C-SPAN Uncensored: Washington's Dirty Mouths and Minds
This whole Larry Craig sex sting story, followed by the one about federal prosecutor trying to have sex with a five-year-old got me to thinking about depravity in Washington. For better or for worse "“ well, really just for worse "“ our politicians seem to be a pretty obscene bunch. They drink like frat boys on spring break (and then sometimes drive), they cuss like they're in a Quentin Tarantino movie and fight like schoolyard enemies. All while running the country.
As it turns out, we just missed out on a Congressional brawl in August. Things started getting testy in the House over the delaying tactics the Republicans had been using on some bills. Jesse L. Jackson, a Democrat from Illinois, shouted that Republicans couldn't be trusted, which set off Lee Terry, a Nebraska Republican. Terry shouted back "Shut up," which was immediately trumped by Jackson, who started dropping F-bombs all over the place and asked Terry if they should take it outside. Luckily for Terry, some of their colleagues intervened; that's Jackson on the left in the kung-fu getup.
John McCain, a salacious novel, and the biggest beating in the history of Congress all after the jump!
Jackson's not the only one with the dubious distinction of having said the mother of all curse words in Congress. We all remember when Dick Cheney famously told Patrick Leahy to "f* off," a move that Cheney would later say made him "feel better." John McCain also used the f-word in the chambers last spring, only compounding the problems with his campaign. When Texas Republican John Cornyn criticized McCain for taking too much time off for campaigning, McCain simply replied "f* you," landing him in hot water.
This Slate quiz also has some insights in how dirty politicians minds can be. It's got some raunchy passages of "literature" written by people in Washington that you wouldn't want to ever think of as writing porn (Lynne Cheney!).
The granddaddy of Washington dirty mouths, though, belongs to our 36th president, Lyndon Johnson. The Texas native (that already explains a lot) was famous for his outspokenness and often rash language. Probably more famous, though, was his penis, which is sometimes attributed to bringing us the slang Johnson. He was fond of skinny dipping during diplomatic meetings, as he felt his legendary genitals would establish dominance. He didn't like interrupting meetings while he was in the bathroom, so he would often just leave the door open and let anybody watch. My personal favorite anecdote (and the most telling of any from Washington), though, comes from a meeting Johnson held with reporters about Vietnam. He was repeatedly asked why American troops were fighting there and his patience wore thin. He finally snapped, unzipped his fly, whipped it out and declared, "This is why."
Of course, just to show that it isn't modern politics that results in coarse words and fisticuffs, one of the best old-time brawls was between Preston Brooks and Charles Sumner, which tops the list of the Senate's black eyes. Sumner was a big advocate for equality and put a lot of effort into freeing slaves. At issue during the fight was the Kansas-Nebraska Act, which opponents saw as basically bending to the South. Sumner railed against it, but instead of attacking the act itself, he took aim at its authors. He called Stephen Douglas from Illinois Don Quixote and likened South Carolina's Andrew Butler to Sancho Panza. Less laughable, though, were his assaults on Butler's speech defect (which was caused by a heart condition) and his extended metaphor about slavery being Butler's mistress. Those personal assaults upset fellow South Carolina senator Preston Brooks, who also happened to be Butler's nephew. Two days later, in an almost empty Senate chamber, Brooks approached Sumner with a little entourage and denounced his speech as "libel." Then he beat Sumner with a cane until he had broken both it and Sumner. Brooks became a hero in the South, while Sumner ended up taking a three-year break from the Senate as he recovered from the head injuries.