Election Time Insults Are Not New to Politics

If you think political insults and hard-hitting TV commercials are new to politics, then you either haven't been paying attention or are not familiar with political history.

In 1964, Barry Goldwater (search) was dismissed by some Democrats and civil rights leaders as a racist and warmonger. The commercial showing a little girl picking a daisy and then a mushroom cloud was designed to make voters think that Goldwater would start a nuclear war.

Sixteen years later, Democrats tried a similar tactic with Ronald Reagan (search), but it didn't work the second time around.

Political insults, allegations and labels are as old as the country.

John Quincy Adams called Thomas Jefferson, "A slur upon the moral government of the world." Harpers Magazine referred to Abraham Lincoln as a "filthy story-teller, despot, liar, thief, braggart, buffoon, usurper, monster, ignoramus Abe, old scoundrel, perjurer, swindler, tyrant, field-butcher, land-pirate…." Adlai Stevenson said of Republicans, "If they will stop telling lies about the Democrats, we will stop telling the truth about them."

Ronald Reagan's jabs were substantive, but often funny. He said, "Politics is supposed to be the second oldest profession. I have come to realize that it bears a very close resemblance to the first."

Think personal insults are new? Gerald Ford said, "Ronald Reagan doesn't dye his hair, he's just prematurely orange."

And my personal favorite from comedian Mort Sahl: "Reagan won because he ran against Jimmy Carter. If he'd run unopposed, he would have lost."

Kerry and Bush have a long way to go before they reach the levels of insults, or humor from our political past.

And that's Column One for this week.

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