First Ladies

Most Influential First Ladies In American History

The role of First Lady, the wife of the President, has evolved over time, and in recent decades, it has been extremely difficult for a First Lady to conduct herself as Jane Pierce or Bess Truman did, which was, basically, to avoid the public spotlight and any major duties.

First Ladies have had their own causes in recent decades, and a few earlier First Ladies had a major impact on their times and their husbands.

So if we were to list 15 First Ladies who had a major role in American history, we would list the following in a chronological list:

Abigail Adams, wife of John Adams
Dolley Madison, wife of James Madison
Mary Todd Lincoln, wife of Abraham :Lincoln
Lucy Webb Hayes, wife of Rutherford B. Hayes
Frances Folsom Cleveland, wife of Grover Cleveland
Edith Bolling Galt Wilson, second wife of Woodrow Wilson
Eleanor Roosevelt, wife of Franklin D. Roosevelt
Jacqueline Kennedy, wife of John F. Kennedy
Lady Bird Johnson, wife of Lyndon B. Johnson
Betty Ford, wife of Gerald Ford
Rosalynn Carter, wife of Jimmy Carter
Nancy Reagan, wife of Ronald Reagan
Barbara Bush, wife of George H. W. Bush
Hillary Clinton, wife of Bill Clinton
Michelle Obama, wife of Barack Obama

If one was asked to list the five most powerful and significant First Ladies in ranked order, a good list would be as follows:

Eleanor Roosevelt
Hillary Clinton
Betty Ford
Lady Bird Johnson
Michelle Obama

This author welcomes discussion of the lists mentioned above!

Centennial Of Gerald Ford’s Birth: A Time To Honor Our 38th President!

Today is the centennial of President Gerald Ford’s birth, and a moment to celebrate and honor our 38th President.

Gerald Ford will never go down as a great, near great, or above average President, being ranked right in the middle of our 43 Presidents, but he made a vast difference to our nation.

Gerald Ford demonstrated decency, humanity, courage, conviction, and decisiveness when such attributes were needed.

Gerald Ford became President by accident, having had no desire or ambition to be President, but steadying the ship of state after the Watergate Scandal led to the resignation of Richard Nixon.

Thank goodness the nation had found out about the corruption and venality of Vice President Spiro Agnew, forcing his resignation, and the implementation of the 25th Amendment, just passed and ratified six years earlier.

Nixon picked Ford as Agnew’s successor due to his popularity with both his Republican colleagues and the respect and high regard that he was held in by the opposition Democrats, who controlled both houses of Congress.

Ford had served 25 years in the House of Representatives from Grand Rapids, Michigan, and had been the Republican leader in the House for nearly nine years, when he was tapped for the Vice Presidency.

Ford had always had the ambition to become Speaker of the House one day, if only the Republicans were to gain control of the House, which they did not do for 40 years from 1955-1995.

Ford had to “walk on eggs” for the eight months of his Vice Presidency, being there to help Nixon but not be too closely associated with him, and he acted totally in an appropriate manner.

Gerald Ford was a likeable “regular guy”, and graced us with his First Lady, Betty Ford, a truly elegant woman who dignified and added to the role of First Ladies during her two years and five months as a woman of principle, courage, and openness not typical of most earlier First Ladies.

Gerald Ford served only two years, five months and eleven days, a total of 895 days in the Oval Office, the fifth shortest duration of any occupant in the Presidency, with shorter terms of Warren G. Harding, Zachary Taylor, James Garfield, and William Henry Harrison.

Ford faced tough challenges with the decision to pardon Richard Nixon; The Mayaguez Affair with Cambodia; the difficult Recession of 1974-1975, the worst since the Great Depression; the challenge for the 1976 Republican Presidential nomination by former Governor Ronald Reagan; and the difficult election campaign against former Governor Jimmy Carter.

Ford also faced the unbelievable threat of two assassination attempts within seventeen days in September 1975, fortunately ducking bullets twice in an heroic manner.

Ford stood out as a moderate conservative who always could work across the aisle with his rivals, the Democrats, something that would not be admired today by the Tea Party Movement element which has damaged the heritage, tradition and future of the Republican Party.

If Gerald Ford were here today, he would be shocked at the social conservatism of the religious Right and the venal attacks on Barack Obama by conservative ideologues, and would probably not be accepted in the GOP of 2013 as legitimate!

Gerald Ford outlived Ronald Reagan by six weeks, and remains, as of now, our longest lived President, and it is appropriate to wish him a happy 100th birthday!

And I am thrilled to announce that later this week, I will be visiting the Gerald Ford Museum in Grand Rapids, Michigan, with my younger son, and am thrilled that the timing is such as to coincide with the Centennial of Gerald Ford’s birth! I am looking forward to learning more about the historical contributions of our 38th President, who deserves our respect and thanks!

