Rep Steve Vaillancourt


The Reading Room--Garfield's Doctors Killed Him


Destiny of the Republic by Candice Millard (who previously wrote the excellent River of Doubt, an adventure story about how former President Teddy Roosevelt nearly died in the Amazon rain forest) is by no means the first book on the assassination of President James A. Garfield in 1881.  In fact, for the politics of the tale, especially the bad blood between Senator Roscoe Conkling's Stalwarts and the Half Breeds in New York State, Kenneth D. Ackerman's 2003 account "Dark Horse--The Surprise Election and Political Murder of President James A. Garfield" is a better source.

Millard focuses more on the medicine than the politics of the story, and indeed by the time you finish this new book (a quick read at 250 pages), you are sure to be convinced that it wasn't disgruntled and crazed patron seeker Charles Guiteau who killed the president, but rather his band of doctors who poked and prodded him for 79 days following the shooting in a Washington D.C. train station.

Even Alexander Graham Bell is involved as he works tirelessly to complete an invention which will locate the bullet in Garfield's body.  It might have worked, but the ego of the chief doctor D. Willard Bliss was so great that he limited the area of the body Bell was allowed to explore.

Meanwhile, Bliss and others literally poked and prodded Garfield to death in an attempt to locate a bullet which had come harmlessly to rest near the pancreas.  Joseph Lister had introduced the process of sterilization into European operating rooms, but the idea hadn't caught on in America at the time of the shooting, and the doctors literally killed Garfield by infecting him with germs.

That, along with insanity, was Guiteau's defense at his trial, but to no avail.  The jury deliberated less than an hour, and Guiteau was hanged 363 days after he shot Garfield, the poor boy from Ohio who overcame tremendous odds to advance to the highest office in the land.

Thus, Millard tells the story on parallel tracks, a rather good (if incomplete) biological sketch of Garfield and the tragic tell of the man who fired the bullet.  If anyone was genuinely insane, it was certainly Guiteau who insisted till the very end that he was acting on God's will when he shot the President (so much for those who claim to be acting on any god's will!).  He thought he'd be applauded as a hero, even as one of his own jailers tried to kill the "killer".

"After the initial shock of the President's shooting," Millard writes, "the prevailing feeling throughout the country was one of unfettered rage.  The fact that Guiteau had been captured and was in jail awaiting trial did little to satisfy most Americans' desire for immediate revenge."  Someone even suggested that Guiteau be forced to eat chunks of his own flesh which would be cut off him.


But the medical incompetence is the real tragedy of this story.

Here is Millard again.  "Science would soon exceed even Bell's expectations.  Had Garfield been shot just 15 years later, the bullet in his back would have been quickly found by x-ray images, and the would treated with antiseptic surgery.  He might have been back on his feet within weeks.  Had he able able to receive modern medical care, he likely would have spent no more than a few nights in the hospital.  Even had Garfield simply been left alone, he almost certainly would have survived.  Lodging as it was in the fatty tissue below and behind his pancreas; the bullet itself was no continuing danger to the president."

The say story is well told indeed.

As a bonus, we get to learn about the first Vermonter to become President, Chester A. Arthur who had spent the first months of Garfield's Presidency doing all he could to oppose the President.  Arthur was part of Conkling's spoils system.

For trivia lovers, there's one other juicy tidbit from the book.  We learn that one man present not only at the assassination of James Garfield but also of Abraham Lincoln 16 years earlier and of William McKinley a generation later.

Yes that, of course, would be Robert Todd Lincoln, Abe's son and Garfield's secretary of war, but there's no glory for him here.  He's the one who insisted that Dr. Bliss be called to attend the wounded President.  Bliss indeed, what a name for the man who tortured the President to his death.

Dark Horse: the Surprise Election and Political Murder of President James A. Garfield

"Capitol Access" And "Liberty Express" Together Again

My guest appearance with Denis Goddard on "Capitol Access" was a fast-paced half-hour, taped last Thursday in the Concord studios.  Denis tells me it's going out to 16 public access stations around the state, so you might watch for it.  I'll be using it as the first half hour of next week's "Liberty Express" as well.  I'm off to the great northlands, so I'm not taping a new show.  The second half hour will be a rerun, reading from the Declaration, Gettysburg Address, Reagan's "Tear Down This Wall" speech, and JFK's "Ich bin Ein Berliner speech".

This being the last week in June when important Supreme Court decisions are announced, it's fitting indeed that the show I just taped today features a lengthy reading from Dale Carpenter's book "Flagrant Conduct:  The Story of Lawrence v. Texas--How a Bedroom Arrest Decriminalized Gay Americans."

Justice Anthony Kennedy announced the majority decision (6-3) on June 28, 2003.  Could it be that Kennedy will be announcing another big decision (on Obamacare) this Thursday?

