Lyndon B. Johnson

“Fit” And “Unfit” Presidents In American History

The issue of Presidential health is an important one, as the stresses on the Chief Executive, are, and have been, massive over time, and the job ages all Presidents noticeably.

But separate from general health, there is also the issue of how “fit” or “unfit” Presidents have been while in office, and those who have been active in athletic activities before and during their White House years.

The list of truly “fit” Presidents has favored the younger Presidents over time, but there are also cases of other Presidents who have made being fit an important part of their image as Presidents. These Presidents participated in sports, and even when having health issues over time, they still emphasized the active life.

So the truly “fit” Presidents would include:

George Washington

John Quincy Adams

Andrew Jackson

Abraham Lincoln

Theodore Roosevelt

Dwight D. Eisenhower

John F. Kennedy

Gerald Ford

Ronald Reagan

George H. W. Bush

George W. Bush

Barack Obama

All of the above 12 Presidents did a lot of exercise throughout their lives, and some were in the military as generals (Washington, Jackson, Eisenhower).

Those Presidents that would qualify as particularly unfit would include:

John Adams

Martin Van Buren

James Buchanan

Chester Alan Arthur

Grover Cleveland

William McKinley

William Howard Taft

Warren G. Harding

Lyndon B. Johnson

Bill Clinton

All of the above 10 Presidents had major issues with weight, particularly Taft and Cleveland.

Of course, “fitness” has nothing to do with greatness in the White House, as Franklin D. Roosevelt proves! But FDR also had massive upper body strength, despite the polio that prevented him from walking.

July 30, 1965 To July 30, 2015: 50 Years Of Medicare!

Today is the 50the Anniversary of Medicare, finally brought about by President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1965.

An idea originally proposed by Theodore Roosevelt in his Progressive (Bull Moose) Party campaign of 1912; further conceptualized by Franklin D. Roosevelt in the mid 1930s, but thought to be moving too rapidly for Congress, when there was the fight over Social Security in 1935; and promoted by Harry Truman in his promotion of his Fair Deal, it was signed into law with former President Truman sitting next to Johnson at the Truman Museum and Library in Independence, Missouri.

Johnson accomplished what John F. Kennedy wanted to fulfill in his New Frontier agenda, but was unable to do because of the opposition of House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Wilbur Mills of Arkansas, but Johnson convinced Mills to move ahead, as part of LBJ’s great “wheeler dealer” abilities to promote his Great Society.

Medicare was a “God send” to millions of senior citizens, who no longer had to go into poverty as a result of medical and health issues, and it made the last years of the elderly a lot less stressful and worrisome.

Of course, the issue of cost overruns and corruption has arisen, and with people living longer, there is a long term problem in Medicare, but careful administration and some tax increases will manage to keep Medicare afloat for the long run, although present House Ways and Means Committee Chairman, Republican Congressman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin (Mitt Romney’s Vice Presidential running mate in 2012), wants to phase it out over time.

Many Republicans want this, but Democrats will fight tooth and nail to insure the continuation and financial stability of the greatest social program since Social Security, an essential part of the “safety net”, and part of the social justice agenda of liberals and progressives since the time of Theodore Roosevelt!

Historic Leaders Of The Senate Foreign Relations Committee

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee is one of the most important of all committees in the history of that body, having begun as early as 1816.

It is one of the most significant committees, with many future potential Presidential seekers wishing to be seen as “experts” on American foreign policy.

It is a committee often in conflict with the President of the United States on strategy and policy toward other nations.

There have been many colorful leaders of the committee, both Democrats and Republicans, who have become famed or notorious for their principles and impact on American foreign policy.

The committee again has become focused on as part of the heated debate over the Iran nuclear deal, and its recent former Chairman, John Kerry, is now the Secretary of State, charged with gaining the support of the committee, which, clearly, however, under Republican control, is a lost cause.

Among its leaders have been Presidential nominees Rufus King, Henry Clay, and John Kerry; President James Buchanan; and Vice Presidents Hannibal Hamlin and Joe Biden.

Such prominent political figures, other than those mentioned above, who served as Chairman of the committee include: Thomas Hart Benton, Charles Sumner, John Sherman, Henry Cabot Lodge, Sr., William Borah, Arthur Vandenberg, J. William Fulbright, Frank Church, Charles Percy, Richard Lugar, Claiborne Pell, Jesse Helms, and present Chairman Bob Corker, with Fulbright serving the longest as Chairman, 16 years from 1959-1975.

