For those of you who think Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama can sling some mud, check out these brawls. The top political melees, spanning history and the globe, make John Kerry’s Swift Boat seem like the Love Boat, and the smear campaign about John McCain’s black love child (um, he doesn’t really have one) seem like a silly game of telephone.
Here are my favorite political brawls of all time:
1. Shoe Fight in Taiwan
According to the Taipei Times, just last year, the Taiwanese Parliament—infamous for bawdy brawls—descended into chaos after lawmaker Wang Shu-hui threw a shoe at Speaker Wang Jin-pyng. The shoe missed its target, instead striking the face of another lawmaker and soon the Parliament was involved in a WWF-style smack down (video).
2. Taiwan Redux
One year before throwing her shoe at the Speaker, Wang Shu-hui snatched a written proposal to create direct transport links with Mainland China and shoved it into her mouth. The Taipei Times reported that opposition party leaders pulled her hair to try to get her to cough it up, but their antics failed. After the attention waned, she spat out the proposal and ripped it into pieces.
3. Caning in the U.S. Senate
In May of 1856, the U.S. Senate chamber transformed into a combat zone when Representative Preston Brooks, a pro-slavery Democrat from South Carolina, entered the chamber and slammed his metal-topped cane into Senator Charles Sumner’s head. Brooks struck again and again, bloodying Sumner as he lurched about the chamber. According to the U.S. States Senate Web site, Sumner, an antislavery Republican from Massachusetts, had maligned Brooks and his pro-slavery friends, like Stephen Douglas of Illinois, whom Sumner had called a “noise-some, squat, and nameless animal … not a proper model for an American senator.” Ah, sweet revenge.
4. A Hit on the Competition
Just last year in Atlanta, concluding a storyline worthy of a gangster epic, former DeKalb County Sheriff Sidney Dorsey confessed to ordering the murder of his political rival (and DeKalb County Sheriff-elect) Derwin Brown. According to media accounts Brown was shot eleven times as he walked up his driveway after returning from a party celebrating his graduation from the Sheriff’s Academy, his wife’s birthday, and his impending inauguration as Sheriff.
5. Brandishing Microphones in India
In 1997, the state legislative assembly in Uttar Pradesh, India, broke out into riots just as they were about to discuss a sensitive civil rights issue. Members of the minority party rushed the bench of the leader, ripping microphones out of their stands and tossing them like spears through the air. Politicians grabbed chairs and threw them at each other, becoming more and more enraged. The chaotic scene ended with bloodied politicians climbing into ambulances. You can see the drama unfold on YouTube.
6. Czech Slap Down
During a meeting in Prague, right-winger Miroslav Macek stepped to the podium and announced that he needed to address a personal issue. According to the BBC, he walked over to his rival, Czech Health Minister David Rath, and slapped him in the back of the head. “Minister Rath was warned in advance. He deserves it,” Macek told the audience. Meanwhile, Rath stood up and countered, “Why didn’t you attack me from the front like a real man? You are a coward.” He hit Macek back, and the two descended into an inglorious brawl. YouTube has hilarious—and shocking—footage of the boy slap.
7. Hickory Walking Stick and Metal Tongs
In 1798, inside the chamber of the U.S. House of Representatives, Congressman Roger Griswold of Connecticut attacked Vermont Representative Matthew Lyon with a hickory walking stick, according to an essay published by the University of Virginia. Lyon tried to defend himself from the repeated blows, and finally ran to the fireplace, grabbed a pair of metal tongs and lashed back at Griswold.
8. Mexican Melee
On the heels of Mexico’s heated 2006 presidential election, leftist lawmakers descended into fistfights and chair throwing just one hour before Felipe Calderon took the oath of office as Mexico’s new president. The leftist lawmakers attempted to block the chamber’s doors, but Calderon—sigh—was able to make his way through the barricades.
9. Fightin’ Words
As Washington Monthly reported, California Assembly Speaker Doris Allen, sparring with her fellow Republicans more than a decade ago, called them “power-mongering men with short penises.” Ouch. That may be worse than a fist in the face.
10. Et Tu, Brute
On the Ides of March in 44 BC, Julius Caesar was murdered by a group of fellow senators, including his good friend, Marcus Junius Brutus. When he saw that even his good friend Brutus was involved with the stabbing, he resigned himself to his fate, and gave Shakespeare fodder for one of his most famous lines.