As the nation slices itself thin, covers itself with Cheese Whiz, settles into its soggy roll and turns toward the Keystone State today, we can't help but think about the important role Pennsylvanians have played in the topsy-turvy world of politics. With that in mind, we present the three most notorious PA pols:
#3: James Buchanan
The only American president ever to hail from Pennsylvania, Buchanan was born in a log cabin, a fact which, when discovered two centuries later, discredited once and for all the born-in-a-log cabin theory of presidential greatness, or even competence (see Lincoln, Abraham).
Buchanan became president in 1857 and served only one term, citing "look at all those northerly pointing muskets!" as his primary motivation for not seeking re-election. For the next 240 years, Buchanan was regarded by historians of all political stripes to be America's worst-ever Commander-in-Chief. Nonetheless, a certain amount of credit must be lavished upon a president who helped (secretly) author the Dred Scott decision, regarded slavery as "happily, a matter of but little importance" and, when news of the South's secession broke, insisted the erstwhile states, "may as well just go," adding, "happy trails!"
He was dubbed a "doughface" by his political opponents because, as biographer Randolph T. Schmidt later put it, "His face was made of dough."
Major blunders: Argued for the westward expansion of slavery, temporarily destroyed the Democratic Party and facilitated the greatest period of intractable bloodshed in American history.
Major accomplishment: Declared war on Utah and won.
#2: Rick Santorum
Rick Santorum, American Conservative Magazine's "Whataguy" 2003, became Pennsylvania's junior senator in 1994 and America's most hated senator by the time of his crushing defeat in 2006. So hated, in fact, that there is a popular Facebook group devoted to viciously mocking his children for crying during his 2006 concession speech.
A poster boy for everything Al Franken whines about, Santorum tried to amend No Child Left Behind to force the teaching of intelligent design, campaigned vigorously against removing Terry Schaivo's feeding tube, and blamed Hurricane Katrina on the poor residents of New Orleans for not getting out in time while seeking to impose "tougher penalties on those who decide to ride it out… There are consequences to not leaving." Though many of his critics would argue that most of the people who stayed did so because they lacked the means to get out, Santorum insisted they "probably wouldn't have gotten out anyway if they did," adding, "Those people just love wind."
Perhaps the most famous incident in Santorum's political career was his April 2003 interview with the Associated Press in which he compared homosexual sex to "man on child" and "man on dog" sex. His defenders still claim that these comments were misinterpreted, as Santorum was simply implying that all three were "very relaxing."
Major blunders: Promoted a whacked-out ultra-right wing social program in a moderate state. Lost his Senate seat in a landslide to the mildly interesting son of a former governor.
Major accomplishment: Has an anal sex byproduct named after him.
#1: R. Budd Dwyer
Pennsylvania state treasurer for most of the go-go 80s, R. Budd Dwyer is less famous for what he did in office than for what he didn't do. Which is live, after shooting himself in the mouth during a televised press conference.
After being indicted for and convicted of involvement in a tax refund contract bribery scheme in real life, and most definitely in a realistic fictional universe by Sam Waterston, Dwyer called a press conference in which he affirmed his innocence, denounced the trial judge for his "medieval sentences" and likened himself to a modern-day Job (who, according to several early drafts of the Bible, also took bribes). He then proceeded to remove a .357 Magnum revolver from an envelope while calmly instructing his audience to "please leave the room," if the image of a man committing suicide in front of them might be at all troubling. Historians have speculated that Dwyer shot himself fearing "what they do in prison to guys who inappropriately award data processing contracts to their political allies."
Thankfully for his friends and family, the final moments of Dwyer's life can still be viewed on endless loop for free on YouTube. Toward the end of the video, an audience member can clearly be heard shouting, "Budd, don't!" Unfortunately, Dwyer shot himself only moments later and history will likely never know what that man didn't want R. Budd Dwyer to do.
Major blunders: Accepted bribes, convicted of receiving $300,000 in kickbacks in a tax refund scam.
Major accomplishment: Successfully killed himself. On television.
Tags: Goin' Dutch, Pennsylvania