Franklin D. Roosevelt

Lyndon B. Johnson Commemoration Of 106th Birthday

The 36th President of the United States, Lyndon B. Johnson, was born on this day in 1908, and he has undergone much attack in the four decades since he passed away in 1973 at the age of 64.

There is no question that LBJ divided the nation by his ill conceived escalation of the war in Vietnamese, which still haunts millions of Americans who lost a loved one, or who have suffered with the psychic and physical wounds of war.

But LBJ cannot be forgotten for his tremendous advancements in civil rights; in fighting poverty; in establishing Medicare; promoting environmental reform and consumer protection; promoting a massive expansion of educational opportunity; establishing immigration reform; establishing the Departments of Housing and Urban Development and Transportation; promoting the creation of PBS and NPR; and supporting the establishment of the National Endowment for the Humanities and the National Endowment for the Arts.

So while LBJ did the nation wrong by the war in Vietnam, his domestic reforms, collectively known as the “Great Society”, brought about the greatest improvements in domestic life since the New Deal of FDR, and has not been matched since by any President.

So this is a day to remember and to honor LBJ for his accomplishments, while acknowledging his shortcomings!

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!

How A Speech Elevated Four Presidential Candidates To Nomination, And Two Of Them To The White House!

The power of oratory in advancing a political candidacy for the Presidency,that no one expected to occur, is part of American history!

There have been four cases of people who were elevated to a Presidential nomination, and two of them to the White House, by the electrifying effect that a speech had on their political party and the nation at large!

Two of these were Democrats, and two were Republicans.

One of the Democrats was former Nebraska Congressman William Jennings Bryan, who delivered the “Cross of Gold” speech at the 1896 Democratic National Convention, with this leading to his Presidential nomination. Despite losing to William McKinley, Bryan went on to be the nominee of the Democrats two more times, in 1900 and 1908.

The other was Illinois State Senator Barack Obama, who gave a dynamic speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention, arguing against a divided America, and calling for a united America, instead of a “red’ America and a “blue” America. It drew attention to him, and after being elected to the US Senate, he decided to campaign for the Presidency, and overcame many adversities to win two terms in the White House, but sadly saw “red” and “blue” America split ever further apart!

The first Republican was businessman Wendell Willkie, who despite no political experience, stirred the Republican National Convention of 1940 with his speech and charisma, and went on to become the nominee of his party, but losing to Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Ronald Reagan was the other Republican, making a well noticed speech on television in support of Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater, the GOP nominee for President in 1964. Goldwater lost in a massive landslide to Lyndon B. Johnson, but Reagan gained enough support and notice to run for California Governor in 1966, and eventually to be elected to two terms as President in the 1980s!

So the power of speech and charisma has had a great effect on American politics!

The 79th Anniversary Of Social Security, No Thanks To Republicans And Conservatives!

Seventy nine years ago, on August 14, 1935, the US Congress passed into law the greatest social legislation in American history, Social Security.

Social Security was designed to give support to the elderly in their twilight years, as well as support for widows and orphans, and it has been massively successful!

This was all due to the Democratic Party and Franklin D. Roosevelt, as few Republicans and no conservatives supported the legislation.

While it is true that there were Republicans who supported improvements in Social Security over the years, the Republican Party of the present has been out to destroy Social Security by privatizing it, something George W. Bush promoted in 2005, and defeated, thankfully, as anyone who had Social Security benefits in the stock market in 2008 would have lost all or most of their benefits!

Social Security should NOT be privatized, and needs further reform, including raising the wages that are taxed from the present amount of $117,000 to include ALL wages, as if that occurred, there would never be a problem in funding Social Security benefits.

There is no good reason to avoid taxes on higher incomes, as they are also eligible for benefits, and the idea has been floated many times, and some day, when Democrats control both houses of Congress again, it needs to be enacted!

Meanwhile, Happy 79th Anniversary, Social Security!

Presidents, Supreme Court Justices, And First Term Nominations: All But Monroe, FDR, George W. Bush!

