Once, politicians had a sense of humor
An election year creates excitement, as it always has, but colorful politicians seem to be a relic of the past.
Sometimes you wonder why some politicians aren’t football coaches. They would make fine defensive coordinators. All they do is attack. All that insult and accusation must work because most politicians seem to always be in attack mode.
Little in politics seems to be amusing these days, although there are plenty of shenanigans to turn our heads. Shenanigans are nothing new in politics, however. There was plenty of underhandedness in the old days.
But where are the politicians like Gene Talmadge, who once was accused of stealing in the state house? When the subject came up at a political rally, Talmadge told his rabid constituency, “I stole for you.” That was acceptable. They were pacified.
Marvin Griffin — in the days of stump rallies that were accompanied by large spreads of barbecue — said after he was defeated by Carl Sanders, “A lot of people ate my barbecue and voted for somebody else.”
One of the staples of John F. Kennedy’s presidential career was his humor. When he was invited to speak at Yale June 11, 1962, at which time he was given an honorary degree, Kennedy offered, “It might be said now that I have the best of both worlds, a Harvard education and a Yale degree.”
Kennedy’s press conferences were spiced with humor, as he enjoyed a stimulating repartee with the media. That was before the climate between the White House and the media became so adversarial.
Red Grange was a celebrated football player — the player who is generally regarded as the one who got pro football established. A superstar with the Chicago Bears, Red spent his sundown years at Indian Lake Estate in Central Florida.
Often in the spring, I would go by to see him, enjoying a nice friendship with one of the greatest names in football history. He once recalled a funny story about the time the senior senator of Illinois invited him and a teammate by the White House to meet President Calvin Coolidge.
When Coolidge came out to greet his visitors, the Illinois senator introduced Red and his friend by saying, “Mr. President, these guys are with the Chicago Bears.”
Coolidge warmly shook hands with his visitors and said, “Hiya, fellows, I always did like animal acts.”
There is a story about Coolidge, a man of dry wit, which is classic. The story goes that in the middle of the night, he got a call from an aide, who told him that the postmaster general had just died.
The caller then added, “I would like to know if you thought it would be okay if I took his place.”
Coolidge replied, “Well, if it is okay with the undertaker, it is okay with me.”
I have always enjoyed telling a very funny story, no doubt embellished by someone who had had a few scotches late on a sunny afternoon. It had to do with the election of 1948.
Tom Dewey, the governor of New York, was the favorite to defeat Harry Truman, who had succeeded Franklin D. Roosevelt as President when Roosevelt died in office. In fact, the Chicago Tribune ran a headline in its morning edition, “Dewey Defeats Truman.” Afterwards, Truman was very happy to pose with the Tribune’s headline, overjoyed that the newspaper had to eat crow.
The story goes that the night before the election, Tom Dewey and his wife were having dinner. He looked at her and said, “My dear, tomorrow night you will be sleeping with the next President of the United States.”
After the votes were counted and Truman had won, she supposedly said to her husband, “Let me get this straight. Am I going to Washington, or is Harry Truman coming here?”
[For 36 years the sideline radio reporter for the Georgia Bulldogs, Loran Smith now covers a bigger sideline of sports personalities and everyday life in his weekly newspaper columns.]