Tarheeltalker

Who is the President of the world?

Monday, February 21 is Presidents Day. Ostensibly  it is a day set aside to honor two of the greatest, if not the greatest of the 43 men who have served in that office.The 42nd president as we all  know was William Jefferson Blythe Clinton from Hope, AR. Mr Clinton has been called many things by friend and foe alike. He may now have acquired the ultimate title, “President of the World.”

Thanks to his new bff, Chris Matthews (alias tingles) , that is the title of a special set to air on Presidents Day. Matthews spent time with Clinton on  a veritable  whirlwind week  chock full of all the wonderful things in which he is involved. I will acknowledge that Mr Clinton has done some  very good things since leaving office, partnering with George H W Bush in humanitarian activities, pushed for aid to Haiti, just to name a few. His global initiative has  also been quite active.

This program and its title raises a few questions. The title itself may be the most significant. Come on, fellows. No one merits such a designation. Perhaps the title is meant to catch one;s attention or maybe it is just a blatant example of fawning from a network who has done it before. Remember the tingle that ran up a newsman’s  leg when a certain president spoke; the same president that he was bound to help succeed. Who was that gentleman? Why the same president often spoke of as the One. Have we changed our allegiances?

Have we turned our back on the individual often called the greatest former preside, Jimmy Carter? He too has been a prolific traveler abroad since leaving office in 1981. He has monitored  elections, met with many world leaders and also started the well-known Carter Center in Atlanta.

Now, if were to attempt to compare the two men since they left office, there would be strong similarities. Could the main difference be that along the way Mr Clinton  has become quite wealthy and maybe, just maybe seeks out the spotlight a bit more? Bet he’s a lot more fun to travel with as well.By the way, remember that only two of these three presidents have won the Nobel peace Prize. Could this have anything to do with that, Nah!

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February 3, 2011 Posted by | Media | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Will Egypt be another Iran?

The ongoing turmoil in Egypt is in its sixth day with no obvious end in sight and it is far too early to know the outcome. Perhaps  even informed speculation is  premature. But speculate we do for many reasons. Egypt is a major American ally and has been for  several years, at least back to the Carter presidency.( More on the  Carter connection a bit later.) Egypt is the most populous and probably most influential Arab country with a very large army and air force and is  a very close neighbor of Israel. And so we  wonder about many things. How did this uprising or revolution begin? Was there a trigger event? What ( not if) outside influences are involved?  Vice-president Biden’s comments to the contrary, Mubarak seems unlikely to survive. If he goes, then what or who? Who do we  favor, the government or those opposing the government?

The UK Daily Telegraph has an article today  stating that we have backed Egyptian dissidents who have worked on regime change for at least three years, ostensibly trying to bring about a democratic government. Of course in its 6,000 year history Egypt has never had such  a government  and is unlikely to have one any time soon.

Much of the above referenced speculation is drawing parallels between this uprising and the Iranian hostage crisis  of 1979. The result of course was an Iran with which we still have issues. Some are calling this a Carter moment for Obama, i.e. Carter”lost” Iran and Obama could be well on his way to “losing” Egypt.

Meanwhile the turmoil, including  rioting, looting, organized prison breaks etc continues. And at least three countries, Israel, Turkey and the United States have begun evacuating their citizens with others preparing to do likewise.

The turmoil will eventually end  and answers to most if not all of our questions  will come. But what kind of outcome will that be?

January 30, 2011 Posted by | International politics | , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Sometimes it’s Hard Being First Lady

The First Lady has finally returned from Spain, but the trip remains quite  a topic of conversation. Many, including yours truly, have sounded off on the trip to one degree or another. From what I read, the White House was really caught off guard by the criticism. But that in itself does not speak very well of the Administration’s political instincts.

To wit, consider these items. The First Lady filmed a commercial a couple of months ago that encouraged Americans to vacation  on the Gulf Coast. The area  is a wonderful place to visit and it would a real boon to the  hard hit economy. Secondly, the President, doing  a passable Jimmy Carter imitation has repeatedly spoken of the need for sacrifice. The economy is bad, we all to tighten our belts, etc, etc. Keep in mind  also the fact that appearances matter quite  a bit. Therefore, when Mrs Obama heads to Spain, daughter in tow and parties at a luxurious Mediterranean resort what is the message being sent? Is she entitled to  vacation with her daughter? Sure, but the pictures one saw of their time there had to be very had to juxtapose with a President demanding sacrifice and an American economy that is not recovering. Was all of the cost paid by the taxpayers, no, but much of it was and much more than a stateside vacation would have cost.

