15 things you can’t believe are true about American politics

April Fools! Since everyone else is going to be pulling pranks on you all day, we thought we'd be nice and tell you things that are true ... although, they're weird enough that we wouldn't blame you for thinking we were joking.

1. In 1928, the Senate appropriated funds to knock out walls in the chamber because they thought bad air quality was killing senators.

According to the "History of the United States Capitol":

It was predictable. Elect a former public health commissioner to the United States Senate and wait for the recommendations about an unhealthy working environment. Royal Copeland entered the Senate in 1923 after a five-year term as commissioner of the New York City Board of Health. A practicing physician and a medical educator, the New York senator wasted little time in reaching a conclusion about the quality of the air in the Senate Chamber. He cited the deaths of 34 incumbent senators over the past 12 years and suggested that their lives had probably been shortened by the poor quality of the air in the chamber. In the winter, the dry heated air was blamed for the spread of influenza, bronchitis, and the common cold; in the summer, excessive heat and humidity sapped members' energy and tested their tempers.

In June 1924, as the increasingly warm late spring days again called attention to this perennial problem, the Senate adopted Senator Copeland's resolution directing Capitol officials to consult with leading architects to develop a plan that would improve the "living conditions of the Senate Chamber." ...

On May 11, 1928, the Senate approved funding of $500,000 to accomplish the project. Five days later, however, Senator Copeland abruptly requested that his proposal be "indefinitely postponed" because it was "no longer necessary." The reason for this sudden reversal lay in a separate appropriation of $323,000 to produce a ventilation system that had been endorsed by a team of public health experts. Tests demonstrated that the chamber could be made comfortable and healthy—without the cost and disruption of knocking down walls—through an innovation, designed by the Carrier Corporation, known as "manufactured weather." Work began early the following year and, by August 1929, the Senate had in place its first air conditioning system.

2. New Jersey Rep. Rush Holt is a rocket scientist. He also beat supercomputer Watson at Jeopardy.

He won Jeopardy five other times, too.

He is also willing to take part in "Arrested Development" reenactments while answering questions on Reddit.


Source: Rush Holt Facebook

The Atlantic said he "might be the most interesting man in Washington."

3. Fort Wayne, Ind., once had a mayor named Harry Baals.

He served four terms in the '30s and '50s. His children and grandchildren have started pronouncing the last name, "Bales." The deceased mayor has a road named after him, and almost had a government center named after him in 2011, until government officials ruined all the fun.

"We realize that while Harry Baals was a respected mayor, not everyone outside of Fort Wayne will know that," Malloy said Tuesday in a statement to The Associated Press. "We wanted to pick something that would reflect our pride in our community beyond the boundaries of Fort Wayne."

An online site taking suggestions for names showed more than 1,300 votes Tuesday for the Harry Baals Government Center. That's more than three times the votes received by the closest contender.

Jim Baals, 51, who has lived in the city his entire life, said it's unfortunate that his great-uncle's name won't be considered for the building.
"Harry served four terms and was a wonderful mayor. I don't know what the problem is," he said. "I understand people are going to poke fun at it. That's OK. I've lived with that name for 51 years now, and I've gotten through it. I think everybody else can, too.

4. California Sen. David Broderick is the only sitting senator to have been killed in a duel.

According to the Senate Web site:

Elected to the California state senate, Broderick rapidly became a power broker within the Democratic Party's antislavery wing and set his eyes on a seat in the U.S. Senate. He used his power in the legislature to stall, for nearly two years, a vote on the reelection of Senator William Gwin, a member of his party's proslavery faction. Finally, in 1857, California's other Senate seat opened and Broderick negotiated a deal with Gwin under which Broderick would take that seat's full six-year term, leaving Gwin the four-year balance of the blocked seat. Broderick's price for supporting Gwinn was full control of California's federal patronage appointments.

California's 1859 state election contest deepened the antagonism between Gwin's proslavery and Broderick's antislavery factions. During the campaign, California Chief Justice David Terry, an ally of Senator Gwin, denounced Broderick as no longer a true Democrat. In Terry's opinion, Broderick was following the "wrong Douglas." He had abandoned Democratic Party leader Stephen Douglas in favor of "black Republican" leader Frederick Douglass. Broderick angrily responded that Terry was a dishonest judge and a "miserable wretch." For these words, Terry challenged Broderick to a duel.

The men met early on the morning of September 13 at Lake Merced, south of San Francisco. After Broderick's pistol discharged prematurely, Terry coolly aimed and fired into Broderick's chest. The senator's death endowed a rough-and-tumble political operator with a martyr's crown and accelerated the downward spiral to civil war. Terry was acquitted of the crime and went on to serve the Confederacy. Years later, in 1889, he too was gunned down after threatening the life of Supreme Court Justice Stephen Field.

5. There is a Web page devoted to quotes that Thomas Jefferson didn't say.

"All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent." Yup. Thomas Jefferson never said that. So many quotes mistakenly get attributed to the Founding Father that Anna Berkes, a research librarian at the Jefferson library, decided to collect them and shame misinformed quote-happy folk. "People will see a quote and it appeals to an opinion that they have and if it has Jefferson's name attached to it that gives it more weight," she told the Wall Street Journal in 2012. "He's constantly being invoked by people when they are making arguments about politics and actually all sorts of topics."

6. Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar raised $17,000 for her senate campaign from ex-boyfriends.

A fact she announced at the 2009 Washington Press Club Foundation dinner. "True story!" she said. "I know that is the record in the Senate, but in the House it's held by Barney Frank."

7. Michigan Rep. John Dingell has served in Congress for more than 24 percent of the time since the American Revolution.

He's the longest-serving member of Congress in history. Dingell took office in 1955, and will retire this year after 59 years.

8. Approximately 15,000 books have been written about Abraham Lincoln.

That means more books have been written about our 16th president than any other person except for Jesus Christ.

Approximately 1,400 books have been written about John F. Kennedy since his assassination.

9. However, if you add up all the political cookbooks in the country, it probably beats them both.

Even if not, there are a lot.

Frank Sinatra wrote an introduction for "Many Happy Returns: The Democrats' Cook Book (Or How to Cook a GOP goose)."

Ina Garten, better known as the Barefoot Contessa, used to work in the White House Office of Management and Budget. She now writes cookbooks and has a Food Network TV show.

More than 400,000 copies of "The Ron Paul Family Cookbook" have been sold or given away at campaign events.

There is "How to Eat Like a Republican: Or, Hold the Mayo, Muffy--I'm Feeling Miracle Whipped Tonight."

"Political Pot Luck: A Collection of Recipes from Men Only" includes a recipes for John F. Kennedy's waffles.

"Romney's Family Table" has a recipe for "Mitt's Meatloaf Cakes."

Former Louisiana Rep. Billy Tauzin wrote "Cook and Tell: Unique Cajun Recipes and Stories," and then went on Martha Stewart to promote it.

10. Sixty-three percent of registered voters in the United States believe at least one political conspiracy.

This is according to a Farleigh Dickinson University poll from January 2013. Twenty-five percent of Americans believed President George W. Bush knew about the 9/11 terrorist attacks before they happened; 64 percent of Republicans were birthers. According to a Gallup poll from last November, 61 percent of Americans think Lee Harvey Oswald did not act alone in assassinating John F. Kennedy.

11. The House of Representatives once investigated TV quiz shows to see if they were rigged.

Twelve-year-old Patty Duke provided secret testimony, saying that when she went on "The $64,000 Question," she just recited the answers given to her before the show, after which she won $32,000. The hearings were not televised, since Speaker of the House Sam Rayburn thought that was beneath the dignity of the House.

The whole scandal was made into a Robert Redford movie 20 years ago.

12. You can eat Jell-O in Utah Sen. Mike Lee's office every Wednesday.


Source: Sen. Mike Lee's website

Jell-O is also the official state snack of Utah.

13. There is a diet book based on President William Howard Taft's method for losing 76 pounds.

It is called "The Taft Diet" and was written by Andrew Dolan. Dolan has also written "The Sudden Death of Michael Jackson" and "How To Pull An All Nighter." There is also an academic paper written about Taft's diet. It is called, "Corpulence and Correspondence: President William H. Taft and the Medical Management of Obesity."

Taft's dietitian was "a famed weight-loss guru and author of popular diet books," and advised he go on a low-carb diet. It sounded miserable, according to this New York Times article from March 1914:

Source: The New York Times
Source: The New York Times

Reporters liked to ask Taft about his weight quite a bit. Here's another article from 1913:

Source: The New York Times
Source: The New York Times

14. The United States has accumulated many odd laws in its old age.

In Alabama, it is apparently illegal to wear a fake mustache to church, if said facial hair brings the congregation to laughter.

In Quitman, Ga., it is illegal for chickens to roam freely through the streets.

Source: The Fort Scott Tribune
Source: The Fort Scott Tribune

It is illegal for a monkey to smoke a cigarette in South Bend, Ind. According to the South Bend Tribune, "a monkey in South Bend, IN, was once convicted of the crime of smoking a cigarette and fined $25 plus the price of court fees."

In Mohave County, Ariz., if you are caught stealing soap, you will be forced to wash yourself with said soap until it is used up.

15. American politicians love movie cameos.

Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy is a Batman fan and managed to work in cameos in Batman movies in 1997 and 2009.

Arizona Sen. John McCain was in "Wedding Crashers."

Former speaker of the House Tip O'Neil was on "Cheers."

Richard Nixon was on "Laugh-In."

President Gerald Ford and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger went on "Dynasty."

Joe Biden and Newt Gingrich both went on "Parks and Recreation."

Among many, many more.

Must-reads:

"2014: The year committee chairmen left town" — Ed O'Keefe, The Washington Post

"HealthCare.gov stumbles on deadline day as consumers race to sign up for insurance" — Amy Goldstein and Lena H. Sun, The Washington Post

Jaime Fuller reports on national politics for "The Fix" and Post Politics. She worked previously as an associate editor at the American Prospect, a political magazine based in Washington, D.C.
Comments
Show Comments
Most Read Politics
Next Story
Ed O'Keefe · March 31