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Monday, July 18, 2016

Hot in Cleveland- I


Today is the first day of the 2016 Republican National Convention. It is being held in Cleveland, Ohio. It's the party's third visit to the city. The first came in June 1924. President Calvin Coolidge sought a full term in his own right after succeeding to the office on the death of President Harding the previous August. Though Coolidge prevailed, it was not without a fight. He had to best two old Teddy Roosevelt Bull Moosers, Senators Hiram Johnson of California and Bob LaFollette of Wisconsin. Coolidge won a majority of the nascent state primaries, and the nomination; LaFollette bolted to run as a third party candidate on the Progressive line. The fun came when the party delegates picked a vice presidential nominee. The hot ticket was Illinois Governor Frank Lowden, who said he didn't want the nomination The delegates picked him anyway, and he rejected it. That had never happened before, and has not happened since. For Lowden, it was the top slot or nothing, and, despite several more tries in coming years, nothing was what he got. Coolidge's pick was Idaho Senator William E. Borah over Lowden; when that failed (Borah said no, too), he plumped for Commerce Secretary Herbert Hoover. Twenty-four names were placed in nomination, including General John J. Pershing chewing gum magnate William Wrigley, and the American Ambassador to Japan. On the third ballot, the nod went to the first director of the Bureau of the Budget, Charles G. Dawes. Son of a Civil War General, Dawes was an Illinois utilities executive who had moved in and out of government service since the McKinley presidency. He was a desk general in World War II, overseeing supply purchases for the American forces in Europe. At a 1921 congressional hearing on war expenditures, Dawes, frustrated by niggling questions over costs, exploded, "Hell and Maria, we weren't trying to keep a set of books over there, we were trying to win a war!" He became known as "Hell and Maria" Dawes the rest of his life. Elected vice president, Dawes torpedoed his relationship with the President by announcing he would not attend cabinet meetings; gave a swearing-in speech to the Senate denouncing its rules and seniority system and overshadowing the Coolidge Inaugural Address. As presiding officer of the Senate, Dawes left the chamber for his usual post-linch nap, having been told there's be no afternoon votes. In the way of legislative bodies, however, the President's nominee for attorney general was unexpectedly brought up. Facing a close vote, Republicans frantically recalled Dawes from his hotel, but he arrived too late, and the nomination became the first to be rejected in over sixty years. Nor did it help that Dawes won the 1925 Nobel Peace Prize for his post-war European reparations plan. By the time his term ended in 1929, Dawes was happy to be sent overseas as ambassador to Britain, where he irked the King by refusing to wear knee breeches to present American debs in Court. He lived until 1951. One of his musical compositions became the No. 1 pop hit of 1958, "It's all in the Game." Coolidge declined a second nomination in 1928 and died in 1933.The New York wit Dorothy Parker, hearing he had died, asked, "How could they tell?"

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