O Say, Can You Sling? (The Mud, That Is)

In the comments from this post, Hal made a good observation to the effect that it’s important to take the long view and recall that “mud-slinging” has always been a part of American politics from our country’s inception. Now comes this article from The Washington Post verifying that same point, that verbal low-blows and fear-mongering are “nothing new under the sun.”

For instance, Abraham Lincoln’s enemies once referred to him as a “A Long, Lean, Lank, Lantern-Jawed, High Cheeked-Boned Spavined Rail-Splitting Stallion” (“spavine” refers to a general state of deterioration or decrepitude), and on another occasion as a man who “could ruin more liquor than all the boys of the town together.”

But my favorite verbal barrage from this article comes from Davy Crockett. “The King of the Wild Frontier” referred to Martin Van Buren as “dung” and then upped the ante by painting this vivid personal portrait: “(He is) a dandy. When he enters the senate chamber in the morning, he struts and swaggers like a crow in the gutter. He is laced up in corsets, such as women in a town wear, and, if possible, tighter than the best of them.”

Oooooo. And this from a man who wore fringed buckskin (well, okay, so did I, but that was 1972).

Of course, there are some differences between the attacks of today and those of yore, chief among them perhaps, saturation. Back then, only a few people might witness or read your typical slam job. These days, they’re uploaded to Youtube within minutes for viewing by the masses.

As the old saying goes, “Politics ain’t beanbag.” And at no point in our nation’s history has it ever been completely clean.

  1. Hal

    And do you know why John Adams was called a warmonger in 1800? He wanted the US to have a Navy to protect our coastline.

    Good point about the saturation. I feel fully saturated myself. I can hardly wait for the election to be over.

  2. Mike the Eyeguy

    What a hoot. Rebel! Oh wait, he really was!

    Yup. I’m feeling it too. I’m going to go on a news-diet after this is over with.

  3. Laurie

    “Spavined Rail-Splitting Stallion”

    Definitely a slam for the times — the mid-eighteen hundreds, which the horse was king. As a former horse person, I just wanted to ad that “spavin” is a conformation fault that you look to avoid in a horse.

    From AOL Reference Center:

    “Spavin spăv’ĭn, disease of horses affecting the hock joint. There are two types—bog spavin, in which the hock joint is distended as a result of the collection of synovial fluid; and bone spavin, the bony enlargement of the bones that constitute the hock joint. The latter is a form of arthritis and causes inflammation, swelling, and lameness. Spavin can be caused by faulty conformation, strain, or excessive concussion. Treatment consists of rest, corrective shoeing, the application of blistering ointment, and surgery.”

    I don’t think that insult would have quite the same clout today.

    (This little bit of useless trivia brought to you by my trivial brain.) :-

  4. Mike the Eyeguy

    Oh no, I think I have that disease too!

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