Nelson Rockefeller

Three Speakers Of The House Who Were “A Heartbeat Away” From The Presidency!

The Presidential Succession Act was changed in 1947 from what it had been in the earlier law of 1886.

Instead of the cabinet officers being next in line after the Vice President, the new law, in effect now for 68 years, has the Speaker of the House of Representatives, a Congressman elected by one Congressional district, as next in line.

So therefore, three Speakers of the House have been “a heartbeat away” from the Presidency, in mid 1947-1948, November 1963 to January 1965, and October to December 1973 and August to December 1974.

Joseph W.  Martin Jr. was the first Republican Speaker in 16 years, when the law changed, and when threats against Harry Truman by the Zionist Stern Gang in 1947, as reported by Margaret Truman, occurred, and Martin was a heartbeat away.

When President John F. Kennedy was assassinated on November 22, 1963, and Lyndon B. Johnson, who had suffered a heart attack in 1955 became President, 73 year John W. McCormack was next in line for 14 months, and the recognition of this fact and his advanced age, led to the passage and ratification of the 25th Amendment in 1967, providing for an appointed Vice President to fill a vacancy after hearings by the House of Representatives and Senate.

Carl Albert was the third Speaker to be next in line when Vice President Spiro Agnew resigned in October 1973, and Albert remained so for two months until Gerald Ford was selected and confirmed as the the first Vice President under the 25th Amendment.

Again, Albert was first in line from August 1974, when Richard Nixon resigned and Gerald Ford became President, until December 1974 when Nelson Rockefeller was selected and confirmed as the second Vice President under the 25th Amendment.

So for a total of about two years, we have had Speakers of the House, and all three of the opposition party to boot, as “a heartbeat away” from the Presidency.

And although no President or Vice President has left office since 1974, the odds of such an event occurring at some point in the future is mounting, and worrisome, with three out of four years since 1947 having the opposition party in the Speakership as two heartbeats away from the Presidency!

21 Significant Speakers Of The House In American History

With the election of Paul Ryan as the new Speaker of the House of Representatives this week, it makes one focus on  the 54 House Speakers in American history, and recognition of the fact that twenty one of them were quite significant figures in the American past.

Probably the most prominent of all was one of the earliest Speakers, Henry Clay of Kentucky, who became Speaker as a freshman in 1811, and served three different times as House Speaker, from 1811-1814, 1815-1820, and 1823-1825. a total of more than six and a half years, as Congress did not meet back then for many months in any years, but sixth longest serving.  Clay is considered the most famous Congressional figure in American history in both houses of Congress, and was an unsuccessful Presidential nominee three times, in 1824, 1832, and 1844.  He was a giant figure in American political history and American politics.

John Bell was Speaker in 1834-1835, and was also a Presidential candidate of the Constitutional Union party in the Presidential Election of 1860, trying to prevent the Civil War by running as an alternative to the three other candidates that year—Abraham Lincoln, Stephen Douglas, and John C. Breckinridge.  He won three states and 39 electoral votes, carrying Virginia, Kentucky, and Tennessee in the Electoral College.

James K. Polk became the only Speaker so far to become President of the United States, in the Presidential Election of 1844, after having served as House Speaker from 1835-1839.  He is considered the most successful one term President, deciding due to ill health to refuse to run f0r reelection in 1848, but gaining the whole American Southwest in war with Mexico, and arranging the peaceful acquisition of the Pacific Northwest by treaty with Great Britain.  His retirement from the Presidency was the shortest in American history, only 105 days.

Robert M. T. Hunter was the youngest Speaker of the House at the age of 30, serving from 1839-1841, and later as Confederate Secretary of State in 1861-1862 during the Civil War.

Howell Cobb served as Speaker from 1849-1851, being 34 when elected, and served as one of the founders of the Confederate States of America in 1861.

Schuyler Colfax served as Speaker from 1863-1869, and as Vice President in the first term of President Ulysses S. Grant from 1869-1873, being the first of two Speakers to serve in the Vice Presidency, the other being John Nance Garner under Franklin D. Roosevelt.

