Turns out 47 percent has a historical place in presidential campaign history. President Richard M. Nixon may have been the first to employ it, using it to great effect 40 years ago in his 1972 reelection campaign against Sen. George McGovern.
A Nixon commercial showed a hard-hatted construction worker perched on a beam in an unfinished Manhattan high-rise, munching on a sandwich.
As the worker looks down on the traffic below, an announcer intones that “Senator George McGovern recently submitted a welfare bill to the Congress” that “would make 47 percent of the people in the United States eligible for welfare — 47 percent.” To help the arithmetically challenged, the narrator adds: “Almost every other person in the country would be on welfare.”
The construction worker appears increasingly concerned when the announcer asks rhetorically: “And who’s going to pay for this? Well, if you are not the one out of two people on welfare, you do.”
The hard hat stops munching and looks unhappily, perhaps angrily, into the camera.
The 56-second spot was sponsored by “Democrats for Nixon.”
President Gerald R. Ford, who was Nixon’s vice president, signed the earned-income tax credit into law in 1975. That, over the years, has increased the number of low-wage working people who don’t owe federal income taxes — and thus are in the pool of those moocher 47-percenters.
A bipartisan moment. No, really.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke Wednesday afternoon at a ceremony in the Capitol Rotunda at which Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi was presented with Congress’s highest honor, the Congressional Gold Medal.
Clinton recounted a discussion she had with the speaker of the Burmese parliament, who told her about work to promote democracy in that country, which is still dominated by a military junta.
“He went on to tell me that they were trying to teach themselves by watching old segments of ‘The West Wing,’ ” Clinton said as the crowd laughed.
“I said, ‘I think that we can do better than that, Mr. Speaker.’ ”
(Maybe we could send some episodes to the Russians.)
Others there included Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who spoke emotionally of Suu Kyi’s extraordinary courage during her 15 years under house arrest; former first lady Laura Bush; House Speaker John Boehner
; House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi; Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid; and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell
Some were surprised when Reid effusively praised McConnell for his steadfast effortsto promote democracy in Burma. Shouldn’t have been surprised. The praise was well deserved.
Presidential elections come but once every four years, but for
, elections are a year-round matter.