The 2008 presidential race is getting rough, but the combatants look well-mannered compared to mudslingers of the 19th century. Thomas Jefferson was called an “infidel” and an “unbeliever,” while John Adams was accused of possessing a “hideous hermaphroditical character.” Although “everybody always assumes there was a golden age of presidential campaigning,” one historian tells the Washington Post, US politics have always been dirty.
Early political rhetoric was “shriller, hyperbolic, and downright mean,” as one author puts it. John Quincy Adams was called “the Pimp” over policy friendly toward the czar of Russia. And Harper’s Weekly once referred to Lincoln as “A Long, Lean, Lank, Lantern-Jawed, High Cheeked-Boned Spavined Rail-Splitting Stallion.”