James G. Blaine served as Speaker from 1869-1875, 10th longest serving with a little over five years, and later was the Republican nominee for President in the Presidential Election of 1884.  He also served as Secretary of State under James A. Garfield, Chester Alan Arthur, and Benjamin Harrison, and was present at the site of the Garfield assassination in 1881.

Thomas B. Reed served as Speaker from 1889-1891 and 1895-1899, and was nicknamed “Czar Reed”, because he wielded great power in the Speakership, which added to the stature and influence of the Speakers after him.

Joseph Cannon served as House Speaker from 1903-1911, added the most power to the Speakership, more than Reed, but then saw a “revolution” of progressive Republicans led by George Norris of Nebraska, which stripped him and future Speakers of the absolute power that Reed and Cannon had waged, and was pushed out of the Speakership when the opposition Democrats won control of the House of Representatives in the midterm elections of 1910.  He was eighth longest serving Speaker, nearly six years, and had a House office building named after him despite his fall from power in 1910.

His successor, Champ Clark, served as House Speaker from 1911-1919, fifth longest serving at seven  years, and nearly won the 1912 Democratic Presidential nomination, but lost to Woodrow Wilson.

Nicholas Longworth served as Speaker from 1925-1931, punished progressive Republicans and restored much of the power of the Speaker under Joseph Cannon, and was married to Theodore Roosevelt’s daughter, Alice.  Later, a House office building would be named after him.

John Nance Garner served 15 months as House Speaker from 1931-1933, and then became Vice President under Franklin D. Roosevelt, and served two terms in that office. He became famous for his statement that the Vice Presidency was not worth  “a bucket of warm piss!”  He opposed much of the New Deal, and tried to win the nomination against his boss when FDR sought a third term in 1940.  On his 95th birthday, President John F. Kennedy wished him “Happy Birthday” just hours before his assassination on November 22, 1963. Garner died at age 98 in 1967, the longest lived Vice President or President, and just 15 days before his 99th birthday!

Sam Rayburn was the most prominent, and longest serving Speaker of the House in American history, serving a total of 17 years in three rounds as Speaker, from 1941=1947, 1949-1953, and from 1955 to near the end of 1961, when he died in office.  A House Office Building is named after him, and only he and Henry Clay served three separate terms as Speaker.  He was one of the most prominent members in the entire history of the House of Representatives, engendering great respect and admiration, and served under Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry Truman, Dwight D. Eisenhower, and John F. Kennedy.

John W. McCormack was the third longest serving House Speaker, a total of nine years from 1962-1971, and served as House Majority Leader all of the years that Sam Rayburn was Speaker.  He presided over the New Frontier and Great Society legislative package under Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson.

Carl Albert served as Speaker from 1971-1977, seventh longest serving in the office, and a heartbeat away when Spiro Agnew resigned as Vice President in 1973, until Gerald Ford was confirmed as Vice President under the 25th Amendment in 1973, and again when Ford became President in 1974 until Nelson Rockefeller was confirmed as Vice President at the end of that year.

Thomas “Tip” O’Neill was the second longest serving House Speaker, a total of ten years from 1977-1987, serving under Presidents Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan.  He served the longest consecutive years as Speaker, and was an unabashed liberal, but negotiated a Social Security compromise agreement with Ronald Reagan in 1983, which became the mark of bipartisanship.

Thomas Foley served six years as Speaker from 1989-1995, and became the first Speaker since 1862 to be defeated for his House seat in 1994, retiring him from the House of Representatives, but he served as Ambassador to Japan for President Bill Clinton from 1997-2001.  He was ninth longest serving Speaker.

Newt Gingrich served as Speaker for four years from 1995-1999, having been the leader of the “Republican Revolution”, where the GOP took back control of the House of Representatives after 40 years in “the wilderness”.  Highly controversial and combative, Gingrich led the fight against President Bill Clinton, and moved for his impeachment in 1998, but then was forced out by an internal rebellion in his own party at the end of 1998.  He sought the Presidency in 2012, but fell short of the nomination, and remains an outspoken active commentator on politics.

Dennis Hastert became the longest serving Republican Speaker in American history, serving eight years from 1999-2007, fourth longest serving, seen as non controversial after Gingrich, and being Speaker under Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.  He became involved in a sex and financial scandal dating back to before he was in Congress, and faces prison time as this article is being written, having pleaded guilty.

