Monday, June 21, 2010

James O'Keefe

James Edward O'Keefe III (aka the Acorn pimp guy) is the self-proclaimed "investigative journalist" and youthful ward of conservative publisher Andrew Breitbart. He graduated from Westwood High School in the township of Washington, New Jersey in 2002.

O'Keefe's intense, vaguely McVeigh-ish senior year portrait--complete with Nietzsche quote--are more than counterbalanced by other, cheerier photos in the yearbook. Indeed, the shots of the future activist reporter singing and dancing in the school's musical, Crazy for You, make the reader totally forget about Hitler's favorite philosopher. O'Keefe's early interest in the theater certainly helps to explain the pimp outfit (if not the duplicitous video editing).

Unfortunately for him and his fans, it appears that Mr. O'Keefe's career as a would-be muckraker has pretty much petered out. His "investigation" of Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu's office's telephones (or something?) resulted in a misdemeanor conviction and a mild rebuke from Michelle Malkin - but no real story. O'Keefe's latest "scoop" concerns census workers and his "findings" helped land him and his primary benefactor, Mr. Breitbart, on Good Morning America. The host George Stephanopoulous, though, seemed to regret inviting them on approximately a minute into the interview.

Well, O'Keefe can always go back to his roots...

Ted Bundy

Ted Bundy (1946-1989) graduated amoung a class of 800 students from Woodrow Wilson High School in Takoma, Washington in 1965. According to Ann Rule's definitive biography, The Stranger Beside Me, academic records of Bundy's time at the school have long since vanished, but several classmates remember the future serial killer. One woman quoted by Rule said: "He was well known, popular, but not in the top crowd--but then neither was I. He was attractive, and well dressed, exceptionally well mannered...He was kind of shy--almost introverted." According to Rule, Bundy consistently earned a B + average and upon graduation was given a scholarship to the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma. In a friend's copy of Wilson High's yearbook, The Nova, he wrote the following creepy bit of verse: 
Dearest V.,

The sweetness of the spring time rain runs down the window pain [sic.] (I can't help it. It just flows out).

Theodore Robert Bundy
Peot [sic]
After graduating from college Bundy became more involved with the Republican Party and volunteered on the re-election campaign of Washington Governor Dan Evans, who would later write a letter of recommendation for young Ted when he applied to law school. He was accepted at the University of Utah Law School in 1973, but backed out at the last minute. Bundy wound up attending law classes at night at Pugent Sound. During the day he worked as an assistant to the chairman of the Washington State Republican Party. It was around this time that Bundy's long killing spree began--his first victim was an unknown hitchhiker in May of 1973.

Prior to his execution in Florida's "Old Sparky" electric chair in 1989, Bundy confessed to thirty murders, but he was sentenced to death for only two. Specifically, the gruesome killings of sorority sisters Lisa Levy and Margaret Bowman at Florida State University in 1978. He gave his final, exclusive death row interview to Christian psychologist and radio host, Dr. James Dobson, the founder of the conservative organization Focus on the Family. Dobson soon exploited, for his own idealogical purposes, Bundy's previously undisclosed contention that his crimes were influenced by exposure to violent pornography. Dobson has video clips from his execution eve interview entitled Fatal Addiction on the Focus on the Family website.    

Ted Kaczynski (aka The Unabomber)

Ted Kaczynski graduated at the age of 16 from Evergreen Park Community High School in Illinois in 1958. He became obsessed with math during his high school years, but he also made time for clubs devoted to biology, chess, coin collecting, and the German language. Kaczynski earned his undergraduate degree from Harvard University in 1962 and went on to receive a master's degree and a doctorate in mathematics from the University of Michigan. According to the book Harvard and the Unabomber by Alston Chase, it was while he was attending school in Ann Arbor that the future Unabomber considered having a sex change operation. In 1966 Kaczynski made an appointment to see a psychiatrist at the University Health Center to discuss his decision. At the last minute he changed his mind and, instead, talked about his depression over the military draft with the doctor.