Those who made the most news included Lodge fighting Woodrow Wilson on the Versailles Treaty and League of Nations; Vandenberg playing a crucial role in backing the containment policy of President Harry Truman, despite them being from different parties; Fulbright fighting against the Vietnam War under Lyndon B. Johnson and Richard Nixon; and Helms being a major problem for Bill Clinton on many foreign policy issues.

A “Nice”, “Authentic” Person, Not A Mean Spirited, Uncaring Person: What People Want For Their Next President!

Americans are confused and upset about the uncertainties facing the nation, due to the political split in Congress and in the state legislatures. They might seem to cheer on a nasty, bullyish candidate who, momentarily, appears to vent their frustrations. But when emotions calm, that is not what the American people are looking for!

They want someone who is a “nice guy”, “authentic”, “real”, “truly concerned” about the issues and problems, confident and sure of himself, and a good debater who can overcome his opponents with his facts, knowledge, and charm, and convince the American people he is the right person for the Presidency! Joe Biden fits that description precisely, and even his opponents in the Republican Party, including Lindsey Graham, Mitch McConnell, John Boehner, and many others, respect and like him personally!

No Republican Presidential candidate fits that bill, not one of them.

Neither does Hillary Clinton fully evoke that feeling, and Bernie Sanders and Martin O’Malley simply do not have the ability to go all the way, and Sanders has the issue that most Americans are totally ignorant of the word “Socialism” and its meaning, and that harms his candidacy!

Face it, Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, Scott Walker, Chris Christie, Bobby Jindal, Mike Huckabee, Rick Santorum, Dr Benjamin Carson, Rand Paul, Lindsey Graham, Rick Perry, Carly Fiorina—all of these come across as mean spirited and uncaring.

Jeb Bush, John Kasich and Marco Rubio come across in a somewhat better fashion, as does George Pataki and Jim Gilmore, but none of them have the personality and genuine nature of Joe Biden!

We have never elected a President since World War II, with the exception of Richard Nixon, who was not likable when elected. Lyndon B. Johnson, while not that likable, was in office before he faced election, as was Harry Truman, so they are not included. But all the others, despite whatever shortcomings they had, were likable when they were elected, except for Nixon.

We want to “like” our President, and the Republican Party has a major problem with “likability”, which guarantees they will lose, even to a candidate such as Hillary Clinton, who is not seen as particularly “likable”, while Sanders, O Malley and Joe Biden are all very “likable”. But Biden stands out over O’Malley and Sanders!

Promotion Of Equal Justice: Barack Obama And Prison Reform

President Barack Obama yesterday did something no President has ever done–visit a federal prison In Oklahoma, and talk with officials and inmates who are in prison for long periods of years for nonviolent criminal offenses realted to drugs.

The fact that we have about one percent of the population in prisons, many of them for drug offenses, has become a national issue, with Republicans, such as Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky joining Democrats such as Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey calling for reform.

Obama is making this a national commitment to reform our entire justice system, which sees so many more African Americans and Hispanics languishing in prison, while whites are able to avoid the large percentage of drug convictions.

The War on Drugs of Richard Nixon was made more strict and harsh under Presidents Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton in particular, putting people with nonviolent offenses, who committed three such crimes, being sentenced to life.

Now Obama has commuted the sentences of 46 drug offenders in prison for a long time, and has done close to 100 such commutations, making him the moat active President since Lyndon B. Johnson in that regard.

Equal justice is his mission, and he is well on the road to that accomplishment, through the hard work of Attorney General Loretta Lynch, following up on the excellent work in this area of former Attorney General Eric Holder!

The Top Ten Transformational Presidents

The issue of “transformational” Presidents has revived lately, as it is clear that we are living through a “transformational” Presidency of Barack Obama, with still a year and a half to go in his tenure in the Oval Office.

With all of the controversy that surrounds Barack Obama, there is no doubt now that Obama has been a transformational President in so many ways.

So the question arises, who among our Presidents has been “transformational”? And in what order would Presidents on this list be ranked?

It seems clear that the top of the list would have to be George Washington, for having established standards and traditions that would be long lasting; and Abraham Lincoln, for keeping the Union together during the Civil War, and ending slavery.

Following Washington and Lincoln would be Franklin D. Roosevelt, who took America through the Great Depression and the Second World War, and changed the relationship of the federal government with the population of the nation, promoting a safety net that would help those most needy. He also created a large federal government that would never become smaller again, due to the Great Depression and the Second World War, and then the Cold War.

