“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.