David Bruce: Politics Anecdotes

• Linus Pauling is the only person to have won two unshared Nobel Prizes. In 1954, he won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, and in 1962, he won the Nobel Peace Prize. In April 1962, he participated in a peace march around the White House while carrying a placard that stated, “We Have No Right To Test” — the word “Test” referred to nuclear testing. Shortly afterward, he and many other people (including 48 other invitees who had won the Nobel Prize) went inside the White House to eat a meal with President John F. Kennedy, who said that his four-year-old daughter, Caroline, had watched the peace march and then asked, “Mummy, what has Daddy done wrong now?” In 1960, two years after giving a petition to end nuclear war to the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Mr. Pauling was called to testify before the Senate Internal Security Subcommittee (SISS) of the United States Senate, which wanted to know how he had gotten so many signatures on the petition. Mr. Pauling was suspected of being a Communist and SISS thought that a Communist organization might have helped him get the signatures, but in 1972 the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) closed its 2,500-page file on him after discovering in years of investigation no evidence that he was a Communist. Mr. Pauling told SISS, “I think that my reputation and example may well have led these younger people to work for peace in this way. My conscience will not allow me to protect myself by sacrificing these idealistic and hopeful people, and I am not going to do it. As a matter of conscience, as a matter of principle, as a matter of morality, I have decided that I shall not conform to the request of the subcommittee.” SISS received no names from Mr. Pauling. By the way, in 1945, Mr. Pauling made the decision “to sacrifice part of my scientific career to working for the control of nuclear weapons and for the achievement of world peace. In the early 1950s, he discovered that some of his scientific work was not going to be supported by grants because of his political views. He resubmitted the grant applications, leaving off his name and instead using the names of his collaborators. The grants were approved.

• When Ken Kettlewell, author of Presidential Passages, a book about the Bibles the Presidents of the United States used at their inaugurations, was 12 years old in 1937, one of his teachers, Paul M. Davis, invited him to listen on his radio to the third inaugural address of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Mrs. Davis served cookies, and in his book Mr. Kettlewell writes, “I don’t remember the inaugural address. I do remember the cookies.” By the way, the Bible that Grover Cleveland used at both of his inaugurations was a gift. Clerk of the Supreme Court James H. McKenney, reported, “He was the owner of a small Bible, not larger than our hand. His mother had presented it to him when he was a boy, and he had treasured it ever since. It was used at both Inaugurals.” The Bible on which Calvin Coolidge took the oath of office was given to him when he was a boy by his grandmother. While staying at his father’s house, Vice President Coolidge received a telegram at midnight telling him that President Warren G. Harding had died. Mr. Coolidge’s father, who had been asleep, got up and administered to his son the oath of office.

• It hurts to lose a campaign for President of the United States. As columnist Mark Shields writes, “What it means for starters is that the first line of your obituary, ‘(fill in the blank), defeated presidential nominee, died yesterday at the age of,’ has already been written.” Walter “Fritz” Mondale lost a landslide election to Ronald Reagan in 1984, and George McGovern lost a landslide election to Richard Nixon in 1972. Mr. Mondale and Mr. McGovern met in 1988, and Mr. Mondale asked Mr. McGovern, “Please tell me, George, when does it stop hurting?” Although 16 years had passed since his loss, Mr. McGovern replied, “I’ll let you know, Fritz. I’ll let you know.”

• In July 1996, Boris Yeltsin was worried about getting enough votes to be reelected President of Russia. Many of his supporters lived in cities, and he was afraid that they would leave the cities and go to their country cottages and have a good time and not bother to vote. He wanted them to stay in the cities and vote for him. He found a way to do just that. Tropikankawas a very popular television soap opera in Russia. The soap opera broadcast three new episodes between 8 a.m. and 11 a.m. on election day. Most country cottages did not have televisions, so people stayed in the cities, watched the three episodes, and then had plenty of time left over to vote. Mr. Yeltsin won the election by more than 10 million votes.

• In 1996, when Vice President Al Gore spoke at the graduation ceremony of MIT students, the graduation students played “Al Gore Buzzword Bingo.” The students had bingo cards that lacked numbers but which did have buzzwords such as “information superhighway,” “Infobahn,” “paradigm,” and “empower.” Every time Mr. Gore said one of the buzzwords, the students would mark out that square. The students who got five buzzwords in a row were instructed (the instructions were printed on the card) not to shout “BINGO” (“which would be rude and potentially upset the men with wires in their ears”), but to hold up the card so that Mr. Gore could see it.

• Tom Morello, the Harvard-educated (in political science) musician in Rage Against the Machine, once worked a day job as the late California Democratic Senator Alan Cranston’s scheduling secretary, a position in which he worked mostly at raising money. One day, a crying woman called the Senator’s office to complain about the Mexicans moving into her neighborhood. He called the woman a racist, and he told her to go to hell, remarks for which he got into trouble. Mr. Morello says, “That’s when I realized, if in my job I can’t tell a racist to go to hell, I’m not in the right job.”


Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved


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