Abraham Lincoln

Constitution Day Reminds Us Of When We Had Statesmen!

Today is Constitution Day, the celebration of the signing of the US Constitution on September 17, 1787, after four long, arduous months of the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia.

It also reminds us of the great statesmen we had two centuries ago, who overcame disputes and conflicts to do what needed to be done for the nation and its future.

When one looks at the sad reality of two Republican Presidential debates so far, and the lack of statesmanship demonstrated, it is very depressing, as we do not have any sign that the party of Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt and Dwight D. Eisenhower is capable of dealing with the domestic and foreign policy issues facing the nation in 2015.

Sure, some of the contenders in the CNN and the earlier Fox News debate come across as “better” than the others, but except for John Kasich, and possibly Jeb Bush, none of them possess real Presidential credibility, while at the least, Hillary Clinton and, if he runs, Joe Biden,  on the Democratic side, display such credibility.

We have a long way to go in the 2016 Presidential campaign, but we are not likely to find another James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, Benjamin Franklin, Roger Sherman or William Paterson arising to give us hope that statesmanship is widely available!

Republican Party History: Key Dates Of 1860, 1912, 1964, 2016—the 52 Year Syndrome!

The Republican has had a long, controversial history since its founding in 1854 as a party opposed to the expansion of slavery, and containing within itself, those opposed to the institution of slavery itself.

After only six years, the Republican Party reached majority control of both houses of Congress and the White House, with Abraham Lincoln.

From then until 52 years later, 1912, the GOP dominated American politics, except in the South, where the Democrats prevailed.

In 1912, the party split between former President Theodore Roosevelt, an extremely popular and path breaking President, the greatest Republican President since Lincoln, and the incumbent President, William Howard Taft, who was supported by conservatives of the time against TR’s Progressive Party challenge, which led to Taft only winning two states and 23 percent of the national popular vote, and putting Democrat Woodrow Wilson in the White House.

While the Republicans recovered in the 1920s, and almost defeated Wilson in 1916 with their nominee, Charles Evans Hughes, the Great Depression decimated the Republican Party, and the Democrats became the majority party, while the Republicans continued to battle between moderates and conservatives, with the moderates winning the nominations for President, until finally, Senator Barry Goldwater defeated the Establishment  forces led by New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller in 1964, 52 years after the earlier collapse.  Goldwater went on to lose the popular vote in a two way race by a larger margin than ever in American history, with Lyndon B. Johnson winning over 61 percent of the national vote.

This massive defeat did not end the civil war in the GOP, with Gerald Ford just barely winning the nomination over Ronald Reagan in 1976, and losing a very close race to Jimmy Carter.  But Reagan then won the White House, and the right wing felt it was in its glory, although Reagan was, actually, very unpredictable in his policies and views, and would today, probably be rejected by the extreme right wing in control of the GOP in 2015.

The right wing was unhappy with George H. W. Bush, Bob Dole, George W. Bush, John McCain and Mitt Romney as insufficiently conservative, and now there is full scale civil war in the GOP, including revolts against Speaker of the House John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.  The rise of Donald Trump, Dr. Benjamin Carson, and Carly Fiorina, all non office holders, demonstrates the right wing desire to fight the GOP establishment, but what it means is certain defeat in 2016.

Likely, no matter who is nominated, the Republican Party is, seemingly, at a 52 year mark, again ready to implode upon itself, and give the Democrats long term control of the Presidency, as the situation now appears!

Authenticity, Compassion, Experience, Great Debater And Orator: Vice President Joe Biden!

The saga around Vice President Joe Biden continues, as he wrestles with the issue of whether he should run for President in 2016.

Joe Biden has tried to deal with and cope with the death of his beloved son, Beau Biden on May 30, and he has said he cannot, at this point, commit himself to the energy and the “fire in the belly” needed to run for President.

But history tells us that Abraham Lincoln and Calvin Coolidge went on with their responsibilities after losing their sons in their time in office.

Also, Joe Biden is still Vice President, and has duties and responsibilities he meets, despite his mourning of his son.

And, were anything to happen to Barack Obama, Joe Biden is a heartbeat away from the Presidency, and would have to meet his responsibilities despite his son’s death.

What if Joe Biden had decided to enter the race six months ago?  Would he have withdrawn from the race after his son’s passing?  That is hard to imagine.

Particularly now, at a time when Hillary Clinton is losing public support in polls, is the time for Joe Biden to come to the rescue of the Democratic party brand, as his chances of becoming President are far better than Bernie Sanders, who would have great trouble overcoming his “socialist” connection, even though it is no threat in reality.  But ignorant voters might think that Bernie was a “Communist”, sad to say.  So Joe Biden is the best alternative at a time when Hillary seems to be in decline!  So, “run, Joe, run”!

