……. so very hard to do. Compliments of Neil Sedaka from a number of years ago, we have an apt description of the departure of Rahm ( never let a crisis go to waste ) Emanuel. It was a little surprising to me to see that ole Rahm become a mite emotional during his farewell appearance. Perhaps that contributed to his historical faux pas in describing his soon to be former boss. His praise of Obama was borderline effusive as he called him “the toughest leader any country could ever ask for in the toughest times any president has ever faced.” Being an ardent observer of political hyperbole I was attracted to Emanuel’s statement. A brief examination ensues. Starting with part#2 I wonder where that places such historical crises as WWII, the Civil War, the real Great Depression and even such things as the war of 1812. Other presidents who have faced demonstrably tougher times? That would be a lengthy list. Let’s see, Washington, Lincoln, Franklin Roosevelt, James Madison, and possibly even Kennedy, Truman, etc, etc. But it was an emotional time, lots of sorrow in the room so maybe we shouldn’t judge ole Rahm so harshly, should we? Oh, yeah, we should, since these are ways in which Obama refers to himself. He’s the most criticized, maligned president ever, blah, blah. I repeat from an earlier post. He needs to read just a little about Lincoln’s treatment in the media and by people within as well as outside his own party.
So, we now move from the era of Rahm who heads to Chicago to become ethe next Richard Daley and we begin a new day with Rahm’s successor, or at the latest his interim successor. His name is Pete Rouse, or Mr Fix-It as Obama referred to him. Rouse has been on the Obama team for about 6 years since his then boss Tom Daschle was defeated for re-election in 2004. Mr Rouse is known as a savvy politician and not nearly so media friendly as Emanuel. Shucks, he seems to resemble a prototypical Chicago pol, so he should fit in very well.
Just a thought to consider, Emanuel announced his departure last week and today Gen James Jones, the president’s National Security Adviser said that he will be leaving. Do we have a simple mid-term shuffling ( although it’s not mid-term) or something of a rats jumping the ship situation? Whichever is true it is quite fun to watch, is it not?
- *sob* We Can’t Believe It! Rahm Emanuel Is Really Gone! (shortformblog.com)
And he would be Andrew or Andy as he was often called. He is a president that intrigues me quite a bit, for 2 reasons. One is his North Carolina birth ( one of 2 NC presidents along with Polk) and the generally one-sided view that we have of him. His name comes to mind as Lincoln’s tragic successor and as being the first president to be impeached ( we would wait over 100 years for the second guess who?) and only by a very narrow margin fail to be removed. But the bio I read of Johnson has provided much more than those salient facts.
Author Hans Trefousse did a very good job with the life and career of our 17th Chief Executive. He devotes only a chapter or two about the impeachment which is appropriate since Johnson’s career was much more than that. I remember reading in Profiles in Courage, I think, about the critically ill senator who was brought into the chamber and cast the deciding vote, for the vote to convict only failed by that one vote.
One gets a much broader picture in this than that near tragic event. Even though the author calls Johnson’s presidency a disaster, he gives it fair treatment and points to Johnson’s overall political skills, great but at times reckless oratory and steadfast devotion to preserving the Constitution as he saw fit. His lifelong heroes Jefferson and Jackson were always close in spirit.
The stories of his early years as an orphaned tailor’s apprentice are illustrative in explaining his defense of the poor, although he later became quite successful as a tailor and landowner, albeit with never a day of formal education. He still championed education for his children and others.
A couple of rather unrelated things stand out for me. As with a number of presidents his family life left much to be desired. His wife Eliza was often sickly and they were usually apart. His sons, in spite of his best efforts did not fare well and two preceded him in death.
After reading of the twists and turns, I still am a bit confused as to the reason for his selection as Lincoln’ s running mate in 1864. He was a slaveholder and had defended it consistently. That does not square up with a President who signed the Emancipation Proclamation. It appears that Johnson’s impassioned defense of the “Union” and his service as military governor in Tennessee overrode the slavery issue. Plus, in what later proved to be rather disingenuous he spoke of the rights of the freedmen. Later events proved that to be mere window dressing for his prejudices.
It can be safely said that the failure of the impeachment, led by Ben Butler and Thaddeus Stevens was good for the country for their case was weak and overly political. But he in a sense forced the hand of Congress by his stubborn fight against the 14th amendment and determination to restore the Southern states with as little inconvenience as possible. Had he pushed them harder when it was opportune, right after the war ended, many of the issues of Reconstruction and racial division could well have been avoided or greatly mitigated.
Just finished reading a bio of our 12th president, Zachary Taylor written by Jack Bauer, not that Jack Bauer though. I am always fascinated by the things that draw my interest in my presidential reading ( I’m slightly over halfway, 22 of 43). This is true in a dual way. Number one, I enjoy taking note of how historical figures cross paths with one another. Secondly is how something in every administration can be applied to things that follow in the future.
