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Saturday, February 02, 2008

Earl Butz has died at 98.

Former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Earl Butz, who was the oldest living U.S. Cabinet member, died this morning, at the age of 98. Mr.Butz was born in Albion, Indiana and was an alumnus of Purdue University where he was a member of Alpha Gamma Rho Fraternity. He received a Bachelor of Science degree in Agriculture in 1932, and then a doctorate in Agricultural Economics in 1937. He was the uncle of NFL player Dave Butz.

Butz served as vice president of the American Agricultural Economics Association, and later, the American Society of Farm Managers and Rural Appraisers. He served as Assistant Secretary of Agriculture under Eisenhower as well as chairman of the United States delegation to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. He left both of the aforementioned posts in 1957, when he became the Dean of Agriculture at his alma mater, Purdue University. In 1968 he was promoted to the positions of Dean of Education and vice president of the university's research foundation.

In 1971, President Richard Nixon appointed Butz as Secretary of Agriculture, a position in which he continued to serve after Nixon resigned as the result of the Watergate scandal in 1974. In his time heading the Department of Agriculture, Butz revolutionized federal agricultural policy and reengineered many New Deal era farm support programs. His mantra to farmers was "get big or get out," and he urged farmers to plant commodity crops like corn "from fencerow to fencerow." These policy shifts coincided with the rise of major agribusiness corporations, and the declining financial stability of the small family farm.

He is perhaps more well known for his scandals, however. At the 1974 World Food Conference in Rome, Butz made fun of the Pope's opposition to "population control" by quipping, in a mock Italian accent: "He no playa the game, he no maka the rules."

A spokesman for Cardinal Cooke of the New York archdiocese demanded an apology, and the Secretary was reprimanded by the White House, which forced him to apologize. Butz issued a statement saying that he had not "intended to impugn the motives or the integrity of any religious group, ethnic group or religious leader."

Butz was forced to resign his cabinet post on October 4, 1976 after a second gaffe. News outlets revealed a racist remark he made in front of entertainer Pat Boone and former White House counsel John Dean while aboard a commercial flight to California following the Republican National Convention. The October 18, 1976 issue of Time reported the comment while obscuring its vulgarity:

Butz started by telling a dirty joke involving intercourse between a dog and a skunk. When the conversation turned to politics, Boone, a right-wing Republican, asked Butz why the party of Lincoln was not able to attract more blacks. The Secretary responded with a line so obscene and insulting to blacks that it forced him out of the Cabinet last week and jolted the whole Ford campaign:

Butz said that "the only thing the coloreds are looking for in life are tight pussy, loose shoes and a warm place to shit."

After some indecision, Dean used the line in Rolling Stone, attributing it to an unnamed Cabinet officer. But New Times magazine enterprisingly sleuthed out Butz's identity by checking the itineraries of all Cabinet members. In any case, according to the Washington Post, anyone familiar with Beltway politics could “have not the tiniest doubt in your mind as to which cabinet officer” uttered it.

While some newspapers published the remark, others stated only that Butz had said something too obscene to print, and invited their readers to contact the editors if they wanted more information. The San Diego Evening Tribune offered to mail a copy of the whole quotation to anyone who requested it; more than 3,000 readers did

In 1981, Butz pleaded guilty to federal tax evasion charges, for having underreported income he had earned in 1978. On June 19 he was sentenced to five years in prison; however, all but 30 days of the term were suspended. He was also fined $10,000 and ordered to pay $61,183 in civil penalties.

From the movie "Loose Shoes.":

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Blogger billie said...

good riddance to bad rubbish.

title="comment permalink">February 02, 2008 10:24 PM  
Blogger Brewerstroupe said...

This incident is etched deeply in my memory as I was sitting with an American friend watching New Zealand television when the item was broadcast. The anchor man told of the sacking then flashed to a montage of newspapers. He said, "All these publications have carried the story. None of them have told the joke. We know the joke. We will tell you the joke. Please turn down the volume of your set if a racist, smutty joke is likely to offend you." He then stared deadpan into the camera for ten seconds while a couple of million Kiwis rushed to the volume knob and turned it UP!

The wonderful Dougal Stevenson then told the joke.
My American friend fell out of his chair.

title="comment permalink">February 06, 2008 1:16 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Butz might have been canned for the timing alone. It should be: "loose shoes, tight pussy, and a warm place to shit." In that order.

The loose shoes are an intriguing grace note, and the third element is the dig.

According to the New York Times obituary: “Mr. Butz made a remark in which he described blacks as ‘coloreds’ who wanted only three things — satisfying sex, loose shoes and a warm bathroom — desires that Mr. Butz listed in obscene and scatological terms.”

A "warm bathroom"?!? Please!!!

Tell it to us straight, NY Times. We can take it!

title="comment permalink">February 06, 2008 9:42 AM  

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