Joe Biden has authenticity, something voters are looking for.  He has compassion, a crucial matter at any time.  He has 44 years experience by 2016, more than ANY political leader or President or candidate in all of American history.  He is a great debater and orator, and proved his debating abilities against Sarah Palin, Paul Ryan, and even was said to have done better than Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama in 2008, although he had no way to overcome their “star” image.

And now, he is not just a young senator as in 1988, or having to compete against a former First Lady and a new Senator who had great public appeal, as in 2008. Instead, he is VICE PRESIDENT Joe Biden, considered the most active and intimately involved in decision making, and yet ready and willing to disagree with the President and keep Barack Obama’s respect and admiration!  He is beloved by millions of Americans who think he can best perpetuate the Obama legacy, while having his own independent mind and goals!

Presidents Who Had More Than One Vice President While In Office, And Two Presidents Who Shared A Vice President With Another President

America has had 43 Presidents, with Grover Cleveland having two non consecutive terms in office, being the 22nd and 24th Presidents, therefore making Barack Obama President Number 44.

At the same time, we have had 47 Vice Presidents, with two serving under two Presidents, and a total of nine Presidents who had more than one Vice President while in office.

George Clinton served as the second Vice President under Thomas Jefferson and the first term Vice President under James Madison.

John C. Calhoun served as the Vice President under John Quincy Adams and the first term Vice President under Adams’ successor in the Presidency, Andrew Jackson.

Thomas Jefferson had two Vice Presidents, Aaron Burr and George Clinton.

James Madison had two Vice Presidents, George Clinton and Elbridge Gerry.

Andrew Jackson had two Vice Presidents, John C. Calhoun and Martin Van Buren.

Abraham Lincoln had two Vice Presidents, Hannibal Hamlin and Andrew Johnson.

Ulysses S. Grant had two Vice Presidents, Schuyler Colfax and Henry Wilson.

Grover Cleveland had two Vice Presidents, Thomas A. Hendricks, and Adlai Stevenson I.

William McKinley had two Vice Presidents, Garret Hobart and Theodore Roosevelt.

Franklin D. Roosevelt had three Vice Presidents in his four terms of office—John Nance Garner, Henry A. Wallace, and Harry S. Truman.

Finally, Richard Nixon had two Vice Presidents, Spiro T. Agnew and Gerald R. Ford.

Happy 107th Birthday, President Lyndon B. Johnson!

107 years ago today, President Lyndon B. Johnson was born, destined to have a career that would change the lives of more Americans than any other President, including Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Many will remind us of the disastrous Vietnam War, which LBJ waged, and which forced him out of office, giving up a chance to be only the second President to serve more than eight years, the only one doing so being FDR!

Many will point out that LBJ is accused of being involved in the assassination plot against John F. Kennedy, well spread by several authors, but still seen as highly speculative.

Many will tell us of the statements that LBJ was possibly the most corrupt President in American history, and the one who enriched his own fortune more than any other, without any positive proof of their allegations.

Many will look to find other chinks in the armor of the 36th President, and certainly, LBJ would be the first to declare his own imperfections, including his tendency to use racist Southern terms for African Americans, common in Dixie in his lifetime.

But even with whatever shortcomings there were, and whatever mostly unprovable accusations that are lodged against him, there is certainly another LBJ–the man who used the powers of his office to better the lives of more Americans—-the elderly, the sick, the poor, the uneducated, the ethnic minorities, deprived whites, women—-than any President before him, and unmatched by any President since his time.

The Great Society did so much good, much of it still with us 50 years later, a goal that LBJ had, to match and surpass his “idol”, FDR, and his New Deal programs of 30 years earlier.

Poverty was cut dramatically in the time of LBJ; more people had a chance to get an education than ever before; Medicare and Medicaid came into being, providing a “safety net” added to the Social Security programs of FDR; Civil Rights laws finally fulfilled the purpose of what Abraham Lincoln had promoted a century earlier; the environment, consumer protection, transportation and urban affairs improvement became the priority of the federal government; public radio and television offered enlightenment and still do; and we saw the beginnings of opportunity for top positions in the federal government for ethnic minorities who had never played a role in government affairs before.

So despite obvious faults and shortcomings, Happy 107th Birthday, Mr. President!

“Non Politicians”–Presidential Winners And A Few Presidential Nominees

With three Republican Presidential candidates for 2016 being “non politicians”, people who have never served in a government position on the city, state or national level, the issue arises: have there been any other such candidates in the past?

It turns out that we have had several military generals who never served in a civilian position, that could qualify as “non politicians”.