Taylor was a career military man like a number of other presidents, Harrison, Eisenhower, Grant ( who served under his command) to name a few. He was very apolitical and in fact, when nominated by thhe Whig party in 1848, had never even voted. He scarcely campaigned which turned out well, since he was somewhat intemperate with his comments and a bit petulant at times.
Let me backtrack a bit because his actual political career lasted only about 2 years from nomination to his untimely death in 1850 , probably from gastroenteritis. He, according to Bauer, was somewhat of a mediocre general, given to a very conservative approach. He had some successes, most due to the efforts of his junior officers, one being his former son-in-law, Jefferson Davis. Nonetheless he moved up through the ranks and became a general and was nicknamed Old Rough and Ready, mainly for his very plain manner of dress and identification with his troops/
He seems to have been a compromise candidate to forestall Henry Clay but nonetheless was strongly supported by Lincoln and Robert E Lee.
He won a rather close election and took office as the real Washington outsider, Jimmy Carter to the contrary. He was somewhat unprepared for the office and during his brief tenure had rather rocky relations with Congress. Recognize anyone in those statements, especially the unprepared part?
He was somewhat limited intellectually and emotionally. To those of his day, he was an enigma and still remains so today, For me, it is one of those wat if situations. He was elected in large part because a 3rd part candidate ,former president Martin van Buren, siphoned off votes from Secretary of War Lewis Cass. Had van Buren not run, Cass could very well have won even over a relatively popular general. So, Taylor joins that group who did not win a majority of the votes and barely won the electoral vote.
And even his victory was scarcely enjoyed since he died at age 66, less than 18 months after taking office.
Today is Presidents’ Day, a day set aside tat to honor/remember those 43 people who have held the highest office in the land. I guess technically it is more designed to honor Washington and Lincoln since their birthdays are close on the calendar. I think that it probably does neither of the above things very well, if at all.
It is a federal holiday of course, so those of us who are postal workers take part. Schools seem to sorta use it or not, depending on the need for making up days lost to weather. ( I’m guessing most of them are using it today as a school day.) Banks seem to go with an either or approach.
I know, we used to have a day for George and Abe but they were consolidated when Martin Luther King, Jr day was added as a federal holiday. Both of those actions were correct, I believe. I’m not advocating an extra holiday just a better use of this one. I remain convinced that our educational system does not do well in educating its “charges” about our presidents. History, after all, is dull and boring, is it not? In our technologically advanced society, the greatest emphasis needs to be elsewhere.
I have been a big history fan for a long time. However, I did not become a fan until college. I have no great recollection of history teachers or subjects from public school, so the lack of emphasis is not a recent occurrence. My college history professors undoubtedly “juiced” up the subject in ways until now unknown to me.
So, what better aspect of American history to know than the men who have served in the White House(all but Washington, of course). So, a number of years ago, I began my quest to read at least one each president. That has proven to be a daunting task, as I have observed before. The tally right now is at 21, which is almost half of the total. Te problem lies in the dearth of books about the less familiar guys. You probably know them little if any. There is Harrison(William Henry and Benjamin) , Hayes, Taylor, Fillmore, etc. Libraries, at least our size, have either nothing about them or books dating of 50+ years old.
My mission continues ever so slowly and perhaps will one day be complete. I remain convinced that those who do not history are” doomed” to repeat it . And perhaps, just as telling, events and actions in the current administration have a historical precedent , sometimes deliberately.
I leave with this thought. President Obama’ s Oval Office desk is the same one used by Rutherford B Hayes. It is known as the Resolute desk and was a gift from Great Britain. The desk was constructed from the timbers of the British ship of the same name. To think that every president since Hayes ( except Johnson, Nixon and Ford) has used the desk is just a small example of the fascinating things we learn from our history.
Maybe you have no wish to read about all the presidents. Fine. I have a friend and fellow blogger who specializes in Washington and attempts to keep pace with new books that are still published. Maybe better than some of the “fancy fiction”, huh?
James Buchanan? Yep, the 15th president of these United States, known for little more today than being Lincoln’s predecessor and dithering his way through a sorta lame 4 year term as the country hurtled towards Civil War. So, what about the linking of these three? The first two have been widely connected by many,including yours truly. I had not seen a link to Buchanan until today.
The article is by David Reilly in Bloomberg and it is just fascinating. Even the title is great.Man up, Obama or Make Way for President Palin. That is also the first time for that last phrase, but I digress. In the interest of full disclosure, financial blogger Eric Salzman made the Buchanan comparison.
