5 Modern Leaders Way Crazier Than You Thought Possible
We're all cynical types, and as such we fully expect that our elected officials are doing shit behind the scenes that is either corrupt, depraved, or both. Still, Cracked likes to take time every now and then to remind everyone that in many cases, it's much worse than you think:
A Candidate Changes His Name to Appear Hispanic and Appeal to Hispanic Voters
The politician formerly known as Scott Fistler was running for Congress in Arizona and would do whatever it took to get there. He discovered that the weakness in his strategy had always been the candidate (that is, him) and so he figured, why not just change that shit?
"Plus I can end 30-plus years of fisting jokes; win-win!"
Previously a Republican who ran for and lost two elections, he decided to shake it up and run again, not only as a Democrat, but as a different person altogether. So, the man who once lost a Republican city council seat in Phoenix as Scott Fistler was suddenly running for Congress as a Democrat named Cesar Chavez. Yes, the same name as the famous Mexican labor leader.
Cynical minds might assume that the new Chavez was trying to create a subconscious connection, or even outright confuse voters in his heavily Hispanic district (especially considering that most people just briefly skim the ballot in midterm elections, if they vote at all). We don't want to take a side, so let us just say that his amateur website was inexplicably covered in propaganda for both the original Cesar Chavez, and more bizarrely, Hugo Chavez, who is of no relation to either.
But a big hit with the socialist workout video demographic.
The former Fistler submitted his name change request with the simple explanation that he had "experienced many hardships" due to his birth name, and soon after refused to answer any question by the press regarding the change (on top of insisting that he would not answer any question about anything if it was longer than five words). Eventually, a lawsuit was filed against him by the grandson of the original, more well-known Cesar Chavez, in an attempt to stop him from pretending that he was somebody he wasn't. But the hopeful congressman's defense was that the name change had nothing to do with masquerading as a historical figure -- he was just a fan of six-time world boxing champion Julio Cesar Chavez. No, really.
The court didn't buy it, and "Cesar Chavez" was thrown off the ballot. Which sucks, because we're thinking the debates would have been fucking amazing.
The Tongan King's Fundraising Efforts Go Awry
The Kingdom of Tonga is a tiny island nation off the coast of New Zealand, which still takes its traditional monarchy very, very seriously.
Except for that one girl in the back, later jailed for snickering.
King Tupou IV inherited the throne in 1965, and as absolute monarch, he had the power to do pretty much whatever he wanted. Just like Spider-Man, he knew that with that power came great responsibility. So, when the nation's economy started to spiral down the drain, it was his job to raise some money, which he did through increasingly bizarre fundraising efforts.
Although Tonga doesn't have a space program, and only one phone for every 25 people, it was somehow possible for Tupou's government to claim and then sell off a number of "parking spots" in space for geo-orbital communication satellites. Tupou then managed to raise more money by registering foreign ships as Tongan, which became controversial when it was discovered that some of these ships were trafficking weapons for al-Qaida. These small enterprises eventually managed to raise a few million dollars, which the King decided not to keep in the country because, "the government would only spend it on roads." So instead, he opened an everyday checking account at a Bank of America branch in San Francisco and deposited it there.
It was the same branch used by the deposed Nigerian prince.
When a totally random banker named Jesse Bogdonoff stumbled on an account for millions owned by the Kingdom of Tonga, his eyes turned to dollar signs and he contacted the King offering to help him invest the money properly. The King was thrilled and offered Bogdonoff an official royal title, to which he agreed, and so the banker was soon sworn in as ... court jester, which probably wasn't the title he was expecting.
Tonga's chief exports are terror ships, space spaces, and puns.
It's uncertain how well he did his job as a comedian, but as a businessman, Bogdonoff really sucked. The company he invested Tonga's fortune in, Millennium Asset Management, went belly-up after its manager literally embezzled the entire nation's trust fund. Bogdonoff fled the country after the revelation and now works as a hypnotherapist in California. Again: We are not making any of this up.
He also releases smooth jazz CDs on the side as "Jesse Dean". Again: We are not making any of this up.
In the meantime, King Tupou was again charged with the duty of recouping Tonga's losses, which led to more crazy schemes like hiring some international criminals wanted by Interpol to help him build an airport, hotel, and resort. This all makes him sound like a bumbling but sentimental figure, but it came to light in 2002 that the King personally owned $350 million in foreign bank accounts, which is something the tanking Tongan economy would have liked to have known about sooner. His excuse? That money was all personal profits from his vanilla farm. That's one fuckload of vanilla, dude.
Pakistan President Sacrifices Goats to Ward Off Black Magic
Asif Ali Zardari was president of Pakistan until 2013, and like most presidents of an unstable country infested with terrorists, he was pretty concerned about rational challenges to his rule, such as the ongoing threat of military coup. But Zardari had some other, stranger concerns. He was constantly worried about curses and black magic being used against him, because at least you can see a military coup coming. Witches, not so much.
"Witches be crazy."
You'd be right to assume that this kind of superstition is common in the third world, but for the most part, the leaders of major nuclear-armed nations usually like to distance themselves from it. Zardari, on the other hand, was pretty open about it. The president's own spokesman confirmed in 2010 that Zardari sacrificed a black goat "quite often" in his home in order to ward off magical threats.
The spokesman clarified that the sacrifice ritual was not to ward off evil spirits -- that's something a crazy person would think. Instead, it was to invoke the pleasure of God ... so that God might help ward off evil spirits.
