Humor and politics

By Christopher Harper

Dick Tuck was a political operative I met in the 1970s in Washington, D.C., and I later reconnected with him in the 1990s in New York City.

During his years as a campaign aide to the Democratic National Committee, Tuck became Richard Nixon’s nemesis.

In 1962, Tuck worked for Pat Brown in the gubernatorial campaign that Nixon tried to win after losing the presidential race to JFK two years earlier.

At a fundraiser in Chinatown in Los Angeles, Nixon was confused when the guests started to smile during his presentation. Tuck had snuck in fortune cookies that read: “Vote for Pat Brown.” During a whistle-stop campaign, Tuck ordered the train to start moving in the middle of Nixon’s speech. Nixon even complained about Tuck in the infamous Watergate tapes.

Whatever the case, Tuck brought humor to campaigns—a device sadly missing in today’s venomous political scene.

Rand Paul brought back memories of Dick Tuck when the Kentucky senator brought some humor to Washington during a speech about wasteful spending.

To make his points, Paul displayed several poster boards about specific research projects that he said taxpayers would be astounded to know their tax dollars were funding.

Among the projects he highlighted were: $357,000 to study “Cocaine and Risky Sex Habits of Quail” and $1.6 million for researching “Lizards on a Treadmill.”

One poster board featured legendary singer Dolly Parton to highlight that Uncle Sam is spending $250,000 to send “kids in Pakistan to Space Camp and Dollywood.” Another claimed the National Science Foundation spent $700,000 to figure out whether astronaut Neil Armstrong said: “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind” or “One small step for ‘a’ man.”

Paul said Americans might be alarmed by such frivolous studies, but it happens routinely “because we never vote for less money. It’s always more. Somebody’s got to point out that the waste and abuse of money goes on.”

Paul’s hilarious and poignant rant reminded me of U.S. Senator William Proxmire of Wisconsin and his Golden Fleece Award, which he gave to public officials squandering public money in the 1970s and 1980s.

I hope that Paul continues the tradition of humor in politics, which seems far more effective than the vitriol we’ve seen in recent years.

One thought on “Humor and politics

  1. William Proxmire. Boy that brings back memories. You know that you are getting old when you can remember when a Democratic senator cared about excess spending.

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