Bill Clinton

The PBS “Roosevelts” Series Inspires Need For Progressive Leadership To Stop New “Gilded Age”!

The Ken Burns PBS series, “The Roosevelts”, started on Sunday night and continues through Saturday night, a 14 hour event, and is easily the best documentary presented on PBS in many years!

Seeing the story of Presidents Theodore Roosevelt and Franklin D. Roosevelt  and First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt inspired a desire in this author and blogger of the need for Progressive leadership of the type that TR and FDR and Eleanor represented, now in the 21st Century, to stop the abuses and damage that right wing conservatism has done, creating a new “Gilded Age’, and seeing wealthy billionaires wield power, and attempt fix elections, similar to JP Morgan and other millionaires at the time of TR in the White House.

But TR used the Presidency and federal power to crack down on unregulated capitalism, in what became known as the Progressive Era, and future Presidents of both parties, including Woodrow Wilson, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry Truman, Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama followed suit, but except for FDR and JFK, not in the same exciting vein and dynamic leadership that TR represented!

We now desperately need a new “Progressive Era”, but the right wing Supreme Court, picked by conservative Republicans, has done great damage, and the Congressional Republicans have made it very difficult for President Obama to accomplish many of his goals, although he has done a great deal that can be commended, despite strong obstructionism!

But to recognize the democratic nation that TR and FDR promoted, we need a massive change, and this series could have such an effect on the American psyche in the future, and we should all pray for that as the only way to advance democracy, justice, and true freedom in America in the future!

Barack Obama Success Versus The Public Opinion Polls

Barack Obama has been the most successful President in economic affairs in modern times, surpassing Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan.

So says the conservative journal FORBES, and who is to argue with them coming up with this conclusion?

Obama has presided over the greatest stock market growth in American history, but also has seen tremendous economic expansion and creation of jobs not seen since the Clinton Administration.

Of course, unemployment is still 6.1 percent and many people have dropped out of the job market, and unemployment compensation has not been extended.

And of course, the minimum wage has not been increased, and should be, if based on the cost of living, would be triple what it is now–$7.25 an hour!

Infrastructure spending is essential, but has been prevented by the Republican Party.

The point is that despite the inherited Great Recession, Barack Obama has done miracles on the economy, and has succeeded in killing more Muslim terrorists than anyone else, including Osama Bin Laden and Libya’s dictator, Muamarr Gaddafi.

And yet, despite all this and much more, recent public opinion polls show a low point in the 30s for Obama, including one third disillusioned Democrats.

But it is clear that these polls are not to be relied on or believed, and it is obvious that those polled do not understand what has happened, and are clueless as to public affairs, and are more reacting to the right wing attacks on Obama, rather than using their own intellectual abilities.  It is scary how a large portion of the nation is ignorant, and ill informed!

The Top 30 Presidential Cabinet Officers In American History

Presidents do not accomplish their goals and policies on their own, but rather depend on the best advice and counsel of their cabinet members.

Since the Presidential Cabinet idea was formulated by George Washington and the first Congress under the Constitution, we have had the creation over time of 15 Cabinet agencies, and some of those who have held Cabinet posts under Presidents have had a dramatic impact on their times.

Below is a list of what the author believes are those 30 Cabinet officers who have had the greatest effect on American history, without ranking them in any order:

Alexander Hamilton, Secretary of the Treasury under George Washington

Albert Gallatin, Secretary of the Treasury under Thomas Jefferson and James Madison

John Quincy Adams, Secretary of State under James Monroe

William Seward, Secretary of State under Abraham Lincoln and Andrew Johnson

Hamilton Fish, Secretary of State under Ulysses S. Grant

Carl Schurz, Secretary of the Interior under Rutherford B. Hayes

John Hay, Secretary of State under William McKinley and Theodore Roosevelt

James Wilson, Secretary of Agriculture under William McKinley, Theodore Roosevelt, and William Howard Taft

Franklin K. Lane, Secretary of the Interior under Woodrow Wilson

Charles Evans Hughes, Secretary of State under Warren G. Harding and Calvin Coolidge

Herbert Hoover, Secretary of Commerce under Warren G. Harding and Calvin Coolidge

