William Randolph Hearst: The Early Years, 1863-1910

By Ben Procter | Go to book overview
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9 Running for President

Beginning in 1901, William Randolph Hearst was fast approaching a crossroads in his life. Although the owner and editor-in-chief of four powerful newspapers in the United States, with a daily circulation approaching the two-million mark, he was, to a certain extent, at loose ends within the Hearst publishing empire. For the first time in fourteen years, since first rehabilitating the San Francisco Examiner in 1887, he had no specific duties, no all-encompassing routine. He had removed himself as the hands-on leader of the Morning Journal with the appointment of Arthur Brisbane to that position late in 1899. He had then applied his astounding energies and organizational talents to the election of a Democratic president in 1900, but to no avail. And he gradually realized, as the campaign continued to its inexorable conclusion, that no one, other than himself, would--or could--shoulder the domestic and foreign policies that he had advocated over the past two years and that were paramount, he believed, to the betterment of the United States and the American people.

So what was Hearst to do? Except for his father and William Jennings Bryan, whom he had come to admire to the point of adoration, his "contempt for politicians was rather far-reaching--even all-inclusive." In fact, Willis Abbot observed, "I do not recall ever hearing him express any real admiration for even the men he supported for office." Yet Hearst, despite what Ambrose Bierce described as an "extreme diffidence" at public gatherings, despite a pronounced inability to sway an audience with oratory because of a high-pitched voice and ineffectual delivery (partly due to a slight lisp), and despite a limp and unimpressive handshake, ultimately decided to test the public arena, "to see if I can do better." In the 1900 campaign, as president of the National Association of Democratic Clubs, he had demonstrated, with the formidable assistance of Max Ihmsen and

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