probably say that about a lot of people. The ones who would probably do the best job have absolutely NO chance of ever being elected.)

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