Question regarding political mudslinging

I know the whole kerry/bush attack ads are not the first examples of political mudslinging. What are other examples of these attacks from past presidential elections?

How have the attacks changed between 100 years ago and now?

I just read the bio of John Adams a while back. During his campaign, editorials were routinely published in the local papers making fun of him by calling him fat, bald, stupid, and toothless, and accusing him of wanting to overthrow the American democracy and install a new monarchy with himself as king and his son John Quincy as crown prince. This was the late 1700s/early 1800s.

The more things change…

The current era is positively genteel compared to the late 19th century. I think you could make a good case that the Gilded Age (1870’s, 1880’s) was the nadir of mudslinging and corruption in American politics.

See this article for some background - the section entitled “mudslinging”:

Mudslinging has a long history in American politics, and started with George Washington, who complained abou it. It is relatively genteel right now – though the facts are twisted badly, no one out-and-out lies, mostly because the media would catch them. But there’s none of the “your candidate fathered a bastard child” or “he has negro blood.”

Some examples (from Hoaxes by Curtis D. MacDougall:

[li]Thomas Jefferson was accused of planning banish all religion.[/li][li]Andrew Jackson was accused of bigamy (there is some truth to this – Jackson married his wife believing she had been divorced; it turned out she was just granted the right to sue for divorce)[/li][li]John Quincy Adams was accused of procuring an American girl to be the mistress of a Russian nobleman.[/li][li]Martin Van Buren was called the illegitimate son of Aaron Burr[/li][li]Harding, Grant, Cleveland, Teddy Roosevelt, and Alfred E. Smith were accused of being alcoholics.[/li][li]Horatio Seymour was called hoplessly insane[/li][li]James A. Garfield was accused of opposing immigration restrictions on Chinese (a big issue back then).[/li][li]FDR was accused of being mentally ill and Jewish; the Chicago Daily Tribune reported that American Communists had been ordered to vote for him.[/li][li]Grover Cleveland was charged with fathering an illegitimate child. He admitted it, and put the issue to rest.[/li][/ul]

In 2000, when John McCain challenged George Bush for the Republican presidential nomination, push-pollers asked South Carolina voters if they would support McCain if they knew he had fathered an illegitimate black child. (He hadn’t, but he had adopted a dark-skinned Bangladeshi girl.) You can read the story in Chapter 21 of Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them, by Al Franken (Dutton 2003).

John Quincy Adams’ wife was … born in a foreign country (England). This was not considered a good thing back in 1824.

“Ma, Ma, where’s my Pa?”

The interesting thing about this revelation being used against Cleveland was that his entire political career was built on cleaning up corruption (it was 1884 - there was plenty of it about for him to clean up - this was the Gilded Age). He was picked by the Democrats because they wanted somebody squeaky clean, with a reputation for honesty and integrity in public office to run against the very able, but tainted, James P. Blaine. Apparently, the electorate in 1884 was able to distinguish between Cleveland’s conduct of public office and indiscretions in his private life. When Cleveland acknowledged that it was true, he also added that he had paid child support with no questions asked. That helped defuse the issue, too.

“He’s in the White House, Ha Ha Ha”

[Nitpick] That’s “Blaine! Blaine! James G. Blaine! The Continental Liar from the State of Maine!” Blaine was accused of “wallow[ing] in spoils like a rhinoceros in an African pool.” Meanwhile, Cleveland was attacked for having hired a substitute to take his place in the armed forces during the Civil War. More about Grover’s rivalry with Jim, which also spawned the characterization of Democrats as advocates of “Rum, Romanism, and Rebellion”, can be found here.

Warren G. Harding was one of the candidates accused of having Negro blood. As this site informs us:

Harding himself, however, was quoted as admitting that “one of my ancestors may have jumped the fence.” Warren G. was also dogged by rumors (many, as it turned out, well-founded) of extramarital affairs, mental illness, heavy drinking (including during Prohibition), and low intelligence. After being elected, he hired many of his “Ohio Gang” friends for federal government positions, although the jury of historians is still out on the question of whether or not he knew the extent of the corruption in his administration.

Although anti-Catholic feelings were not as prevalent as they had been in earlier generations, John F. Kennedy still found himself the target of rumors that he’d have to take orders directly from the Pope if elected in the 1960 Presidential race. Hoping to avoid the fate that had befallen 1928 nominee Al “The Happy Warrior” Smith after the popular governor of New York had been painted as a kisser of the papal ring, Kennedy delivered this address to the Greater Houston Ministerial Association, a group of Southern Baptists. Hmmm, if JFK hadn’t already uttered these lines, John Kerry might have originated them:

and probably still wouldnt

OK. James G. That’s what I get for speaking from memory.

It should be noted that this was perfectly legal at the time, and not particularly unusual - a lot of potential Civil War draftees from families who could afford it simply bought their way out of it. It didn’t stop people from using it against them when they ran for public office some years later. If I were to be stupid enough to run for something, I’m sure somebody would dredge up the fact that I had a 2s (student) deferment during Vietnam, which rendered a very low draft lottery number ineffective (and the draft was over by the time I graduated - I was the last year which could get a 2s, which they quit allowing before the end of the draft).