Monday, November 03, 2008

The Toothpick Test
Chapter Eight

I must say that the kind of light touch I had with the earlier presidents is a little more difficult to achieve now that we've passed into the age of presidents who were alive in my lifetime, and presidential contests which I personally remember. Naturally, my own frame of reference colors my perception of these events. Even so, it would not have been much of a stretch for you to guess for whom I voted in each election since 1984. Sorry to rush things, but those pesky folks at my job wanted me to work, recently, and I had to kill a bunch of .22 cartridges Monday- they had it coming!- so we're going to do a running survey of the remaining presidential contests...

On we go.
LBJ followed through on programs set into motion by JFK. Great social change and upheaval was the order of the day, and that in concert with the hairball of the Vietnam war no doubt contributed to his decision not to run for re-election in 1968. LBJ was total toothpickery in much the same way JR Ewing is total toothpickery. Kind of seedy and unsavoury, and yet unctuously appealing. No time to go into his randy pawing of guests at White House dinners after Ladybird retired early. *ahem* That would have been fun. Wisht I had time.

Nixon - 1968 Nixon prolly had way more cred with the American public after the real discomfort of Vietnam was settling in. At some point, someone prolly said "hey, didn't the French already try this?" American society was becoming more stratified between the down-to-earth, normal sort of person, and the wastrel layabout free-love hippie set, several of which were my cousins. Whereas the normal folk favored toothpicks, the hippies were doing the microdot thingie, so perhaps they were too strung-out to show up and vote that year. Robert F Kennedy was murdered on the campaign trail, and thus was Hubert Humphrey nominated to lead the Democratic ticket. Hubert Humphrey had a fabulous name, but it would not be enough to earn him a toothpick.

Ironically, after tv technology effectively scuttled Nixon's bid for the presidency in 1960, his presidency would be likewise dunked into the crapper by technology. He was obsessed with documenting his Oval Office experience, and the recordings he made there of his phone conversations were hotter than Pamela and Tommy's home videos, gravity-wise. In retrospect, I wouldn't say they were chock-full of eeeeevil, but they stood as stark proof of activities that looked louche at best, and licentious, at worst. Never document your misbehaviour. What's funny is that Nixon brought the troops home from Vietnam. Nixon renewed lines of communication with China after more than two decades of silence between the two nations. Born in 1965, and only vaguely aware of politics from the age of 7 or so, I thought for many years that Vietnam was Nixon's war, so universally reviled was he. It's odd that I've never heard Vietnam referred to as JFK's or LBJ's war the way certain other presidents are given "credit" for other conflicts. It's just interesting, is all I'm saying.

Gerald Ford, popular football hero stepped into the presidency when Nixon resigned. Ford pardoned Nixon, and the public would not forgive him for this. Ford never earned his toothpick.

A sulky public gave Jimmy Carter the nod in 1976. After all, this was the bicentennial and America was still young and foolish enough to roller-boogie and Do The Hustle with a straight face, our irony chip not yet having been installed. After all, what could be more toothpickly than a gentleman peanut farmer from Georgia, right? IN the last 18 months of his presidency, my family was moving from the mid-south to Texas. I remember gas "shortages", and how there was no gas to be bought between Texarkana and Dallas. Running on empty, we pulled into a truck stop in Rockwall a mere breath away from Dallas, and dad called Uncle Wayne, the one notorious in the family for hoarding and skinflintery. Wayne drove out in a pickup with a big drum of gasoline, a teeny part of his personal stash, no doubt, and we were on our way for the last 30 miles of the trip. Later on, people figured out that gas shortage really wasn't but was just part of Carter's big ideer to manipulate things with a national energy policy. Way to go, dude. Then there was the time the Iranian students took over the US embassy and held its staff hostage. This made Carter look even more bumbling and ineffectual. The verdict:

1980 - USA rescinds Carter's toothpick and passes it along to Ronald Reagan on the very day the US hostages were released in Iran. Reagan was the oldest president to take office, and yet his mien was one of youth and vigor. His positive message was an anodyne after the stresses of the past two decades. Reagan told America's citizens the best days were still ahead of her. Oh, yeah, she'd been a lot cuter when she was younger with a teeny waist and tits that defied gravity, but she'd mellowed into an older broad with a few miles on her but one who was just-- let's face it-- totally hawt!

1984 - Reagan was grooving along and so good natured and unflappable that he became known as the Teflon president. Some people loved to hate him, but mostly, people just loved him. He won re-election against Walter Mondale, and all the while he took the high road and refused to make an issue of his opponent's youth and inexperience.

1988 - Michael Dukakis shamed Joe Biden into withdrawing from the presidential race by exposing Biden for plagiarism(?!) A strong early favorite for the democratic nomination was Gary Hart who challenged the press to try to catch him philandering. He was out pawing on some broad on a boat called Monkey Business, and the press were on the case, unlike today. The entire Democratic party was a hot mess and just seemed to shoot themselves in the foot at every turn. George HW Bush had about him the air of veracity, and his "read my lips: no new taxes" thing had monster appeal with Joe Q Public. Toothpick granted.