Cordell Hull, Secretary of State under Franklin D. Roosevelt

Harold Ickes, Secretary of the Interior under Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry Truman

Henry A. Wallace, Secretary of Agriculture under Franklin D. Roosevelt

Henry Morgenthau, Jr, Secretary of the Treasury under Franklin D. Roosevelt

Frances Perkins, Secretary of Labor under Franklin D. Roosevelt

George C. Marshall, Secretary of State under Harry Truman

Dean Acheson, Secretary of State under Harry Truman

Stewart Udall, Secretary of the Interior under John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson

Robert F. Kennedy, Attorney General under John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson

W. Willard Wirtz, Secretary of Labor under John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson

Henry Kissinger, Secretary of State under Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford

George Romney, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development under Richard Nixon

Cecil Andrus, Secretary of the Interior under Jimmy Carter

Elizabeth Dole, Secretary of Transportation under Ronald Reagan

Robert Reich, Secretary of Labor under Bill Clinton

Donna Shalala, Secretary of Health and Human Services under Bill Clinton

Bruce Babbitt, Secretary of the Interior under Bill Clinton

Richard Riley, Secretary of Education under Bill Clinton

Robert Gates, Secretary of Defense under George W. Bush and Barack Obama

Note that 25 Presidents and 12 of the 15 Cabinet Departments are included in this list. Nine Secretaries of State; three Secretaries of the Treasury; one Secretary of Defense; one Attorney General; six Secretaries of the Interior; two Secretaries of Agriculture; one Secretary of Commerce; three Secretaries of Labor; one Secretary of Health and Human Services; one Secretary of Housing and Urban Development; one Secretary of Transportation; and one Secretary of Education make up the list.

Also note that President Franklin D. Roosevelt had five cabinet members who made the list; Bill Clinton had four; and Harry Truman, John F. Kennedy, and Lyndon B. Johnson had three each!

40th Anniversary Of Richard Nixon Resignation, Due To Watergate Scandal

It is hard to believe, but it is now 40 years since Richard Nixon was forced out of the Presidency, due to the Watergate Scandal.

It was stunning that a President, who had won 49 of the 50 states, and all but 17 electoral votes, would be the only President to resign after only one year and almost seven months of his second term.

It was also amazing that Nixon was the only President facing impeachment, and resigning after the House Judiciary Committee, in a bipartisan vote, adopted three articles of impeachment, who truly deserved impeachment.

Andrew Johnson was wrongfully impeached and found not guilty in 1868, and Bill Clinton was to face the same circumstances and results in 1998-1999. And now, there is a threat of Barack Obama facing the same scenario next year, but with the same results assured.

The point was that Richard Nixon had actually been abusive of his powers as President, and had led a lawless administration unmatched before or since.

It is also a tragic story as, in reality, Richard Nixon had many accomplishments in foreign and domestic policy, many of which remain part of American life 40 years later, particularly so in domestic affairs, including the Environmental Protection Agency, Consumer Product Safety Commission, and Occupational Safety and Health Administration, among others.

The evaluation and interpretation of Richard Nixon will continue to be controversial, and a new HBO special, “Nixon on Nixon,” has been unveiled this week, demonstrating the man’s illegalities and prejudices and biases, straight from the Watergate tapes themselves. Additionally, a new book has been published with the revelation of these tapes, authored by historian Douglas Brinkley of Rice University, with the assistance of Professor Luke Nichter of Texas A & M University.

So Nixon will be written about for generations, both for the good he did, as well as the bad!

40 Years Since Impeachment Process Against Richard Nixon, And Now Impeachment Has Been Abused Against Bill Clinton And Barack Obama!

Forty years ago, in the waning days of the Richard Nixon Presidency, the House of Representatives began considering resolutions of impeachment against the 37th President.

That impeachment proceeding, leading to three articles of impeachment, was a bipartisan action by both Democrats and Republicans against a President out of control, and committing violations of his oath of office.

Therefore, with a bipartisan vote, the House Judiciary Committee recommended articles of impeachment against Nixon on the basis of obstruction of justice, abuse of power, and refusal to hand over evidence, in the form of tapes and other materials, to the Special Prosecutor investigating the Watergate Scandal.

Richard Nixon proceeded to resign after these resolutions passed, and with the knowledge that the Supreme Court, in an unanimous 8-0 vote a few days earlier, had demanded (US V. Richard Nixon) that the President hand over the Watergate tapes to the House of Representatives and the Special Prosecutor.

That impeachment proceeding was justifiable and necessary, but the move against Bill Clinton in 1998 was NOT justified, and neither is the impending movement, even acknowledged by the White House, against Barack Obama, that he has abused his executive powers with executive orders, even with far fewer such executive orders than previous Presidents! The first step toward impeachment of Obama is the vote of the House of Representatives, by party line vote yesterday, to sue the President for abusing his authority under the Constitution, a wholly political act with no justification!

Ironically, Obama is accused of abusing his powers, while at the same time being accused of being weak and indecisive in his conduct of foreign policy!

Both the Clinton impeachment and the pending Obama impeachment is purely partisan politics, a desire to besmirch two Presidents, who in many ways have achieved more in their terms of office than any recent Republican President, including the “knighted” and “holy” Ronald Reagan!

Presidents And Intelligence

A YouGov Survey on the past eight elected Presidents, therefore not including Gerald Ford, ranks their “intelligence” with unusual results.

The word “intelligent” has different meanings to different people.

Is it based on grades while in school?

Is it based on ability to get things done effectively?

Is it based on oratorical skill and charm and charisma?

Is it based on accomplishments in office?

Is it based on personal popularity with the American people?

Is it based on reaction to crises that arise?

Does being “intelligent” matter as much as other characteristics, including: honesty, experience, ability to inspire, boldness, and having a sense of humor?

What it comes down to is that how people react to Presidents is very personal, and trying to rank them on the word “intelligence” is simply extremely political in nature!

According to the YouGov poll, Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan are the two most “intelligent” of the eight recent Presidents, followed by Barack Obama and George H. W. Bush. Notice that the first two are also seen as most “successful”, while Obama, even under attack recently, looks better than the rest, and the senior Bush is remembered for the Persian Gulf War, which led him to an all time high public opinion poll rating of 91 percent.

The other four recent Presidents, generally seen as “failures”, or at least seen as negative, are in order: Jimmy Carter, Richard Nixon, Lyndon B. Johnson, and George W. Bush.

Interestingly, George W, Bush and Barack Obama have the highest percentage, both 17 percent, thinking they are not intelligent at all! This is purely emotion based on opposition that each has had from his critics!

What it comes down to is that this poll is basically useless, as it fails to look at historical reality and the record of each President!

If that was done, one could argue that LBJ should rank the highest in pure accomplishment in domestic affairs, in a way that still affects us, while Richard Nixon would rank highest in pure accomplishment in foreign policy, despite his many other shortcomings, including Watergate.

In pure native intelligence, based on information we have on their backgrounds, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter would rank the highest.

Ronald Reagan has been over inflated in image, while George H. W. Bush has been underrated for his accomplishments.

Barack Obama cannot be adequately evaluated while in office, while George W. Bush, ranking last, seems likely to remain that way for the long run!

Left In Democratic Party Not Comfortable With Hillary Clinton, Looking Elsewhere For Primary Challenge!

Hillary Clinton may be the runaway favorite in most polls for the Democratic Presidential nomination for 2016, but we have never seen a non-incumbent to compete without an opponent in their party’s battle for the Presidential nomination.

So we are starting to feel, see, and sense that there will be challengers to Hillary, and the speculation has become wide and deep that any or some of the following will, indeed, challenge the former Secretary of State, Senator, and First Lady:

Vice President Joe Biden of Delaware
Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts
Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont
Governor Martin O’Malley of Maryland
Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York
Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York
Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota
Senator Mark Warner of Virginia
Governor Jerry Brown of California
Former Governor Howard Dean of Vermont
Governor Jay Nixon of Missouri (totally new to any speculation)
Governor John Hickenlooper of Colorado

There is discontent with Hillary Clinton’s ties to Wall Street; her gaining as much as $275,000 a speech before wealthy donors and groups; and the image of her as a “hawk” in foreign policy. She is seen as part of the “Establishment”, and as not sufficiently understanding of the plight of the middle class and the poor. Her husband worked against the left, sticking to a centrist viewpoint in his years in the White House, and while there are salutes for him as a former President, the Left is looking for someone more in the line of doing more for the poor and middle class, and staying out of foreign wars, and regulating Wall Street.