After a short-lived stint as a professor at Berkeley, the increasingly crazed Kaczynski eventually made his way to a one-room cabin in Montana. It from this unassuming shack that he would stage his infamous war on "industrial society" and write a long, rambling indictment of technology. It was this 35,000 word screed that ultimately proved to be Kaczynski's undoing. When the manifesto was published in the Washington Post in 1995 David Kaczynski recognized the language and style as being similar to letters he had received from his wayward sibling. Through his lawyer, David turned over the correspondence to the FBI.

In 1998 Kaczynski pleaded guilty to his crimes in a plea deal that spared him the death penalty. The former mountain man now lives in a luxurious cell at Colorado's Supermax prison where he is forced to put up with indoor plumbing and a permanently mounted TV/radio. The Unabomber's old digs now reside at the Newseum in Washington, D.C.


Richard Ramirez

Before he became known as "the Night Stalker," a Satan-worshiping serial killer and rapist, Richard Ramirez was a troubled teen at Jefferson High School in El Paso, Texas. Author Philip Carlo describes Ramirez's short-lived school days in his book The Night Stalker: The Life and Crimes of Richard Ramirez. Ramirez, according to Carlo, dropped out of Jefferson High at age 15, but not before making a curiously benign impression on the faculty. Carlo quotes the assistant principal as saying: "He was not a problem child. He was quiet and shy and behaved himself. He was a very good-looking boy." The principal, as quoted by Carlo, echoes the previous sentiment, but expands upon it a little bit: "He was not a bad boy, though he fell in with bad company. He played a lot of hookie. His grades were all failing. It was a shame because he was a smart young man. He just didn't seem to care; wouldn't apply himself. Richard seemed troubled."

In 1989 the Night Stalker was convicted of thirteen killings and thirty other counts including attempted murder and multiple sexual assaults. He is currently awaiting execution on San Quentin's Death Row. In 1996 Ramirez married a 41-year-old self-proclaimed virgin named Doreen Lioy.


Bernard Madoff

Bernard Madoff graduated from Far Rockaway High School in New York in 1956 and briefly attended the University of Alabama (which is where the above photo is from). At Alabama he became a brother of the Tau Chapter of the Sigma Alpha Mu fraternity. He graduated from Hofstra College in 1960 with a degree in political science. Madoff is now serving 150 years at the Butner (North Carolina) Federal Correction Institution for operating the largest Ponzi scheme in history. His financial misdeeds ruined the lives of an untold number of ordinary Americans, but it was, of course, the celebrities who caught the attention of the media. Among the famous people Madoff ripped off are: Steven Spielberg, Larry King, Kevin Bacon and Kyra Sedgwick, Uma Thurman, Elie Wiesel, Eric Roth (Forrest Gump screenwriter), Senator Frank Lautenberg, Jeffrey Katzenberg, and Mort Zuckerman.

The aging convict has apparently settled into his new life behind bars and shows no signs of remorse. According to an extensive New York magazine article, Madoff's new credo is "Fuck my victims!"


Michele Bachmann

Michele Amble (Bachmann) graduated from Anoka High School in Anoka, Minnesota in 1974. In high school Bachmann, like Liz Cheney, excelled in cheerleading. After college, she earned her J.D. degree from O.W. Coburn School of Law at Oral Roberts University. Bachmann's 1986 graduating class was Coburn's last (the troubled institution had, for a time, lost its accreditation from the American Bar Association in 1981 due to Christian litmus tests for students. In 1986 the school donated its library to Pat Robertson's Regent University which started its own law school, but did not become accredited until 1996). Bachmann also earned an LL.M. degree in tax law from William and Mary's Marshall-Wythe School of Law (which has never lost its accreditation). During the 2008 election Bachmann said that Barack Obama "isn't well-schooled and prepared to be President of the United States." He graduated from Columbia University undergraduate and magna cum laude from Harvard Law School; he also became the first African American president of the Harvard Law Review. But, apparently, Obama never picked up an LL.M. from Marshall-Wythe, so Bachmann's criticism is clearly warranted.

