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A Disastrous Speech

December 7, 2017

Some say it was due to a stomach virus.  According to Kansas newspaperman William Allen White, the disastrous speech was due to a number of circumstances.

“…he came to Philadelphia, where the convention was held, dead tired, dog tired (sic) after a terrible day’s work in the Senate.  He never spared himself.  His place was late on the program.  It was after ten at night when the toastmaster came to him.  Just before he rose to speak, his secretary told me, he took a great gobletful of whiskey and swallowed it neat.  He was not a drinking man.  But, his secretary said, sometimes, to stoke up his machine, he used any stimulant that might be at hand…”

The Senator was a man in his late fifties.  He had pushed himself before with great success.  Surely this time would be no different.

“He had his manuscript that night at the dinner, and for ten minutes or so, perhaps twenty, he read along fluently and well.”

Then something happened.

“…he put down his manuscript for a moment to emphasize a point… When he picked up his manuscript he had lost his place… Then he laid it down again, and the second time he departed from his manuscript he began to lose control of his temper… For nearly two hours… he raged on and on, saying the same things over and over at the top of his voice.  It was a terrible spectacle.”

The speech was given on February 2, 1912.  From that day forward the Senator’s prospects for the Presidential nomination dimmed.  Historians have often listed La Follette as one of the greatest U.S. Senators of all time, but like so many others on that list, he never became President.

One Comment
  1. In movie’s the politician’s shoot-from-the-hip moment is always so triumphal! But then, losing one’s temper and ranting for two hours never works, not even on the silver screen.

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