What is amusing, no, not amusing, actually hilarious is how hard the Democrats and their people are working to justify/spin the trip. Just listen to some of the explanations and rationales being offered up. From political guru David Axelrod comes  this. She wanted to take her daughter on  a trip to celebrate another little girl’s birthday and there aren’t a lot of places to go and get privacy. She’s a good mom and wanted to do something with her daughter. From DNC chair Tim Kaine  spouted the same stuff about being a good mom( sounded coordinated a little to me) and added it was a good opportunity to give her daughter exposure to a  part of the world with which she was not familiar. Even better was this ABC reporter Cokie Roberts who even found it necessary to criticize Jacqueline Kennedy  on the side for taking frivolous vacations. This next from her just floored me though. The trip was  a boost to the Spanish economy that it really needed. Ms Roberts, are you really that out of touch? You are aware of course of huge parts of this country that could use an economic boost if that is why she went. And finally this last rationale. Former Chicago Sun-Times writer Lynn Sweet said that the trip was that one of Mrs Obama’s friends was gong through a rough time emotionally and she had promised to spend time with her. Good freakin’ grief! What else can one say?

August 10, 2010 Posted by | Media, Politics | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Accidental President”

Before you jump to conclusions, the title does not refer to George W Bush and  the 200o election. It refers to the first person to occupy the Presidency due to the death of  an elected President and it occurred in 1841. The name is John Tyler, the 10th president of the United States , who actually was somewhat well qualified for the office due to having served as U S Senator, congressman and governor of Virginia, the latter position following in his father’s footsteps.

The bio I read, authored by Edward P Crapol, significantly shorter than most presidential bios, but due to Tyler’s relative obscurity, was full of  information of which I was unaware. Historical rankings of presidents which began in 1948 with historian Arthur Schlesinger tend to rank  him in the bottom quartile except for a 2008  Time magazine list that ranked him 31st which was above  Barack Obama the 1st, aka Jimmy Carter.

His ranking perhaps suffers from the lack of a major crisis during his term  plus the fact that was never elected in his own right, not even receiving the nomination. His term still fascinated me, as seems to be the case with all presidents of whom I read. Guess I am just  a wanna be historian at heart.

So, what about Mr Tyler ? He was,as noted ,the first to succeed an elected president due to death and in that regard perhaps achieved his #1 accomplishment. The Constitution did not provide for automatic succession by the vice-president ( a curious thing in itself that was not officially rectified until amendment#25 was ratified in 1967) so Tyler was in uncharted waters. He, however acted decisively and took charge at once, being helped by already  having  a plan, just in case. Harrison, being elderly and not in the greatest of health, was perhaps not the greatest choice as  a candidate anyway. But Tyler, being forewarned and forearmed was prepared when tragedy struck. He acted decisively and by doing so set a number of precedents that were followed seven times in the next 122 years.  His actions  elevated the office of vice-president to  a much higher level and even more importantly showed that our form of government worked. After all, the country was still in its infancy and for a peaceful transition to occur was no small feat indeed. In fact, his actions were validated very quickly  Zachary Taylor died some  nine years later and was succeeded by Millard Fillmore.

I do not wish to belabor Tyler’s place in history nor bore those not so interested in him, so I shall break here and come back to our 10th president for  an additional post.

June 5, 2010 Posted by | History | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Barack Obama = Jimmy Carter

I never thought I would hear it again but sure enough I  did. Way back in the years of malaise known as the Carter presidency, Carter related a question and answer that he had with daughter Amy, then around 8 or 9 years of age. Prior to  a debate with candidate Ronald Reagan, Carter said he asked Amy what the most important issue was. She said she thought nuclear weapons.

Now, to be forever filed under the category of when will they ever learn is this response between President Obama and daughter Malia, age 11. Obama related the conversation the two had a few days ago when she asked him when are going to plug the hole Daddy. referring of course to the BP oil spill.

Now, Glenn Back chose to make fun of Obama’s daughter for which he rightfully apologized. My take on this is completely different.  I see it a s a perfectly legitimate question for her to ask. My problem is Obama bringing it up at his press conference, particularly when he has requested that his daughters be off-limits from the media spotlight. Can’t be both ways. I fault him for  whatever media furor there is. Somewhere along the line in the press conference preparation, someone probably should have shortstopped this response, unless it was off the cuff.

Second Obama/Carter comparison comes from none  other than Obama fanatic Chris Matthews who was disappointed in the press conference per se . He then drew an analogy that I had not heard. Some have tried to compare the oil spill to what Bush faced with Katrina, given the same locale, etc. Matthews drew a comparison between the oil spill and the Iranian hostage crisis that stretched out so painfully  and probably was a very significant factor in Carter’s election loss. Time will undoubtedly tell.

May 28, 2010 Posted by | Media, Politics | , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Old Rough but not Really Ready

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.

February 22, 2010 Posted by | History | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Obama, Carter and James Buchanan

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.

