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Double-talk is funny political tradition

When it comes to double-talk, Arnold Schwarzenegger, John Edwards and Anthony Weiner are amateurs compared to the late Noah S. “Soggy” Sweat Jr. The former Mississippi legislator, lawyer and judge would have been a “star” on broadcast talk shows and the Internet, but he died before those media venues were born. When the Mississippi legislature was debating legalizing liquor in 1952, here’s what Soggy had to say: “My friends, I had not intended to discuss this controversial subject at this particular time. However, I want you to know that I do not shun controversy. On the contrary, I will take a stand on any issue at any time, regardless of how fraught with controversy it might be. You have asked me how I feel about whiskey. All right, here is how I feel about whiskey. “If, when you say whiskey, you mean the devil’s brew, the poison scourge, the bloody monster that defiles innocence, dethrones reason, destroys home, creates misery and poverty, yea, literally takes the bread from the mouths of little children; if you mean the evil drink that topples the Christian man and woman from the pinnacle of righteous, gracious living into the bottomless pit of degradation and despair and shame and helplessness and hopelessness - then certainly, I am against it. “But if, when you say whiskey, you mean the oil of conversation, the philosophic wine, the ale that is consumed when good fellows get together, that puts a song in the hearts and laughter on the lips and the warm glow of contentment in their eyes; if you mean Christmas cheer; if you mean the stimulating drink that puts the spring in the old gentleman’s step on a frosty, crispy morning; if you mean the drink which enables a man to magnify his joy and his happiness and to forget, if only for a little while, life’s great tragedies and heartaches and sorrows; if you mean the drink the sale of which pours into our treasuries untold millions of dollars which are used to provide tender care for our crippled children, our blind, our deaf, our pitiful aged and infirm, to build highways and hospitals and schools, then certainly I am for it. “This is my stand, and I will not compromise.” Closer to home, Enigma’s Bobby Rowan tells a double-talk story about the time he took two of his Georgia Senate buddies to see U.S. Sen. Herman Talmadge. Bobby was a newly minted state senator under the Gold Dome on a Chamber of Commerce visit to Washington. He phoned Sen. Talmadge to see if he could bring two other state senators by for a visit. “Why sure, Bobby, bring them by,” Talmadge drawled. “I’ve known you for a long time. I knew your daddy and your granddaddy. Fine men, mighty fine men.” The next morning, Talmadge got on a fiery rant about liberals and big labor unions. “But, senator,” countered one of Bobby’s colleagues, “liberals and labor unions helped elect you last time.” “Yes, yes,” Talmadge said, “Who I am really upset with is big business. They are the ruination of this country.” And with that, the other guest said, “But, senator, don’t you remember how the Chamber of Commerce and big business endorsed you last time?” Chomping on his cigar, Talmadge turned to Sen. Rowan and said, “Bobby, if you want me to agree with all of your friends, you are going to have to bring them in here one at a time.” Dink NeSmith is president of Community Newspapers Inc. in Athens. Send e-mail to dnesmith@cninewspapers.com. This column was printed in the Athens Banner-Herald.