Dick Tuck, Ethics Corrupter

Dick Tuck, accepting an award from Democrats in 1973.

“Prankster-at-large,’ the New York Times pleasant obituary calls Dick Tuck, who died this week at the age of  94. He “bedeviled” Barry M. Goldwater, Richard M. Nixon and other Republicans, we are told. He was a “king gremlin of political shenanigans.” It all sounds so cute, so harmless.

This is inexcusable spin. Dick Tuck is the grandfather of such dirty campaign tricks as the infamous “Canuck” letter in 1972, and the “Pizzagate’ Hillary Clinton child trafficking rumor in 2016. He was an ethics corrupter, who “inspired” Richard Nixon to launch his own dirty tricks operation, a pioneer of political sabotage who helped make such unethical tactics as false flag operations and internet rumor-mongering the plague they are today. Nice job, Dick!

Writes the Times, admiringly…

To connoisseurs of the dark arts of political tricksters, Mr. Tuck was a master of psychological jujitsu. By his own accounts, he shadowed and leapfrogged Republican campaigns, planted agents with surprises at whistle-stops, disrupted schedules, started nasty rumors and issued bogus press advisories. Democratic officials usually disavowed his activities, and Republican officials nearly always disputed his claims.

But pixilated things happened when Tuck operatives were around. Buses pulled out early. Trains made unscheduled stops. Placards in foreign languages bore miscreant messages. Newsletters hailed Democrats. At Republican rallies, bands struck up Franklin D. Roosevelt’s “Happy Days Are Here Again,” Lyndon B. Johnson balloons floated up and fire chiefs — at least they wore fire chiefs’ helmets — underestimated crowd sizes for reporters.

But elections aren’t supposed to be determined by “tricks,” rumors and sabotaged campaign stops. Tuck rationalized that his activities were benign while Nixon’s were not: writes the Times,

“Mr. Tuck said he executed no break-ins, illegal wiretaps, money launderings or felonious cover-ups of the kind that drove Nixon from the presidency in the Watergate scandal in 1974. While the seriousness of political sabotage is open to interpretation — one hellion’s dirty trick is another’s clever tactic — Mr. Tuck insisted that his own stunts were benign mischief”

These are all unethical tactics calculated to win elections by dishonest means.  What “interpretation”? Political sabotage in any form is an attack on functioning democracy. The Times thinks Tuck was a good guy because he only sabotaged Republicans. Indeed, Democratic organizations gave Tuck awards.


Dick Tuck was a villain, and our political system suffers because of his “shenanigans” to this day. On my list of political miscreants, the foreign nation that uses tricks to try to distort our elections is less revolting than the American citizen who does the same. Americans are supposed to respect the integrity of our democracy. The sorrow should not be that Dick Tuck has died, but that he ever lived. This would be a better nation today if he never existed.


13 thoughts on “Dick Tuck, Ethics Corrupter

  1. Now I get it.

    Obama third party data mining of Facebook good. Trump third party data mining of Facebook very very bad.

    (When did this guy retire? Or who was his protege?)

    This guy was a professional liar and false optics generator. What’s wrong with tricking or lying to the electorate during an election?

    You know, like claiming a video caused a terrorist attack on a consulate resulting in the deaths of Americans. Then arresting the video producer and holding him without charge.

    Why do I keep hearing the banana boat song?

    • But if thier asshole gets the job done your side had best get it’s own asshole. Gresham’s law has applications outside of economics!

  2. “… and the “Pizzagate’ Hillary Clinton child trafficking rumor in 2016. ”

    Could you please provide a source? I can’t find no information linking the two. Besides, it seems like that’s prank hurt Clinton more than Trump, so I’m not sure what Tuck would have hoped fl accomplish.

    • What? It was a Tuck-style rumor designed to hurt Clinton (it had no effect at all, because if you believed it, you were too stupid to get to the polls). I don’t understand your logic at all. I didn’t say that Tuck was behind the rumor…good lord. Read. “Dick Tuck is the grandfather of such dirty campaign tricks as the infamous “Canuck” letter in 1972, and the “Pizzagate’ Hillary Clinton child trafficking rumor in 2016.” “Grandfather means that he was the ancestor of the technique and conduct, not that those two dirt tricks were actually concocted by him.



      • Sir, the best writing about ‘Pizzagate’ was when a writer wondered if the people whose lives were upended and ruined by the false accusations about pedophilia at Comet Pizza had anything to say about Janet ‘Reinhardt Heidrich in drag’ Reno engaging in the same tactics with the McMartins and at Mt. Carmel. If Pizzagate is mentioned, so should those other incidents.

          • I think I see the thin thread of logic there. He’s saying that, since Janet Reno used false accusations of pedophilia to advance her political career (though she wasn’t involved in the McMartin case, it was another false day-care abuse case in Florida she prosecuted), then the folks at Comet Pizza, who supported her patrons (the Clintons) might have been on the receiving end of fake-pedophilia-accusation karma.

            Or something dumb like that. It’s a pretty attenuated line of guilt, so it’s not easy to follow…

  3. Last week, a Youtuber I met once passed away. I was a fan. Some people weren’t, and could not contain their joy at his passing at the age of 33 from cancer.

    It’s a huge pet peeve of mine when people talk smack about someone RIGHT after they died because of some stuff they did in life. The person is gone, but their loved ones are mourning and don’t need to have people ripping on their lost friend or family member.

    The only time I was ever actually glad that someone died was Mary-Ellis Bunim in 2004. She was one of the creators of The Real World and essentially the creator of reality television. I view her as the same as a scientist who thoughtlessly engineered a self-replicating plague.

    But of course, this was 2004, so there was no place for me to gloat. And even then… there is a difference between posting this on Facebook, where only your friends are likely to see it, and posting it on Twitter, where the mourning person may see it. (A blog is probably somewhere between the two.)

    So… in principle, I suppose I disapprove of this. But then again… I’d never heard about this guy, and you make a strong argument that can’t be condensed into a tweet. But that argument will be just as strong in a few weeks or months.

    Aside: When Charles Manson passed, I wanted to comment on it on my personal Facebook, but I didn’t want to say RIP for obvious reasons, because he definitely shouldn’t rest in peace. But I wanted to say something so people would know.

    So I posted:

    “Charles Manson is dead.

    Just thought you all should know, so that this can be the last day we bother thinking of him.”

    • Yeah, Jeff, I thought about this before I wrote the piece. I decided to write it because nothing I wrote shouldn’t have been in the Times obituary, which is really what I was criticizing. The thing actively misrepresented Tuck’s contributions to politics as benign, when they were anything but. You know that two days afterwards, nobody’s going to be thinking about Dick Tuck, at all, even me. For those who are too young to remember Tuck—I’m NOT…this was an example of a first impression sticking, so I felt clarifying the NYT distortion had to be done immediately, it at all.

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