Wednesday, 2 January 2019

Knowing your limits.

Happy New Year!

This is Adlai Stevenson, the American Democratic politician and two-time unsuccessful presidential candidate upon whom Peter Sellers partially based his performance as President Muffley in Dr. Strangelove.

In 1949, when Stevenson was Governor of Illinois, a bill was proposed in that state to restrict the movement of domestic cats, in order to protect rare songbirds. Stevenson vetoed the bill, with this judgement:

"I cannot agree that it should be the declared public policy of Illinois that a cat visiting a neighbor’s yard or crossing the highways is a public nuisance. It is in the nature of cats to do a certain amount of unescorted roaming. Many live with their owners in apartments or other restricted premises, and I doubt if we want to make their every brief foray an opportunity for a small game hunt by zealous citizens—with traps or otherwise.

We are all interested in protecting certain varieties of birds. That cats destroy some birds, I well know, but I believe this legislation would further but little the worthy cause to which its proponents give such unselfish effort. The problem of cat versus bird is as old as time. If we attempt to resolve it by legislation who knows but what we may be called upon to take sides as well in the age old problems of dog versus cat, bird versus bird, or even bird versus worm. In my opinion, the State of Illinois and its local governing bodies already have enough to do without trying to control feline delinquency."

I wish he'd won.

(Bonus Stevenson fact: when he was considering whether to run for President a third time, the Russians approached him secretly and offered him assistance. He told the ambassador who made the approach that he considered it "highly improper, indiscreet and dangerous to all concerned", and promptly reported it to the sitting President, his political enemy. I mean, obviously that's what anyone would do. I don't know why I even mention it. )


riflet said...

This is wonderful.

While not nearly as quote-fabricated as Churchill, Stevenson does have one possibly apocryphal exchange I've always loved:

"A popular story is told about Adlai Stevenson (1900-1965) when he was running for president in 1952 (or in 1956). Someone heard Stevenson’s impressive speech and said, “Every thinking person in America will be voting for you.”

Stevenson replied, “I’m afraid that won’t do—I need a majority.”

Timothy said...

A fascinating story, Mr. Finnemore, especially liked your own bit of political snark at the end. I sincerely hope that you produce more Double Acts or more Souvenir Program, or whatever your creative mind thinks up. I've been a fan of yours for a few years now and would say that I'm a comedy geek of yours that I've become quite a bit weird about it. I really hope to hear from you about anything in the works. Fizz buzz ave a banana.

Lena Predmyrska said...

Common sense was as uncommon back then, as it is now. Why do we still insist on calling it that, then?