Nancy Pelosi became the first woman Speaker, serving four years from 2007-2011, and remains Minority Leader today, and her two Congresses under George W. Bush and Barack Obama accomplished more legislation, particularly under Obama, than any Congress since the 1960s.

John Boehner served almost five years as Speaker from 2011 until this past week, facing highly contentious opponents in his own party, the Tea Party Movement, now known as the Freedom or Liberty Caucus, a group of about 40 Republicans, who made his life miserable, and finally, he resigned, and has handed over authority to Paul Ryan, who was Vice Presidential running mate of Mitt Romney in the Presidential Election of 2012, and had been Chair of the House Budget Committee and House Ways and Means Committee, before becoming Speaker this week.


The Constitutional Crisis We Tend To Forget: Richard Nixon, Spiro Agnew, And Gerald Ford In 1973

The tragedy of the John F. Kennedy Assassination in 1963 led to a decision that the nation needed an amendment to provide for a replacement Vice President, when there was a vacancy in that office.  We were faced with a Speaker of the House, John McCormack, who was 73, and a President Pro Tempore of the US Senate, Carl Hayden, who was 86, at a time when the new President, Lyndon B. Johnson, had had a severe heart attack eight years earlier.

This was a delicate time, and led Senator Birch Bayh of Indiana, and other legislators, to promote the 25th Amendment, which was added to the Constitution in 1967.  And that made the constitutional crisis which followed six years later a little easier to deal with.

Richard Nixon became the most lawless President in American history, as a result of the Watergate Scandal and other scandals.  But Vice President Spiro Agnew also became the most lawless Vice President in American history, and thank goodness we found out about Agnew’s lawlessness, including bribery and accepting cash gifts in the Vice President’s office, which Agnew had also done while Governor of Maryland and Baltimore County Executive.

Instead of having Speaker of the House Carl Albert of Oklahoma as next in line, with Albert unwilling to take on the responsibility, the 25th Amendment allowed the appointment and confirmation by both houses of Congress of House Minority Leader Gerald Ford.

Ford became Vice President within two months of the Agnew resignation on October 10, 1973. and when he became President, Ford appointed and gained the approval of both houses of Congress to the appointment of former New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller as his Vice President, although it took four months to get him confirmed.

The problem of most Speakers of the House is their lack of competence to be President, which is still a problem for a period of months until a new Vice President is appointed and confirmed.  And also, three out of four years since 1947, the Speaker and or the President Pro Tempore of the Senate have been from the opposition party of the President.

So this still requires what this blogger has suggested in the past week in the midst of the Speakership crisis—a return to the Presidential Succession Act of 1886, which provided for Cabinet officers to succeed the President and Vice President, rather than the present law, the Presidential Succession Act of 1947, which leaves us with the crisis we face now!

Republican Party History: Key Dates Of 1860, 1912, 1964, 2016—the 52 Year Syndrome!

The Republican has had a long, controversial history since its founding in 1854 as a party opposed to the expansion of slavery, and containing within itself, those opposed to the institution of slavery itself.

After only six years, the Republican Party reached majority control of both houses of Congress and the White House, with Abraham Lincoln.

From then until 52 years later, 1912, the GOP dominated American politics, except in the South, where the Democrats prevailed.

In 1912, the party split between former President Theodore Roosevelt, an extremely popular and path breaking President, the greatest Republican President since Lincoln, and the incumbent President, William Howard Taft, who was supported by conservatives of the time against TR’s Progressive Party challenge, which led to Taft only winning two states and 23 percent of the national popular vote, and putting Democrat Woodrow Wilson in the White House.

While the Republicans recovered in the 1920s, and almost defeated Wilson in 1916 with their nominee, Charles Evans Hughes, the Great Depression decimated the Republican Party, and the Democrats became the majority party, while the Republicans continued to battle between moderates and conservatives, with the moderates winning the nominations for President, until finally, Senator Barry Goldwater defeated the Establishment  forces led by New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller in 1964, 52 years after the earlier collapse.  Goldwater went on to lose the popular vote in a two way race by a larger margin than ever in American history, with Lyndon B. Johnson winning over 61 percent of the national vote.

