No Comment — February 1, 2008, 12:34 am

Harper’s Favorite Son Declares His Race for the Presidency

This week they’re dropping like flies. Time to replenish the ranks. A Harper’s writer declares his candidacy to be President of the United States:

I have pretty much made up my mind to run for
President. What the country
wants is a candidate
who cannot be injured by
investigation of his past
history so that the enemies
of the party will be unable
to rake up anything against him that nobody
ever heard of before. If you know the worst
about a candidate to begin with, every attempt
to spring things on him will be checkmated.
Now I am going to enter the field with an
open record. I am going to own up in advance
to all the wickedness I have done, and if any
Congressional committee is disposed to prowl
around my biography in the hope of discovering
any dark and deadly deed that I have
secreted, why–let it prowl.

In the first place, I admit that I treed a
rheumatic grandfather of mine in the winter
of 1850. He was old and inexpert in climbing
trees, but with the heartless brutality that is
characteristic of me I ran him out of the front
door in his nightshirt at the point of a shotgun
and caused him to bowl up a maple
tree, where he remained all night, while I
emptied shot into his legs. I did this because
he snored. I will do it again if ever I have
another grandfather. I am as inhuman now as
I was in 1850.

I candidly acknowledge that I ran away at
the battle of Gettysburg. My friends have
tried to smooth over this fact by asserting that
I did so for the purpose of imitating Washington,
who went into the woods at Valley
Forge for the purpose of saying his prayers. It
was a miserable subterfuge. I struck out in a
straight line for the Tropic of Cancer because
I was scared. I wanted my country saved, but
I preferred to have somebody else save it.
I entertain that preference yet. If the bubble
reputation can be obtained only at the cannon’s
mouth, I am willing to go there for it,
provided the cannon is empty. If it is loaded,
my immortal and inflexible purpose is to get
over the fence and go home.

My invariable practice in war has been to
bring out of every fight two-thirds more men
than when I went in. This seems to me to
be Napoleonic in its grandeur.
My financial views are of the most decided
character, but they are not likely, perhaps, to
increase my popularity with the advocates of
inflation. I do not insist upon the special
supremacy of rag money or hard money. The
great fundamental principle of my life is to
take any kind I can get.

twain

The rumor that I buried a dead aunt under
my grapevine was correct. The vine needed
fertilizing, my aunt had to be buried, and
I dedicated her to this high purpose. Does
that unfit me for the Presidency?

The Constitution of our country does not
say so. No other citizen was ever considered
unworthy of this office because he enriched
his grapevines with his dead relatives. Why
should I be selected as the first victim of an
absurd prejudice?

I admit, also, that I am not a friend of the
poor man. I regard the poor man, in his
present condition, as so rnuch wasted raw
material. Cut up and properly canned, he
might be made useful to fatten the natives
of the Cannibal Islands and to improve our
export trade with that region. I shall recommend
legislation upon the subject in my first
message. My campaign cry will be: “Desiccate
the poor workingman; stuff him into
sausage.”

These are about the worst parts of my
record. On them I come before the country.
If my country don’t want me, I will go back
again. But I recommend myself as a safe man
–a man who starts from the basis of total
depravity and proposes to be fiendish to the
last.

Mark Twain, June 15, 1879.

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Ashley arrived for her prenatal appointment at Black Hills Obstetrics and Gynecology, in Rapid City, South Dakota, wearing a black zip-up hoodie and Converse sneakers.1 To explain her absence from work that morning — a Tuesday in April 2015 — she had told a co-worker that she was having “female issues.” She was twenty-five years old and eight weeks pregnant. She had been separated from her husband, with whom she had a five-year-old son, for the better part of a year. The guy who’d gotten her pregnant was someone she’d met at the gym, and he’d made it abundantly clear that he wanted nothing more to do with her. Ashley found herself hoping that the doctor would discover some kind of fetal defect, so that her decision would be easier. She glanced across the waiting room at a television playing a birth-control ad and laughed darkly. “Jesus, Lord, it would be so nice if someone just pushed me down a flight of stairs.”

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 Some names and identifying details have been changed. 

“Big, fat zero, unfortunately,” Degen said, making a 0 with her fingers. The last doctor who provided abortions in Rapid City retired in 1986, three years before Ashley was born.

