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Sunday, March 4, 2012

March 4, Presidential Losers, Charles Evans Hughes

Charles Evans Hughes, 1916

A close-fought race against incumbent Woodrow Wilson, who was helped mightily by the slogan, "He kept us out of the war."  A more accurate slogan would've added, "... up to now," or "Past performance does not guarantee future results," but presidential campaigns aren't won on accuracy.  Charles Evans Hughes, who'd been a Supreme Court Justice never got us in a war, either, but somehow the Republicans never thought to bring this up.  The Progressive Pary (aka Bull Moose) tried nominating Teddy Roosevelt again, but he wasn't having it, so they folded up their tents and went home.  The word "pinko" was not in popular use in those days, but if it had been, Hughes would have employed it against Wilson.  Wilson had all sorts of crackpot notions, such as limiting the work day to eight hours.  (What a goof!)  The election was a squeaker, and the fatal mistake came when Hughes, who was on a campaign swing through California, happened to stay in the same hotel as Governor Hiram Johnson and neglected to pay him a visit.  A minor oversight, perhaps, but imagine the political ramifications if, say, Newt Gingrich accidentally unfriended Donald Trump on Facebook.  Hiram Johnson, miffed, offered Hughes only lukewarm support, and previously-Republican California went to Wilson; if the thirteen electoral votes had gone to Hughes the outcome would have been different.  Hughes' loss had far-reaching political impact: he was the last presidential candidate with significant facial hair.  The last president to have so much as a moustache - although it was a dandy - had been Taft.  From that day to this, however, American presidents have been fuzz-less.1


Woodrow Wilson: 277
William Howard Hughes: 254 

1. Wilson came to an unhappy end, sad to say.  After campaigning on a promise to keep us out of the war, he got us into it after all.  Afterwards, he came up with a typical Wilsonian crackpot notion of a cooperative international body that would mediate conflicts and search for peaceful solutions.  (I repeat: what a goof!)  He tried selling this idea to the American people with the implied promise, "Well, at least I can keep you out of the next war," but the American people gave him the collective raspberry.  In 1919 he suffered a stroke, which left him paralyzed on one side of his body and mentally impaired.  His wife hid this as much as possible from the Vice President, the cabinet, the American people, at one time staging a fake "interview," with Louis Seibold.  In the text of the interview, Seibold ribbed Wilson about having a slight limp, to which Wilson's printed reply showed surprising good humor, considering in reality he was confined to a wheelchair and unable to speak.  Seibold won a Pulitzer Prize.

1 comment:

  1. "Charles Evans Hughes" is a good name for a politician...sounds like it would belong to someone who is somber and honest. (Can't always go by that, of course...)