I also discuss the Hillsborough County budget, approved last Thursday, and the vile attempt (it failed) to add a totally unnecessary $150,000, AT PROPERTY TAXPAYER EXPENSE, to the Valley Street Jail.

As regular readers recall, I'm kind of into trivia, so here's a little game I put together as I was driving  from taping "Capitol Access" with Denis last week to the county budget meeting in Goffstown..

We spoke of many, many people.  In fact, nine of these ten names came up during the show.  Which did not?

Jackie Cilley

Bob Mead

Marjorie Smith

Kelly Ayotte

D.J. Bettencourt

John Babiarz

Stretch Kennedy

Mary Beth Walz

John Reagan

Dick Green.

We spoke of many topics as well.  In fact, nine of these ten topics were broached.  Which one was not?

Gay marriage

CACR 12 on education funding

Photo ID for voting bill

Right to work legislation

School vouchers bill


Cultural affairs

Parental consent bill

Budget cuts to UNH]

Gun bills.

The Liberty Express airs on Manchestertv23 Monday at 10 p.m., Thursday at 9 p.m., Sunday at 6 a.m. and again at noon, (and is always available on line at

For those who can't find "Capitol Access" or "Liberty Express", fear not. 

The answers are--how quickly we forget--DJ and CACR12.  There was no intent to avoid either; they just never surfaced.



John Lawrence (right) and Garner celebrate victory over the Texas Sodomy law, as announced from the bench by Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy on June 28, 2003.


The Week In Polls--June 22--Bloomberg Puts The LIE In Outliar

            If you’re looking at polling averages this week, either from or, be wary.  Be very, very wary because they include data from a Bloomberg poll which puts the LIE in outliar.

            This very week in which Rasmussen has Romney up to a five point lead over Obama nationwide (48-43) and Gallup has Romney up by one (46-45), Bloomberg was out with a poll which seems straight out of fantasyland.  Not only did it have Obama 13 points ahead of Romney (53-40), but it also had Obama’s approval at plus nine (53-44) at the same time Gallup has it at minus 3 (45-48) and Rasmussen at minus 10 (44-54).

            Bloomberg also has Democrats up seven (48-41) in the generic Congressional ballot, nearly the exact opposite of Rasmussen’s numbers (38-45).  Keep in mind that Rasmussen polls every week, and god only knows when Bloomberg polls or even if any sentient human being should even take the outfit seriously.

            The Bloomberg numbers, however, are built into averages.  Thus, the caveat, don’t trust the averages until this bad data works its way out of the system.

            For example, RCP has Obama up 2.3 points (46.6-44.3) and pollster has him up less than a point (45.8-45.0).  Most likely, Romney would be ahead with pollster and very close with RCP without Bloomberg’s fantasy numbers.

            For a look at polling bias, check out today.  Nate Silver reports that Pew has a 3.2 and PPP a 3.1 bias in favor of Democrats.  Rasmussen on the other hand, while believed to be Republican leaning, has only a 1.3 bias for the GOP, and that’s because it uses likely rather than registered voters.

            We all need to take Polling101, a basic or remedial course, before we put much confidence in these numbers…thanks to Bloomberg.

            Is this from the same mayor who is trying to ban large sodas from New York City?  Does the polling group have anything to do with HizLessThanHonorable?

            But I digress…

            RCP has Obama dead even in popularity (47.7-47.7) while pollster has him down 1.8 points (48.4-46.6).

            New Hampshire numbers have changed due to a new Rasmussen poll which has Obama up only five points (48-43), only half as much as the recent UNH poll.  RCP now has Obama up six in the state (48.5-42.5) and fivethirtyeight projects a 4.8 point win here (52.4-47.6).  That sounds about right to me, but as I noted last week, expect changes on a regular basis.

            538 now projects Obama to win 290-248 in the Electoral College with a popular vote margin of about two points (50.4-48.5).  It notes his re-election chances at about 63-37.

            American Research Group is out with new data which won’t make Democrats quite as happy.  It has Obama’s popularity down four (45-49), an eight point turnaround from a month ago.  His performance on the economy is even worse, minus 11 (43-54).

            Gallup’s bad news is for Romney.  According to new data, opposition to electing a Mormon is not abating at all.  18 percent of Americans say they would not vote for even a well qualified Mormon.  That’s actually up a point from 1967 when Gallup began asking the question.  Even as tolerance for African Americans and other minorities has approved through the years, the Mormon bias remains.  And don’t think that won’t be bad news in a close election unless Romney can turn those numbers around in the next few months.  He needs a JFK in West Virginia moment.  Remember back in 1960, fears of electing a Catholic were very real until JFK dealt with the issue.

