For more than 40 years, Rolling Stone was the literary home of the king of gonzo, Hunter S. Thompson. A new book collects his finest work for the magazine, selected by his close friend and editor Jann S. Wenner. The articles start with an account of Thompson’s run for sheriff of Aspen on the Freak Party ticket in 1970 and end with a piece on the Bush-Kerry election of 2004, with plenty of vintage Thomspson in between, including encounters with Bill Clinton, Muhammad Ali, Jimmy Carter and – who else – Richard Nixon. Click through for samples from the book of Thompson's vivid – often acid – takes on some of the leading political figures of the past half century.
"I don't mind admitting that I think sheep-dip is the only cure for everything Hubert Humphrey stands for. I consider him not only a living, babbling insult to the presumed intelligence of the electorate, but also a personally painful mockery of the idea that Americans can learn from history." – Undated, 1972
Note: Hubert Humphrey (1911-1978) was Vice President to Lyndon B. Johnson, a United States Senator from Minnesota, and the Democratic presidential nominee in 1968 (he lost the election to Richard Nixon).
"I have a peculiar affection for [Eugene] McCarthy; nothing serious or personal, but I recall standing next to him in the snow outside the "exit" door of a shoe factory in Manchester, New Hampshire, in February of 1968 when the five o'clock whistle blew, and he had to stand there in the midst of those workers rushing out to the parking lot. I will never forget the pain in McCarthy's face as he stood there with his hand out, saying over and over again, "Shake hands with Senator McCarthy … shake hands with Senator McCarthy" … a tense plastic smile on his face, stepping nervously toward anything friendly, Shake hands with Senator McCarthy" … but most of the crowd ignored him, refusing even to acknowledge his outstretched hand, staring straight ahead as they hurried out to their cars."
– The Campaign: The Million-Pound Shithammer, February 3, 1972
"Whatever else might be said about Nixon — and there is no doubt in my mind that he could pass for Human — he is a goddam stone fanatic on every facet of pro football. At one point in our conversation, when I was feeling a bit pressed for leverage, I mentioned a down & out pass — in the waning moments of a Super Bowl mismatch between Green Bay and Oakland — to an obscure, second-string Oakland receiver named Bill Miller that had stuck in my mind because of its pinpoint style & precision.
"He hesitated for a moment, lost in thought, then he whacked me on the thigh and laughed: 'That's right, by God! The Miami boy!'"
– The Campaign Trail: Fear and Loathing in New Hampshire, March 2, 1972
"Let there be no mistake in the history books …. Richard Nixon was an evil man–evil in a way that only those who believe in the physical reality of the Devil can understand it. He was utterly without ethics or morals or any bedrock sense of decency. Nobody trusted him — except maybe the Stalinist Chinese, and honest historians will remember him mainly as a rat who kept scrambling to get back on the ship."
– Memo from the National Affairs Desk, June 16, 1994
"The Jimmy Carter who has waltzed so triumphantly down the middle of the road through one Democratic primary after another is a cautious, conservative, and vaguely ethereal Baptist Sunday-school teacher who seems to promise, above all else, a return to normalcy, a resurrection of the national self-esteem, and a painless redemption from all the horrors and disillusion of Watergate. With President Carter's firm hand on the helm, the ship of state will once again sail a true and steady course, all the crooks and liars and thieves who somehow got control of the government during the turmoil of the Sixties will be driven out of the temple once and for all, and the White House will be so overflowing with honesty, decency, justice, love, and compassion that it might even glow in the dark.
"It is a very alluring vision, and nobody understands this better than Jimmy Carter.
– Fear & Loathing on the Campaign Trail '76: Third-Rate Romance, Low-Rent Rendezvous, June 3, 1976
"Look at Bush. He has worked overtime to give Politics a bad name. He is a mean-spirited wimp and a career bureaucrat who has arguably committed more high crimes and misdemeanors in and around the Oval Office than Nixon would have been impeached for if he hadn't resigned … Nixon was genetically dishonest, and so is Bush. The both represent what Bobby Kennedy called 'the darker impulses of the human spirit …'"
– September 17, 1992
"Bill Clinton has no Sense of Humor. He eats a lot of French Fries and laughs at the wrong times and often manifests clinical signs of schizophrenia. But he knows a good deal when he sees one, and on that murky Friday morning we [Thompson, P.J. O'Rourke and William Greider] were the good deal he was looking at — the Three Stooges, direct from New York on a big jet plane to legitimize the Deal."*
"Don't get me wrong, Bubba. We had fun, despite our various crippling injuries and my own humiliation when Clinton denounced every thought I uttered and every question I asked, as if I were criminally insane …"
– Memo from the National Affairs Desk, September 17, 1992
*Note: To Thompson's great irritation, Rolling Stone had already decided to formally endorse Bill Clinton for President before the magazine's three political writers showed up in Arkansas to interview the candidate.
"Harriman was something of a historian, also a political buff. We knew some of the same people–but not many. He knew my friend George McGovern, for instance, and also Richard Nixon, but he didn't know Keith Richards or James Carville, my partners in the blood business … So what? I thought. I like this man. He knows things. Never mind that he looks one hundred years old. He is whiskey gentry, he is one of us."
– Polo is My Life: Fear and Loathing in Horse Country, December 15, 1994
Note: Averell Harriman (1891-1986) served as Secretary of Commerce under President Harry S. Truman and later as Governor of New York. He was an unsuccessful candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1952 and 1956.
"Abe Lincoln freed the Slaves, Thomas Jefferson bought half of America for 17 cents an acre, and Bill Clinton legitimized oral sex on the job. The real victim of this mess will be the vice president. It is no small thing for a sitting two-term president to leave his successor with near-record approval ratings. This means that the people are with the way things are and expect more of the same. Al Gore will come under terrible pressure to maintain Clinton's standard of lewdness. Yes, we are in the midst of a revolution."
– Memo from the National Affairs Desk: More Trouble in Mr. Bill's Neighborhood, March 19, 1998
"Did you see Bush on TV, trying to debate? Jesus, he talked like a donkey with no brains at all. The tide turned early, in Coral Gables, when Bush went belly up less than halfway through his first bout with Kerry, who hammered poor George into jelly. It was pitiful … I almost felt sorry for him, until I heard someone call him 'Mister President,' and then I felt ashamed."
–Fear and Loathing, Campaign 2004, November 11, 2004