This massive defeat did not end the civil war in the GOP, with Gerald Ford just barely winning the nomination over Ronald Reagan in 1976, and losing a very close race to Jimmy Carter.  But Reagan then won the White House, and the right wing felt it was in its glory, although Reagan was, actually, very unpredictable in his policies and views, and would today, probably be rejected by the extreme right wing in control of the GOP in 2015.

The right wing was unhappy with George H. W. Bush, Bob Dole, George W. Bush, John McCain and Mitt Romney as insufficiently conservative, and now there is full scale civil war in the GOP, including revolts against Speaker of the House John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.  The rise of Donald Trump, Dr. Benjamin Carson, and Carly Fiorina, all non office holders, demonstrates the right wing desire to fight the GOP establishment, but what it means is certain defeat in 2016.

Likely, no matter who is nominated, the Republican Party is, seemingly, at a 52 year mark, again ready to implode upon itself, and give the Democrats long term control of the Presidency, as the situation now appears!

The Five Worst, Most Dangerous Republican Presidential Candidates!

The Republican Party is offering us a disgraceful group of candidates for the Presidency, with most of them being an embarrassment to the glorious history of the party historically!

The Republican Party was the party of the Civil War and the end of slavery!

The Republican Party was the party, originally, of progressivism in the early 20th century!

The Republican Party was the party of moderate centrism, under Dwight D. Eisenhower, and offered many governors and senators who were moderate centrists or moderate progressives, in the image of Nelson Rockefeller, in the years after Ike was in the White House!

But since the time of Ronald Reagan, the Republican party has moved so far to the Right and been captured by Christian conservatives and Tea Party extremists, who have moved the party out of the mainstream. The party has allowed itself to be influenced by Fox News Channel and talk show hosts, such as Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Mark Levin, Michael Savage, and Laura Ingraham!

So we have a group of candidates, some of which can be seen as the worst, most dangerous candidates imaginable!

We would include in the list of five worst, most dangerous Republican Presidential candidates the following:

Donald Trump
Ted Cruz
Mike Huckabee
Scott Walker
Rick Santorum

Any of these five would be especially threatening to the nation’s future, both in domestic and foreign policy! Luckily, only Walker, at this point, seems a real threat, but Trump is taking all of the oxygen out of the room with his divisive candidacy, including personal insults against all of his opponents.

In so doing, he is insuring a Republican party loss by a massive landslide in the Presidential Election of 2016!

Former New York Governor George Pataki: Ignored, Forgotten, But Most Sensible, Centrist Republican In Presidential Race

It used to be that New York Governors, whether Democrats or Republicans, were well respected and regarded in national politics.

Just in the last century, we had Charles Evans Hughes, Alfred E. Smith, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Thomas E. Dewey all Presidential nominees; and Nelson Rockefeller and Mario Cuomo seen as possible Presidential choices.

Such was not the case with George Pataki, Governor from 1995-2007, who did the magical feat of defeating Mario Cuomo, who no one thought could be defeated for a fourth term in 1994; and who was then overshadowed by two New York City Mayors, Rudy Guilani and Michael Bloomberg, who were more exciting personalities.

But Pataki, after being forgotten for nearly a decade, and after a Governorship that looks a whole lot better after the disasters of his successors in the Governorship–Eliot Spitzer and David Paterson—is now back in politics as number 16 out of 16 Republican Presidential contenders, with ZERO chance of being the nominee, and in the bottom of the polls, often not scoring even one percent.

Having said that, Pataki is truly a “profile in courage”, in that he is challenging Donald Trump’s hate filled comments about Mexican immigration, in a way no one else is doing so, and has challenged Trump to a debate on that topic.

Of course, Pataki wants to be seen as significant, and it is clear Trump will not answer the challenge.

But Pataki represents the now dormant “Rockefeller” wing of the Republican Party, the moderate centrist Republican, who actually believes in immigration reform, abortion rights, acceptance of gay marriage, belief in environmental protection. and sensible gun control.

With a candidate such as Pataki, the GOP would have a revival back to its glorious past, instead of teetering on the brink of disaster, and its demise in the near future!