After a wacky early career that can be read about in more detail here, Bachmann, a Congresswoman from Minnesota since 2007, quickly became a household name in October of 2008 after she appeared on Hardball with Chris Matthews and called Barack Obama "anti-American" and called for an investigation of "anti-American liberals" in the Congress. Since Obama's election to the presidency, Bachmann has become a darling of the Tea Party movement and has exhibited some signs of solidarity with the wingnut "birthers" who question the President's American citizenship.


Sunday, June 20, 2010

Newt Gingrich

Newt Gingrich graduated from Baker High School in Columbus, Georgia in 1961 and earned his undergraduate degree from Emory University in Atlanta in 1965. Presumably to continue receiving student deferments (the hawkish conservative Republican did not serve in Vietnam), Gingrich continued his higher education with M.A. and PhD degrees in history from Tulane University which he received in 1968 and 1971, respectively. The woman who helped finance Gingrich's advanced studies was none other than his high school geometry teacher, Jackie Battley, whom he had started sleeping with at age 19. In 1981, after supporting him and bearing him two children, Gingrich's wife/math teacher got abruptly traded in for a newer model (the second Mrs. Gingrich, Marianne Ginther with whom the ever classy Newt had been carrying on an affair before the separation). To add insult to injury, Gingrich browbeat his wife about the terms of their divorce while she was still in the hospital recovering from uterine cancer. According to a article, "Newt's Glass House," the congressman refused to pay alimony or child support and his hometown Baptist church had to take up a collection to help the family he walked out on.

Before leaving the House over ethics violations in early 1999, Gingrich led the charge for Bill Clinton's sex scandal-related impeachment. He did this even though he was having an affair at the time - a fact that he revealed in 2007 when he was considering a presidential run. On Mothers Day, 2000 the retired Speaker called his second wife and asked for a divorce. Soon after he married the third and current Mrs. Gingrich, Callista Bisek, the young congressional aide he had been cavorting with during the Clinton investigation.

The insufferable former congressman now spends his time writing awful books, attacking President Barack Obama and being worshiped by Sean Hannity - who still calls him "Mr. Speaker."

Ryan Seacrest

Ryan Seacrest (yes, that's him pictured above) graduated from Dunwoody High School in Georgia in 1993 and eventually lucked his way into the co-hosting spot on American Idol (his fellow host, Brian Dunkleman, left after the first season).

In his capacity as an executive producer, Seacrest is responsible for all of the Kardashian product that washes up the E! network. He is to blame.

Kim Kardashian

In the 1990s Kim Kardashian (above right) and her older sister Khloe (above left) attended Marymount High School, a private Catholic school for girls in Los Angeles. In the 2000s, of course, Kim perfected the art of the "leaked" sex tape and parlayed her dubious fame into a successful reality television career with offshoots in modeling, acting and a fragrance line. Ms. Kardashian's surprisingly durable tabloid celebrity has also rubbed off on her entire extended family including, most hilariously, a wastrel douche from Long Island who knocked up her sister, Khloe.

Wastrel douche, Scott Disick

If Kim Kardashian's father, OJ Simpson enabler Robert Kardashian, had lived to see what has become of his dysfunctional brood, the expression on his face might look a little something like this...

Spencer Pratt

Spencer Pratt in a couple of shots cobbled together from the vast wilds of the Internet. He reportedly attended the Crossroads School in Santa Monica, but who really cares?

Before he even attempted a lame skin beard

With a blotto Mary-Kate Olsen?

Mark Foley

Former Republican Congressman Mark Foley graduated from Lakeworth Community High School in Lake Worth, Florida in 1973 where he was noted for being a "ladies man." He was elected to the House of Representatives in 1994. In 2006, after a career highlighted by anti-gay votes and the championing of legislation to protect children from sexual predators, Foley resigned because of an underage instant messaging scandal. ABC News had reported that the congressman had sent lewd messages to a former male page which prompted other pages to come forward.

On September 29, 2006 Foley stepped down from his office. A few days later ABC reported that a new batch of text exchanges proved that the congressman had interrupted a vote on the floor of the House in order to participate in "Internet sex" with a high school student who was a former page.