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Photograph (detail) by Brian Frank
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Ashley arrived for her prenatal appointment at Black Hills Obstetrics and Gynecology, in Rapid City, South Dakota, wearing a black zip-up hoodie and Converse sneakers.1 To explain her absence from work that morning — a Tuesday in April 2015 — she had told a co-worker that she was having “female issues.” She was twenty-five years old and eight weeks pregnant. She had been separated from her husband, with whom she had a five-year-old son, for the better part of a year. The guy who’d gotten her pregnant was someone she’d met at the gym, and he’d made it abundantly clear that he wanted nothing more to do with her. Ashley found herself hoping that the doctor would discover some kind of fetal defect, so that her decision would be easier. She glanced across the waiting room at a television playing a birth-control ad and laughed darkly. “Jesus, Lord, it would be so nice if someone just pushed me down a flight of stairs.”

In the exam room, she perched on the table with her feet crossed at the ankles, her blond hair brushing the back of her pink hospital gown. “I don’t know what’s available for me here,” she told her doctor, Katherine Degen, who sat facing her on a stool. “I figured nothing.”

 Some names and identifying details have been changed. 

“Big, fat zero, unfortunately,” Degen said, making a 0 with her fingers. The last doctor who provided abortions in Rapid City retired in 1986, three years before Ashley was born.

The baby was due in November, when Ashley, who was a nurse, hoped to be enrolled in a graduate program to become a nurse practitioner. Getting pregnant as a teenager had forced her to put that dream on hold, but she had thought that she was finally ready; she had even submitted her application shortly before the March 15 deadline. For the first time in her adult life, Ashley felt as if her plans were coming together. Then she missed her period.

It would be too difficult to attend school as a single mother of two, Ashley knew. She had made an appointment for three weeks from now at the nearest abortion clinic, in Billings, Montana, 318 miles away. But just a week and a half ago, her husband had said he wanted to get back together and offered to raise the child as his own. Was it a sign that she was meant to continue the pregnancy? As a rule, Ashley approached her problems with resolve. She was capable and tough; she liked shooting guns and lifting weights. She kept track of her stats and checked off her goals as she achieved them one by one. Yet the dilemma before her had shaken her confidence. She leaned back and turned to watch the ultrasound screen. The black-and-white image danced. A sharp, fast thumping emerged from the machine. As Degen removed the wand, Ashley wiped the corner of her eye.

Artwork by Imre Kinszki © Imre Kinszki Estate
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The Lords of Lambeau·

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Ashley arrived for her prenatal appointment at Black Hills Obstetrics and Gynecology, in Rapid City, South Dakota, wearing a black zip-up hoodie and Converse sneakers.1 To explain her absence from work that morning — a Tuesday in April 2015 — she had told a co-worker that she was having “female issues.” She was twenty-five years old and eight weeks pregnant. She had been separated from her husband, with whom she had a five-year-old son, for the better part of a year. The guy who’d gotten her pregnant was someone she’d met at the gym, and he’d made it abundantly clear that he wanted nothing more to do with her. Ashley found herself hoping that the doctor would discover some kind of fetal defect, so that her decision would be easier. She glanced across the waiting room at a television playing a birth-control ad and laughed darkly. “Jesus, Lord, it would be so nice if someone just pushed me down a flight of stairs.”

In the exam room, she perched on the table with her feet crossed at the ankles, her blond hair brushing the back of her pink hospital gown. “I don’t know what’s available for me here,” she told her doctor, Katherine Degen, who sat facing her on a stool. “I figured nothing.”

 Some names and identifying details have been changed. 

“Big, fat zero, unfortunately,” Degen said, making a 0 with her fingers. The last doctor who provided abortions in Rapid City retired in 1986, three years before Ashley was born.

The baby was due in November, when Ashley, who was a nurse, hoped to be enrolled in a graduate program to become a nurse practitioner. Getting pregnant as a teenager had forced her to put that dream on hold, but she had thought that she was finally ready; she had even submitted her application shortly before the March 15 deadline. For the first time in her adult life, Ashley felt as if her plans were coming together. Then she missed her period.

It would be too difficult to attend school as a single mother of two, Ashley knew. She had made an appointment for three weeks from now at the nearest abortion clinic, in Billings, Montana, 318 miles away. But just a week and a half ago, her husband had said he wanted to get back together and offered to raise the child as his own. Was it a sign that she was meant to continue the pregnancy? As a rule, Ashley approached her problems with resolve. She was capable and tough; she liked shooting guns and lifting weights. She kept track of her stats and checked off her goals as she achieved them one by one. Yet the dilemma before her had shaken her confidence. She leaned back and turned to watch the ultrasound screen. The black-and-white image danced. A sharp, fast thumping emerged from the machine. As Degen removed the wand, Ashley wiped the corner of her eye.

Photograph (detail) by Balazs Gardi
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"She glanced across the waiting room at a television playing a birth-control ad and laughed darkly. 'Jesus, Lord, it would be so nice if someone just pushed me down a flight of stairs.'"
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