To Cindy McCain (and anyone who thinks this is the "dirtiest campaign in American history")

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While we hesitate to get political at mental_floss, we relish the opportunity to get historical. Yesterday, it was reported that Cindy McCain accused Sen. Barack Obama of waging "the dirtiest campaign in American history." There's no doubt that the mudslinging has certainly escalated in the last few weeks, but we're not certain that this campaign is that much harsher than any one in the past (in fact, it seems downright tamer!). Here are some highlights from Jenny Drapkin's cover story on presidential campaigns that might change Cindy's opinion, starting with Thomas Jefferson.

Thomas Jefferson Hires a Hatchet Man

"... Jefferson's camp accused President Adams of having a "hideous hermaphroditical character, which has neither the force and firmness of a man, nor the gentleness and sensibility of a woman." In return, Adams' men called Vice President Jefferson 'a mean-spirited, low-lived fellow, the son of a half-breed Indian squaw, sired by a Virginia mulatto father.' As the slurs piled on, Adams was labeled a fool, a hypocrite, a criminal, and a tyrant, while Jefferson was branded a weakling, an atheist, a libertine, and a coward."

Thankfully, the words "half-breed" and "hermaphroditical character" haven't come up in this election cycle. More disturbing campaigning after the jump.

LBJ Links Goldwater to the Klan

"...the Daisy Spot, arguably the most effective political ad of all time. Although it aired only once during the 1964 campaign, many historians agree that it was responsible for keeping Lyndon Johnson in office, while insinuating that his Republican opponent, Barry Goldwater, was a trigger-happy extremist. Although Johnson publicly decried the unfairness of the Daisy Spot, it was actually part of a secret ad campaign he orchestrated, the first of its kind to appear on television. In fact, he thought the ad was hilarious and was disappointed when his advisors told him only to air it once. That didn't stop the Johnson team from releasing other wildly manipulative commercials, however. One of them showed a Klansman burning a cross and then featured a Klan member saying, 'I like Barry Goldwater. He needs our help.' In the end, Johnson won all but six states, securing one of the biggest victories the nation had ever seen. From the Wildest Rides to the White House cover story, available here.

Hayes vs. Tilden: The Most Egregious Election in American History

"...in 1876, both the Republican candidate, Rutherford B. Hayes, and his opponent Samuel Tilden expected that Tilden—the Democrat—would win. In fact, as the sun set on the eve of the election, both men went to bed believing that Tilden had carried the day. Little did they know that in middle of the night, party operatives would be busy making sure that every vote did not count." More here.

Dick Tuck: The Democratic Mole who Undermined Nixon

"...during a whistle-stop train tour on the same campaign, Tuck disguised himself as a conductor and ordered Nixon's train to pull away from the station just as Nixon had begun a speech to the crowd. When Nixon ran for President in 1968, Tuck hired pregnant women to show up at his rallies wearing T-shirts that read 'Nixon's the One.'" More here.

October 8, 2008 - 5:43am
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