Once we go beyond Washington, Lincoln, and FDR, ranking gets much more difficult, but this author thinks the rest of the top ten would be as follows from number four to number ten:

Theodore Roosevelt, who would revive the Presidential office from slumber and use the “bully pulpit” to accomplish reform and federal government regulation of the economy, and started America’s role in world affairs.

Lyndon B. Johnson, who would promote the passage of massive reforms, including civil rights laws, Medicare, and a War on Poverty.

Woodrow Wilson, who would promote major reforms domestically and involvement in world affairs, taking America out of isolationism as a policy during the First World War.

Ronald Reagan, who changed the direction of the nation to Conservatism after a half century of Liberalism, and negotiated arms agreements with the Soviet Union, and helped to bring down the rival super power.

Barack Obama, who brought about health care coverage for most Americans; avoided a massive war; promoted social change in many areas; presided over a major revival of the economy only matched by FDR; and became a major environmental supporter.

Harry Truman, who responded to the Cold War with the Soviet Union in an effective way and determined the direction of foreign policy for a half century, and institutionalized the New Deal of FDR.

James K. Polk, who accomplished the great expansion of American territory by treaty with Great Britain and war with Mexico, creating the continental United States.

Notice that Thomas Jefferson, Andrew Jackson, John F. Kennedy and Bill Clinton do NOT make this list!

Commentary on this analysis is welcomed!

Theodore Roosevelt And Gifford Pinchot Turning Over In Their Graves At Republican Party War On National Parks And Other Environmental Concerns!

The Republican Party a century ago had leaders who cared about the environment, and promoted conservation as a basic national policy.

Governor and later Senator Robert LaFollette, Sr. of Wisconsin; Senator George Norris of Nebraska; US Forestry Service Director and later Governor of Pennsylvania Gifford Pinchot; and President Theodore Roosevelt, all of them progressive Republicans in domestic affairs, made the promotion of national and state parks and monuments a priority. They set a standard for Democrats who followed their lead, including Presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry Truman, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, and now Barack Obama, who just announced three new national park designations in California, Nevada, and Texas. Obama has added 260 million acres and 19 national monuments in office, making him one of the great leaders on that endeavor. We should also mention Republican President Richard Nixon, who despite many faults and shortcomings, did enough to be rated number two among Presidents on the environment, by a conservation group.

Additionally, we were fortunate to have such outstanding Secretaries of the Interior as Harold Ickes under FDR; Stewart Udall under JFK and LBJ; Walter Hickel under Nixon; Cecil Andrus under Carter; and Bruce Babbitt under Clinton to emphasize the importance of the environment in all of its manifestations.

But the Republican Party of present times is anti conservation, anti environment, fights the concept of global warming and climate change, and has allowed itself to come under the influences of wealthy energy interests that would love to mine uranium in the Grand Canyon; destroy native American and paleontological sites; and conduct fracking for natural gas, despite the vast dangers to health and safety, including water pollution and greatly increased earthquake activity, as in Oklahoma, for instance. The Koch Brothers have had a particularly deleterious effect on the issue of the environment. And Republican Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma is the worst possible enemy of the environmental movement in Congress, and is head, by seniority, of the Senate committee that deals with the subject.

The failure to see the importance of preserving our natural treasures is mind boggling, and those groups involved in promoting the environment know they have a massive challenge to keep what was given to us, and until the 20th century, was being gutted by rapacious capitalists in the oil, coal, natural gas, uranium, and lumber industries who only saw, and still see, only the almighty profit motive, including lack of concern for danger to wildlife!

The “Safety Net”: 80 Years Of Social Security, 50 Years Of Medicare, 5 Years Of ObamaCare!

The nation is marking 80 years of Social Security, brought about by Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1935; 50 years of Medicare, brought about by Lyndon B. Johnson in 1965; and five years of ObamaCare, brought about by Barack Obama in 2010.

These basic aspects of the “Safety Net” were brought about by courageous Democratic Presidents generations apart, long after many European nations, including Great Britain, France, Germany and several Scandinavian nations had done so.

We are a better country because of these programs, and yet, the Republican Party would love to destroy the guarantees of these programs, and many conservatives have warred on Social Security and Medicare since they were enacted, just as they refuse to accept ObamaCare at a point where it has been upheld twice by the Supreme Court, and is actually working.

Intelligent voters are not going to forget, or be allowed to forget by Democrats, the true history of the passage of the “Safety Net”, and the constant barrage of attacks on these signature achievements by conservatives and the Republican Party!

