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Political Insults That Mean Something

dirty politicsIt’s a rough and tumble world in presidential politics. This year it is the worst in our history, right? I mean, Cruz sent out mailers that looked like the government scoring someone’s voting attendance! Egads! How dirty is that? And Trump claims Cruz isn’t eligible because of his Canadian birth, when just a few months ago Trump said his own lawyers had cleared Cruz of any trouble? Isn’t that double talk? And Carson, the anointed one, the one above the fray, claims Cruz cheated him of some votes by saying he was dropping out of the race, when all Carson did was put out a press statement saying he was going home to Florida instead of continuing the campaign. Cruz’s campaign forwarded that statement to his ground operatives in Iowa, but not the followup that Carson would resume his campaign in a few days. Rubio flip flops on amnesty, going from the Gang of Eight to a border protectionist. Double crosser, clearly. Dirty tricks by all of them, huh? Worst in history, not exactly.

Thomas Jefferson, the greatest president, accused his own vice-president, who had the temerity to run against him for president in 1800, of having  a “hideous hermaphroditical character, which has neither the force and firmness of a man, nor the gentleness and sensibility of a woman.” Adams obligingly returned the compliment, saying of TJ that he was “a mean-spirited, low-lived fellow, the son of a half-breed Indian squaw, sired by a Virginia mulatto father.” Even The First Mother, Martha Washington, got into the fray, saying of TJ that he was “one of the most detestable of mankind.”  Before it was over, TJ was called a weakling, coward, an atheist and a libertine! Wow, that one stung. Adams was called a hypocrite, tyrant and a criminal. It was a verbal slugfest, long before Twitter, Instagram or the Internet spread lies even faster than the printed word. TJ won, some claim as a result of hiring operatives to convince voters that Adams wanted to attack France, which Adams said was untrue.

Later on, Adam’s son, John Quincy Adams, engaged in a presidential slugfest the likes of which we have never seen. As a precursor, you need to remember that Adams II had won the 1824 race over Jackson on an electoral college win, not a majority of the votes win. To get the electoral college victory, Adams gave Henry Clay, the other candidate in the race, an appointment as Secretary of State in exchange for Clay’s electoral votes. Jackson’s supporters called it “The Corrupt Bargain” and spent the next four years festering for a fight. As the campaign progressed, Adams was called a pimp and Jackson’s wife as called a slut. It was reported that  “General Jackson’s mother was a common prostitute, brought to this country by the British soldiers! She afterward married a mulatto man, with whom she had several children, of which number General Jackson is one!” I mean, if you’re going hurl insults, make it an INSULT!

Before you get too worked up about this year’s political fray, enjoy some presidential campaign history and see how it’s really done.

Kelly Burke, master attorney, former district attorney and magistrate judge, is engaged in private practice. He writes about the law, rock’n’roll and politics. These articles are not designed to give legal advice, but are designed to inform the public about how the law affects their daily lives. Contact Kelly at to comment on this article or suggest articles that you’d like to see and visit his website at to view prior columns.

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