Campaigns/Elections

Gonzo on the Campaign Trail

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A strange-but-true campaign story about Hunter S. Thompson and his nemesis, Richard M. Nixon:

"[Pat] Buchanan offered him a ride in the back of the limo at a campaign stop in New Hampshire, on the single condition that Hunter talk to him only about football, because Nixon wanted to relax. And they did so, and whatever Hunter's problems with Nixon, the one thing he had to admit was that the Old Man knew his football."

That's from a Wash Times story by Robert Stacy McCain.

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  1. There’s a longer version of this in Hunter Thompson’s “Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ’72” which also talks about the time that Nixon was allowed to phone in a play for a football game (University of Miami I think?) with disasterous results.

  2. I think Thompson actually mentions this in his book on the 1972 campaign.

  3. The other interesting story there is how close Hunter was with Buchanan. If memory serves – somewhere in The Great Shark Hunt Hunter references that there were quite a few evenings he and Buchanan spent together. Pat liked to get his drink on, and so he and The Good Doctor whiled away quite a few evenings on Pat’s apartment balcony talking politics. God knows what came out of that…

  4. The phoning-in-the-play thing was the Washington Redskins, actually. Coach George Allen (not Mr. Macaca, but his father) and Nixon were pretty close, being both paranoid twits from California, and Allen promised Nixon that he would use the play in question. There is some dispute, however, about whether the Redskins actually ran the play, especially given that NFL quarterbacks back then generally called their own plays on the field.

  5. Nixon and George Allen were friends. I’ll always think of the Nixon Administration as the George Allen period and I tend to associate the Reagan Revolution with the first coming of Gibbs.

    Nixon and Allen were a lot alike I think. I think they kind of thought alike. They even kind of looked alike.

    It wouldn’t surprise me if Allen had let Nixon call a play.

  6. I got distracted halfway though my comment and ChrisO beat me to it.

    There is some dispute, however, about whether the Redskins actually ran the play, especially given that NFL quarterbacks back then generally called their own plays on the field.

    If it was Kilmer in on the play, I’d be more apt to believe they ran what the President called.

  7. Wikipedia sez:

    Nixon took a particular interest in the NFL’s 1971 season. During the playoffs, he contacted George Allen to suggest he tell his Washington Redskins team that Nixon designed a play for them. He did not actually design the play. Once the Redskins were eliminated, he began to root for the Miami Dolphins. He called Dolphins coach Don Shula on January 3, 1972 to suggest the team use a quick slant pass in the Super Bowl.

    (not claiming this is authoritatitve). I mistook the part involving U of Miami; that was when Hunter was surprised that Nixon knew that some pro player went to that school, he took that as a sign that Nixon actually had an interest in and some knowledge of football.

    I think Kilmer made some snippy comment about the play (supposedly) drawn up by Nixon and the fact that it led to a loss of yardage.

  8. Clean living pays off.

  9. Old news for those that have read the book.

  10. The WashPost did an article fairly recently about the Nixon-designed play, memory of which is where I got my info. It’s a great story, even if the play never got used. I believe Nixon actually played football, I think in college. He seemed too shrimpy to me to be much of a player, but I recall reading that he made the team based more on effort than skill.

  11. Back then I think everyone made the team based on effort more than skill. I dont think they let skilled players on the field in those days. Today we refer to these players as the white guys. Being scrappy and/or having “deceptive speed” is a bonus.

  12. Hunter claimed to be the only man who ever lived to ride with both the Hells Angels and President Richard Nixon

  13. Ive ridden & partied with the Angels. What ya see is what ya get. Nixon? I prefer the Angels. By far. Honest, for starters…..hell, substitute “Bush”, “Reagan” or “Clinton” for Nixon & the answer is the same…..christ, i could run that right down to thefriggin Mayor……

  14. Several people mentioned that this was in Thompson’s book, “Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail ’72” — yes, of course, which is what the article that Nick linked is about: A new reissue of that classic book.

    However, I must inform you that there is no truth to the rumor that I wrote that article while under the influence of ibogaine. I think Kerry Howley is behind these rumors. But maybe I’m just paranoid. Ibogaine does tend to make one slightly paranoid. Never touched the stuff myself, though. Honest.

    — RSM

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