George W. Bush

The Wartime Presidency: From James Madison To Barack Obama

Now that it seems evident that America is to be engaged in a long drawn-out war against ISIL (ISIS), it means that we can expect the war to last possibly a generation, 20 years, and affect every Presidential election from 2016 through at least 2032.  It will also transform the Congress, and change the direction of American history, and it comes at a terrible time, as we have greater inequities economically now than even in the Gilded Age of the late 19th century.

But national security and defense always trump anything else, inevitably and necessarily!

So Barack Obama, who came into office determined to end the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars started by George W. Bush, is to be the promoter of a new war, against his desire.

So this is a good time to reflect on how many Presidents have chosen or been forced  to wage war!

James Madison reluctantly took America through the War of 1812, often depicted as “The Sorry Little War”, which led to the burning of the US Capitol and the White House by the invading British forces.

James K. Polk willingly took us through the Mexican War, leading to the acquisition of the American Southwest and California.

Abraham Lincoln took us into the Civil War, believing there was no alternative to “preserve the Union”.

William McKinley was convinced that the Spanish American War was a moral cause, and it led to the development of the “American Empire” in an age of expansionism and imperialism.  He also waged war to force the Philippines to accept American overlordship, after being “liberated” by the United States from Spanish control.

Theodore Roosevelt continued the fight against the Filipino revolutionaries, in what was well hidden for years and not taught in schools below the college level,, but was known to history as the Filipino Insurrection.

Woodrow Wilson took us into the First World War, after trying to avoid direct involvement for more than two years.

Franklin D. Roosevelt took us into the Second World War against Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, and Imperial Japan,  after isolationists bitterly opposed  such entrance, but forced by the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor,  Hawaii.

Harry Truman continued our engagement in the Second World War, and used the atomic bomb against Japan, but also took us into the Korean War.

Dwight D. Eisenhower continued US involvement in the Korean War for the fist six month of his Presidency.

John F. Kennedy escalated our involvement in Vietnam, from 2,000 “advisers”under Eisenhower,  to over 16,500 Green Beret Special Forces by the time he was assassinated.

Lyndon B. Johnson massively escalated our involvement in Vietnam, reaching a grand total of 549.500 troops in 1968.

Richard Nixon continued the Vietnam War for four long years, causing a massive split in the nation, not seen since the Civil War.

George H. W. Bush took us into the Persian Gulf War, to force Iraq’s Saddam Hussein from keeping control of Kuwait, and being a threat to Saudi Arabia.

George W. Bush took us into war in Iraq and also in Afghanistan, and they became the longest wars in American history.

Barack Obama inherited both the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars, and ended our involvement in Iraq, and is soon to end involvement in Afghanistan.  But now the war against ISIL (ISIS) is forecast to last a generation!

So 15 Presidents were commanders in chief in wartime, and this does not include invasions or bombings,  or undeclared naval wars, or wars against Native Americans!

The History Of Foreign Policy Crises At Election Time

It is nothing new to have foreign policy crises at election time in American history, whether Presidential elections or midterm Congressional elections!

Examples include:

Franklin D. Roosevelt in the Election of 1940, after Great Britain was being bombed by the Germans, and France had fallen to the Nazis.

Harry Truman in the Election of 1948, facing the Berlin Blockade Crisis with the Soviet Union.

Dwight D. Eisenhower in the Election of 1956, facing the Hungarian invasion by the Soviet Union and its Eastern European allies, and the Suez Crisis in the Middle East.

John F. Kennedy facing the Cuban Missile Crisis in the midterm election of 1962.

Lyndon B. Johnson facing opposition growing in the Vietnam War after the Tet Offensive, and the invasion of Czechoslovakia by the Soviet Union and its allies, in the Election of 1968.

Jimmy Carter facing the Afghanistan invasion by the Soviet Union, and the Iran Hostage Crisis, in the Election of 1980.

George H. W. Bush facing the Kuwaiti invasion by Iraq in the midterm election of 1990, leading to the Persian Gulf War.

George W. Bush facing the War on Terror, and the invasion of Afghanistan, and planned invasion of Iraq, in the midterm election of 2002.

And now, Barack Obama facing the Russian intervention in Ukraine, and the growing threat of ISIL (ISIS) in the Middle East, in the midterm election of 2014.

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!

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!

Bad Move For President Obama To Attend Campaign Fundraisers And Go On Vacation In Times Of Crisis!

This blogger is strongly in support of Barack Obama on most issues, but he wishes to make clear that the strategy of attending campaign fundraisers, and going on vacation, in times of crises, is NOT the right strategy for the President to follow!

Seeing Obama making political speeches at fundraisers, and relaxing while drinking beer or going to a fast food establishment to have burgers and fries, or playing golf, or planning to go on vacation, leaves a terrible image that the President is disengaged from his responsibilities! It is true that Obama has taken fewer vacations than George W. Bush, Ronald Reagan, and almost every other recent President, but the perception of time off is not good at this time, and in the midst of the many crises the nation faces!

It is true that any President never truly escapes from his job, and that all that he needs can go with him to wherever he is located, but it, unfortunately, gives cannon fodder to his enemies, and makes him look lazy, disinterested, uncaring, and also confirms the criticism, even of his Democratic party supporters, that he is out of touch with reality, and does not like being engaged in problem solving.

Again, this is mostly perception, but that is damaging, short term and long term, to the image, legacy, and record of a President who has done a lot of good, has shown a lot of courage, and is being bitterly attacked more than any President of the past century, including Richard Nixon and George W. Bush!

Obama should not be giving fuel to the fire of his critics, and needs to cut back, dramatically, on campaign fund raisers, and should cancel a formal vacation, or send his daughters and wife on it, with him, maybe, showing up for a few days here and there, but sacrificing a lot of the formal vacation to stay in DC and connect with the multitude of issues that he faces!

Obama will have more than enough time in years to come to do whatever he wishes after January 20, 2017, but right now, he needs to be on top of his challenges as his priority!

Ohio And The Republican Party

So the Republican Party has chosen Cleveland, Ohio, for its national convention in 2016!

This is a very interesting selection, to choose a strong Democratic city to hold their convention!

It is true, however, that Ohio is the ultimate “swing state”, as it, most recently, decided the Presidential Election Of 2004 in favor of President George W. Bush over Senator John Kerry.

And Ohio gave us six Presidents, all Republicans, from 1868-1923, with the elections of Ulysses S. Grant, Rutherford B. Hayes, James A. Garfield, William McKinley, William Howard Taft, and Warren G. Harding.

Only Grant and McKinley were reelected, however, and only Grant served two full terms, with Garfield and McKinley assassinated in office; Hayes denied renomination of his party; Taft defeated with the worst popular vote percentage and lowest electoral vote for an attempted reelection in 1912; and Harding dying of natural causes in office. Also, Grant and Harding presided over the greatest corruption in American history on the national level until Richard Nixon came along!

Overall, these six Ohio Presidents did not add much to the record of the Presidency in a positive manner, with McKinley being rated the best of the group; Grant usually the worst, although now undergoing some historical rehabilitation; Harding also near the bottom of the list of Presidents, but also being reevaluated by some scholars: and Garfield seen as possibly the major loss of the group, due to his short time in office before being assassinated.

Ohio is also the home of Governor John Kasich, former long term Congressman and one of the leaders of the GOP in the House of Representatives, who is seen as one of the longer shots who might run for President, and this author has already mentioned him as a potential candidate, with some positives greater than the list of candidates usually mentioned in print as the most likely candidates.

But the reality is that Ohio is likely to go Democratic as it did in 2008 and 2012, and the Democratic Party can win the Presidency without Ohio.

For the Republican Party to believe that holding their convention in Ohio insures their victory for the White House in 2016 is truly delusional!

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!

Voter “Fraud”, Voter Suppression, Civil Rights, And The 26th Amendment!

We hear Republicans claim “voter fraud”, which is a total fraud in itself, as the amount of voter fraud has been shown to be something like one billion of one percent!

There is no voter fraud to speak of, and if we are going to talk about voter fraud, what about the fraud in the vote count in Florida in the Presidential Election of 2000, which benefited George W. Bush over Al Gore; and the reported voter fraud in Ohio in the Presidential Election Of 2004, which again benefited George W. Bush, this time over John Kerry?

It is a fact that only in states that are seen as in danger of turning “blue”, do we see accusations of voter fraud, to insure that a “red” state will stay “red”! So we have seen the Southern states and some Midwestern states, which have passed voter suppression laws, affecting African Americans, Latinos, poor people, the elderly, and now, even the young.

So the classic case, but not the only one, is North Carolina, which now had cut down the number of voting days before Election Day; has stopped same day registration; has decided that early voting on the Sunday before the election shall be ended (what often is the method for black churchgoers to make voting a group event); has required a state ID to vote, something many poor people cannot afford, and often have trouble getting to proper locations if they wish to buy it in person (a requirement); and now is preventing 16 and 17 year old high school students from preregistration; and not allowing college students from other states to use their college address so that they can vote in the state elections of the college or university they are attending and residing in for four or more years!

So we have a law suit against North Carolina, asserting that they are discouraging college and young voters from registering and voting, therefore trying to fix the elections, true voter fraud! And the constitutional case is the 26th Amendment of 1971, which allows 18-21 years old citizens to vote!

This is the new attempt at what used to be called “Jim Crow” laws, and the Republican Party is fully backing such denials in multiple states, right after the Supreme Court, wrongfully, weakened the Voting Rights Act of 1965, forgetting the struggles, bloodshed, and deaths suffered in the battle for voting rights. The ultimate civil right is voting rights!

What is clear is that when the states lose these battles, particularly regarding the 26th Amendment, they are guaranteeing the loss of the young vote for generations, as any intelligent young person voting for the party which worked to suppress its voting rights is as likely as “Hell Freezing Over!”

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!