The 2016 Presidential Campaign Has Begun: The Massive Assault On Hillary Clinton

For anyone who wonders when the Presidential Election campaign of 2016 will begin, it is now clear that it has begun this month, May 2013, with the Republican Party unwilling to change its image, policies or beliefs, and setting out to destroy the candidate who is favored by 65 percent of the American people, former First Lady, US Senator, and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton!

Hillary Clinton is accustomed to massive assaults on her character, her ethics, her public record, as she became the most attacked First Lady in American History, with possibly the exception of Eleanor Roosevelt, the wife of Franklin D. Roosevelt, who like Hillary Clinton, represented a fundamental set of principles and values that terrified conservatives and Republicans in the 1930s, and again in the 1990s.

So Hillary Clinton, a very tough lady, must decide if she is willing to take the heat, venom, poison, and utter contempt that she will have visited on her over the next three and a half years. Her husband was vilified from DAY ONE, and yet managed to produce a record far superior to earlier or later Bush Presidencies.

Hillary Clinton, if she decides ultimately to run for the White House, will have to deal, also, with the reality that when and if she becomes President, she will not have a restful day, but that is par for the course, as it was for Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, and now Barack Obama.

But as long as the American people continue to see her as the first woman President, who see her as a visionary who will fight the good fight against the Right Wing hate machine on Capitol Hill, on Talk Radio, and on Fox News Channel, as well as powerful pressure groups that work against the interests of the masses of the American people, she will triumph and make the Republicans like it, and if they do not, she will have the personality to condemn them openly, and not be as “nice” as Obama has been, to his own detriment!

A Rare Moment: Five Presidents And Five First Ladies Photographed Together!

For those of us who are Presidential junkies, the only time we see a group of Presidents and First Ladies together in public is at openings of Presidential libraries, and at funerals of Presidents and First Ladies.

Since these do not happen very often in either regard, today’s gathering of five Presidents and five First Ladies at the opening of the George W. Bush Presidential Library at the campus of Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas, was an exciting moment, no matter how one feels about the Presidency of George W. Bush.

Seeing Jimmy Carter looking hale and hearty; George H. W. Bush in a wheelchair in obviously poor health although only being less than four months older than Carter; Bill Clinton his usual talkative, charismatic self; George W. Bush being very positive, despite the clear cut failures of his time in office; and Barack Obama, always good with saying the right things, was fascinating!

Seeing Rosalynn Carter and Barbara Bush looking good, considering their advanced age; Hillary Clinton looking ready to run for President any time now; Laura Bush being her usual sweet self; and Michelle Obama looking always as an elegant lady, was also very inspiring!

Of course, Nancy Reagan, while not mentioned, was absent, as she is in her early 90s and not in good health.

And we saw the two daughters of Lyndon Johnson and of Richard Nixon, along with the daughter of Gerald Ford, but no other Presidential children, other than the two daughters of George W. Bush, of course! But only Michael Reagan, the adopted son of Reagan and his first wife, Jane Wyman, was present, not the son and daughter of Nancy Reagan, Ron Jr. and Patti. And neither was Caroline Kennedy, or the other children of Gerald Ford, and none of the children of Jimmy Carter, or the Clinton’s daughter, Chelsea!

In any case, for those who are into photographs of a group of Presidents or First Ladies, today was a very good day!

The End Of The Hillary Clinton Presidential Campaign

The boom for Hillary Clinton to be the next President of the United States has been derailed permanently by the news that her concussion, suffered a few weeks ago, led to a blood clot behind her right ear, between her skull and her brain.

This wonderful woman has worn herself out, setting an all time record for travel for a government official in any position, nearly a million miles in four years. It is hard to imagine any business man or woman having traveled as much, and certainly, not worldwide, as Hillary has done.

Hillary is now 65, and needs a long period of rest and recreation to recover from this dangerous medical condition, and for her to imagine herself running for President after this event would require her to be suicidal in nature!

Retiring from the State Department, Hillary Clinton can pursue a more relaxed life of being a famous public citizen, and she can write her memoirs of her recent years in public life since being First Lady; can deliver well paid speeches all over the nation, but at a relaxed pace; join her husband’s Clinton Initiative and do good for human rights around the world; and enjoy whatever number of grandchildren daughter Chelsea produces over the coming years!

For her to decide to go through the “living hell” of campaigning for two years or more; coming under constant attack by fellow Democrats and, more significantly, Republicans (who have a long history of attacking the Clintons in the most vicious manner, often forgotten as the years have gone by); then facing the torment of the fall campaign, with non stop campaigning and dissection by the news media; and then facing the stresses and burdens of the Presidency from age 69 to 73 or 77—this would be enough to shorten her life considerably, and increase the chances of her death in office, if not before!

Hillary Clinton is very ambitious, hard working, and dedicated! She is a wonderful public servant who has contributed a great deal as First Lady, US Senator, and Secretary of State.