 By the way, I’m currently reading a new book on LBJ, very lengthy, which spends about 150 pages on that 1960 election, mostly on LBJ’s indecisiveness and then Bobby’s attempt to keep LBJ off the ticket.  It’s “Passage of Power”, part of a five-part series (3000 pages?!) on the life of LBJ, one of my least favorite presidents, right up there behind Wilson and FDR.  Just because one dislikes a certain person does not mean one should ignore that person’s historical significance.  This is a fine book.

But I digress…

Actually, that’s enough of a look at polls for the week.  Bloomberg has turned me off the whole ridiculous thing, and I’m going back to the 1960 election.  Some Democrats actually thought Adlai should be given a third nod.  While Lyndon thought the power remained in the Senate and House, Bobby figured out that governors controlled most delegates, a lesson never to be forgotten. 

Illustration by David Plunkert

More Photos »


The Years of Lyndon Johnson

By Robert A. Caro

Illustrated. 712 pp. Alfred A. Knopf. $35.

A good book about a terrible president, 100 pages of footnotes!


John Babiarz To Run For Governor Again--New EMail Policy Announced

Barring a packet from a city or town clerk lost in the mail since last Friday, all filings for state office are now in and posted on the Secretary of State's web site.

As well as downloading the Republican and Democratic filings, you might want to click on the "Declarations of Intent" page.  There you will find candidates who have made official their intent to seek ballot status by acquiring the necessary number of signatures, usually as Independents or as Libertarians (but not necessarily so).  There will be a separate line on the November ballot for these candidates.

Two names appear for Governor, for example, Peter Cordatos, of Bennington (???) and John Babiarz, of Grafton, who has run as the Libertarian candidate in the past.  I was kind of hoping that Babiarz would run as a Republican this time, but it was not to be.  Hey, didn't I see him wearing a Fire Chief's hat on a Channel 9 news report over the weekend?  John Babiarz, apparently, is a man of many hats.  Whether or not he'll be allowed in the media debate is another question.  I recall one year when he was not only in the debates but to me at least (a proud libertarian), he appeared to win.

Yesterday, I noted Cynthia Dokmo for State

Officially, there appear to be 25 pages of Republican filings (not including filings for the party convention; Democrats don't use the filing process for this).  There are 21 pages of filings for Democrats, but that doesn't mean Republicans have filled vacancies for more offices.  In fact, a quick look at the filings reveals that Democrats have used filings much more "efficiently".   That's another way of saying that there are no nearly as many primaries among Democrats. 

A more complete analysis will follow next week, but let's take a random example for now.  Let's go with Bedford (Hillsborough District 7).  For six State Rep seats, six Democrats have filed (probably none will win come November) while nine Republicans have filed including the husband and wife team of Keith Murphy (one of my favorite Reps) and Kelleigh Domaingue Murphy, daughter of Jackie who in the past served as both my Ward 8 Manchester State Representative and Alderman.

Were I in Bedford, I would enthusiastically vote for the Murphys, but the point here is that three of the Republican candidates for State Rep from Bedford will be eliminated in the primary while all six Democrats will advance (till November at least and at most).

This is the case throughout the state, but it'll take a few days to review all the filings, and I've got to run to Concord High School for a taping of Denis Goddard's weekly community service TV show.  It runs on many outlets throughout the state; I do it once a year or so, and it's always fun.  In fact, I thought Denis (one N is correct) was going to run as a Democrat for one of the three State Rep seats in Hopkinton/Concord District 10, but he's not on the list for either Democrats or Intent filers.

As for ballot placement, gone are the days when the Secretary of State draws a letter to determine where the alphabet will begin.  It's more complicated than that now.  The drawing was held yesterday.  Democrats get the left hand column on one-third the state ballots, Republicans on one-third, and other candidates on the final one-third.  You'd have to check to see where your town or ward falls.

As for the primary, another drawing determined whose name will appears first on the ballot, and it's based on the number or candidates in a given field, and a drawing for each one (up to 12 candidates).  However, the official drawing is not totally valid since two names came in for Hudson Rep after the drawing, so a new drawing for a 14-member field will have to be held.  If it sounds too complicated, it is, and you probably don't need to know the details.  It's all based on the fairly recent argument that there's an advantage (however slight) in being listed first on the ballot, so alphabetizing is simply no longer deemed an appropriate determination.  Ironically, however, the number 1 surfaced in many drawings yesterday which indicates that the first listed alphabetically will appear first on many ballots.