February 12, 2010 Posted by | Media, Politics | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Obama’s Mentor

Meet professor Chris Edley, the president’s Harvard law school professor. Dr Edley is now Dean of  the law school at the University of California. That’s the school located in Berkeley which should trigger all sorts of liberal connotations. That shall wait for another day. The professor was also a member of  the Clinton and Carter Administrations, so his Democrat bona fides are in order.

He has some interesting things to say about Obama, according to an article in The Times, reported by Giles Whittell. The professor is quite critical of senior White House staff, in particular Rahm Emanuel. Edley thinks that a sense of complacency has set in and staff  is not pushing nearly hard enough to get the President’s programs established. In fact, Edley has already intervened in a similar situation on Obama’s behalf. In the latter days of 2007, the professor was  called in by then Senator Obama  and promptly dismissed poicy positions drawn up as mediocre. He also pushed for Obama to be given more time to tink.One gets the impression that he would quite willing to repeat that intervention.

He even says or seems to say that there has been too much reliance on  Obama’s personality as  a method to persuade and even longs for good ole fashioned LBJ arm twisting. One thing I missed in the article. There seemed to be no  criticism of the President. It is his  staff  that is not serving him as they should. Two quick comments about that. It is Obama’s staff, he picked them- duh!  And is nothing ever the President’s fault? No, of course not. How silly of me, the fault is always with Bush. In fact , that  was re-iterated when the budget was announced. Anything bad about it is due to the last decade of  errors. Wait, was Bush president for a decade? Guess I missed that.

February 1, 2010 Posted by | Politics | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

A One Term President?

Just a few days ago, the president did an interview with Diane Sawyer of ABC. She happens to be one of the very few media people who I will tolerate for any length of time. Anyway,  the president said something very interesting. He said that he would rather be a very good one term president than a mediocre two term president. ( Paging Jimmy Carter, at least on the one term part.)

Let’s look at that statement for a moment. First though, a bit of history. Other than the pious Palestinian from Plains, the one term club includes George H W Bush, Herbert Hover and Martin van Buren.  Other than Carter, all were denied a second term by economic issues. The panic of 1837 domed Van Buren as he evidently lacked a Rahm( never waste  a good crisis) Emanuel to get him through the situation.

The point, which Sawyer did not seem to address, is that no president steps down voluntarily when doing a good job or even a mediocre one. We just do not see voluntary retirements from the Oval Office. Perhaps George Washington  I  guess, who could have served for life had he been willing. So, what did he mean by his comment? Maybe it was  just for effect, along with a later statement that he will continue ” full bore” to tackle the tough issues.

Perhaps it is time for the president to heed the words of an Elvis Presley song-a little less talk , a little more action.

January 28, 2010 Posted by | History, Politics | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Who’s Fighting Whose Wars?

Seems that a former senior CIA agent, Michael Scheuer, thinks we have some misplaced allegiances in the Middle East. Mr Scheuer was on  a C-Span call-in show  last Monday which degenerated into  an anti-Semitic gab fest.

Scheuer, with a number of callers agreed, thinks Israel is of no strategic importance to the United States. He also said that  American soldiers are dying in Iraq for the sake of Israel. He had this telling quote, ” Their association with us is a negative for the United States. Now that’s a fact. What you want about that fact is entirely different.” One more tidbit from Mr Scheuer. We should somehow “persuade”  Islamic terrorists who threaten us to” focus their anger” on Israel (as if they already do not)  and oppressive Middle Eastern regimes.

Wonder who he thinks is our most staunch ally in the Middle East, as well as the only thing country even close to having a freely elected government. Uh, Iran, Syria, Egypt, Saudi Arabia. None seem to ring a bell. As for the part about our troops dying for Israel, may we return briefly to Desert  Storm in 1991. If memory serves, we fought that war to liberate Kuwait and by extension keep Hussein away from Saudi Arabia. Israel suffered the indignity of repeated scud missile attacks without provocation. I also seem to remember our asking them to hold off on retaliation ( defend  themselves) which they did. Not sure of Mr Scheuer’s thoughts on that matter.

Add the above to this next Obama administration maneuver. Middle East envoy George Mitchell is heading over to do some tough talking to the Israelis( must have been reading from the playbook of the Palestinian from Plains) about restarting peace negotiations. He threatened a freeze in U S aid to Israel if  satisfactory progress is not made. No wonder that polls indicate  a large majority of Israelis are nervous about the state of relations with us.

Wonder if the letters Mitchell is bringing with him bring instructions about the division of Jerusalem as well as the two-state solution. Methinks Israel is right to be ill at ease. For greater discussion of  the issues and insight as to why we should have a strong relationship with Israel, visit   Joel Rosenberg’s blog .It  gives one  a good perspective on Israel in particular as well as the Middle East as a whole.

Shalom!

January 9, 2010 Posted by | International politics, Media | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment