Mad Man with a Diary: Would-Be Assassin Arthur Bremer Released from Prison
November 9, 2007 8:52 PM   Subscribe

Arthur Bremer was released from prison today, after serving a 35 years of a 53-year sentence for the attempted assassination of George Wallace. After Harper's Magazine published Arthur Bremer's diary in 1973, the manuscript inspired both the character of Travis Bickle in the film Taxi Driver and the Peter Gabriel song "Family Snapshot". After Bremer shot Wallace, Nixon obsessed about the shooting on his audio tapes and pestered FBI agent Mark Felt for information, which Felt a.k.a. "Deep Throat" leaked to cub reporter, Bob Woodward. Woodward's relationship with Felt would later crack the Watergate scandal wide open, but Nixon's plan to portray Bremer as a George McGovern supporter remains less well-known.
posted by jonp72 (18 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Great. Welcome to 2007, echt-psycho-killer. It's a brand new world! You're gonna love it! There's a whole MEDIUM designed for the propagation of instant celebrity through violence, and you've just spent the last 35 years conditioning for it.

This should be fun to watch.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 9:33 PM on November 9, 2007

Meh. Wallace is dead, and he was kind of an asshole -- to say the least -- when he was alive.

Neat Watergate tie-in, though.
posted by Reggie Digest at 9:40 PM on November 9, 2007

Bremer images: in Ottawa for Nixon, the Wallace shooting, restrained and arrested, post-arraignment, and Bremer vs. Bickle.
posted by cenoxo at 9:48 PM on November 9, 2007 [1 favorite]

...Nixon's plan to portray Bremer as a George McGovern supporter...

God bless ol' Tricky Dick. That conniving motherfucker was consistent. Indefatigable. The devious wheels were turning in that sick bastard's head all the time.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 9:52 PM on November 9, 2007

Arthur Bremer shot Wallace in an attempt to be forever remembered. He paralyzed a famous leader, inspired one of the greatest films of all time, which in turn inspired the attempted assassination of the President of the United States, and inspired a Peter Gabriel song besides.

Everyone remembers George Wallace, Taxi Driver, Travis Bickle, Peter Gabriel, Ronald Reagan, and John Hinckley, Jr., and it's because of Arthur Bremer that we see their history in a certain way (or at all, in the case of the fictional things).

But not only did Bremer not succeed in killing Wallace - he himself is mostly forgotten! It's like God stole his notoriety in exchange for all the drama he'd eventually cause.
posted by Sticherbeast at 9:54 PM on November 9, 2007

It is a neat Watergate tie-in, I agree. I'd never known that angle.

This guy's obviously nuts. He's a published, on-the-record, documented, certified head case. With the clippings to prove it.

What's the protocol for this? He did the mandated amount of time and served his sentence. OK, he should be released. But...does he have to go see a psychiatrist to continue the medication he's undoubtedly been on while in the clink? If not, I wonder who he'll shoot in six or eight months?

Right around election time.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 10:05 PM on November 9, 2007

Don't worry too much, BOP, it'll most likely be the segregationist on the ticket.
posted by Reggie Digest at 10:36 PM on November 9, 2007

Great post.
posted by Dead Man at 11:23 PM on November 9, 2007

Duck, Ron Paul, duck!
posted by BitterOldPunk at 11:24 PM on November 9, 2007

No, no... The crazier he is, the more likely he'll love Ron Paul.
posted by Reggie Digest at 11:30 PM on November 9, 2007

But not only did Bremer not succeed in killing Wallace - he himself is mostly forgotten! It's like God stole his notoriety in exchange for all the drama he'd eventually cause.

Wallace vowed at his inaguration as Governor of Alabama to defend “segregation now, segregation tomorrow, and segregation forever" and he also promised to "stand in the schoolhouse door" to prevent two black students from enrolling at the University of Alabama. Which he dutifully did. The only good thing you could say about that cracker was that he lived up to his campaign promises.

A just God would have given Bremer more bullets and helped him with his aim.
posted by three blind mice at 3:13 AM on November 10, 2007

Being a segregationist is still no reason to be shot. (well not good enough, anyway)

What I wonder is why is he being released? Doesn't this send a message to all the Travis Bickles out there that an assassination attempt is not a life sentence? That you too can pull the trigger and be out while people still remember you. Yes you too can do the television circuit and become the paramour of thousands of Jodie Foster wanna bees. All you have to do is wound a fellow (or lady) seeking high government office, or maybe a rock star. Do that and they'll even let you visit your mommy on weekends.
posted by Gungho at 5:58 AM on November 10, 2007

Bremer must meet specific conditions of his release:
...he must stay away from any local, state, federal or foreign elected official, or current candidate. He must also undergo a mental health evaluation and treatment, if necessary. Bremer is not to leave the state without the express written permission of the Maryland Parole Commission, and he must submit to electronic monitoring.
The first might do much to improve the mental health of most anyone, yes?
posted by cenoxo at 6:28 AM on November 10, 2007

Neat Watergate tie-in, though.