This blogger heard the statement of Ralph Nader, a guest on Bill Maher’s “Real Time” HBO show recently, that if only the Democrats had won the 2004 Presidential Election, the Supreme Court would have been dramatically different than it is today!

Present Secretary of State John Kerry lost to George W. Bush, who became only the third President to have to wait until his second term of office to nominate and confirm a Supreme Court Justice! Bush proceeded to select Chief Justice John Roberts and Associate Justice Samuel Alito, who have together had a dramatic effect on Court decisions in a very right wing manner!

Only James Monroe and Franklin D. Roosevelt failed to have a Supreme Court nominee in their first term, and only William Henry Harrison, Zachary Taylor, and Jimmy Carter were unable to make any appointments to the high Court, due to lack of vacancies. Even President James A. Garfield, shot after four months in office, had an appointee to the Supreme Court after two months in office! And FDR may not have had appointments in his first term, but he ended up having a total of nine appointments between 1937 and 1943 over six and a half years!

This is something to keep in mind, the power of the President to affect the Supreme Court’s future, and with the certainty that there will be vacancies on the high Court in the next Presidential term, making the election of a Democrat to the White House, and a Democratic Senate after 2016, ever more urgent!

The Decline Of The New York State Government And Governorship!

New York State, the “Empire State”, is a victim of government decline in so many ways.

This was the state that gave us Presidential candidates in Alfred E. Smith, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Thomas E. Dewey, and potential Presidential candidates in Averell Harriman, Nelson Rockefeller, Mario Cuomo, and George Pataki.

But now, we have had Eliot Spitzer, forced out of office by a sex scandal, and Andrew Cuomo, subject of an ethics investigation, who has displayed arrogance and entitlement about his control of who can investigate him, which has now blown up in his face.

Ironically, Cuomo seems an easy winner for his second term, but could be forced out of office during the next term, reminiscent of the circumstances of President Richard Nixon, who won easy reelection while under investigation, and then was forced to resign in disgrace.

This will end any hope that Cuomo could ever run for the Presidency, if for instance, Hillary Clinton chose not to run.

Having said that as reality, this author wishes to state that he has always had an uneasy feeling about Cuomo, over many years. It is something hard to pinpoint, but this blogger always liked Mario Cuomo, Andrew’s dad, but never felt comfortable with his son, even though he resembles him a lot in speaking manner and appearance!

President Warren G. Harding Love Letters Revealed After Nearly A Century!

This author and blogger has taught at the college level now for 42 plus years, and one of his favorite discussions was of the Presidency of Warren G Harding (1921-1923), generally acknowledged as the worst President of the 20th century, and close to the bottom of all Presidents on any ranking, sharing that with James Buchanan, Andrew Johnson, and Franklin Pierce.

Harding is not remembered for very much, but he was the President who appointed former President William Howard Taft to be Chief Justice; pardoned Socialist leader Eugene Debs from prison; had his Secretary of State, Charles Evans Hughes, who had been the Republican Presidential nominee in 1916 against Woodrow Wilson, negotiate the Washington Naval Conference that promoted naval disarmament; established the first federal child welfare program; supported the idea of an eight hour work day; advocated an anti lynching bill to protect African Americans; and created the Bureau of the Budget.

He also had the greatest popular vote victory for a first term President in American history, and the percentage of the vote was only later surpassed by Franklin D. Roosevelt, Lyndon B. Johnson, and Richard Nixon after already residing in the White House!

Despite these accomplishments, Harding is best remembered for the scandals of his administration in the Justice Department, the Interior Department, and the Veterans Bureau (all of these generally known as the Teapot Dome scandals); and also, even more notably his sexual liaisons in and out of the White House years, most notably with Nan Britton, with whom he had an illegitimate daughter; and with Carrie Phillips, who he shared love letters discovered in the 1960s, but banned from revelation and publication at that time to avoid embarrassment.