So that is the appeal of Warren, Sanders and O’Malley in particular, but the idea of Brown coming back, mentioned in an earlier blog entry, is fascinating, and Dean trying again after 12 years is also intriguing! And imagine a “Nixon”, not related to the former President, running from the “heartland”, the state of Missouri, which was always on the winning side of every election from 1900 to the present, except 1956, 2008, and 2012, but close in the first two years!

And of course, Hillary could decide, ultimately, NOT to run, and then it is a true donnybrook in the making for the Democrats in 2016!

Could there be a surprise in the Democratic Presidential sweepstakes? After 2008, who can say?

Two Experienced National Presidential Campaigners Who Could Challenge Hillary Clinton For Democratic Presidential Nomination: Al Gore And Jerry Brown!

The basic belief that goes around in political circles is that Hillary Clinton has the Democratic Presidential nomination for the asking, and has more experience and background than anyone who could possibly run against her in the primaries, with the major exception of Vice President Joe Biden!

But it is also noted that, actually, there are two very experienced Democrats who have run for President before, along with Hillary and Joe, and yet few are paying any attention to these two men!

I am talking about former Vice President Al Gore, who lost the Presidency in 2000 to George W. Bush, despite having won the national popular vote by about 540,000, but losing the contested election in Florida in the Supreme Court case of Bush V. Gore. Also, Gore sought the Presidency in 1988, before losing the nomination to Michael Dukakis.

I am also referring here to three time Democratic Presidential seeker, California Governor Jerry Brown, who sought the nomination in 1976 and again in 1980 against Jimmy Carter, and against Bill Clinton in 1992!

Both are tested, although both are from “long ago” in many people’s minds, since Gore has never tried for public office since 2000, and sixteen years is a very long time in politics. One could say that Hillary and Joe are also from “long ago”, but they have continued to hold public office consistently since the new century began, with Hillary only “retiring” in 2013 to write her memoir on her years as Secretary of State!

Jerry Brown goes back much further having been Governor of California at age 35, serving from 1975 to 1983; then later being Oakland Mayor and California Attorney General; and then returning to the Governorship 28 years after leaving it, and becoming the oldest Governor in the history of the state in 2011, and now running for a second term at age 76.

There have been rumors that Brown would love to run again, and dog the Clintons, as he did Jimmy Carter. It would be ironic if he was to challenge Hillary as he did her husband in 1992!

Of course, Brown would be nearly 79 were he to become President in 2017, and Al Gore would be nearly 69, just five months younger than Hillary Clinton, while Joe Biden would be 74 at the time of the inauguration!

One might say that having all these “old folks” running or considering the Presidency is disturbing, and add to that mix, two liberals who are rumored to run, If Hillary chooses not to run, or possibly even if she does—Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, who would be 67 on Inauguration Day, and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders (technically a Socialist), who would be 75.

While we are at it, why not add Secretary of State John Kerry, the 2004 Democratic Presidential nominee, to the list, with him being 73 if elected to the Presidency in 2016!

These people, all seven of them, represent a lot of talent and experience and brilliance, but ranging from 67 to 79 is NOT a good trend, particularly with the strong likelihood that the Republican Party will nominate someone much younger, probably by a full generation, or close to it, in years!

The Supreme Court Of 2014 Most Right Wing Since Early 1930s!

The Supreme Court has been controversial at different times in its history, but the present Court of 2014 is considered the most right wing Court majority since the early 1930s!

Since the Warren Court, which began in the 1950s, we have never had such conservative Justices as we have now.

Three of the present Justices are among the most conservative ever to sit on the Court, including Justice Antonin Scalia, Justice Clarence Thomas, and Justice Samuel Alito.

If one adds former Chief Justice William Rehnquist and former Associate Justice Lewis Powell, we have the five most conservative Justice since 1953, a period of 60 years.

