Way back in 1972, one of the leading Democrats running for president was Maine’s Senator Ed Muskie. That is, until he came to New Hampshire.
From the 60’s through the early 80’s, the single most influential figure in New Hampshire politics was William Loeb. Loeb was an out-of-stater who bought a newspaper and pushed it into the only statewide newspaper. And he parlayed that into a position of tremendous political power — no politician could do anything without taking Loeb’s positions and preferences into account, and lived in fear of being lambasted in one of his flag-bedecked front-page editorials.
Loeb took it as his personal mission to “take down” the Senator from the state next door. He gave huge play to the infamous “Canuck letter,” where an anonymous letter-writer said Muskie had referred to Canadian-Americans (a significant voting bloc in New Hampshire) as “Canucks.” Loeb also attacked Muskie’s wife personally.
That was enough for the gentleman from Maine. He rented a flatbed truck, and parked it right in front of the Union Leader’s building in downtown Manchester. Then, in a snowstorm, Muskie denounced Loeb before a crowd of reporters and voters. (Another good photo here.)
But when he defended his wife, Muskie got choked up. In fact, some even said he started to cry a little. Others said it wasn’t tears, but melting snowflakes, but regardless, the damage was done. That was the end of Muskie’s presidential aspirations.
That little section of Amherst Street has changed a bit in the last 32 years. A bit over a decade ago, the newspaper moved out to an industrial park, and turned the building over to the city. And recently, Mr. Duckie and I visited the block.
Here is a good shot of the building, and here’s one where we tried to recreate the angle of the Muskie shot linked above. And here Mr. Duckie discovering that the Halls Of Justice are closed to stuffed animals — at least after 6:00 p.m.
The neighborhood has gone a bit to seed since the newspaper left, though. This is the courthouse’s neighbor across the street. We would have investigated further, but certain rules kept Mr. Duckie from gaining admission.
I was a bit young for the ’72 campaign (I was all of four that picture of Muskie was taken), but from what I understand, he was a pretty decent guy. It’s a pity that he ended up tangling with such an asshole as Loeb was, but there’s an old saying — “don’t get into a pissing match with a man who buys ink by the barrel.” Loeb utterly destroyed his campaign in the most vile, despicable manner possible — and it was just one example of what a swine Loeb was.