Well, now those love letters, originally held by the Ohio Historical Society, are opened to scholars and journalists, and are the most extensive set of love letters ever discovered about any President! Much of it is x rated, and a bit shocking to many, as he describes his private parts as “Jerry”, and is extremely descriptive in his sexual language.

So one of the stories I told my students, that they would have to wait decades to learn about in detail, is open and available, revealed this week at the Library of Congress!

It will bring more attention to the 29th President, but is unlikely to raise him from the basement of rankings of Presidents of the United States!

Tea Party And Republican House Want Radical Changes In Medicare And Social Security!

Leave it to the Republican Party, and particularly its Tea Party extremists, to propose, as part of the House of Representatives budget proposals, to raise the eligibility age for future retirees for Medicare and Social Security benefits.

Presently, one must be 65 to gain Medicare, and the proposal is to raise it to 67!

Presently, one must be 67 to gain Social Security full benefits for future retirees, and the proposal is to raise it to 70!

This is pure right wing radicalism, by a party which overwhelmingly, in its past, opposed both Medicare in the 1960s and Social Security in the 1930s, when they were first made law!

These two programs are the most popular social programs, brought to America by the Democratic Party under Lyndon B. Johnson and Franklin D. Roosevelt, and have had a lot to do with the growth of the middle class and a sense of security for the elderly!

Instead of raising the Medicare tax slightly, and raising the limit on Social Security to at least $250,000 income, instead of $117,000, insuring the viability of these programs long term, instead the GOP wishes to make life harder for those nearing retirement age, forcing many to work longer years full time, rather than having some time to enjoy life and take life easier after decades of toil, many of them often working at low wages, exploited by corporations and employers in general, who have an anti labor attitude!

This is an issue for the midterm elections of 2014 and beyond, that under no circumstances will there be a radical change in Medicare and Social Security allowed, because of the greed, selfishness, and lack of concern for the average American by the elite upper class that votes Republican, and victimizes the rest of the population!

Expansion Of Executive Orders Of FDR, Ike, LBJ On Prevention Of Job Discrimination Under Federal Contracts Now Expanded To LGBT Community By President Obama!

President Barack Obama has signed an executive order to do what Congress has failed to do, but needed doing!

In the tradition of Franklin D. Roosevelt, Dwight D. Eisenhower, and Lyndon B. Johnson, Obama is expanding the concept of Presidential action to prevent job discrimination under federal contracts with corporations, which originally covered race and ethnicity, then became one of gender, and now will cover workers who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender!

This is the moral and ethical thing to do, as no one should be fired because of his or her sexual orientation, any more than for race, ethnicity, or gender!

It cannot apply to all workers under the executive order, as only Congress could do that, and that seems unlikely, but it can cover workers employed under federal contracts.

So this is another in the long line of contributions that Barack Obama has made to ending of discrimination by government against its own population.

Assuredly, it will infuriate the Right, and there will be further discussion of possible impeachment, but that will all go for naught, as impeachment, even if it occurs, and it might, will NOT lead to Obama being forced out of office.

And again, a reminder! If it were to happen, we get Joe Biden, and that would be a great alternative, and insure a Biden victory in 2016!

The Death Of Famed Political Scientist And Historian James MacGregor Burns At Age 95

Sad news has come, that famed political scientist and historian James MacGregor Burns, of Williams College, has passed away at the advanced age of 95.

A professor at Williams College for nearly a half century, and then at the University of Maryland, Burns was the author of some twenty books, as well as a famed textbook in the field of American government, which this author used in his classes over the years, in several different editions.

The first to write a study of his friend, Senator John F. Kennedy, as he was running for President, Burns became most noted for his three volume history of the United States; his two volume study of Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1956 and 1970 (which had a profound effect on this author); a study of the three Roosevelts (Franklin, Eleanor, and Theodore); studies of Congress; and also analysis of the Supreme Court. He won the Pulitzer Prize in History and the National Book Award for his second volume on FDR (The Soldier of Freedom) in 1971.

There are few scholars in political science and history who have had the massive effect on those fields that Burns had, so he will be missed, but also remembered for his tremendous contributions.