One more log on the fire of criticism. former Virginia governor Douglas Wilder thinks Obama needs to fire some people, including DNC Chair Time Kaine, also a former Virginia governor. Wilder also thinks a number of the Chicago people need to go. No names, but think Emanuel, Jarrett and Axelrod. What Wilder neglects to mention is that the President himself is one of the Chicago people. Alas, yet another digression.
Back on topic for a moment. Reilly even suggests Obama could draw some inspiration in dealing with things from, gasp!!, Richard Nixon, George Bush and even Dick Cheney.
Specifically, learn from Clinton (veto) , don;t fear the banks and clean house; parroting Wilder a bit, bye-bye Emanuel ,Geithner and Summers among others.
In so many words, he tells the President get tough or ……………
I thought it was a great article and will doubtless be ignored.
Sort of an open ended question, is it not? I want to begin big and then move downward from famous people to not so famous ones. The late ABC newsman Paul Harvey was always one of most favorite newspeople . It seemed to me that he was almost in a class by himself; at once reporter, commentator and yet never too full of himself. Since he died earlier this year he just has not been replaced. Don’t know what ABC has done to fill he void, doubtful they even could.
On the other hand, Charles Kuralt, North Carolina native and Tarheel alum was host for years of Sunday Morning on CBS as well as other segments here and there. He died in 1997 after hosting the program for 15 years. He may not have been replaced in the strictest sense but he was succeeded by CBS’ own Charles Osgood. And Osgood has put his own stamp on the show while for this viewer retaining the same “feel”. One was replaced, one not.
Our own presidency provides for me the greatest example of replacement or succession,if you will. Potentially, every 4 yeras we replace our chief executive. We have been doing so for over 200 years. Through war( Roosevelt to Truman ) assasination- Lincoln, Garfield, McKinley and Kennedy; death, Roosevelt, Harrison, Harding ; the office changes hands. Often it is controversial. Try the 1876 contest between Tilden and Hayes before you leap to any conclusions.
The system has worked, not always to our liking, but it has worked. Our head of state can be replaced so perhaps we should be careful not to toot, toot our own horn so loudly.
One small personal example, actually one example that was repeated. Way back in 1979, my company prepared to transfer to a somewhat distant locale. Mrs THT and I were quite active in our church and that made our departure more difficult. I will confess to feeling a bit smug about the positions I held and thought how will they do without me. I somehow forgot that the church was 100 years old and, just maybe would carry on. It did.
Fast forward some 13 years. Same church, a bit greater position of leadership and another job transfer. Imagine my feeling when I jokingly told someone in a meeting how easy I wold be to replace. Another person responded, I don’t know about that and actually was not kidding. Proud was I, oh yeah. Again was I replaceable,see previous lesson. Seemed almost as if I were being taught a spiritual lesson to not be overly enamored with myself. Still working on it some, not so much as before.
Not nearly as proud of my humility, either. Ha!
According to some, both in the media and in government, indeed we are. Om of the latest to opine is Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood. The Secretary made his comments to the Columbus, Oh. Dispatch newspaper in response to criticism of the President making 5 appearance on Sunday news shows this past week. He said”trash talk” on conservative talk radio and tv shows( hint: Limbaugh and Beck although he did not name anyone).He said that the nation’s ability to solve its big problems is being impeded.
“‘He( Obama) can’t even compete with all this stuff that people are saying about him, so the idea that he did five interviews Sunday, that’s just miniscule compared to the kind of trash talk that goes on all week prior to that.”
“All of this background, all of this trash talk in the background, it does not contribute to civil discourse…”
Now , pay close attention to this next response and see what comes to mind( Does the term Fairness Doctrine sound familiar?). He was asked if he could envision any changes in the media that might reverse this trend of incivility.His response,”In a word, no.Unless the people decide…to shut it off, to turn it off.” Inadvertently, he mat have said more than he intended. If people don’t want to hear or watch Limbaugh or Beck, et. al, they can watch Olbermann or Maddow or Cooper or listen to Air America. Apparently, th have not made that choice , in significant numbers, at least to this point.
One other thought. What level of discourse is acceptable and who decides. Perhaps Mr LaHood should check out some of the criticism that Lincoln faced and see how civil that was.
I just finished an excellent book written some 50+ years ago by noted author Jim Bishop. The book was entitled The Day Lincoln Was Shot . Mr Bishop subsequently wrote a similar book about the assassination of President Kennedy. Much of the information was at least familiar to me and some very well known.Things like the who, the what, the where and to a degree, the why are somewhat common knowledge.
I was still very intrigued by the thoroughness of Mr Bishop’s work (research of a number of years) and the ability to immerse this reader in 19th century Washington, D C. and its environs.
He began the book early in the morning of April 14,1865. Approximately, 25 and one half hours later, it ended with Mr Lincoln’s death and a brief epilogue detailing what happened to those involved most intimately with the plot and its consummation.
Perhaps, what intrigued me most was the small details, things that went unnoticed at the time, but which played a vital role in what transpired. There were many but I will attempt to discuss only a few of them.
As you read these, attempt to place them in the context of the time and allow yourself to wonder, if they had been just slightly different, would the tragedy have still occurred.
Some days before April 14th, a small group had reserved seats for a play at Ford’s Theatre. They failed to show by the end of act I, so as was theatre policy, their seats were given to someone else. When the party finally arrived, the ticket seller Thomas Raybold was chagrined and attempted to atone. As fate would have it, the presidential box was the only one available. When he arrived with his partyMr Raybold, iscovered the door was locked but did not attempt ocate a key. Employing somewhat relentless force, he managed to break the lock and seat his patrons. In the excitement, he forgot about the broken lock on the presidential box and did not report it.Some four weeks and three days later, a man named Booth would have easy access.
The second instance involves a law enforcement officer named John F Parker, a rather dissolute man with an inferior work record. He was assigned to the 4PM -12 midnight shift as Mr Lincoln’s protection . For starters he was three hours late that night and was described at one point as half- amused, half-blank that evening. After getting Mr Lincoln and his party settled, he manned his post outside for an hour or so. At 9 pm became bored, went outside and invited an acquaintance next door for a drink. Mr ;Lincoln’s box was thus unprotected.He was not seen again until 10am on April 15th. He was sent home and remained a policeman in good standing for three years.
And yes, April 14th was Good Friday that year. The vagaries of history are rich indeed. Do you not wonder if those referred to above, along with others similar to them had any realization of the part they played in the death of a president. It seems proven again, that history that is well written trumps fiction most any day.
As I write, President Obama is speaking to a joint session of Congress. I wish, I really do, that I could stand to watch and listen. My normally sane wife is actually absorbing this stuff through the miracle of television without a breather.Amazing! I can only hope that there is no long term ill effect from prolonged exposure to the words that are emanating from Mr Obama.
I watched a few moments and was admittedly overcome just watching Biden and Pelosi preside over the love fest. It seem that every other sentence brought great applause or a standing ovation. Wonder if there is a whoopee cushion in each chair to make people stand as soon as they sit down? Or do their districts get more earmarks the more they stand up? Just wondering.
Among the things I heard was that we will cure cancer in our time(applause) close Gitmo(applause- previously announced by the way), have more troops(Afghanistan, anyone) and my favorite, drum roll please, we have accomplished more in 30 days on health care than in the last decade.Truly, he must be Washington and Lincoln combined. Wait, something even better and this too elicited a standing ovation. I know that every American sitting here tonight loves this country and wants it to succeed. Now if that isn’t a profound statement. Without knowing the official statistics, I am sure he set a record for most applause and most ovations.
What a great country- bet Chris Matthews’ leg is really tingling.Wish I could listen to the analysts , but they probably either fainted or were too moved too say anything.But, this is why cable and the internet exist, to prevent needless overexposure to eloquence.At least they didn’t preempt NCIS.
George Washington was and is, many things to many people.We all know or should know a lot of facts about him and along with Lincoln,we all should at least one book about him. So, what can one say that has not been said before and with doubtless, greater clarity and literary skill. Answer, probably nothing at all. I Think it wise to look back periodically at people such as George Washington, to revisit their era and refresh our minds about what we really know about the first president.
As we know, he was a military leader, a planter, a surveyor as well as president. The first thing I take note of is that he was not, however, a politician. He would warn future generations about political parties among other things in his farewell address(more on that later).He married a wealthy widow, Martha Dandridge Custis, after a whirlwind courtship of less than on e month. Their marriage,which lasted 40 years, occurred at her home, known as The White House.
It is fashionable today to note that he was not a great military leader during the Revolution War( was almost captured once) but rather more of a lucky one. Probably, so it is said, without French assistance, he wold have lost. There is doubtless some truth there.I prefer to think of him as one who lead, one who inspired and one who persevered against overwhelming odds.
He was a reluctant President, particularly so in the acceptance of a second term when he could have been king or emperor or whatever he chose. We owe him, among much else, for the term,”Mr President” when it could have easily have tilted towards a monarchical form of address.
He forcefully refused a third term and issued his famous farewell address, which actually was published as an open letter in the newspaper on September 19,1796( my birthday). What is even m,ore noteworthy is that it draws on a letter written but not published in 1792, when he almost retired.
Three main elements make up the address, one being the warning about political parties. He well foresaw the part factionalism would play in the future.He warned against entangling foreign alliances, a problem already developing in his day. Thirdly was a section on morality and religion; from this I will quote:
Whatever may be conceded to the influence of education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect, that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.
Truly, as Henry Lee said at his funeral, that of all Americans, “he was first in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen.”
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