Let her retire and rest, and sometime in 2014, the logical and sensible and sane event would be a public announcement that she is NOT running for President; that she had her chance, and that at her advancing age and health situation, that she will continue to be a public figure, but no longer be part of the political battles!

Hillary Clinton deserves our respect and support as she makes other contributions, under much less scrutiny and publicity and stress, and lives the good life with her husband, daughter, son in law, and any grandchildren, able to share the rest of her life with her! The American people have gained enough from her to allow her to leave the political debates and controversies, but with the certainty that she will go down as one of the very best Secretaries of State, one of the top few First Ladies, a significant United States Senator, and a great promoter of human rights!

Could Michelle Obama Be The Next Hillary Clinton? Illinois Poll Supports Her For Senate Seat Of Mark Kirk In 2016

First Lady Michelle Obama is rumored to be a possible candidate for the US Senate seat of Mark Kirk in 2016, when the man who took over President Obama’s Senate seat by election in 2010 comes up for reelection.

Michelle Obama has evidenced absolutely no interest, but who can say for sure, considering that her daughters will be four years older, and more on their own, as compared to now, and with her mother and the President able to assist, if need be.

It must be pointed out that Mark Kirk has, sadly, been recovering this past year, his second year in the Senate, from a massive paralytic stroke, and this could affect public opinion ratings for or against him, depending on what happens in the future. And it could make him decide to retire at the end of his term in 2016.

But Illinois voters right now vastly favor Michelle Obama over Kirk, for whatever it is worth.

Certainly, Michelle Obama has demonstrated that she is very smart, articulate, and a great contributor to the position of First Lady, much like Hillary Clinton before her, who ran for the Senate in the last year of President Bill Clinton’s second term.

So who can say for sure what the future might bring?

Barack Obama’s Greatest Asset: Michelle Obama

President Barack Obama’s greatest asset, as he moves into full campaign mode this week at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina, is his wife, the First Lady, Michelle Obama.

Michelle Obama has shown true grace, dignity, and class as First Lady, and has added much to the stature of that unelected office.

Highly intelligent, dedicated and committed to her husband and the issues she cares about, and warm and genuine to all she meets, Michelle Obama has played a role under her husband matched only by a few First Ladies—including Eleanor Roosevelt, Betty Ford, and Hillary Clinton.

Michelle Obama will start off the convention tomorrow night with the first major speech, and she will set the stage for what is to come, including the keynote speech by San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro; the nominating speech by former President Bill Clinton on Wednesday night; and the acceptance speeches of Vice President Joe Biden and President Obama on Thursday evening.

This convention will be a time to celebrate all of the great accomplishments of President Obama, and for making a case to give him a second term in office to continue and complete the work he has begun, and add to his contributions to the American people and nation!

The Issue Of Presidential Sexual Scandals And The Candidacy Of Newt Gingrich

The controversy surrounding former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich’s private life has multiplied, with the revelation by his second wife of Newt’s desire for an “open marriage”, so that he could carry on an affair with the woman who became his third wife, since his second wife disagreed with his desire for an open marriage. This issue arose when the second wife was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, just as the move by Newt to divorce his first wife came when she was diagnosed with cancer.

Have Presidential candidates and Presidents before now been involved in sex scandals? Of course, the answer is yes, but only becoming public knowledge and controversy in the past 25 years with the candidacies of Gary Hart, Bill Clinton, Rudy Guiliani, and Newt Gingrich, and the planned but aborted candidacies of Mark Sanford and John Ensign.

Have Presidents had affairs in the past, in or out of office? Of course yes is the answer, including George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Buchanan, James Garfield, Grover Cleveland, Woodrow Wilson, Warren G. Harding, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, Ronald Reagan, and Bill Clinton, that we are aware of. But ONLY Bill Clinton was revealed to be involved in such scandals before he was elected, and during his Presidency, as news and gossip on other Presidents was kept well hidden from the news media and the general public.

Have Presidents or Presidential candidates ever been divorced? The answer is yes, although only Ronald Reagan has been elected. But Adlai Stevenson, Bob Dole, John Kerry, and John McCain all were married for the second time when they ran for the White House.

Has any candidate ever been married THREE times, and openly cheated on his first two wives, other than Newt Gingrich? The answer is NO, and the hypocrisy of Newt Gingrich is that he pursued the impeachment of Bill Clinton in 1998-1999 while pursuing his own affair outside of marriage.

No President or Presidential candidate has openly pursued the idea of a “open marriage”, although one could argue that Eleanor Roosevelt and Hillary Clinton, at the least, seemed to accept such a concept in the sense that they knew their husbands were involved in cheating and did not choose to break up their marriages.

Other First Ladies and wives of Presidential candidates MAY have silently agreed to their husbands committing adultery and staying married, but that is all speculation at best.