24 Years Of Justice Thurgood Marshall; 24 Years Of Justice Clarence Thomas: The Contrast!

Hard to believe, but it has been 24 years since Clarence Thomas was nominated for the Supreme Court by President George H.W. Bush, with Thomas being chosen to replace the first African American on the Court, Thurgood Marshall, who had been selected 24 years earlier (1967), by President Lyndon B. Johnson.

Marshall had made it clear that he wanted to stay on the Court until a Democrat was elected President, but despite his desires, his poor health forced him to resign. Marshall stands out as having been a quality member of the Court, one of the top 15 Supreme Court Justices of the 20th century.

Thomas, the second African American in Court history, would face severe attacks on his competency and on charges by Anita Hill that he had sexually harassed her when she worked for him at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission during the 1980s.

The Thomas nomination became a major controversy, and led to the passage of sexual harassment laws affecting all employees in America, both in government and out of government.

It also led to a bitter and close nomination battle, with Thomas winning his seat on the Court by the closest margin in modern history, 52-48.

It caused Thomas to become embittered, and he has expressed this bitterness toward liberals ever since, and he has pledged he will not leave the Court until he is 86 years of age in 2034, doubling his age of 43 when he came to the Court.

Thomas has made his mission on the Court to oppose civil rights and civil liberties wherever he can, despite the fact that he benefited personally from Affirmative Action, and his race helped him to gain his job, even though his accomplishments were far less than Thurgood Marshall. Many well qualified African Americans were passed over for Thomas, because he was an outlier, a conservative, who did not care about what had happened to people of his race.

So Thomas has been an extreme right winger on the Supreme Court, along with Antonin Scalia and Samuel Alito, but in many ways more hard right than even them, without the intellectual brilliance of Scalia for much of the time he has been on the Court.

Thomas has almost never asked questions in oral arguments, and his history on the Court is just about the least impressive of all nine Justices.

But at the same time, he has had conflicts of interest that should disqualify his Court membership, and his wife has been a big power player with Right Wing groups that present many conflicts of interest, but no concern or explanation or apology from Justice Thomas, who has no concern as to how he is perceived or reported in the news media.

Thomas has come across as arrogant, but also dense about discrimination against African Americans, Hispanics and Latinos, women, gays and lesbians, organized labor, and the environment.

Thomas is seen as certain to work against Affirmative Action, as in several cases in the past, despite the advantages he has had in his own life.

When one compares him to Justice Thurgood Marshall, it is clear that the appointment of Thomas was just about the worst decision President George H. W. Bush made in his term of office.

And if in the afterlife, someone can look down on the world, it would be clear that Justice Marshall, who was known for being blunt, would be furious that Thomas replaced him as the African American member on the Court, with no likelihood of his early departure anytime soon!

The 15 Greatest Supreme Court Justices Since 1900

The Supreme Court has become more controversial than ever in recent years, and the decisions of the John Roberts Court in 2015 only added fuel to the fire, regarding who the greatest and worst Supreme Court Justices have been in American history.

We have had 112 Supreme Court Justices, and 17 Chief Justices, including 5 who served as Associate Justice as well.

58 Justices have served since 1900, with a few selected before that date but serving into the 20th century. This includes 9 Chief Justices, including four who had served as Associate Justices of the Supreme Court.

If one had to select the top 15 Supreme Court Justices since 1900, without ranking them specifically, but instead creating a list chronologically, they would be listed as follows:

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.
Charles Evans Hughes
Louis Brandeis
Harlan Fiske Stone
Benjamin Cardozo
Hugo Black
Felix Frankfurter
William O. Douglas
Earl Warren
William J. Brennan, Jr.
Thurgood Marshall
Harry Blackmun
John Paul Stevens
Sandra Day O’Connor
Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Note that 9 of these 15 Supreme Court Justices were appointed by Republicans—Holmes by Theodore Roosevelt; Hughes by William Howard Taft and then elevated to Chief Justice by Herbert Hoover; Stone by Calvin Coolidge; Cardozo by Herbert Hoover; Warren and Brennan by Dwight D. Eisenhower; Blackmun by Richard Nixon; Stevens by Gerald Ford; and O’Connor by Ronald Reagan.

Democratic Presidents chose the following: Brandeis by Woodrow Wilson; Black, Frankfurter and Douglas by Franklin D. Roosevelt; Stone elevated to Chief Justice by FDR; Marshall by Lyndon B. Johnson; and Ginsburg by Bill Clinton.