Another New York Governor Seeks The Presidency, But Demonstrates Decline Of New York Influence!

A “real” long shot nominee for the Republican Presidential nomination is former New York Governor George Pataki (1994-2006), who defeated Governor Mario Cuomo in a surprise upset, and then presided over the state at the time of the September 11 attacks, but took a back seat to NYC Mayor Rudy Guiliani in its aftermath.

Pataki is a moderate Republican in a time when moderates are not in vogue, and he is NOT dynamic or charismatic. No one expects that this newly announced GOP candidate for the Presidency has any chance to be the Presidential nominee in 2016. He promoted environmental reforms; gay rights legislation; and believes in a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, all of which will disqualify him. He has not been in office since 2006, and would be halfway past 70 if he took the oath of office. No one gets excited at the thought of his candidacy. And being from New York, but being ignored, demonstrates how New York has declined in influence, particularly in the Republican Party.

New York was the state of other Republican Governors who were nominated for President, including Theodore Roosevelt, who won in 1898; Charles Evans Hughes, who won in 1906; Thomas E. Dewey, who lost in 1944 and 1948; and the failed candidacy of Nelson Rockefeller for the candidacy in 1960, 1964, and 1968.

It is also the state that elected Democrat Governor Martin Van Buren in 1828; Democrat Grover Cleveland in 1884; Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1932; and failed Democratic nominees Horatio Seymour in 1868, Samuel Tilden in 1876, and Alfred E. Smith in 1928. Also, Democrat Governnor Averill Harriman tried for the nomination in 1956, and Governor Mario Cuomo flirted with the idea in 1988 and 1992, but chose not to run.

On the other hand, Democratic Senator Robert Kennedy was seeking the Presidency, when he was assassinated in 1968; and Democratic Senator Hillary Clinton, who sought and lost the Presidential nomination in 2008, and is now the front runner in the Democratic Party in 2016.

Divorce And The Presidency: Adlai Stevenson To The Present

The news of the death of Happy Rockefeller, the second wife and widow of former Vice President Nelson Rockefeller, brings to mind the issue of “domestic bliss” or the lack of it in our politicians, past and present.

Rockefeller was thought to be the leading Republican candidate for President in 1964, but when he divorced his first wife and married his second wife, his chances for the nomination evaporated very quickly.

Only Adlai Stevenson, the Democratic Presidential nominee in 1952 and 1956, had been a nominee and been divorced before Rockefeller’s situation came along a decade later.

This did not mean that there were never liaisons and love triangles before, as Warren G. Harding had been cheating on his wife, but never had thought of divorce.

And Franklin D. Roosevelt had stayed with Eleanor Roosevelt, knowing that if he divorced her, his chances for a political career were over.

There was plenty of sexual “hanky panky” throughout American history, without any thought of divorce, including, besides Harding and FDR the following: Franklin Pierce, James A. Garfield, Woodrow Wilson, Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, Bill Clinton, and others.

But none of them ever considered divorce seriously, and Stevenson was hurt by his divorce, as was Rockefeller.

But that changed when Ronald Reagan ran in 1980, and had been divorced more than 30 years earlier.

And since Reagan, we have had Bob Dole, John Kerry, and John McCain, all divorced, but nominated by their parties, although no other divorced person has been elected President.

So divorce, so common in politics now, is no longer an issue, as it was throughout our history!

Who Should Have Been President? The Following List Of 12 Great Political Leaders

A high percentage of the 43 American Presidents are looked upon as having been inferior, disappointing, and in some cases, clearly unqualified to be President.

And then there is a list of both Presidential nominees, and also Presidential seekers, who are looked upon as those who SHOULD have been President, but never were.

First the list, which numbers 12,and then an explanation of each case.

Henry Clay
Daniel Webster
William Seward
Samuel Tilden
Charles Evans Hughes
Robert LaFollette Sr
Adlai Stevenson
Hubert Humphrey
Nelson Rockefeller
Bob Dole
Al Gore
Hillary Clinton

Two of the above (Clay and Webster) were Whigs; five of the above (Seward, Hughes, LaFollette, Sr., Rockefeller, and Dole) were Republicans; and the remaining five of the above (Tilden, Stevenson, Humphrey, Gore, and Clinton) were Democrats.

