I have here one of those catch-penny “anthologies”, what more precisely could be a “bog book”.
It’s by Matthew Parris, and entitled: Scorn: The Wittiest and Wickedest Insults in Human History.
Like many of its kind, it disappoints more than it illuminates. You will already have knowledge of many — if not most — of the entries; and among the rest there are several that leave you puzzled. The best that can be said of it is that a purchase would ensure the continuing comfort of Mr Parris (a “national treasure” wannabe) and his llamas.
This was the point at which severe doubts arose in my mind:
Democracy has been served – the people have spoken, (sotto voce) the bastards.
Wendell Willkie on hearing of his defeat by President Roosevelt
The quotation is well-known enough. The attribution seems plain wrong.
A more proper, and credible attribution would be to Dick Tuck, the Democrat Party fixer and constant irritant to Tricky Dicky Nixon:
It may be that Dick Tuck has angered Richard Nixon as much as any other man alive. As relentlessly as Inspector Javert trailed Jean Valjean, as doggedly as Caliban followed Prospero, as surely as a snowball seeks a top hat, Prankster Tuck stalked his quarry from one campaign to the next. “Keep that man away from me,” Nixon ordered his staff, who were seldom able to oblige. Ultimately, Nixon paid his adversary the highest compliment: in the 1972 campaign, the White House decided to employ a Dick Tuck of its own.
Since the Nixon White House’s “Dick Tuck of its own” was Donald Segretti (for more on whom, see the Woodstein masterpiece, All the President’s Men), I’d reckon Tuck won hands down.
Tuck had made many a play on Nixon until, in the 1966 mid-terms, he made a primary run for the Democrat nomination for the California Senate. He came third out of eight. Tuck was a favourite of the press reptiles, because he was ever-ready with a zinger. When he had lost the nomination he was asked his reaction. That was the cause of “The people have spoken, the bastards.”
Willkie, by the way, might be seen as the prototype for the Donald Trump — as decent as the latter is nauseating. He was the previous time the GOP had put a businessman on the Presidential ticket. As FDR’s opposite number for the crunch election of 1940, he was almost a titular figure — but he did remarkably well, taking 45% of the vote (though only ten States for 82 votes in the Electoral College). Roosevelt obviously liked and respected Willkie, and used him as an unofficial ambassador to wartime London.
All that apart, I frequently nod along in agreement with Matthew Parris’s liberal Tory columns for The Times. Which is another reason why I find this book unworthy.