Ed Muskie is now a Maine political ghost. After running for president more than 40 years ago, which in Twitter years is like 2 million, his online profile reads (according to Wikipedia), he was “an American politician from Rumford, Maine.”
Why am I ruminating about Ed Muskie on this cold February morning, with temperatures well below zero, and my septic system on the fritz? Because I just saw a teaser/commercial during the break while watching WCSH-6’s News Center broadcast—Bill Green’s Maine will be profiling the late “legend” who failed to win the mayoral race in Waterville in 1947, but bounced back, claiming Maine’s highest office in 1954.
Reading Hunter S. Thompson’s Fear and Loathing: On The Campaign Trail ’72 just after Christmas altered my own take on Muskie, aka, “The Man From Maine,” the moniker Thompson began using in reporting about the four-term senator from the Pine Tree State.
Thompson apparently didn’t care for Muskie (or most other pols running on the Democratic ticket in 1972), and began describing him affectionately as a “vicious 200-pound water rat.” He also claimed that Muskie was drug-addled, addicted to Ibogaine, a powerful hallucinogenic.
From Thompson’s book, an excerpt:
There was no doubt about it: The Man from Maine had turned to massive doses of Ibogaine as a last resort. The only remaining question was “when did he start?” But nobody could answer this one, and I was not able to press the candidate himself for an answer because I was permanently barred from the Muskie campaign after that incident on the “Sunshine Special” in Florida . . . and that scene makes far more sense now than it did at the time. Muskie has always taken pride in his ability to deal with hecklers; he has frequently challenged them, calling them up to the stage in front of big crowds and then forcing the poor bastards to debate with him in a blaze of TV lights.
The story was fiction, yet other reporters on the trail ran with it, and it hit the wires nationally. Thompson later claimed that he was merely reporting a rumor—it just so happened that he created the rumor to begin with.
I’m guessing that this story won’t be part of Green’s Muskie feature on Saturday night.