Oh yes, guess what?  As an update from yesterday, it now appears that no less than 11 of the 14 Republicans running for 11 seats in the Hudson/Pelham district (Hillsborough 37) are from…the envelope please…Hudson.  Thus, with 2010 top vote getter Sean Doherty of Pelham (the ONLY current Rep from Pelham!) not running again, it is entirely possible that Pelham, WHICH DESERVES FOUR REPRESENTATIVES OF ITS OWN, will get…the envelope please…ZERO.   Democrats filled all 11 seats; you’re way ahead of me…nine from Hudson, and only two from Pelham.

 So much for redistricting fairness!  NOT!

I'm not making it up; check the Secretary of State's web site for details. 


By the way, due to Speaker Bill O’Brien’s new policy attempting to stifle freedom of speech on the State web site, this is the last posting I will distribute to all Representatives.  I am creating a new posting and anyone who finds (or has found in the past) objectionable will be eliminated from receipt.  Those who have complained in the past have already been eliminated from the list (there’s no getting back on…you’re going to miss some great analysis in coming weeks…including my numbers for all 24 Senate districts).  I have always sent everything I write to everyone since I have always believed that if one person has the chance to know something, everyone should have that chance.  Equality is equality, but that apparently is no longer an operative assumption. 

Those who want to get off need only drop me a line….and at the same time I eliminate you, I expect you to drop me from your list of petulant commentary (yes Al and Timmy and Fred and Will that would include—but is not limited don't have to thank me).  Thus, I can no longer be accused of offending any tender sensibilities by this or any future Speaker.  If you wish to get on the list, also just drop me a line…last time I made the offer, I received word from a political scientist in Buffalo, New York.  

            Everything will continue to be posted on

            Media deemed chronically slipshod, error-prone, or overly offensive have also been dropped from my media list (there’s only one so far).  I do after all believe in equal access to news from all those worthy of it.


Auf Wiedersehen To A Libertarian Trio

            Sad to say since I consider myself a Libertarian first and foremost, the spirit of less government intrusion into our lives may have peaked and be on the decline.

            That appears to be the case based on some Libertarian Reps and Senators not seeking re-election to the New Hampshire House.   Seth Cohn, of Canterbury; Cameron DeJong, of Manchester, and Andy Manuse, of Derry—all Republicans--share two things in common.  They are among my favorite Reps, and they all have decided not to run again.  So too with young Kyle Jones, of Rochester, although Laura may well be back.

            So too with the three most Libertarian State Senators, James Forsythe, of Strafford, Ray White, of Bedford, and Andy Sanborn, who moved from Henniker and now faces an uphill battle in a new district (which includes Bedford).

            Perhaps it should come as no surprise that Libertarians, who are least fond of government, decide not to labor all that long in government vineyards.

            Perhaps, a new crop of Libertarians will take their place, but I certainly will miss these six individuals most of all, and I suspect they just might be irreplaceable.

            For sure, Mark Warden, of Goffstown, will most likely be back.  J.R. Hoell, of Bow, has a much better chance of getting re-elected now that two other incumbents from his district have decided not to run; and I’m encouraged that a new hero of mine, Tammy Simmons, of Ward 10 Manchester, will survive since Democrats have put up a chronic No Show Katsiantonis to run against her come November.

            Sadness, of course, is always tempered with joy, and as I look at the list of people not choosing not to run again, I am absolutely ecstatic in a handful of cases, but I think I choose to simply let them fade off into the sunset without even naming names.  Suffice it to say that anti-gay marriage forces have lost their biggest supporter.

            Among the Democrats I will most miss are Christine Hamm, gnadige Frau from Hopkinton—what fun we had on Ways and Means and Local and Regulated Revenues over the years—and Steve DeStefano, of Bow, a real gentleman.  Oh yes, Kathy Taylor, of Franconia, as well…not to mention David Pierce who most likely will be moving on to the Senate.

            Most Democrats, it seems, are in fact running again, and they are joined by many who lost two years ago but stand a good chance of getting back this November—Joel Winters certainly tops that list.

            On the non-Libertarian Republican side, I won’t be the only one missing Division I Finance Chair Bill Belvin, of Amherst.  His dedication to duty was phenomenal; he did his homework and will be missed by the institution as well as by me personally (although maybe we’ll have a better chance of trimming the Arts budget without him here; we can only hope).

            In all honesty, for every person I will miss, there are probably two people I…well, let’s be kind and end it right there.  Official numbers may come from the clerk’s office later, but my guess is that fewer people than usual are not seeking re-election this time around. 

            Seth Cohn, Cam DeJong, and Andy Manuse—you will be missed most of all.  So many people pretend to be in favor of less government intrusion in our lives, but it's only talk.  You three walked the walk and will be missed by someone who continues to fight to get government "out of our wallets, out of our beds, and off our backs."  (Well, Andy, you missed one of those, but you are forgiven).

            Auf wiedersehen.