This includes the following:

Zachary Taylor 1848 (Mexican War)

Winfield Scott 1852 (Mexican War)

George McClellan 1864 (Civil War)

Ulysses S. Grant 1868, 1872 (Civil War)

Winfield Scott Hancock 1880 (Civil War)

Taylor and Grant were elected, while Scott, McClellan, and Hancock were defeated in their attempts to become President.

McClellan did serve as Governor of New Jersey from 1878-1881, AFTER running for President against Abraham Lincoln.  But Taylor, Scott, Grant and Hancock never ran for public office.

Additionally, Horace Greeley, the New York Tribune publisher, ran for President in 1872, as the candidate of the Democratic Party and the breakaway group in the Republican Party opposed to Grant’s reelection, known as the “Liberal Republicans”.  He served very briefly as an appointed member of the House of Representatives, but not by vote of the people, but rather a choice of Whig Party leaders to fill a short term replacement before the election for the next term in Congress.  He served a total of only three months from December 1848 to March 1849, and did not run for the New York City seat.  Technically, one could say he had that political experience, but so little in time, that he could be seen as basically a “non politician” when he ran for President 24 years later, although being the editor of the New York Tribune was certainly “political” in nature.

Then we have Wall Street industrialist and businessman Wendell Willkie, who ran against Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1940, after stirring the Republican National Convention and overcoming much better known Presidential candidates, but while running a good race, he lost, and then supported the World War II effort and cooperated with FDR until Willkie died in late 1944.

And finally, we have billionaire Ross Perot, who ran for President as an independent in 1992 and as the Reform Party candidate in 1996.

So only Zachary Taylor and Ulysses S. Grant were “non politicians” who were elected President.

The odds of Donald Trump, Carly Fiorina, or Dr. Benjamin Carson being elected President in 2016, therefore, are astronomical!

Three Quirks Of Presidential Election History: 1872, 1912, 1940

We are now fully in Presidential election season, with constant focus on the candidates and the issues.

But when one looks back to Presidential election history, one discovers so called “quirks” in the 1872, 1912, and particularly the 1940 presidential election cycles.

In 1872, President Ulysses S. Grant, seeking a second term, faced Democratic and “Liberal Republican” Presidential nominee Horace Greeley, the editor of the famous New York Tribune newspaper, which had had such a dramatic effect on the issue of slavery and the evolution of the Republican Party. Greeley had also promoted Abraham Lincoln’s nomination in 1860.

Greeley, who was quirky in his personal life, seen by many as an “oddball”, became the candidate of so called “Liberal Republicans” who did not like the policies and actions of the Grant Presidency.

Of course, Grant defeated him, but only 24 days later, before the Electoral College could meet and cast its official votes, Greeley died, marking the only time that a Presidential candidate died during or after an election campaign, but before the inauguration. To top off the tragedy, Greeley’s wife had died a week before the election, and therefore, Greeley died only 30 days after his wife had passed away. Imagine if Greeley had won over Grant, which would have necessitated his Vice Presidential running mate, Benjamin Gratz Brown, to become the President-elect!

In 1912, President William Howard Taft was in a three way race with former President Theodore Roosevelt on the Progressive (Bull Moose) Party line, and with Democratic nominee Woodrow Wilson, who would win the three way contest.

But six days before the election, Vice President James Sherman died in office, so when the Electoral College met, it was agreed that Columbia University President Nicholas Murray Butler would be substituted on the Electoral College ballot to receive the 8 electoral votes for Vice President that Taft received for President. This is the only time a sitting Vice President or even Vice Presidential candidate died during the election campaign or before the inauguration.

And in 1940, Businessman Wendell Willkie was nominated for President by the Republican Party to run against Franklin D. Roosevelt, seeking a third term in the White House. Senator Charles McNary of Oregon was chosen as Willkie’s running mate for Vice President.

FDR went on to win, but meanwhile, in an oddity, it turned out that McNary died in February 1944, and Willkie died in October 1944, therefore marking the only time that an entire Presidential ticket, luckily the losing one, failed to survive the term that they were competing to serve in. Luckily so for the nation, as that would have required the Secretary of State for Willkie to have taken over just before the 1944 election, and at a crucial time in World War II!

Jimmy Carter “Mania” Will Begin Upon His Passing, As With Harry Truman After His Death In 1972!

The news that former President Jimmy Carter has been diagnosed with cancer, and that it is spreading, brings historians and all decent Americans to react with shock, and recognition that the 39th President has been regularly trashed in news media and by politicians.

There was a past President who faced 20 years of ridicule and dismissive attitudes until his death. Then, all of a sudden, there was recognition that he had been mistreated, and that his historic significance was unappreciated in his lifetime.

