Friday, April 01, 2005

Shock Jocularity

Don from Washington state writes in with another memory of Thomas Eagleton and his influence on the 1972 Presidential race by exhuming this old joke from the ash heap of humor history:

Being old enough to remember those days.....

There were [Nixon running mate] Spiro Agnew watches being sold at the time. Someone said that the Democrats should have their own watch to sell for fundraising purposes. It would be the Ted Kennedy & Tom Eagleton watch - water proof and shock resistant!

Thanks for a great blog. All the best!

Yowza! A joke proving vicious partisanship is indeed an American political tradition. The real joke of course is someone attempting to make a profit by selling Spiro Agnew watches. The secondary market for which is still alive and well 33 years after the fact. Considering you can still pick up a good one for as little as 10 bucks, it's not an investment I'd advise as a replacement for social security any time soon.

For more on Ted Kennedy and Tom Eagleton and their respective roles in the landslide Nixon victory in 1972, check out the morning after election article from the Washington Post (written by that young whippersnapper reporter David Broder). It's fascinating stuff. Excerpts (non-contiguous):

McGovern repeatedly pressed Sen. Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts to be his running mate and when Kennedy gave his final refusal, just an hour before the deadline, the new nominee turned to Sen. Thomas F. Eagleton of Missouri, a little-known freshman senator whose chief asset was that he was a border-state Roman Catholic acceptable to party elements that had opposed McGovern's nomination.

Ten days later, on July 25, McGovern and Eagleton jointly disclosed that -- unknown to the public and to McGovern at the time of selection -- the Missourian had been hospitalized three times between 1960 and 1966 for what Eagleton called "nervous
exhaustion and fatigue."

Eagleton said the therapy had included shock treatment. McGovern said the disclosure in no way affected Eagleton's status, volunteering in a comment that was to echo from then to election day that he stood behind his choice of Eagleton "1,000
per cent."

Within 72 hours, while Eagleton was proceeding to campaign as if nothing happened, there was a crisis in the McGovern camp. Newspaper editorials and leading Democrats were questioning whether Eagleton -- on the basis of his medical history and his efforts to conceal his condition -- was fit for a job that put him in line of succession to the presidency. After a series of uncomfortable days in which McGovern himself and his top aides plated stories with newsmen suggesting that Eagleton should "voluntarily" resign from the ticket, the two men met again on July 31 and announced they had "jointly agreed that the best course is for Sen. Eagleton to step aside."

In the following days, McGovern offered the nomination to Kennedy, Humphrey, Muskie and several other Democratic senators- -- all of whom publicly refused -- before picking Sargent Shriver, the former Peace Corps and anti-poverty director who had never run for public office.


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