Secrets of Past Elections Revealed! (2004)

After every presidential election since 1984, Newsweek has printed the best gossipy stories, revealing all the whining and backbiting of America's greatest spectacle. Linda Rodriguez has gone through Newsweek's archives to pick out some memorable moments from recent elections. Today she wraps up with Bush v. Kerry.

In the midst of the Iraq War, on the heels of September 11, George Bush sought re-election. Everyone knows he won, but here's what happened backstage.

Cassandra complexes

It was a difficult election year for George W. Bush, 43rd president of the United States, and his daughters knew it "“ in fact, Jenna Bush, one of George's twin daughters, had a dream that her father lost the election. Though better known for boozing it up than for prescient dreams, Jenna took the dream seriously "“ it so frightened her that she and her sister, who had previously remained aloof from the political process, began campaigning for their father.

Alexandra Kerry, John Kerry's 30-something daughter, also had a premonition of sorts "“ unfortunately for the Massachusetts senator, however, his daughter's vision came true. After a particularly brutal day out on the campaign trail stumping for her father, Alexandra broke down weeping in her father's arms. She told the elder Kerry that she believed the Republicans would steal the election. Kerry comforted her in response, saying that he wouldn't let that happen.

Alexandra, a budding filmmaker herself, also worried about her father's stiff appearance on TV "“ so much so that she jokingly offered filmmaker Stephen Spielberg $5 to talk to her dad about how to come across better on television.

Money talks "“ and so does John Kerry

Kerry did his best to make sure that the Republicans didn't steal the election, including recruiting an army of 10,000 lawyers. Kerry, like Bush, also had access to some of the best political minds in the nation. Unlike Bush, however, Kerry couldn't seem to keep himself from calling them. He called them so much that his handlers took away his cell phone "“ twice.

Both candidates could afford the cleverest political operatives "“ this was the first election that broke the $1 billion campaign barrier, and both candidates had amassed more money than had ever been raised in presidential campaign in American history. Of course, the power of $1 billion in available campaign funds is a little undermined when your opponent has also raised the same amount, but that didn't seem to matter to our would-be presidents.

The bipartisan administration that could have been


John Kerry so badly wanted Republican Sen. John McCain to be his running mate that he offered to substantially "“ and officially "“ expand the role of the veep to include Secretary of Defense and complete control of the administration's foreign policy. McCain flatly refused, saying, "You're out of your mind. I don't even know if it's constitutional, and it certainly wouldn't sell."

The little known "Palme de Bitch-Slap" award

Mark McKinnon, the man behind Bush's television ad campaign, awarded himself his own highest praise for the "Troops-Fog" ad, which portrayed John Kerry as a flip-flopper on the issue of the Iraq war. The award was "the coveted Palme de Bitch-Slap," he called it, a play on the Canne Film Festival's Palme d'Or honor. For his birthday that year, a few fellow campaign staffers bought him a small golden "Palme de Bitch-Slap" statuette, which McKinnon proudly displayed on top of his television.

Karl Rove, Miller man

Among chief campaign strategist and possible Sith lord Karl Rove's favorite words and phrases: "Bloviate" (in reference to Kerry's debate style), "Yeah baby!" "Attawaytogo!" and "It's Miller time!" During the campaign, Rove also conducted Saturday morning planning meetings with a group he called "The Breakfast Club."

Super T rocks the White House

tyrone_smith 2.jpgBy Dec. 20, 2003, as the war in Iraq continued and the election loomed on the horizon, the Bush family was stressed out and in desperate need of some relaxation. The Bush twins, Jenna and Barbara, decided to use their First Kid privileges to hold a raging holiday party for their college friends at the Executive Mansion. Jenna, industrious in the quest of a good time, booked a favorite Southern party band from Nashville, known formally as the Tyrone Smith Revue. To their friends "“ which now includes the Bush family "“ the band is known as Super T. Set up in a room usually reserved for press conferences, Super T rocked the house "“ and led Laura, George and the twins in the "Super T Booty Green," a dance that seems to involve putting your hands on your knees, bending over and shakin' it.

Previously: 1984, 1988, 1992, 1996, 2000

New Plant-Based Coating Can Keep Your Avocados Fresh for Twice as Long

Thanks to a food technology startup called Apeel Sciences, eating fresh avocados will soon be a lot easier. The Bill Gates–backed company has developed a coating designed to keep avocados fresh for up to twice as long as traditional fruit, Bloomberg reports, and these long-lasting avocados will soon be available at 100 grocery stores across the Midwestern U.S. Thirty or so of the grocery stores involved in the limited rollout of the Apeel avocado will be Costcos, so feel free to buy in bulk.

Getting an avocado to a U.S. grocery store is more complicated than it sounds; the majority of avocados sold in the U.S. come from California or Mexico, making it tricky to get fruit to the Midwest or New England at just the right moment in an avocado’s life cycle.

Apeel’s coating is made of plant material—lipids and glycerolipids derived from peels, seeds, and pulp—that acts as an extra layer of protective peel on the fruit, keeping water in and oxygen out, and thus reducing spoilage. (Oxidation is the reason that your sliced avocados and apples brown after they’ve been exposed to the air for a while.) The tasteless coating comes in a powder that fruit producers mix with water and then dip their fruit into.

A side-by-side comparison of a coated and uncoated avocado after 30 days, with the uncoated avocado looking spoiled and the coated one looking fresh

According to Apeel, coating a piece of produce in this way can keep it fresh for two to three times longer than normal without any sort of refrigeration of preservatives. This not only allows consumers a few more days to make use of their produce before it goes bad, reducing food waste, but can allow producers to ship their goods to farther-away markets without refrigeration.

