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Make Mine a Courvoisier!

We wrote last week at the Independent about the tendency of presidential candidates to put on a blue collar persona when they campaign in states like Ohio. Democractic contender Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y. certainly illustrated our point recently by playing the song “Nine to Five” at her rallies and posing as a waitress at a campaign stop.

It must be hard to work that shift and then get up at 3 a.m. to answer the ringing red phone. Nonetheless, I had hoped to include in the story a famous blue collar pandering story I’d always heard, involving, of all people, Peace Corps founder Sargent Shriver. But I couldn’t find anyone by my deadline who knew whether the story was true or just an urban legend, so I didn’t include it. Monday, however, Atlantic Monthly managing editor Scott Stossel graciously returned my call from last week, explaining he’d been out of town. Stossel, author of “Sarge: The Life and Times of Sargent Shriver” confirmed that the story is true, and noted that it has morphed into all sorts of different versions that float around.

Stossel said his came from columnist Mark Shields, he included it in his book, and it goes like this: In 1972, campaigning as George McGovern’s running mate, Shriver made a stop in Youngstown, Ohio. Former Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill was campaigning along with him.

After a visiting with some steelworkers after their shift ended, O’Neill teased Shriver that his brothers-in-law always were too cheap to buy a round of drinks at rallies. Shriver agreed, and invited everyone to a nearby bar. He ordered beers for all and then announced “Make mine a Couvessier!”

O’Neill, in disgust, said he was getting back on the campaign plane. Shriver and McGovern went on to lose big. The phrase “Make Mine a Courvoisier!” from then on became famous as an example of the perils of blue collar pandering.

Just a little reminder for working class heroes Barack Obama and Clinton, especially as they face Pennsylvania next.

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