owdy

Every once in a while C-SPAN runs a series that keeps America glued to their TVs. Their special on unicameral legislatures, for example, outdrew the Super Bowl, and it’s 8 part series entitled “Nader in the Tub” was the first show in the history of television to have a 100 share. If you’re water cooler is like mine, people are still talking about their mini-series on “Why Communists in Antartica are Largely Ignored.”

Recently, C-SPAN aired another blockbuster. This was a 43 part special on the Presidents of the United States (they did Cleveland twice). Each day they took a 4 hour look at a different administration. I really liked the series. The show on Zachary Taylor made me want to become a Whig. My wife said, “You already are a Whig.”

The show I liked the best was the one on William Henry Harrison. Students of history will know that WHH (OK, not as catchy as JFK) gave a 90 minute speech without a coat on inauguration day, caught pneumonia, and died 30 days later. Yet C-SPAN bravely gave him his full 4 hours. Counting only the time he was conscious, that was longer than his actual administration. It’s hard to believe they could fill 4 hours of airtime, but it was actually a fascinating discussion. Below is a transcript of it.

Brian Lamb
OK, we’re here to review the administration
of William Henry Harrison.

Michael Beschloss
Who?

Doris Kearns “Cha-Cha” Goodwin
Harrison was born in 1773, was a congressman
and a Senator from Ohio, and defeated Martin
Van Buren in the 1840 Presidential election. He then
died.

Pause

Another Pause

Doris Kearns “Cha-Cha” Goodwin
Oh…and his wife was named Anna Tuthil Symes.

The clock ticks. Every second or so. Then it tocks.

Brian Lamb
Uh…What would you say was Harrison’s agenda?

Douglas “Cucumber” Brinkley
Well it changed. During the election, Harrison talked
mostly about lowering tariffs and opening trade routes
to Mexico.

Brian Lamb
And after the election?

Douglas “Cucumber” Brinkley
Well then his focus shifted more to things like trying
to get out of bed, and holding his urine.

Brian Lamb
Well, Harrison’s big speech was obviously his
inaugural address. Any memorable lines.

Haynes “Little Girl” Johnson
Well, the last line proved to be very prescient.

Brian Lamb
What was that line?

Haynes “Little Girl” Johnson
“I think I’m getting a sniffle.”

Doris Kearns “Cha-Cha” Goodwin
He sure could talk.

Michael Becshloss
Who?

People breathed in, and breathed out.

Douglas “Cucumber” Brinkley
Anyone see “Three’s Company” recently?

Haynes “Little Girl” Johnson
I never miss an episode! Did you see when Chrissy
thought Jack was dating Janet?

Brian Lamb
Now come on!! We need to keep this on topic.
We’re talking about William Henry Harrison! Now
Doris, you must know some interesting fact about
our ninth president.

Doris Kearns “Cha-Cha” Goodwin
You bastard!

Brian Lamb
What?

Doris Kearns “Cha-Cha” Goodwin
That was my interesting fact. That he was our ninth
president.

Haynes “Little Girl” Johnson
Uh…I bet he liked corn.

Douglas “Cucumber” Brinkley
I bet you’re right. Corn, and pleasant tasting foods
generally.

Time Stands Still.

Haynes “Little Girl” Johnson
…Plus, many people don’t know he was not a unicorn.

Brian Lamb
Jesus Christ! I think everyone knows he was not a
unicorn!

Haynes “Buckshot” Johnson
Look, I’m trying here!

Brian Lamb
Doris, what do you think his legacy will be?

Doris Kearns “Cha-Cha” Goodwin
Overcoats.

Brian Lamb
What?

Doris Kearns “Cha-Cha” Goodwin
People are much more likely now to wear
overcoats when it’s cold.

Douglas “Cucumber” Brinkley
How much longer Brian?

Brian Lamb
Three hours and forty-five minutes.

Dreadful pause

Douglas “Cucumber” Brinkley
Well I for one loved the man. And
in mourning of his passing, I think we should observe
3 hours and 45 minutes of silence, ya know…to
remember our beloved president, William Henry
Harrison!

Michael Beschloss
Who?

Then came almost 4 hours of silence. Mostly the panel took naps, although Beschloss read “US” magazine. I watched the first 3 hours or so, then got bored. But I came away knowing so much more about WHH then I ever did before, like him liking corn, etc. I can hardly wait for the 4 week expose on 18th Century Mayors of Cincinnati.

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