1992 - Guess what? New Taxes. Didn't the House and Senate shut down the gubmint to blackmail the president into breaking his word on taxes? I think the tax thing is what effectively killed Bush's hopes for reelection. Toothpick rescinded. Ah, but speaking of hope as in the boy-from, an Arkie president is plumb et-up with toothpickliness. Bill Clinton had charisma and charm and emerged from a large field of candidates to win the nomination. Clinton's warm demeanor is said to be very *ahem* seductive. I've read that even people who vehemently disagreed with him felt very charmed by him when they met him. Maybe he's actually a nice man, despite being whorish, and all. (psst, if I were married to Herself, I'd screw around, too.)

1996 - Bob Dole was the Republican candidate, and this apparently sent Texas billionaire Ross Perot into paroxysms, so he acted as spoiler and skimmed off some of the conservative vote by running as an independent. I worked as proof operator at a bank in Dallas at the time, and I ran staggeringly huge campaign donation deposits from Perot's organization. Like he needed the money. Bill Clinton handily held on to the toothpick trophy.

2000 - George W Bush ran against Al Gore. GWB was a popular governor in Texas. Al Gore had the sparkle and verve of a lukewarm mound of fermented bean curd. Texas provenance alone would have earned GWB a toothpick, but you can see he looks right with one. Ol' Bean Curd was unsportsmanlike, to boot. Don't you just hate whiners?

2004 - John Kerry challenged Bush. Kerry wind-surfed. Kerry handled shotguns. Kerry had lots of photo ops, but America decided not to change horses mid-stream. In truth, George W Bush has been president at what has been a very difficult epoch in our nation's history. The real beginning of the slide in the world's perception of the USA can really be left at the doorstep of Jimmy Carter. Clinton, too, was ineffectual (or oblivious) in responding to major attacks on US interests. An escalating unanswered series of attacks and encroachments taught terrorists they were right to count coup on America. GWB, like him or not, has borne up manfully against some extraordinary challenges, and unlike any presented before in our nation's history. I think he has been unfairly judged by his critics. Sure, he hasn't been perfect, but the ad hominem attacks on him have been ruthless. I think history will prove him more canny than the media have the honesty to admit.
Well, that's it for past elections. If I've gotten some facts wrong, I welcome corrections, but I do not apologize for my opinions or perceptions. I will say I think I can draw much better than I could 8 days ago, though these are still crap. All those poncey collars at the beginning were a small price to pay for the ease of drawing facial hair and no teeth. It turns out I only can draw Shrek teeth, alas. That's a funny evolution to see in presidential portraiture - the advent of a smiley, toothy age. No, LBJ's toothpick didn't take a little blue pill- it points upward to cover where the toothpick first went through the page in the wrong place. By golly, I wasn't about to draw those 4 guys again. Reagan looks particularly awful, and for that I apologize. It's late. Mama's tired.
I'll be announcing the winner of the 2008 election sometime around midday Texas time. I want to say a hearty thank you to all of you sexy people for following these posts. I've had fun doing them, I've learned a bit and I've enjoyed your many comments. Next series: Famous Dogs of Presidents. *wink*


Christina RN LMT said...

Thank you for an excellent wrap-up, Phlegmmy!

Carter's is the first election I personally remember. I also remember, four years later, an ultra-liberal teacher writing "Reagan" as "Ray-gun" on the blackboard. For some reason that memory has always stayed with me.

Can't wait to see those dogs!

Greybeard said...

Glad to finally see someone else comment on the only reason I didn't vote for Bush1 for re-election:
Breaking his "NO NEW TAXES!" pledge.

Mostly agree with your comments, except that LBJ certainly did take ownership of Viet Nam... and refused to run for re-election because it had become a millstone around his neck.
(I left for Viet Nam the day he issued an executive order stopping the bombing of Hanoi. Thanks LBJ!)

And about BushII-
Can someone please tell me why this news ain't all over the wires this month?
(Obviously, that's rhetorical.)

phlegmfatale said...

christina - Dogs rock. Thanks for the kind words - I'm glad you've enjoyed this excursion.

greybeard - The tax thing summed it up for a lot of people, I think. And I expect there was many a protest vote that went to Clinton.

Do remember you saw the whole Vietnam thing from the inside out and in real-time. My history education in school was in the early 80s, and, though I knew at that point the years of the conflict and who was in office, my perception is that my instructors very much downplayed assigning repsonsibility to anyone for that war

That's a brilliant point about that yellow cake - HUGE news. BUT, the media can't have anything getting around that maybe paints Bush in a good light... I'm sure it'll be in the news tomorrow, though...

Buck said...

Ah... quite the wrap-up, Phlegmmy!

You're gonna call the election before the polls close today ("I'll be announcing the winner of the 2008 election sometime around midday Texas time.")?

I didn't know you had a part-time gig with A/NBC-BS News! ;-)