Beer and votes, Obama edition

Al Kamen
Columnist September 5, 2012

President Obama runs a thoroughly modern campaign, waged on social media and fueled by super PACs.

But with his gift of a case of beer to some firefighters he visited Tuesday on a campaign stop, it seems he’s taking a page out of a very, very dusty political playbook: George Washington’s. The first president was part of a long American tradition of politicians who knew that booze was the best way to a voter’s heart.

Al Kamen, an award-winning columnist on the national staff of The Washington Post, created the “In the Loop” column in 1993. View Archive

On Election Day 1758, a young Washington was running for Virginia’s House of Burgesses, and — unlike in a previous failed bid — he plied voters with an impressive array of spirits: “28 gallons of rum, 50 gallons of rum punch, 34 gallons of wine, 46 gallons of beer, and two gallons of cider royal,” according to records.

And went on, of course, to a pretty spectacular political career.

Liquor-for-votes was a standby of politics of yore. Tammany Hall did it. Elections often came down to who poured the best — and most.

Of course, buying votes for the price of some hooch is totally illegal these days, and has been for a while.

Campaign finance expert Brett Kappel tells the Loop that Obama would have had to have made a “quid pro quo” proposition to the firefighters to run afoul of the law.

Obama surely didn’t make such an explicit deal, but he clearly knows that from White House summits to fire stations, a little brew goes a long way.

Rewind can be unkind

Misspeaking is easy; unspeaking can be hard.

The battle was joined Tuesday when the Washington Examiner quoted Democratic National Committee Chairman Debbie Wasserman Schultz as saying:“We know, and I’ve heard no less than Ambassador Michael Oren say this, that what the Republicans are doing is dangerous for Israel.”

Oren then issued this statement: “I categorically deny that I ever characterized Republican policies as harmful to Israel. Bipartisan support is a paramount national interest for Israel, and we have great friends on both sides of the aisle.”

“I didn’t say he said that,” Wasserman Schultz, a Florida congresswoman, later insisted to Fox News. She added that inasmuch as the Examiner is “a conservative newspaper,” it was “not surprising they would deliberately misquote me.”

Alas. The Examiner had recorded her comment, which was made at a public event. It’s loud and clear.

Note to file: Remind both parties that traditional training seminars for freshman members in December must include a warning that everything they say publicly — even privately — will be on someone’s recording device.

An early clearance sale

Americans love a bargain. “Extreme” coupon-clipping is practically a national pastime, and we’re used to shopping around for those 24-hour sales and “buy one, get one free” offers.

So we shouldn’t have been surprised to see that official merchandise from the Obama-Biden presidential campaign is being offered at a steep discount. But isn’t it a little soon?

Typically, one wouldn’t expect to see such ephemeral goods go on sale until later in the season, when fears of having the stock linger in a warehouse, unpurchased, might drive an online merchant to drop prices and clear out the inventory.

But Obama’s campaign sent an e-mail Tuesday offering a 25-percent-off coupon code for merchandise at the Obama-Biden campaign store. Which means that goofy beer cozy emblazoned with Joe Biden’s mug (and the phrase “Cheers Champ”) can be yours for $7.50 instead of the usual $10. That “I Heart Bo” sweatshirt is $30, down from $40.

We couldn’t find a similar deal for Mitt Romney-Paul Ryan merch, although the GOP campaign’s official store was recently luring customers with a limited-time offer of free shipping.

And while those might seem like good deals, wait until after the election. The goods might drop to bargain-basement steals — particularly for the losing camp.

Eight lives to live

This just in from the Associated Press. . .

A Plattsburgh, N.Y., woman tells the Press-Republican that a 6-week-old kitten somehow got wedged behind a bumper of her Jeep as she drove about 100 miles over Upstate New York roads.

Stacey Pulsifer, in a story headlined “Kitten calamity averted,” said she recently drove from her home in Plattsburgh to Elizabethtown in the Adirondacks, then back to her apartment. Along the way she stopped for coffee and heard meowing but couldn’t locate the cat and continued home.

She said she and two friends finally found the little black kitten, whose front paw was broken in three places and whose tiny face was stuck just inches above the ground. Pulsifer said she had adopted the kitten — who will eventually need surgery to amputate the paw — and named her Pumpkin.

Even the late Romney family dog, Seamus, who took that historic rooftop ride to Canada, fared better than poor Pumpkin.

With Emily Heil

The blog: washingtonpost.com/
intheloop. Twitter: @InTheLoopWP.

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