God is really more of a sheep guy.
Of course, Zardari's detractors weren't fooled by semantic tomfoolery, so the revelations about the president's pagan superstitions only served as ammunition for opponents who already painted Zardari as a paranoid, reclusive, slightly crazy person. Zardari's popularity dropped to such a point that he did not seek re-election in 2013, lest the threat of angry sorcerers might become a horrible reality. But his spokesman did stress that, although the goat thing was accurate, the rumor that Zardari kept a camel at home to drink its milk for superstitious purposes was "absolutely false." He will not have his name sullied with such accusations!
Maryland Governor Candidate Solicits Robocalls Urging Black People Not to Vote
Former Maryland governor Robert Ehrlich Jr., who was ousted in 2006, blamed his failed bid at re-election on the "black vote." Dismissing the idea that black people were a valid human demographic who maybe didn't like the way that his government treated them, Ehrlich decided that it was just a question of strategy. So, when he returned in 2010 to fight against the new governor, Martin O'Malley, he knew he needed to attack the real problem: the fact that these people were voting at all.
Yes, it's an even crazier anti-black vote plan than the ones in Texas, North Carolina, Georgia, Indiana, and Kansas.
The solution? Ehrlich's campaign set up an autodialer to cold call upwards of 100,000 black people on election day in hotly contested districts in Maryland. The robocall told voters to "relax" and informed them that O'Malley had already won the election, meaning they needn't bother exercising their right to democracy. It'd just be a wasted trip, after all. And wouldn't more votes for the winner just be rubbing it in? Nobody likes a bad sport.
Evidently, they hoped that the receivers of the calls wouldn't realize that the government doesn't personally call each and every citizen to inform them about election results. The state nabbed Ehrlich's campaign manager for failing to disclose that it had been funded by Ehrlich's campaign rather than some official body overseeing government elections.
"They're robots! In a way, they're the highest and most official body.
Ehrlich's campaign defended the accusations by arguing that they were trying to use "reverse psychology" -- that by telling black people not to vote, they were trying to inspire them to vote extra hard for Ehrlich. And yes, in case you're worried, he lost the election.
We suppose that's the real message of this story and the name changing guy earlier: anybody can run for office, but if you start showing signs of craziness, racism, or both, you're not getting elected. The voters are smarter than that, dammit.
Arizona Accidentally Elects an Insane, Racist Governor
Evan Mecham was an obscure perennial candidate for governor of Arizona who, for over 25 years, lost every single election he ran for. That was until 1986, when a catastrophic failure of the electoral system accidentally landed him in charge of the state. When inner-party turmoil caused the Democrats to run two candidates in the general election, they had to split the vote, which left the comparatively unpopular Mecham with enough votes to blunder into the governor's chair, and he spent the next year competing for the title of most batshit insane elected official in American history.
This would become an Arizona gubernatorial tradition.
First of all, where our earlier examples were merely cynical about race, this man was outrageously, almost cartoonishly, racist, which he made sure to establish from day one. His first act as governor was to abolish Martin Luther King Jr. Day in Arizona, and regularly referred to black children as "pickaninnies," insisting that's what they called them when he was a kid and so it wasn't racist.
When confronted with accusations that he might have a bit of an axe to grind with minorities, he once said, "I've got black friends. I employ black people. I don't employ them because they are black. I employ them because they are the best people who applied for the cotton-picking job." No, he didn't own a cotton farm. When recounting a visit to Asia he took in 1987, Mecham quipped, "Japanese really like to play golf, and their eyes really light up when you say we have got over 200 golf courses in Arizona -- suddenly, they got round eyes."
There's no actual record of whether or not he did a racist "Asian eyes" gesture while saying this, but come on.
Of course, if racism was the benchmark for insanity, this article would be a million entries long. He also became notorious for staffing the entire government of Arizona with criminals and wackos. Among his gallery of supervillains include: his superintendent for the Arizona Department of Liquor Licenses and Control, who was under investigation for murder; his head of prison construction, who had served time for armed robbery; one of his nominees for state investigator, who was a Marine that had been court-martialed twice; his director of the Department of Revenue, who owned a company that was $25,000 in arrears on employee compensation payments; his special assistant, who was charged with extortion; and his main education advisor, who went on record to say, "If a student wants to say the world is flat, the teacher doesn't have the right to prove otherwise."
"To be fair, the world is flat, in Arizona."
Eventually, the citizens of Arizona forced a recall election. That's an extremely rare out-of-season election that can happen if an enormous amount of people petition for it, and they did -- in this case, more people voted to recall Mecham than voted to elect him in the first place.
But while preparations were being made for the recall election, it was discovered that Mecham had allegedly been stealing public money and lying about campaign donations. He was charged with six felonies counts related to corruption. At which point, the Arizona State Legislature decided to end this madness. They impeached and removed Mecham, before the recall election could be held. To be clear, there are only three ways a public official in Arizona can be removed from office -- a recall election, a felony conviction, or an impeachment. Mecham is the only person to be removed by all three methods simultaneously.
Even Illinois can't claim that.
OK, so maybe the lesson is that it's OK to be crazy and/or corrupt in American politics, but you've got to be at least a little bit subtle about that shit.
For more totally nutso world leaders, check out The 5 Most Creative Acts of Insanity by Modern Dictators and 7 Modern Dictators Way Crazier Than You Thought Possible.
Are you on reddit? Check it: We are too! Click on over to our best of Cracked subreddit.