In 1946 Robert Penn Warren wrote the great American political novel, All the King’s Men, which detailed the rise and fall of a Southern politician, Willie Stark. Stark starts out as a political idealist and is utterly corrupted by the political process. Broderick Crawford in the film adaptation in 1949 gives an astonishingly good performance as Willie Stark and delivers speeches in the film that should be carefully studied by all students of oratory.
Over the years it has been alleged that the book is a thinly veiled look at the career of Huey Long, governor, senator and virtual dictator of Depression era Louisiana until he was assassinated by a dentist. Warren rejected the suggestion, and he was correct. Huey Long was always a cheerful crook and never an idealist.
He was quite willing to help people who supported him, but he always helped himself first and most, and never made any bones about it. He was a corrupt demagogue, but realized that in the 20th Century people demanded that if politicians be corrupt that they also be entertaining, and he delivered the entertainment in magnificent style. As an orator, he was easily in the class of FDR and Reagan. If Dr. Carl Weiss hadn’t sent Long to an early grave at 42, I suspect the Kingfish would have loomed very large in our history, and probably almost all to the ill.