The Washington Post

Obama’s beer a recipe for old-school politics

President Obama, opens up a box containing bottles of White House brewed beer that he was delivering to the firefighters. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP)

But with his gift of a case of beer to some firemen 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.

On Election Day 1758, a young Washington was running for Virginia’s House of Burgesses, and — unlike in a previous failed bid, this time, 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.

And campaign-finance expert Brett Kappel tells the Loop that Obama would have had to have made an explicit “quid pro quo” proposition to the fire fighters to run afoul of the law.

Obama surely didn’t make such an explicit deal with his beer pitch, but he clearly knows that a little brew goes a long way.

Emily Heil is the co-author of the Reliable Source and previously helped pen the In the Loop column with Al Kamen.


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