Not much behind is Chief Justice John Roberts and Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy, both capable of surprises in their votes and rulings, but still most of the time joining Scalia, Thomas, and Alito.

These seven named Justices were all picked by Republican Presidents–two by Richard Nixon; two by Ronald Reagan, plus his promotion of Rehnquist to the Chief Justiceship; one by George H. W. Bush; and two by George W. Bush.

But also, Republican Presidents have selected Justices who turned out to be quite moderate, and even sometimes liberal, including Chief Justice Earl Warren and Associate Justice William Brennan by Dwight D. Eisenhower; Chief Justice Warren Burger and Associate Justice Harry Blackmun by Richard Nixon; John Paul Stevens by Gerald Ford; Sandra Day O’Connor by Ronald Reagan; and David Souter by George H. W. Bush.

Since 1953, Republicans have controlled the White House for 36 years, while Democrats have had control for 25 plus years, and that has caused the right wing tilt of the Court, which could have been even more so, if not for the surprises presented by the seven “less” conservative, and some “quite liberal” Justices listed in the above paragraph!

So the Republicans have chosen 17 of the past 25 Justices since 1953, with John F. Kennedy picking two, but one (Byron White) turning out to be conservative, and Arthur Goldberg leaving the Court after only three years, due to the urging of Lyndon Johnson that he become United Nations Ambassador. Johnson selected Abe Fortas to replace Goldberg, but he stayed on the Court for only four years, and left the Court under the cloud of scandal. The first African American Justice, Thurgood Marshall, would go on to serve as a champion liberal for 24 years from 1967 to 1991.

Jimmy Carter would have no appointments to the Court in his four years in the White House, the only such situation in the 20th century, and one of only four Presidents to have had no appointments, but the only one to have a full term in the Presidency. The other three Presidents were William Henry Harrison (one month); Zachary Taylor (16 months); and Andrew Johnson (almost a complete term, but so unpopular that the Senate would not confirm any Court appointments in his time in office).

Bill Clinton selected Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer; and Barack Obama has chosen Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan as his appointments, so far, on the Supreme Court. So note that out of the eight appointments by Democrats in the Presidency, three have been women; five have been Jewish; one has been African American; and one has been Puerto Rican, with only Byron White being a typical white Anglo Saxon Protestant.

The question has now arisen whether Ginsberg, and maybe even Breyer, should retire, and guarantee that Obama could replace them, with the concern that the Senate might go Republican in November, making any Court appointment nearly impossible due to gridlock and stalemate. There is also fear that were the Republicans to win the White House in 2016, which is highly unlikely, that then the Court would be ever more right wing reactionary than it already is.

It is a calculated gamble for Ginsburg and Breyer to remain on the Court for now, but it is not uncommon for Justices to retire at very advanced ages–such as Blackmun at 85 and Stevens at 90!

So do not expect that either will retire, but with a good chance of Democrats retaining the Senate majority in 2014, or regaining it on the back of the Democratic Presidential nominee’s expected major victory in 2016!

“Sixth Year” Syndrome Of The Presidency From Truman To Obama

Presidents who have won a second term in the White House typically have what could be called the “Sixth Year” Syndrome, meaning it is a downturn in their fortunes, just one year after winning reelection.

Such was Harry Truman, facing the Korean War and the rise of McCarthyism in his sixth year in office.

Such was the case with Dwight D. Eisenhower, who saw a recession undermine his popularity in 1958 in his sixth year.

Such was the case with Richard Nixon, who was facing impeachment in his sixth year in office, due to the Watergate scandal, and ended up resigning in his sixth year in office.

Such was the case with Ronald Reagan, who was facing the Iran Contra scandal revelations in his sixth year.

Such was the case with Bill Clinton, who had to deal with the Monica Lewinsky scandal and the move toward impeachment in his sixth year in office.

Such was George W. Bush, facing two wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that were not going well in his sixth year, and coming off the disaster of Hurricane Katrina.

So the fact that Barack Obama is perceived as “in the doldrums” in his sixth year in the Presidency is not at all surprising, and in many ways, despite the hype of the news media, he is in better shape than his predecessors were, if one looks at the situation objectively!