Rep Steve Vaillancourt


This Week's Triva--Affirm, Not Swear


The Oath: The Obama White House and the Supreme Court

This week's trivia question is courtesy of Jeffrey Toobin, author of the excellent new book "The Oath:  The Obama White House and The Supreme Court."

In his prologue to his new book on the Supreme Court, Jeffrey Toobin tells the story of how Chief Justice John Roberts blew it when it came to administering the oath to Barack Obama in January, 2008, but Toobin also offers us a delicious bit of trivia.  Right at the outset (on page two), he notes, "The ecumenical nature of the presidential oath is reflected in the option of swear (or affirm).  Some Christian sects, notably the Quakers, did not believe in the use of the word swearing, so the Constitution made sure they were not excluded."

According to author Toobin, who is the only President in our history to affirm rather than swear the Presidential oath?

Let's make it multiple choice.

A)  New Hampshire's own Franklin Pierce in Washington DC in 1853;

B) Vermont’s Calvin Coolidge when he was sworn in by his father in Plymouth Notch, Vermont upon the death of Warren G. Harding in 1923;

C)  Theodore Roosevelt when he was sworn in in New York State upon the death of William McKinley in 1902;

D) Barack Hussein Obama; or

E) Martin Van Buren, the sage of Kinderhook, New York (rumored by some to be the illegitimate son of Vice President and dualist extraordinaire Aaron Burr).


Answer--Don't look far.

It's Franklin Pierce.


"Say It Ain't So, Lance; Say It Ain't So"

  • 5 days ago

When Shoeless Joe Jackson, one of the greatest baseball players of all time, was caught up in the 1919 Black Sox scandal, a young worshiper, according to legend, begged him, "Say it ain't so Joe."

In fact, Shoeless Joe was probably not all that involved in the scandal, but the words from the young man apply today to cycling legend Lance Armstrong.

"Say it ain't so, Lance; say it ain't so."

I would claim to be one of Armstrong's biggest fans, but I'm sure millions idolized him even more than I did.

His autobiography "It's Not About The Bike" was an inspiring tale of beating cancer and getting back on the bike.   I also lived his follow-up book "Every Second Counts".

When Lance was winning those seven Tour De France titles, many is the day that I would watch the day's race and then head out on my bike for extended trips from my home in south Manchester down through Litchfield, Londonderry, even into Nashua, Derry, and one time, I even found myself in Pelham.

I would pack the bike in the back of the car on trips to Montreal and bike to every corner of the island, eight or ten hour excursions at time.

Of course, I never went very fast, but I came to love the bike because I came to love Lance Armstrong.

How could he be guilty of doping?  Had he not passed scores of drug tests through the years?

"Say it ain't so Lance."

Until the last few weeks, I continued to cling to the idea that Lance Armstrong is innocent of these charges, but it's impossible to believe today.

Lance Armstrong is a hero for beating cancer and inspiring millions, but he's also a common cheater.

"Say it ain't so Lance."

But of course it is so.

But you know what?

As disillusioned as I am about Lance The Cheater Armstrong, I'm mad as hell about the sport and those who pursued him.  How many years has it been since he won the first Tour?  More than a dozen.  And it's been at least six or seven years since he won the last Tour.

Certainly there should be some statute of limitations when it comes to catching a cheater.  They didn't find anything for years and years, but they kept trying.

It just doesn't seem right.  Should dig up Babe Ruth's corpse and see if we can detect any foreign substances in his body?

Of course not.

Or Cy Young?

Of course not.  Or any of thousands of athletes who've turned in exemplary performances through the years?

Of course not.

Even though I now know that Lance Armstrong cheated (only a fool could deny it), I will always think of him as the winner of seven Tours, author of two great books (with ghost writers to be sure), an inspiration to millions, and the man who turned me on to biking after decades away from it.

I actually received somewhat of a reputation early in my political career not by walking door to door, but by biking door to door (I even had a bike stolen up in Ward 5 back in 1997!),

I don't ride as much as I once did.  Most of the time I walk door to door, but you know what....houses on Bodwell Road and Corning Road are spaced rather far apart.  In honor of Lance's glory days, I'm going to dig the bike out and use it as I go door to door this weekend.

"Say it ain't so Lance?"

But of course it is.

In the overall scheme of things, who to hell cares. 

We still love you Lance.


UNH's Andy Smith Odd Man Out In NH Polling

When in comes to polling, Andrew Smith is to New Hampshire what Gallup last week was to the national scene.

His polling data is totally out of whack with other pollsters in the field just as pundits (mostly Democratic) were quick to point out last week how Gallup was so far off base when it had Romney seven points ahead of Obama.  The Gallup number is down to five this week, about the same as Rasmussen's number Wednesday (Romney up four, 50-46).

However, there are no indications that Smith's numbers will move back to the realm of credibility, and I say this as someone who has respected and defended Smith for years.

It's hard to continue that respect this year.  His numbers have been all over the map, and yes, I realize that numbers will vary depending on when a poll is taken.  However, not only is Smith out of synch with four other pollsters who comprise the Real Clear Politics Average, but his internal numbers simply don't add up.

First the five polls.  Two have Romney slightly ahead; one has Romney slightly behind; one has a dead heat; only UNH has a wide Obama lead.  Here are the numbers.

Smith (the WMUR/Granite State Poll to be precise) has Obama up 9 points--51-42 in New Hampshire.

Rasmussen has Obama up 1 point, 50-49.

Suffolk University has it dead even at 47-47.

PPP (a Democratic outfit!) has Romney up 1 point, 49-48.

ARG has Romney up 2 points, 49-47.

Only the out of whack UNH data gives Obama a lead in the average, 1.4 points (48.6-47.2).

