Who knew that the bronze statue on the Statehouse plaza was really a stand-up comedian?
Granite State native Daniel Webster was asked to fill the vice-presidential spot on the Whig Party ticket in 1858 with nominee Zachary Taylor. He turned it down, saying: "I do not propose to be buried until I am dead."
Now there's a man who should have been president, or at least been given his own sitcom. Ironic, because had Mr. Webster accepted the role of executive second banana, he'd have been top banana 16 months later when Taylor died in office.
Instead, we got Millard Fillmore, the only chief executive whose name anagrams into: "Mr., I'm A Filled Roll."
I find this to be a defining bit of bio-trivia, as Millard once turned down an honorary doctorate because he couldn't understand the diploma's Latin text. He said: "No man should accept a degree he can't read."
To his credit, Fillmore did set up the first White House library, and later appointed our own Daniel Webster as Secretary of State. After that, his most significant contribution was to enable sticklers across the fruited plains to note that, no, Daniel Webster did not write the dictionary. (That was Noah.)
This year we'll elect a new president and I'm declaring it vital that our next top banana have a keen sense of humor, so you should vote as if your ballot depended on it.
I've also suggested how we might tidy up the process of electing a president, but I don't see any evidence that my ideas are being taken seriously. For a humorist, this is a good sign.
Consider my proposal that we cancel the national conventions, and instead of over-funding these grand old glitz and glamour balls, apply the money where it will best serve the nation: to the elderly, the disabled, our soldiers and their families, and generous grants for working humor columnists.
I'm thinking that our candidates could all be bib-jeaned, lined up and set upon tractors. Then, something simple but elegant, like a Thunderbirds fly-over, would signal the start of the contest. The first candidate to finish harvesting an acre of corn and left out standing in his/her field would get our nominating nod.
Now, isn't this a much more homespun and truer method of evaluating presidential savvy than watching a bunch of ballyhoo-ers in funny hats anointing a foregone conclusion?
I submitted this idea to the respective
chairmen of our national political parties, but the non-response has been greater than anyone has ever non-responded to my entreaties before, not counting my agent. I suspect my letters were shredded, burned, mulched into convention placards, and will be distributed as genuine simulated Uncle Sam top hats.
A statewide New Hampshire newspaper displays as part of its masthead a quote from almost-President Daniel Webster, now our nominated state Laughmaster-in-Chief: "There is nothing so powerful as truth."
As with most newspapers, it isn't what's left, but what's left out. It omits (look it up yourselves) the rest of that historical quote, which reads: "and often nothing so strange."
An apt anagram for Daniel Webster is: "Wits end? Be real!" From a man who also said that "Wisdom begins at the end," I suggest that when we enter the voting booths, that's a good place to start laughing. NH
B. Elwin Sherman is out to find the funny bone in the body politic and invites anyone suffering from a humor deficit to visit his new "advice for the laughlorn" site: www.witbones.com.
This article appears in the July 2008 issue of New Hampshire Magazine