Jerry Summers: You Think Politics Is Bad Now. . .

  • Saturday, March 18, 2023
  • Jerry Summers

Since the incumbent mayor has already designated and registered the name of his March 25, 2025 Campaign Treasurers with the Hamilton County Election Commission and his anticipated opponent announced that they were also going to run for the top spot in Gig City after their run-off defeat for City Council person in the 2021 race for District 8, let the War of Words begin!

We have previously quoted from the 1982 campaign writings of former Hamilton County Executive Dalton Roberts (Chattanoogan, January 28, 2023) in “Things That Really Matter, The Wit and Philosophy of Dalton Roberts” on a similar but unrelated aspect of politics.

In a chapter on the subject “political satire” he discusses the topic of Wisecracks in the political arena from a historical perspective and maybe an indication of things to come in 2024-2025 in the former “Scenic City.”

“Politicians and public figures of our day are gentle as lambs in the use of satire when compared to our forefathers. It was once the “in thing” and the public enjoyed it immensely. The more vicious and venomous, the more they loved it.”(Before gentle Fox News and CNN news channels).

  • 1.) “Thomas B. Macauley, for example, called Samuel Johnson “a common butt in the taverns of London. Thomas Carlyle described Percy Shelly as “an extremely weak creature; a poor, thin, spasmodic, hectic shrill and pallid being.” He called William Hazlitt “a mere ulcer; a sore from head to foot; a poor devil; an overgrown pimple.” He said Richard Swinburne was “sitting in a sewer and adding to it.”;
  • 2.) Carlyle dished it out but he also had to take it. Samuel Butler said, “It was very good of God to let Carlyle and Mrs. Carlyle marry one another and so make only two people miserable instead of four.”;
  • 3.) Even the solemn and righteous Ralph W. Emerson didn’t escape the savage wits of the old days. Herman Melville said, “If he had lived in those days when the world was made, he might have offered some valuable suggestions.;
  • 4.) H.G Wells could slide one under the ribs. He said George Bernard Shaw was “an idiot child screaming in a hospital. Some of our forefathers, like George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, have become near-deities if you listen to the history books. In their day, they were just politicians who were abused in the same way that we dish it out today.;
  • 5.) General Charles Lee called Washington “that dark, designing, sordid, ambitious, vain, proud, arrogant and vindictive knave.” What a way to talk about “the Father of Our Country!”;
  • 6.) Thomas Paine actually said to Washington, “As to you, sir, treacherous in private friendship and a hypocrite in public life, the world will be puzzled to decide whether you are an apostate or an imposter, whether you have abandoned good principles, or whether you had any.”;
  • 7.) Alexander Hamilton said, “The moral character of Jefferson was repulsive. He made money of his debaucheries.” John Quincy Adams agreed and went a step further, calling him “a slur upon the moral government of the world.” When Jefferson was running for president, an editorial in the New England Courant said, “Murder, robbery, rape, adultery and incest will be openly taught and practiced.” (I’m telling you, politics is really gentle today!);
  • 8.) Tennessee’s Andy Jackson said of Henry Clay, “He is certainly the basest, meanest scoundrel that ever disgraced the image of God - nothing too mean or low for him to condescend to.”;
  • 9.) Lincoln didn’t think much of General George McClellan’s military skills so old George ran against him, saying, “The President is nothing more than a baboon. I went to the White House after tea where I found ‘the original gorilla’ about as intelligent as ever. What a specimen!” The respected Harper’s Weekly called Lincoln “a filthy story-teller, despot, liar, thief, braggart, buffoon, usurper, monster, Ignoramus Abe, Old Scoundrel, perjurer, robber, swindler, tyrant, field butcher, and land-pirate.”

     At the time of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, almost all the reviews were bad. The Chicago Times called it “an offensive exhibition of boorish and vulgarity.”

    One of my all-time favorite barbs came from Dorothy Parker. When she heard that Calvin Coolidge was dead, she asked, “How can you tell?”

  • 10.) When Harold (Secretary of the Interior) Ickes heard that Thomas Dewey was running for president, he sighed, “Well, Dewey has thrown his diaper in the ring.”;
  • We can see that politics can be vicious. What’s wrong with adding a little humor to it? Even if it is true that wisecracks can backfire on you, I’ll always appreciate those candidates who take the chance. Our political columns will be much less boring if politicians refuse to take this advice Senator Thomas Corwin gave to candidate James Garfield: “Never make people laugh. If you would succeed in politics, you must be solemn, solemn as a jackass. All great monuments are built over solemn jackasses.”

(The unresolved question in the 2024-2025 elections is whether the hard critical shots toward their opponents will be made directly by the candidates or by an associate or undisclosed supporters?)

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