I couldn't find the right clip on YouTube, but if you watch All The President's Men, the first time Woodward calls Deep Throat, he mentions all the leads that Deep Throat provided him on "the Wallace case." The Atlantic Monthly article that successfully identified Felt (or some other FBI guy) as Deep Throat back in 1992 partially used Woodward's uncanny knack for digging up info on the Bremer case to identify Deep Throat.
posted by jonp72 at 7:13 AM on November 10, 2007

The only good thing you could say about that cracker was that he lived up to his campaign promises.

For the record, Wallace eventually repented and apologized for his segregationism:
...Only those truly interested in the complete Wallace -- someone like Lowery, for example -- also recall the governor's apology in 1982: "I did stand, with a majority of white people, for the separation of the schools. But that was wrong."

...At a memorial for the civil rights movement, Wallace "met us in a wheelchair," Lowery said. "And he apologized for what had happened 30 years earlier."

The cynical journalist asks: Do you really think he was sincere?

"Yes, I do," Lowery said. "I wasn't going to stand in the door blocking his way to repentance the way he stood in the door of the University of Alabama blocking us. Can you imagine, there was a photograph on the front page of the New York Times of George Wallace and Joe Lowery holding hands and singing 'We Shall Overcome.'"
The Segregationist and the Intergrationist

History. It's never simple.
posted by y2karl at 8:25 AM on November 10, 2007 [1 favorite]

Ooh, Integrationist, to be sure...
posted by y2karl at 8:26 AM on November 10, 2007

When is Hinckley getting out again?
posted by trondant at 8:42 AM on November 10, 2007

Fascinating. Back in November 1968, Hans Morgenthau was describing Wallace's movement as a serious threat to democracy.
[The survival of American democracy] is threatened from two different quarters. It is threatened by the Wallace movement, which in its appeal to a perplexed and frightened primitivism is the American version of Fascism, and it is threatened by the irrelevance, as far as the substance of policy is concerned, of choosing between Humphrey and Nixon.

... the policies Wallace has espoused—carefully couched for the time being in democratic language in order to avoid alienating prospective voters—are incompatible with the principles and practices of liberal democracy. A victorious Wallace would try to establish a totalitarian democracy in which a self-perpetuating majority, unconcerned with individual and minority rights, would have a monopoly of political power.

The next president, whoever he may be, will be faced with the task of restoring the unity of the nation, now impaired by large-scale disaffection at the bottom and the top of the social pyramid. Two methods are at his disposal: radical reforms which will satisfy the elemental aspirations of the disaffected and thereby make an end to their disaffection; and the imposition of the government's will by force which will make an end to the outward manifestations of this disaffection. While these two methods can be separated for the purpose of intellectual analysis, they coexist in the practice of governments. What distinguishes a liberal from a tyrannical regime is the relative weight assigned to the free interplay of social forces and the organized violence of the state. There can be no doubt that Wallace would minimize the integrative role of freely given consent induced by social reforms and rely mainly upon the power of the majority to be used for the purpose of imposing by force upon recalcitrant minorities a pattern of conduct submissive to the will of the majority.

... In the short run, the Democratic Party, tainted by failures at home and abroad and paralyzed by the irrelevance of its leaders, is unable to perform the traditional task of the opposition party to present itself as an alternative to the party in power four years hence. The opposition party is the Wallace movement, and the fate of the Republic will be decided not by the number of votes Humphrey can garner in defeat as compared with Nixon's, but by the strength Nixon can muster against Wallace. Nixon's strength is Wallace's weakness. Thus the defense of liberal democracy requires a huge popular mandate for Nixon to pursue a conservative policy in the spirit and within the institutional framework of the liberal-democratic tradition.

There are two pitfalls, which could nullify the prospects for Nixon's defending liberal democracy; there is an opportunity, which could enhance them. Nixon may feel compelled to compete with Wallace for the support of the potential fascist vote, as Eisenhower, Nixon, and Dulles competed in the Fifties with Joseph McCarthy. The choice of Agnew may be a harbinger of a general appeasement of the radical right. Such appeasement may or may not take the fascist wind out of Wallace's sails, but it will make the Republican Party fascist. If Nixon should fail to provide, by whatever policies he may choose, an alternative to Wallace acceptable to large masses of the American people—and here is the other pitfall—it is possible that liberal democracy in America has played its last card and lost the game. Many of the millions who in 1968 either remain faithful to the Democratic Party out of conviction or traditional loyalty, or vote for Nixon as the lesser evil and as an acceptable conservative choice, may yet find Wallace proved right in his rejection of the two traditional parties and may turn to him as the only available savior.

Yet regardless of whether Nixon succeeds or fails, they might also turn to a savior from the Left, provided one is available. It is characteristic of the volatility of large sectors of the American electorate, not only in their party affiliation but also in their general position in the political spectrum, that many of the people who voted for Wallace in 1964 and are likely to vote for him in 1968 voted for Robert Kennedy and Eugene McCarthy only a few months ago. They want a charismatic leader, the repository of their troubles and the incarnation of their aspirations, and they will still want such a leader in 1972. If Nixon should by then have failed, Wallace would have the field all to himself, provided the Democrats cannot counter his charismatic leadership with one of their own.
posted by russilwvong at 4:22 PM on November 10, 2007

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