Avocados are the first of Apeel's fruits to make it to market, but there are plans to debut other Apeel-coated produce varieties in the future. The company has tested its technology on apples, artichokes, mangos, and several other fruits and vegetables.

[h/t Bloomberg]

The Curious Origins of 16 Common Phrases

Our favorite basketball writer is ESPN's Zach Lowe. On his podcast, the conversation often takes detours into the origins of certain phrases. We compiled a list from Zach and added a few of our own, then sent them to language expert Arika Okrent. Where do these expressions come from anyway?


Bus token? Game token? What kind of token is involved here? Token is a very old word, referring to something that’s a symbol or sign of something else. It could be a pat on the back as a token, or sign, of friendship, or a marked piece of lead that could be exchanged for money. It came to mean a fact or piece of evidence that could be used as proof. “By the same token” first meant, basically “those things you used to prove that can also be used to prove this.” It was later weakened into the expression that just says “these two things are somehow associated.”


1944: A woman standing on a soapbox speaking into a mic
Express/Express/Getty Images

The soapbox that people mount when they “get on a soapbox” is actually a soap box, or rather, one of the big crates that used to hold shipments of soap in the late 1800s. Would-be motivators of crowds would use them to stand on as makeshift podiums to make proclamations, speeches, or sales pitches. The soap box then became a metaphor for spontaneous speech making or getting on a roll about a favorite topic.


The notion of Tom fool goes a long way. It was the term for a foolish person as long ago as the Middle Ages (Thomas fatuus in Latin). Much in the way the names in the expression Tom, Dick, and Harry are used to mean “some generic guys,” Tom fool was the generic fool, with the added implication that he was a particularly absurd one. So the word tomfoolery suggested an incidence of foolishness that went a bit beyond mere foolery.


chimp eating banana

The expression “go bananas” is slang, and the origin is a bit harder to pin down. It became popular in the 1950s, around the same time as “go ape,” so there may have been some association between apes, bananas, and crazy behavior. Also, banana is just a funny-sounding word. In the 1920s people said “banana oil!” to mean “nonsense!”


If something is run of the mill, it’s average, ordinary, nothing special. But what does it have to do with milling? It most likely originally referred to a run from a textile mill. It’s the stuff that’s just been manufactured, before it’s been decorated or embellished. There were related phrases like “run of the mine,” for chunks of coal that hadn’t been sorted by size yet, and “run of the kiln,” for bricks as they came out without being sorted for quality yet.


The Law's Delay: Reading The Riot Act 1820
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

When you read someone the riot act you give a stern warning, but what is it that you would you have been reading? The Riot Act was a British law passed in 1714 to prevent riots. It went into effect only when read aloud by an official. If too many people were gathering and looking ready for trouble, an officer would let them know that if they didn’t disperse, they would face punishment.


Hands down comes from horse racing, where, if you’re way ahead of everyone else, you can relax your grip on the reins and let your hands down. When you win hands down, you win easily.


The silver lining is the optimistic part of what might otherwise be gloomy. The expression can be traced back directly to a line from Milton about a dark cloud revealing a silver lining, or halo of bright sun behind the gloom. The idea became part of literature and part of the culture, giving us the proverb “every cloud has a silver lining” in the mid-1800s.


The expression “you’ve got your work cut out for you” comes from tailoring. To do a big sewing job, all the pieces of fabric are cut out before they get sewn together. It seems like if your work has been cut for you, it should make job easier, but we don’t use the expression that way. The image is more that your task is well defined and ready to be tackled, but all the difficult parts are yours to get to. That big pile of cut-outs isn’t going to sew itself together!


A grapevine is a system of twisty tendrils going from cluster to cluster. The communication grapevine was first mentioned in 1850s, the telegraph era. Where the telegraph was a straight line of communication from one person to another, the “grapevine telegraph” was a message passed from person to person, with some likely twists along the way.


The earliest uses of shebang were during the Civil War era, referring to a hut, shed, or cluster of bushes where you’re staying. Some officers wrote home about “running the shebang,” meaning the encampment. The origin of the word is obscure, but because it also applied to a tavern or drinking place, it may go back to the Irish word shebeen for a ramshackle drinking establishment.


Pushing the envelope belongs to the modern era of the airplane. The “flight envelope” is a term from aeronautics meaning the boundary or limit of performance of a flight object. The envelope can be described in terms of mathematical curves based on things like speed, thrust, and atmosphere. You push it as far as you can in order to discover what the limits are. Tom Wolfe’s The Right Stuff brought the expression into wider use.


We say someone can’t hold a candle to someone else when their skills don’t even come close to being as good. In other words, that person isn’t even good enough to hold up a candle so that a talented person can see what they’re doing in order to work. Holding the candle to light a workspace would have been the job of an assistant, so it’s a way of saying not even fit to be the assistant, much less the artist.


Most acids dissolve other metals much more quickly than gold, so using acid on a metallic substance became a way for gold prospectors to see if it contained gold. If you pass the acid test, you didn’t dissolve—you’re the real thing.


What kind of wire is haywire? Just what it says—a wire for baling hay. In addition to tying up bundles, haywire was used to fix and hold things together in a makeshift way, so a dumpy, patched-up place came to be referred to as “a hay-wire outfit.” It then became a term for any kind of malfunctioning thing. The fact that the wire itself got easily tangled when unspooled contributed to the “messed up” sense of the word.


Carpet used to mean a thick cloth that could be placed in a range of places: on the floor, on the bed, on a table. The floor carpet is the one we use most now, so the image most people associate with this phrase is one where a servant or employee is called from plainer, carpetless room to the fancier, carpeted part of the house. But it actually goes back to the tablecloth meaning. When there was an issue up for discussion by some kind of official council it was “on the carpet.”


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