Hunter S. Thompson on Candidate Motives

A couple things I've seen online today have reminded me of the inimicable Hunter S. Thompson's analysis of the relation of the ego to Presidential ambition, in Fear and Loathing: on the Campaign Trail '72. Anyway, I naturally went googling for it, and discovered to my amazement, that I couldn't find it! So I got down my copy, and found the passage, and re-googled using specific words... nada. Well, as a public service... here it is.

The context here is a discussion of the possibility of a McGovern/Kennedy ticket, after McGovern had secured the nomination of the Democratic party:
McGovern and most of his staff people had been interpreting Kennedy's hazy/negative reaction to the VP offer as a sort of shrewd flirtation that would eventually come up 'yes'. A McGovern/Kennedy ticket would, after all, put Nixon in deep trouble from the start -- and it would also give Teddy a guaranteed launching pad for 1980, when he would still be two years younger than McGovern is today.

Indeed. It made fine sense, on paper, and I recall makeing that same argument myself, a few months back -- but I'd no sooner sent it on the Mojo wire than I realized it made no sense at all. There was something finally and chemically wrong with the idea of Ted Kennedy running for vice-president... Kennedy wouldn't put his presidential ambitions in limbo for eight years, behind McGovern or anyone else. Superstar politicians [have] delicate egos.

The ego is the crucial factor here, but ego is a hard thing to put on paper... File cards are handy for precinct canvassing, and for people that want to get heavy with the Dewey Decimal System, but they are not much good for cataloging things like Lust, Ambition, or Madness.

This may explain why McGovern blew his gig with Kennedy. It was a perfectly rational notion -- and that was the flaw, because...

Now the fun begins!
... a man on the scent of the White House is rarely rational. He is more like a beast in heat: a bull elk in the rut, crashing blindly through the timber in a fever for something to fuck. Anything! A cow, a calf, a mare -- any flesh and blood beast with a hole in it. The bull elk is a very crafty animal for about 50 weeks of the year; his senses are so sharp that only an artful stalker can get within 1000 yards of him . . . but when the rut comes on, in the autumn, any geek with the sense to blow an elk-whistle can lure a bull-elk right up to his car in ten minutes if he can drive within hearing range.

The dumb bastards lose all control of themselves when the rut comes on. Their eyes glaze over, their ears pack up with hot wax, and their loins get heavy with blood. Anything that sounds like a cow elk in heat will fuse the central nervous system of every bull elk on the mountain. They will race through the timber like huge cannonballs, trampling small trees and scraping off bloody chunks of their own hair on the unyielding bark of the large ones. They behave like sharks in a feeding frenzy, attacking each other with all the demented violence of human drug dealers gone mad on their own wares.

A career politician finally smelling the White House is not much different from a bull elk in the rut. He will stop at nothing, trashing anything that gets in his way; and anything he can't handle personally he will hire out -- or, failing that, make a deal.

Good stuff. (The ur-blogger; this in indeed where a generation got "indeed".)