These stories or anecdotes are from a variety of sources. Some of the political stories came from the news, some from history, and some from abroad, but as far as I know they are all true! ...
George Bernard Shaw once sent Winston Churchill some tickets for the first night of one of his plays. Churchill then sent Shaw a telegram to the effect, “Cannot come first night. Will come second night if you have one.” Shaw promptly replied, “Here are two tickets for the second night. Bring a friend if you have one.”
At his presidential inauguration, Abraham Lincoln arrived at the rostrum holding, in addition to a copy of his speech, his trademark black stovepipe hat and cane. When, after laying down the cane, he was dismayed to find no room for his hat, Senator Stephen Douglas (Lincoln’s chief electoral opponent) dutifully came forward and took it from him. “If I can’t be president,” Douglas remarked as Lincoln sat down, “I can at least hold his hat.
In 1846, Lincoln ran for Congress as a Whig against an evangelical Methodist named Peter Cartwright. One day during the campaign, Lincoln attended a religious meeting at which Cartwright, after a stirring welcome, invited everyone who wished to go to heaven to rise. Several congregants complied.
“Now,” Cartwright continued, “those who do not wish to go to hell will stand!” With these words, everyone else rose up, with a single notable exception. “May I inquire of you, Mr. Lincoln,” Cartwright asked, “where you are going?” Lincoln rose. “I came here as a respectful listener,” he calmly replied. “I did not know I was to be singled out by Brother Cartwright. I believe in treating religious matters with due solemnity. I admit that the questions propounded by Brother Cartwright are of great importance. I did not feel called upon to answer as the rest did. Brother Cartwright asks me directly where I am going. I desire to reply with equal directness: I am going to Congress!”
Senator Barry Goldwater, a talented amateur photographer, once took a picture of President John F. Kennedy and sent it to him requesting that he send it back with an autograph. Kennedy complied, returning it with this inscription: “For Barry Goldwater, whom I urge to follow the career for which he has shown so much talent - photography. From his friend, John Kennedy.”
While campaigning for the 1960 presidential election, John F. Kennedy was amused one day to receive a curious telegram from his father Joseph (a prominent banker and industrialist): “Don’t buy a single vote more than necessary,” it read. “I’ll be damned if I’m going to pay for a landslide!”
Harry Truman was once asked by a young student how he might get started in politics. “You’ve already started,” Truman replied. “You’re spending somebody else’s money, aren’t you?”
Shortly after attending a White House dinner with President Nixon in December 1972, Cleveland mayor Ralph J. Perk was asked why he had not been accompanied by his wife Lucille. She had made other plans, he explained; it was her bowling night.
The latter portion of Jimmy Carter’s presidency was plagued by recession. The American economy did not pick up again until Ronald Reagan had assumed the helm (in the early 1980s). “Depression is when you are out of work,” Reagan declared after taking office. “Recession is when your neighbor is out of work…” And a recovery? “A recovery is when Jimmy Carter is out of work!”
One day while campaigning against Dwight Eisenhower during the 1952 presidential election, Adlai Stevenson was approached by a female admirer. “Governor,” she enthused, “every thinking person will be voting for you.” “Madam, that is not enough,” Stevenson replied, “I need a majority!”
In 1965, William F. Buckley ran for the office of mayor of New York City. Given the odds of his clinching a victory, Buckley’s campaign was ridiculed by many political pundits, chief among them William F. Buckley. One day a reporter asked the candidate to name the first thing he would do in the event of a victory. Buckley’s reply? “Demand a recount!”
One day Clare Boothe Luce, a Republican, was asked by a journalist for her comments regarding a certain Republican senator’s switch to the Democratic Party. “Whenever a Republican leaves one side of the aisle and goes to the other,” she wryly replied, “it raises the intelligence quotient of both parties.”
While delivering a campaign speech one day Theodore Roosevelt was interrupted by a heckler: “I’m a Democrat!” the man shouted. “May I ask the gentleman,” Roosevelt replied, quieting the crowd, “why he is a Democrat?” “My grandfather was a Democrat,” the man replied, “my father was a Democrat and I am a Democrat.” “My friend,” Roosevelt interjected, moving in for the kill, “suppose your grandfather had been a jackass and your father was a jackass. What would you then be?” Alas, Roosevelt was thwarted by the quick-witted heckler, who promptly replied: “A Republican!”
Despite concern over Ronald Reagan’s age (69) when he ran for the presidency in 1980, he won by a wide margin, becoming the oldest president ever elected. During a televised debate with Walter Mondale in the next election four years later, Reagan was asked whether he was too old to serve another term. “I’m not going to inject the issue of age into this campaign,” he astutely replied. “I am not going to exploit, for political gain, my opponent’s youth and inexperience.”
Shortly after JFK’s inaugural address, his Republican opponent Richard Nixon generously told Ted Sorenson (Kennedy’s aide) that there were certain things in the address which he himself would like to have said. “Do you mean the part about ‘Ask not what your country can do for you’…?” Sorenson asked. “No,” Nixon replied, “the part beginning ‘I do solemnly swear’…”