This is enough for RCP to move our dear little state back into the Obama column, but the Smith numbers simply don't make sense.  Go to, and you can click on the UNH poll to get reams of internal numbers, but here's the one which makes the entire poll suspect.

The poll has Obama leading 94-2 among Democrats, no surprise.  Romney leads 91-4 among Republicans, no surprise, but given those numbers, one would be forced to intuit that to be ahead by nine points overall, Obama must be up six or seven points among Independents.  In fact, the Smith poll has Obama up only two points there, 39-37.  The only way these numbers add up is if the poll sampled many, many more Democrats than Republicans and since the lastest numbers from the Secretary of State's office show four percent more registered Republicans than Democrats in the state (it's about 40% Undeclared, 32% Republicans, and 28% Democrats), no pollster with credibility would oversample Democrats.

The UNH numbers make even less if we look at likely voters.  Smith has Romney up overall by eight points, 49-41.  However, he actually has Romney leading among Independents 37-36 while Obama leads 92-2 among Democrats and Romney 91-3 among Republicans.

How does that make sense unless the sampling is heaving skewed toward Democrats?  With each candidate taking almost all his base and with Romney up one point with Independents, the race should be dead even or close to even--like the other pollsters have it.

As always, once I begin to distrust anyone (whether it be in polling or the seven Manchester Republican snakes who went back on their word on redistricting), I tend to write them off and never trust them again.

We may be headed in that direction with UNH polling.  Remember, a few weeks ago, Smith had Obama up 15 points and then up only six the very next week (even when the first debate bounce was not entirely cooked into the numbers).

This is important because Smith, also unlike all other pollsters, has Maggie Hassan up beyond the margin of error for Governor, six points (37-31 with a whopping 32 percent undecided).

Until Andy Smith's numbers begin to add up, we should either take them with a shaker of salt or ignore them completely.

If Obama were up nine points here (as Smith tells us), who on Earth thinks he would feel the need to keep coming back here to campaign?

No one of course.

It's close to dead even here, and the WMUR/Granite State poll cannot be trusted.


The First Man I Ever Voted For Is Gone




I was 20 years old during the climax of the 1972 campaign.  While I was a supporter of Richard Nixon at an eight year old back in 1960 and as a 17 year old in 1968, by 1972 I had come to see just how much a crook he really was, a man rather devoid of principles.  Besides, I was never a big fan of Nixon's secret and unrealized plan of ending the war in Vietnam.

That's a long way of saying the George McGovern was the first candidate for President I ever voted for, and although I knew he was going to be defeated in a landslide that year (let's hear it for Massachusetts!), I was saddened.

Had Nixon not lowered the voting age to 18, this much I'll never forget, I would not have been able to vote in 1972...I was weeks shy of being 21 at the time of the election.  For that much, I owe Tricky Dick a debt of gratitude.

I was also broadcasting election results that night on WPCR, the Plymouth State College radio station.  In fact, I've unearthed a very strange picture of me at the mike in Silver Hall where our studio was located.  What a prim and proper young man I was back then.  Maybe I'll show the picture of The Liberty Express one of these days.

You don't forget the first person you voted for for President.

I'll never forget George McGovern, one of the most honorable men ever to become involved in what has become a less than honorable profession (politics).

At 90, George McGovern died over the weekend. 

I grave for him. 

It seems like I've lost a part of myself with his passing and I assume I am not alone.


George McGovern with Thomas Eagleton, a shockingly bad choice for Vice President in 1972.  Check out Douglas Brinkley's new biography of Walter Cronkite who might well have accepted an approach from McGovern for Veep...not that McGovern could have won even with Uncle Walter, but it would have been much more interesting.

George McGovern with Thomas Eagleton, a shockingly bad choice for Vice President in 1972.  Check out Douglas Brinkley's new biography of Walter Cronkite who might well have accepted an approach from McGovern for Veep...not that McGovern could have won even with Uncle Walter, but it would have been much more interesting.


This Week's Trivia--Don't Die Yet

With the Presidential election two weeks from today, consider this.  No candidate in American history has won a major party nomination and died just prior to the election.  Imagine the mess such a death would create!  However, as we go back in history, there is one man who died at this time (October 24 to be precise) during a Presidential campaign.  Not only that, but this man had sought the Presidency often and had in fact hoped to receive the nomination the year of his death.

Which of these frequent Presidential candidates would that be?

A)  New Hampshire's own Daniel Webster in 1852

B)  South Carolina's John C. Calhoun in 1848

C)  Kentucky's Henry Clay in 1952

D)  New York's Thomas Dewey in 1956

E)  Adlai Stevenson, of Illinois, in 1960


Answer--Since Stevenson served as John F. Kennedy's United Nations ambassador, we can rule him out.  He in fact died July 14, 1965.  Thomas Dewey lived until March 24, 1982, so that can't be the answer, and we are left with the three giants who compose the Great Triumvirate in Merrill Peterson's book.  In fact, all three died about the same time.  They were all around for the Compromise of 1850, so we can rule Calhoun out for an 1848 death (he lived until March 31, 1850).  So it's down to Clay and Webster.  Clay in fact became very ill at the time of the Compromise of 1850 and although he survived until June 28, 1852, he was not running for President that year.  Thus, the answer is Daniel Webster.  He died two weeks before another New Hampshire native, Franklin Pierce, was elected President.  In fact, earlier in 1852, Webster had once again, with no chance of success, sought the Presidency.

Born on January 18, 1782, Webster died October 24, 1852.  In the midst of his Presidential campaign, Pierce paused to attend the funeral.

RIP, Black Dan...or would you prefer...RIP, Godlike Daniel.

Here he is.