U.S. politicians who have “presidential fever” (or are “bitten by the presidential bug") strongly desire to run for president. “The only cure for presidential fever is embalming fluid” (that is, these politicians have the fever until they die) is a popular American political saying.
Harold Ickes (1874-1952), the U.S. Secretary of the Interior from 1933 to 1946, came up with the line to describe the presidential aspirations of New York Governor Thomas E. Dewey (1902-1971). “A man stung by the Presidential bee contracts an incurable disease that only embalming fluid can cure,” said Ickes in a speech made in a Bronx hotel in 1949. “Harold Ickes, a member of F.D.R.’s Cabinet once said in a particularly caustic mood that embalming fluid was the only cure for the disease that a bite by the Presidential bug causes” was cited in the New York (NY) Times in 1964.
“Once somebody gets the presidential bug in his blood, nothing can remove it except embalming fluid” was said in 1973 by New York Lieutenant Governor Malcolm Wilson (1914-2000) about New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller (1908-1979). “The only cure for presidential fever is embalming fluid” was said in 2014 by political commentator Pat Buchanan about politician Mitt Romney.
[This entry was prepared with research assistance from the Quote Investigator.]
Wikipedia: Harold L. Ickes
Harold LeClair Ickes (/ˈɪkəs/ ik-əss; March 15, 1874 – February 3, 1952) was a United States administrator and politician. He served as United States Secretary of the Interior for 13 years, from 1933 to 1946, the longest tenure of anyone to hold the office, and the second longest serving Cabinet member in U.S. history next to James Wilson. Ickes was responsible for implementing much of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s “New Deal” and is the father of Harold M. Ickes. He and Labor Secretary Frances Perkins were the only original members of the Roosevelt cabinet who remained in office for his entire presidency.
1 November 1949, New York (NY) Times, “Ickes Dubs Dulles a Blind for Dewey; Call’s Republican ‘Front Man’ to Cover Governor’s Hope of Winning Presidency in ‘52” by James P. McCaffrey, pg. 7, col. 3:
“But someone may ask, ‘Has not Mr. Dewey said that he would not be a candidate in 1952?’ Of course, he has, just as Mr. Dulles, when appointed to the Senate by Governor Dewey, solemnly let it be known that he would not be a candidate for Senator that he now is. A man stung by the Presidential bee contracts an incurable disease that only embalming fluid can cure.”
Mr. Ickes’ speech was broadcast from the hotel (Concourse Plaza Hotel in the Bronx—ed.), where he addressed a large audience under the auspices of the Liberal party.
15 November 1964, New York (NY) Times, “The Man Who—Loses” by Henry F. Graff, Magazine, pg. 134, cols. 1-2:
For the professional politician, the reach for the Presidency can be a career in itself. Harold Ickes, a member of F.D.R.’s Cabinet once said in a particularly caustic mood that embalming fluid was the only cure for the disease that a bite by the Presidential bug causes.
11 December 1973, Greeley (CO) Tribune, “Rockefeller—Only embalming fluid would remove his presidential bug’” by Howard Clark, pg. 14, col. 5:
ALBANY, N. Y. (AP)—“Once somebody gets the presidential bug in his blood, nothing can remove it except embalming fluid,” a friend said of Gov. Nelson A. Rockefeller.
The observation by Lt. Gov. Malcolm Wilson contains one reason—maybe the ultimate reason—for Rockefeller’s decade-long reach for the presidency.
12 December 1973, Springfield (MA) Union, “Rocky Still Yearns” by James Reston, pg. 20, col. 2:
The classic answer was given long ago by former Vice-President Alben Barkley of Kentucky (and he may have swiped it from Teddy Roosevelt), namely, that presidential ambition is a disease, and that once “the presidential bug gets in your blood, nothing can remove it except embalming fluid.”
Google News Archive
30 April 1975, The Ledger (Lakeland, FL), pg. 7A, col. 7:
“When the presidential bug gets into your veins, the only thing that will get it out is embalming fluid,” says former U.S. Sen. George D. Aiken of Vermont.
The retired dean of the U.S. Senate, who never ran for president, made his comment in a speech from Eene, N.H., as candidates and potential candidates for 1976 laid groundwork for New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation primary.
Google News Archive
23 June 1975, Pittsburgh (PA) Post-Gazette, “Connally: Will He, Won’t He Join Race for Presidency?” by Saul Pett, pg. 4, col. 1:
HOUSTON, Texas (AP)—Governor, it’s been said that the only known cure for presidentitis, the presidential bug, is an injection of embalming fluid. What do you think?”
Big John Connally laughed.
14 September 1975, Springfield (MA) Sunday Republican, “The Presidency: The Epidemic Spreads” by Saul Kohler, pg. 27, col. 1:
WASHINGTON—Presidentialitis is defined by Rep. Moe Udall of Arizona (himself a victim) as a disease discovered near Waverly, Minn., for which the only known antidote is embalming fluid and the cure is nomination and election.
The Political Events of 1983-1984
By Elizabeth Drew
New York, NY: Macmillan
The dream of becoming President doesn’t die hard; it doesn’t die at all. Morris Udall says, “The only cure for Presidentialitis is embalming fluid.”
Google News Archive
9 March 1990, Spokane (WA) Chronicle, “Gephardt: a silly idea, lots of hot air” by Sandy Grady (Knight-Ridder), pg. A16, col. 3:
WASHINGTON—Dick Gephardt is walking, talking proof of the late Hubert H. Humphrey’s axiom that “nothing cures the itch to be president but embalming fluid.”
Pat Buchanan: Romney Is Going To Run In 2016 ("Only cure for presidential fever is embalming fluid")
RealClearPolitics Video ^ | September 6, 2014
Posted on 9/7/2014 5:50:29 PM by 2ndDivisionVet
Pat Buchanan predicted Mitt Romney will run for president on this weekend’s broadcast of The McLaughlin Group.
New York City • Government/Law/Politics/Military • Tuesday, September 30, 2014 • Permalink