Handshake Politics: What Would John Tower Do?

by John J. Pitney, Jr.

In 1978, Sen. John Tower (R., Texas) came under criticism for declining to shake hands with opponent Bob Krueger at a candidate forum. Instead of backing down, he ran this ad:

Perhaps you’ve seen this picture of my refusal to shake the hand of my opponent.

I was brought up to believe that a handshake is a symbol of friendship and respect, not a meaningless hypocritical gesture.

My opponent has slurred my wife, my daughters, and falsified my record.

My kind of Texan doesn’t shake hands with that kind of man.

Integrity is one Texas tradition you can count on me to uphold.

John J. Pitney Jr. is the Roy P. Crocker professor of American politics at Claremont McKenna College.

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