The point is that the second wife of Newt Gingrich, in revealing the “open marriage” idea of her former husband, made it clear that Newt had said that Callista, the third wife, had no problem with “sharing” Newt.

So what this means is that IF Callista Gingrich becomes First Lady, we will have the first acknowledged believer in an open marriage, who has no concept of a problem with adultery. In the past, there were choice words for such a woman, which will not be used here. It indicates the likelihood of an “open marriage” between Callista and Newt from the beginning of their marriage, and the excellent possibility that there would be sex scandals in the White House, something we do not need to occur, or to learn about.

In a country in which many “religious” people claim to believe in the sanctity of marriage, and the importance of “family values”, to have Newt and Callista Gingrich in the White House would be a mockery of the concept of marriage and loyalty, and a degradation of the Presidency as an institution.

And for conservatives, such as Sarah Palin and Rush Limbaugh to ignore this, and to support Newt, indicates the total hypocrisy of the Right, which was only too eager to remove Bill Clinton from office on moral grounds.

Political Attacks On First Ladies: Nothing New!

The new book that claims that First Lady Michelle Obama has had problems with White House staff, that she interferes with their agenda in defense of her husband, has led to denials by her, and bitter attacks by conservative media.

Is criticism of the First Lady, whoever she is, anything new? History tells us otherwise.

First Lady Dolly Madison was always more outspoken in all ways than her taciturn husband, James Madison. She was known as the “party giver”, but that included her willingness to speak her mind!

First Lady Mary Lincoln was controversial over her expenditures, her clothes, and her mouth, and came under a lot of political attacks during the Civil War, including the fact that her brothers were part of the enemy, fighting for the Confederacy against the American government led by Abraham Lincoln.

Lucy Hayes came to be known as “Lemonade Lucy”, due to the fact that she prevented the serving of liquor at White House gatherings, and believed in women’s rights, including the right to vote, and spoke her mind regularly, causing problems therefore for her husband, Rutherford Hayes.

Edith Bolling Galt Wilson, the second Mrs. Wilson, led cabinet meetings after Woodrow Wilson suffered a stroke in 1919, and often was considered the “first woman President” during his last 18 months in office.

Eleanor Roosevelt, wife of Franklin D. Roosevelt, was the most controversial First Lady, speaking up regularly on all kinds of issues and topics, and labeled by her critics as a Communist and a Socialist. After her husband died, she remained part of the political controversies in the era of McCarthyism and the Cold War, always speaking her mind and being a political activist.

Betty Ford became a lightning rod under President Gerald Ford, speaking out as a feminist for the Equal Rights Amendment, and endorsing abortion rights, and speaking about her alcohol and breast cancer problems openly.

Rosalyn Carter attended cabinet meeting of her husband, Jimmy Carter, and also spoke out for feminist causes openly.

Nancy Reagan was criticized for her spending on White House China, and defended her husband, Ronald Reagan, against his own White House Chief of Staff, Donald Regan, who she was able to arrange to fire. She had no problem stating that she was there to help and defend her husband.

Hillary Clinton was the most involved and outspoken First Lady since Eleanor Roosevelt, and became a lightning rod particularly when she promoted a failed health care plan in the first term of Bill Clinton.

And now, Michelle Obama is making clear that she is there as an advocate of her husband, while claiming no problem in getting along with the White House staff.

So this is all nothing new!

Betty Ford: One Of The Greatest First Ladies In American History, Dead at 93!

First Lady Betty Ford, widow of President Gerald R. Ford, who died four and a half years ago at 93, tonight passed away at the same age of 93!

With her death, the nation has lost one of its greatest First Ladies, and one who never sought the title or the position!

Betty Ford was a shy person who never looked for the limelight, and was far from thrilled when her husband suddenly became President on August 9, 1974, upon the resignation of President Richard Nixon due to the Watergate scandal.

But she was a loyal wife who took it upon herself to speak up in a modern way not seen since Eleanor Roosevelt was First Lady in the administration of her husband, Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Betty Ford spoke up for the Equal Rights Amendment for women; supported abortion rights; was courageous to expose and champion the issue of breast cancer after she had surgery as First Lady because of having that medical problem; and made public as well her addiction to pain pills due to depression, and promoted the Betty Ford Center in California for people who had drug or alcohol problems as she had.

Betty Ford was a woman of courage and conviction; a feminist when it was not popular in many circles, particularly Republican, to be so; and in every sense a MODERN lady, who helped to humanize her husband, who while considered a conservative at the time of his Presidency, today would come across as a moderate to liberal Republican, probably likely to be read out of the party with its right wing extremist trend in recent years!

The author always admired Betty Ford, and the nation will mourn the death of this elegant, classy lady, who added to the office of First Lady of the United States, as one of its greatest representatives!