That man was Harry Truman, the 33rd President.

Also, when thinking back, similar ridicule and condemnation was visited upon Abraham Lincoln until his tragic assassination.

No one is trying to say that Jimmy Carter will ever rank with Harry Truman and Abraham Lincoln, far from it!

But Jimmy Carter has suffered in reputation for so long, because of the mythology that has been built up around Ronald Reagan, and during an era where politicians have distorted the record and accomplishments of Reagan, at the expense of Carter.

There will be plenty of time to reassess Jimmy Carter, and his historical image will improve dramatically as a result.

One can expect over the next five to ten years, there will be “Carter Mania”, just as there was “Truman Mania” for five to ten years after his death in 1972.

Meanwhile, let us hope for a miraculous recovery for Jimmy Carter, and if that is not to be, that he not suffer with great pain as he leaves us, after the longest retirement of any President of the United States.

The End Of A Dangerous Situation: The Resignation Of Richard Nixon In 1974

When one looks back at crises in American history, the top of the list are the Civil War, the Great Depression, Pearl Harbor, and the Cuban Missile Crisis up to that time in our history.

But in all four situations mentioned, we had a strong, decisive President who handled the situation extremely well.

We were fortunate to have Abraham Lincoln, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and John F. Kennedy as our Presidents at the times of these crises.

But once one goes beyond these four transformational moments in our history, then we come to the Watergate scandal and the resignation of Richard Nixon on this day 41 years ago.

Yes, the argument can be made that Richard Nixon had a dramatic and positive effect on areas of domestic and foreign policy, during his five and a half years as President.

But Richard Nixon was also, without question, the most corrupt, dangerous President we had ever had in our history, bar none.

Richard Nixon had mental issues, and saw opponents as enemies, and seemed willing and able to allow aides to abuse power, and for himself to set out to destroy opposition in any way possible.

There was concern in the tense times of the summer of 1974 that Nixon might try to declare martial law, and his Chief of Staff, Alexander Haig, had already told the Pentagon to ignore any potential order from Nixon to suspend the Constitution, which would have established a dictatorship.

This is not to say that Nixon actually would have done so, as he was well aware of the need to do what he could to protect his damaged legacy in history, in any way that he could, but still, the threat, and the sense of mental instability was terrifying at the time.

And this lesson of Richard Nixon makes clear that the news media must be aggressive in pursuing the truth about the true character of all Presidential candidates, and despite attacks, make us aware of their shortcomings, particularly in the mental health area, as the nation cannot afford to elect a man or woman who might be dangerous to our national security and safety due to mental instability.

No one is entitled to be President, and we do not need an unstable person holding the powers of the most significant political position in the entire world!

Political Campaign Debates’ Impact On American History

Do political campaign debates matter?

Absolutely, and the first such case is Abraham Lincoln Vs. Stephen Douglas in the Illinois Senate race of 1858, which helped elevate Lincoln to the Presidency, although losing the Senate seat due to the Democrats controlling the state legislature, and choosing incumbent Democrat Douglas for the new term of office.

Since Presidential debates came about in 1960, and then revived starting in 1976, there have been moments when they really mattered, even if often boring, including:

1960–Richard Nixon sweating and looking tense, while John F. Kennedy smiled, looked tanned, was relaxed.

1976–Gerald Ford says Poland is a free nation, which helps to elect Jimmy Carter in close race.

1980–Ronald Reagan talks about the “Misery Index” and says “Are you better off than you were four years ago?”, and defeats Jimmy Carter.

1984—Ronald Reagan says he will not use age as an issue to show the “youth and inexperience” of opponent Walter Mondale, who he defeats.

1988—Vice Presidential nominee Lloyd Bentsen tells opponent Dan Quayle that he is not another John F. Kennedy, and sets the image of Quayle for all time as an incompetent Vice President, and have no chance to be President when he decides to run in 1996.

1992—George H. W. Bush looks constantly at his watch, during the debate with Bill Clinton, who defeats him, and also Ross Perot.

2000–Al Gore walks over to George W. Bush as he answers question, comes across as a weird action, and also breathes deeply at Bush responses, making Gore seem haughty and condescending.

2008—Sarah Palin does an embarrassing performance in Vice Presidential debate with Joe Biden, harms John McCain campaign.

2012–In Republican Presidential candidate debates, Rick Perry cannot remember the three agencies of government he wishes to eliminate, which ends his candidacy.

2012—Joe Biden laughs at Paul Ryan statements in Vice Presidential debate, weakens Ryan image as Mitt Romney’s running mate.

Also, political campaign debates draw attention to the race, and there will be many Presidential debates starting tonight for the Republicans, and in October for the Democrats.