A criminal investigation into Foley's actions did not result in any charges. As an openly gay man, he now hosts a political radio show in Florida.

        Mark Foley (at right in grey suit, blue tie) 

Larry Craig

Former Senator Larry Craig graduated from the University of Idaho with a political science degree in 1969. The conservative Republican avoided service in Vietnam by becoming a member of the Idaho National Guard from 1970 to 1972. He was first elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1980 where, two years later, he took the extraordinary step of volunteering a written denial of involvement in a scandal involving sex between congressmen and underage male pages (he had not been accused). Shortly thereafter Craig married Suzanne Thompson and adopted her three children from a previous marriage. In 1989 it has been reported that Rep. Craig lobbied for harsher consequences for his colleague, Barney Frank, who was caught in a controversy involving a gay prostitute.

As a senator, Craig earned top ratings from conservative organizations such as Concerned Women for America and the Family Research Council for his anti-gay voting record. He also condemned President Clinton in 1999 on Meet the Press over the Monica Lewinsky saga: "The American people already know that Bill Clinton is a bad boy - a naughty boy. I'm going to speak out for the citizens of my state, who in the majority think that Bill Clinton is probably even a nast, bad, naughty boy."

Craig made worldwide headlines in 2007 when it was reported that he had been arrested at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport for soliciting sex from an undercover police officer in a men's bathroom stall. Shortly after the "lewd conduct" arrest, the angry senator challenged the charges by claiming he has a "wide stance" and that the police officer misconstrued his other actions in the stall as a solicitation. Before the incident became public, Craig signed a guilty plea and paid a $575 fine. He later attempted to withdraw his plea while he continued to serve out his term (he reneged on an earlier announcement to resign). In October of 2007 a judge refused to vacate the guilty plea.

Despite Craig's August 28, 2007 news conference statement "I am not gay, I never have been gay," others have come forward to claim otherwise. The retired senator is now the head of New West Strategies, a consulting firm.

During part of his senate tenure, Craig was a proud member of  The Singing Senators with John Ashcroft, James Jeffords and Trent Lott.

Liz Cheney

Liz Cheney graduated from McLean High School in 1984 where she was a cheerleader (that's her on the far left). Ms. Cheney, who is an attorney, has spent most of her professional life in government jobs in Republican administrations (her husband, Phillip Perry, has benefited from the Cheney family name, too. He was General Counsel of the Department of Homeland Security in the Bush-Cheney administration). After her father's historic two terms as the most powerful vice president in history, Ms. Cheney has emerged as the most politically active member of her family. She has appeared on numerous talk shows criticizing President Barack Obama and his prosecution of the "War on Terror." Ms. Cheney also writes editorials critical of the president and is a popular speaker at Obama-bashing conservative forums. In 2009 she co-founded with neocon William Kristol and opinion writer Deborah Burlingame the fear-mongering non-profit organization Keep America Safe.

In 2010 a group of conservative lawyers, including Ken Starr, David Rivkin and Ted Olson, denounced Keep America Safe's attack on Department of Justice attorneys who had represented terror detainees. In a television appearance Starr declared of Cheney's group's actions: "This was very unwise, and really and out-of-bounds characterization and challenge to good, honorable lawyers." According to an extensive New York magazine article on the "Cheney Government in Exile," the next political stage for the former cheerleader may be a run against Senator Jim Webb in Virginia in 2012.


Tiger Woods

Tiger Woods graduated from Western High School in Anaheim, California in 1994. He was voted "most likely to succeed" and played on the school's golf team. Woods led a charmed, non-controversial golf-centric life until Thanksgiving 2009 when his caefully orchestrated family man persona imploded, literally, overnight. After months of sordid revelations (the National Enquirer clocks his extramarital partners at 121 - including at leat two porn stars), the tarnished golf god returned to the Masters Tournament in 2010 where his performance left much to be desired. The grand reemergence was accompanied by a bizarre Nike ad in which the voice of Woods's deceased father (who was famously unfaithful to his wife) offers words of cryptic wisdom to silent footage of his son.

Peggy Noonan

Peggy Noonan graduated from Rutherford High School in Rutherford, New Jersey in 1968. She went on to a career in journalism before becoming a speechwriter for President Ronald Reagan. Two of her most memorable speeches for Reagan were his 40th anniversary D-Day address ("The Boys of Pointe du Hoc") and his speech regarding the 1986 Challenger shuttle disaster. In 1988 Noonan wrote George HW Bush's catch-phrasey Republican convention speech in which he pledged "Read my lips, no new taxes" and spoke of "a thousand points of light." Bush used the sparkly term like a mantra during the September 25, 1988 presidential debate prompting his opponent, Michael Dukakis, to declare in exasperation: "...A thousand points of light - I don't know what that means." It was one of the few times during his tone-deaf campaign that the Democratic nominee connected with a majority of similarly confused Americans.

In 2004 Noonan took a leave of absence from her column at the Wall Street Journal to campaign for the re-election of George W. Bush. Later, however, she would write and speak critically of his administration. In 2008 Noonan was caught on a live microphone trashing Sarah Palin and assessing the McCain campaign as "over." She tried to backpedal on her refreshingly candid thoughts, but was less than convincing.

When not writing columns or books, Noonan practices her genteel, whispery brand of conservative punditry on the Sunday morning news talk shows (she occasionally deigns to appear on cable, too - usually FOX).


Saturday, June 19, 2010

George HW Bush

After heroic service in World War II, George HW Bush (aka Poppy) earned an economics degree from Yale University in 1948. During his college years Bush also became a member of the secretive Skull and Bones society (seen above to the left of the spooky clock) and captained the school's baseball team. After becoming a successful oil company entrepreneur, Bush turned his attention to politics and proceeded to rack up an impressive resume in government including stints as a congressman, Ambassador to the United Nations, Chairman of the Republican National Committee (where he met two young go-getters named Karl Rove and Lee Atwater), Envoy to China and Director of the CIA.

In 1980 Bush ran for the presidency but wound up becoming Ronald Reagan's running mate and vice president for two terms. In 1988 Bush, aided and abetted by his devious young political strategist, Lee Atwater, buried the hapless Michael Dukakis and finally became president (Bush's campaign was so sleazy and Dukakis's so inept that the disastrous selection of Dan Quayle as the GOP vice presidential nominee didn't even matter). But by the time the 1992 re-election season rolled around, the Desert Storm-winning commander-in-chief lacked the inspiration to go negative (Atwater had died the previous year) and he was defeated by a randy, draft dodging governor from Arkansas. Bush did, however, call Al Gore "Ozone Man" in the frantic last days of the campaign.

Much to Poppy's surprise his wastrel eldest son George W. ("Junior") beat his more serious boy, Jeb (the less said about Marvin and Neal Bush the better), to the White House in 2000 and immediately began ruining the family name. To add insult to injury, the younger Bush did not even consult his dad on the decision to invade Iraq ("There is a higher Father I appeal to..." he famously told journalist Bob Woodward for the 2004 book Plan of Attack).

While George HW Bush patiently waits for Jeb to continue the family dynasty in high office, he likes to spend his time jumping out of airplanes and hanging out with his unlikely friend, fellow ex-president Bill Clinton.

Karl Rove

In 1960 nine-year-old Karl Rove affixed a Nixon campaign bumper sticker on the basket of his bike and was promptly beaten up by a little girl in his neighborhood who adored John F. Kennedy. Why Rove would share this humiliating story in his autobiography is unknown, but nine years later he graduated from Olympus High School in Salt Lake City, Utah conservative as ever. The self-described "nerd" who carried a briefcase excelled in debate and student government and won the position of School Chairman of Students for Senator Wallace F. Bennett. Rove locked up this youthful achievement by riding in a VW convertible through the school gym sandwiched between two "babes." The assembled students, Rove recalls in his book, loved the stunt and he was elected.

In 1969 the budding political operative was enrolled at the University of Utah and had joined the College Republicans. In 1970 he interviewed for and won the opportunity to work as a student organizer for the special election campaign of Illinois Senator Ralph Smith. It was during his mission in Illinois that Rove pulled off his first notorious dirty trick. As he recounts the story in his autobiography, an attractive young volunteer in Smith's Chicago office brought in an invitation that her Democratic parents had received for an event celebrating the opening of state treasurer candidate Alan J. Dixon's campaign headquarters. In an attempt to impress the young woman, Rove and a few of his cronies created a mock variation of the invitation with the amended copy reading "Free Beer, Free Food, Girls, and A Good Time for Nothing." With copies of the faux flyer listing the real date, time and address of the function, Rove and his team handed them out to "vagrants, homeless, and drifters and at a free rock concernt in Grant Park." The hungry have-nots showed up at Dixon's gala and the media reported on the prank, but Dixon turned the publicity to his advantage and won his race (Smith, the Senate candidate for whom Rove was working, lost his contest to Adlai Stevenson III).

Rove's involvement in the Dixon episode remained secret until 1973 when he was running for chairman of the College Republican National Committee with Lee Atwater as his campaign manager. The Washington Post reported on the incident based on tape recordings that had been leaked to them from an internal meeting (Rove is heard on the recording discussing his prank and another student is heard discussing other malfeasance). The results of the election were contested and none other George HW Bush--then the Chairman of the Republican National Committee--led a committee to review the matter. But, according to Bad Boy: The Life and Politics of Lee Atwater, the review panel did not even consider the tape and transcript--the strongest pieces of evidence against Rove. Their rationale for setting aside the incriminating material was that the tapes could have been tampered with. A few weeks later Bush sent the victorious Rove a letter informing him that he was the duly recognized chairman. Atwater and Rove met with Bush for the very first time in Washington, D.C. shortly thereafter (upon winning, Rove had appointed Atwater to his former position--Executive Director of the College Republican National Committee) and became fast friends with both young men.

Rove would go on to help George W. Bush win the Texas governorship and the presidency twice. For his efforts he was rewarded with the nicknames Turd Blossom, Boy Genius and the Architect. He also had the honor of being allowed to "rap" at the 2007 White House Correspondents' Association Dinner. For video of a younger, even less rhythmic Rove see this CBS News report from 1972. The future Turd Blossom appears at approximately the four-minute mark.


Lee Atwater

Legendary poltical dirty trickster Lee Atwater was unanimously voted class clown in eigth grade at W. J. Keenan Junior High School in Columbia, South Carolina (the photo above is Atwater at age 13). The Atwaters spoiled young Lee's fun the next year by enrolling him at Fork Union Military Academy in Virginia (he had been hoping to join his friends at J.C. Flora High School). Eventually, Atwater convinced his parents to allow him to come home and attend Flora High where he returned to his prankish ways. In the book Bad Boy: The Life and Politics of Lee Atwater, Lee's eleventh-grade English teacher recalled giving the colorful student a "D" for content, but an "A" for originality on his book report on the Columbia telephone directory. The teacher recounted for the author that "He said it jumped around from character to character without sustaining any of them." At Flora Atwater became interested in theater and music and starred as Conrad Birdie in the high school production of Bye, Bye Birdie. He also started his first Rhythm and Blues band called The Upsetter's Revue. R & B and comedy (he loved W.C. Fields and the Three Stooges) would remain a lifelong passions of Atwater's.

But it was his slash and burn political instinct that would eventually make Lee Atwater's name synonymous with negative campaigning. He developed his craft in the 1970s in South Carolina working on campaigns for Governor Carroll Campbell and Senator Strom Thurmond. In 1980 Atwater helped South Carolina Republican congressman Floyd Spence beat challenger Tom Turnipseed by using so-called "push polls" to suggest to voters that the opposing candidate was a member of the NAACP. Atwater also infamously told a "plant" reporter at a news conference that Turnipseed had once been hooked up to "jumper cables" (electroshock therapy) for depression.

Atwater's masterpiece of character assassination came eight years later when he convinced George HW Bush to "go negative" on Democratic nominee Michael Dukakis. The morning after the Massachusetts governor gave his acceptance speech for the Democratic nomination, Atwater told an assembly of senior Bush campaign staff: "I'm going to scrape the bark off that little bastard." And that he did. In a more subtle reprise of the Turnipseed shock therapy tactic, Atwater is widely believed to have been the source of the rumor that Dukakis had sought professional help after the death of his younger brother in an automobile accident (although New Hampshire Governor John Sununu had publicly advised reporters to look into this matter as well). Once the rumor was "out there" reporters even asked President Reagan about whether Dukakis was "fit to govern" if such an accusation was true. Reagan replied with a lame joke: "Look, I'm not going to pick on an invalid." Ultimately, Dukakis was forced to deny the rumor and he quickly dropped eight points in the polls. But it was Atwater's success in raising questions about the governor's patriotism (the Pledge of Allegiance issue in Massachusetts public schools) and in making a convicted African-American rapist and murderer, Willie Horton, his "running mate" (who remembers Lloyd Bentsen?) that really sank Dukakis. The candidate's own missteps such as not hitting back, riding in a tank and calmly answering a debate question about his wife's hypothetical rape and murder did not help matters.

Bush, of course, won in 1988 and his defeated opponent went back to riding the T to work in Boston. Atwater, in what many viewed as karmic payback, developed brain cancer and began apologizing to people he had wronged during his career--including Turnipseed and Dukakis. The wily political strategist did not live to see Bush's 1992 loss to Bill Clinton, but one suspects he probably would have been amused by how thoroughly James Carville had learned the lessons of 1988.

Atwater's less interesting friend, Karl Rove--whom he helped get elected as chairman of the College Republican National Committee in 1973--carries on the good work with no regrets...


Failed Democratic Nominees

The modern Democratic Party has a rich history of losing and this entry is a celebration of their collective failure. Their loserdom is due in large part to weakling nominees who roll over for their better managed Republican opponents. For some unknown reason Democratic nominees often rely on mediocre political strategists like Bob Shrum, Susan Estrich or Donna Brazile. GOP nominees, on the other hand, are more likely to recruit the sociopathic street fighters like Lee Atwater and Karl Rove. In 1992 Bill Clinton had James Carville leading a 24/7 rapid response unit within his campaign that effectively neutralized the George HW Bush slime machine, but this was a notable exception. In other presidential election years Democrats have won because of historic Republican malfeasance (Jimmy Carter won a slim victory over incumbent Gerald Ford in 1976 after Watergate; Barack Obama defeated John McCain by a significant margin thanks to eight years of George W. Bush) or spectacularly inept opponents (Clinton beat Bob Dole in 1996 and Obama had the benefit of a twofer in 2008 - the two-term blunders of the incumbent Republican and a spectacularly inept opponent; indeed, the corpse of Adlai Stevenon, the patron saint of Democratic losers, could have won in '08). So, without further delay, here are the men who have made it hard to be a Democrat...

Jimmy Carter graduated from Plains High School in Plains, Georgia in 1941. He played basketball (that's him in the back row, second from left) and, during non-school hours, he ran a profitable peanut business. He went on to graduate from the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis and was elected governor of Georgia in 1970. Thanks in large part to Richard Nixon's behavior in office and Gerald Ford's unconditional pardoning of him (not to mention Ford's poor debate performance), Carter won the presidency in 1976. His unstinting honesty and his belief that the American public should be treated as intelligent adults did little to help him overcome the pall of failure that shadowed him through much of his term. A terrible economy, the Iranian Hostage Crisis, and Ted Kennedy's primary challenge in 1980 didn't help matters (and neither did his black sheep brother, Billy). Carter suffered a resounding defeat at the hands of Ronald Reagan on November 4, 1980.

Walter "Crazylegs" "Fritz" Mondale graduated from Elmore High School in Elmore, Minnesota in 1946. He ran track, played basketball and was the left halfback on the school's football team (where he earned the unlikely nickname "Crazylegs"). According to the book The Democrat's Dilemma: Walter Mondale and the Liberal Legacy, Mondale's family and peers had little hope for him succeeding in life: "That Fritz, [Mondale's minister father once confided to a Sunday school aide], he'll never amount to anything." The biography also points out that the future vice president of the United States was sometimes a quitter: "while running the 220-yard dash during the final track meet of his high school career, he abruptly quit without finishing the race. 'What the hell, there's no point in this--I'm not interested in this,' he said to himself." Of course, the young Mondale went on to a distinguished career in the U.S. Senate and a very influential role as Jimmy Carter's vice president from 1977 to 1981. In 1984 he picked an unqualified congresswoman from New York, Geraldine Ferraro, as his running mate, laughed at Ronald Reagan's self-deprecating remarks about age during the second presidential debate and lost the race in a historic landslide. To be fair, no Democrat could have won in '84 (a fact that seems lost on Reagan's re-election campaign manager, Ed Rollins, who has dined out on the victory for decades).

Michael Dukakis graduated from Brookline High School in Brookline, Massachusetts in 1951. In his senior year, he was voted one of the "most brilliant" (along with someone named Marilyn Tanner). He also ran for senior class president against his friend, the "most popular" Bob Wool. In the book Dukakis: An American Odyssey, Dukakis recalled the outcome of the race for the authors: "I got my head handed to me." The failed high school candidate eventually went on to become the governor of Massachussets and the unlikely Democratic nominee in 1988. Before George HW Bush and Lee Atwater unleashed their legendarily negative campaign against Dukakis, he held a 16 point lead over the sitting vice president in the polls. The governor also had 70% favorability rating (Bush's unfavorability rating in May of 1988 was at more than 40% - unprecedendented at that time). By the time Atwater and Floyd Brown succeeded in making convicted rapist and murderer, Willie Horton, Dukakis's defacto running mate, the race was all but over. Dukakis's unfortunate decision to ride in a tank and his bloodless answer to a debate question about his wife's hypothetical violation and murder sealed his fate. His clueless campaign manager, Susan Estrich, who reportedly arranged for the tank photo op (she denies it) is now one of the liberal punching bags employed by Fox News.

Al Gore graduated cum laude from Harvard University with a degree in government in 1969. Years later, when Gore was vice president under Bill Clinton, he claimed that he and his then-girlfriend, Tipper, were the real-life models for the couple in the Harvard-set bestseller Love Story. In 1997, the novelist Erich Segal told the New York Times that he based a small part of the character of rich boy athlete Oliver Barrett IV on Gore. The majority of the inspiration came from Gore's roommate, football player and future Oscar winning actor Tommy Lee Jones. As for the female protagonist, Siegal told the Times: "I did not draw a thing from Tipper." During the 2000 primary race against Senator Bill Bradley, Gore inartfully cited his championing of Internet leglislation in a CNN interview as "I took the initiative in creating the Internet..." which contributed to the public perception (effectvely exploited by the Republicans) of him as a serial exaggerator. Gore's haughty public manner, his early reliance on feminist author Naomi Wolf for wardobe advice and his resistance to using Bill Clinton's campaign help in key states wound up contributing to his electoral loss (including his home state of Tennessee!) to a tongue-tied Texas governor.    

Like his 2004 opponent for the presidency, George W. Bush, John Kerry attended Yale University, joined the secret Skull and Bones society and racked up some lackluster grades. He graduated in 1966, went to Vietnam and served on a swift boat and eventually was awarded the Silver Star, Bronze Star and three Purple Hearts. He came home to protest the war and went into politics, becoming the junior senator from Massacussets in 1985 after a stint as Michael Dukakis's lieutenant governor. Somehow, Bob Shrum--Kerry's utterly useless campaign manager--allowed his candidate's war record to become a liability. Indeed, Kerry's inability to quickly and forcefully rebut the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth organization's blatant lies about his service record helped sink his chances of unseating Texas Air National Guard veteran Bush. Of course, the senator's wooden personality and half-crazed wife didn't help matters much either.