Of Bainbridge editors and politics as usual in 1950
July 7, 2008 · Updated 11:34 AM
In the spirit of the Fabulous Fifties theme in yesterday’s Grand Old Fourth celebration, let’s revisit a time that, in some ways, doesn’t seem all that different from today. A political advertisement titled, “Walt Woodward on Bazookas and Typewriters,” ran in the Bainbridge Review on July 27, 1950, a few days after publisher Woodward decided to seek the First District seat in Congress. The Republican hoped to win the primary and then run against the incumbent, a Democrat he apparently considered a scourge on the face of the political landscape. In the ad, presumably paid for by his campaign, he wrote:
“The chief issue in this campaign ... is the removal from the Congress of the incumbent, Hugh Mitchell. He is dangerous to the America for which I stand. I think it is imperative for those of us who would unseat him to start clarifying now – today and every day until November – the reasons why he must be defeated. Those reasons are:
• “The 60-ton tanks with which Communists today are killing our boys in Korea will not be stopped either by (a) appeals to moral unity or by (b) the Administration’s bungling and indecisive foreign policy and almost complete lack of military preparedness.
• “Bureaucrats must be forbidden to hide behind a cold or hot war in wasting our money and domestic foolishness. We gladly will pay taxes for bazookas in Korea; we must not be taxed for 3.6 typewriters for every federal employee hired to use one!
• “No congressman should favor (our present one does) placing you and your doctor under federal bureaucratic control.
• “No congressman should advocate a 3-man federal dictatorship for this area (our present one does).
• “No candidate for Congress should advocate a socialized housing scheme whereby you and I are forced to pay the other fellow’s rent.”
Woodward ended his pronouncement by writing: “If this effort should result in your decision to make me your man in Congress, I will be honored and humbly grateful. But your decision on the clear-cut issues is the vital part of this campaign.”
While the advertisement’s tone may now seem sanctimonious and unequivocal, Woodward’s unpretentious side emerged in an adjacent column he wrote about events that occurred during the week he filed for Congress. The last paragraph describes Woodward getting photographed for the ad in the garage of a Mr. Spinner, who, after having had shot about 20 frames, was quoted as saying, “Come on, Walt, this time try to look intelligent.” Woodward wrote:
“So once again, I tried to screw my ugly puss up into something that would be mature, forceful, intelligent, pleasant – and yet not gooey with a silly grin. The net results were pretty awful. Not ‘Spin’s’ fault; I just look like something that spent ten nights on the bar-room floor, that’s all.”
(Alas, Woodward lost in the primary by about 8,000 votes to a Seattle City Council member, Mrs. F.F. Powell, who was defeated by Mitchell in the November general election.)
Continuing with the theme of “nothing is really new under the sun” (including editorials like this one), on the same editorial page, C.T. Conover of Port Madison wrote a letter in support of Woodward and an islander who was running for county commissioner. It began with conjecture that was probably commonplace then and remains so today: “One weakness on Bainbridge Island seems to be a lack of unity in public purpose and our failure to stand together and work for the common good.”
Weakness? Reasoned disputation is a strength of our republic.
A strong collective voice has its necessary, even virtuous, moments. But it’s also reassuring to know that the concept of “common good” is as ambiguous today as it was 58 years ago – or even 232 years ago.