Henry Clay ran three times for President, in 1824, 1832, and 1844, and is regarded by many experts as the absolutely most outstanding Senator in all of American history, who made many contributions in government, including being Speaker of the House, an influential Senator (Kentucky) , and Secretary of State.

Daniel Webster is the other most outstanding Senator (Massachusetts) before the Civil War, and was seen as being as much of a statesman as Clay, and also served as Secretary of State.

William Seward lost the Presidential nomination to Abraham Lincoln, but was considered the leading Republican in his time as a Senator from New York, and also served as Secretary of State.

Samuel Tilden was the reform Governor of New York, who lost the Presidency despite a major lead, which in percentage, was greater than Al Gore, the other person who won the popular vote, but lost the election, and never became President.

Charles Evans Hughes was a giant figure in American government, as Progressive Governor of New York; Associate Justice of the Supreme Court; Secretary of State; and then Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.

Robert LaFollette Sr. was “Mr. Progressive”, the best state Governor (Wisconsin) in all of American history, and rated one of the top five Senators of all time, and actually tied Henry Clay in a scholarly poll as the best US Senator ever in American history.

Adlai Stevenson was a brilliant intellectual, who could not defeat President Eisenhower, but was regarded as an “egghead”, and served as Ambassador to the United Nations, years after he served as a Governor of Illinois.

Hubert Humphrey was one of the greatest Senators (Minnesota) to grace the upper chamber in American history, and introduced much of what became the Great Society, and he served as Vice President of the United States.

Nelson Rockefeller never was nominated for President, but was seen as a very capable and wise four term Governor of New York, one of the best in American history, served as Vice President, and having the potential to have been a great President, but could not gain the support of his party.

Bob Dole was a masterful Senator (Kansas) with a long career in Congress, and the ability to get things done, and regarded as the second greatest Senate Majority Leader, after Lyndon Johnson, in American history.

Al Gore won the Presidency in popular votes by more than a half million, but lost the contested state of Florida in a Supreme Court vote, based on party line, rather than the principle that the Court had no right to intervene in the state of Florida’s Supreme Court judgments. Gore served as Vice President, after service in the House of Representatives and the US Senate (Tennessee).

Hillary Clinton was one of the most outstanding First Ladies; Senator from New York; Secretary of State; and now had the opportunity, potentially, to come off this list, IF she is able to win the Presidency in 2016 and become our first woman President.

The nation would have been much better if any or all of these 12 political figures had gained the opportunity to serve in the White House!

40th Anniversary Of Gerald Ford Becoming President: A Blessing For The Nation!

It has been 40 years since Gerald Ford became President, upon the resignation of our most dangerous President, Richard Nixon, due to his impending impeachment and trial in Congress, based on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of justice in the Watergate Scandal.

The 25th Amendment, only ratified and added to the Constitution in 1967, allowed Ford, who had replaced the corrupt Vice President Spiro Agnew, to become our 38th President.

Ford helped to end the great national nightmare of a corrupt President and a corrupt Vice President. He was the right man for the time, well liked and well respected, and not ambitious to be President. All Ford had wanted to do in his 25 year career in the House of Representatives was to become Speaker of the House.

Suddenly thrust into the responsibilities of the Presidency, Ford showed courage and guts in his selection of Nelson Rockefeller as his Vice President; the pardoning of Richard Nixon, which probably helped to defeat him in a close race for the Presidency in 1976 with Jimmy Carter; his handling of the Mayaguez Affair with Cambodia, which save captured hostages; and his brilliant appointment of Associate Justice John Paul Stevens.

Ford knew how to cross the aisle, and make friends of rivals, including President Carter, with the two men becoming fast friends once Carter left office, and with Carter giving the eulogy at Ford’s funeral in 2006.

Ford also gave us one of the greatest First Ladies in American history in Betty Ford, and his moderate conservatism is what one would wish for now from the much further right wing Republican Party of 2014.

It is well worth a visit to Grand Rapids, Michigan, to the Ford Presidential Museum, as this author and blogger did a year ago, which caused him to gain growing respect for the 38th President of the United States, who showed up at the precisely proper time when the Presidency itself was under attack!