Monday, May 8, 2017

Ironies Of the Gary Hart Scandal

Things have a way of turning out ironically, and Gary Hart's aborted 1988 presidential campaign, the first attempt at which ended thirty years ago today with Hart's bitter rant against the media, is proof positive of that. Among the highlights:

  • Hart's association with a woman not his wife was revealed after reporters from the Miami Herald tacked Hart down at his Washington townhouse, staked him out, entrapped him, and painted him into a corner.  The next day, E.J. Dionne's profile of Hart in the New York Times Sunday magazine appeared with the following title: "Gary Hart: The Elusive Front-Runner."
  • Dionne's article included a quote from the candidate daring reporters to follow him around.  Not only had the Miami Herald decided to do so before the quote appeared in print, Dionne almost edited it out.  
  • Hart traveled to the Bahamian island of Bimini on the yacht Monkey Business with his friend William Broadhurst, who acquired the yacht for the trip, and their two female companions.  It turns out that the provocatively named yacht wasn't Broadhurst's boat; he only leased it so he could pick up his own boat, which was anchored in Bimini.
  • Hart - best known for a fleeting presidential bid - lives in Evergreen, Colorado.  His house is in a ravine called "Troublesome Gulch." 
  • When Hart made his first public appearance after the sex scandal broke, as mentioned in my post from three days before, he denied any impropriety with the hope that he had ended the controversy.  Two days later, with the press still making him feel the heat, he turned to a campaign aide and said, "This isn't going to end, is it?"
  • Hart denied that anything improper happened on the Monkey Business; a year later, it was seized by the Coast Guard in an unrelated drug bust. 
  • When he quit his first presidential bid on May 8, 1987, he said he had planned to make a short statement announcing his withdrawal but then said that he thought to himself, "Hell, no!"  His supporters in the room cheered . . . for all the wrong reasons.  
  • In his withdrawal statement of May 8, 1987, Hart declared, "I'm not a beaten man, but I am an angry and defiant man."  Yeah?  Then why was he quitting?  (As noted before on this blog, I have since referred to his May 8, 1987 withdrawal statement as his "Anger and Defiance" speech.)
  • I was in college in the spring of 1987, and my final assignment for the writing course I was taking at the time was to write an article based on a pre-determined premise.  I originally chose to write a piece explaining why Gary Hart would be the forty-first President of the United States, but it didn't hold muster with my professor, and I ultimately wrote about something else. The due date for this assignment - which I was supposed to send on spec to a magazine - was . . . May 8, 1987.
  • Hart's "Anger and Defiance" speech not only drew comparisons to Richard Nixon's Last Press Conference of 1962, it led to comparisons of Hart's personality to Nixon's, revealing many similarities (both were loners, both were secretive, both viewed the press with suspicion). Hart had been George McGovern's presidential campaign manager in 1972.  No prizes for guessing who McGovern's opponent was.     
  • Hart had declared his 1988 presidential candidacy on April 13, 1987 - Thomas Jefferson's birthday anniversary, celebrated as Jefferson Day by Democrats, though, if that was an intentional historic reference. no one got it.  When he withdrew a month later, he paraphrased Jefferson in expressing fear that America would get the government it deserved.  Most reporters in the room felt Hart got what he deserved.  
  • Hart's attempt to seem Kennedyesque seemed contrived to many people, but after his sex-scandal downfall, then-"Saturday Night Live" cast member Dennis Miller said, "You know, for a moment there, he almost did remind me of Jack Kennedy!"
  • Hart had only 3 percent of the vote in polls ahead of the 1984 Iowa presidential caucuses . . . because no one knew who he was.  (He won 16 percent.)  He received 3 percent of the vote in the 1988 Super Tuesday primaries and caucuses after re-entering the 1988 presidential campaign . . . because everyone knew who he was.  (He withdrew from the 1988 campaign a second time a few days after.) 

Ah, irony . . .

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