Richard Nixon

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 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!

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!

40th Anniversary Of Richard Nixon Resignation, Due To Watergate Scandal

It is hard to believe, but it is now 40 years since Richard Nixon was forced out of the Presidency, due to the Watergate Scandal.

It was stunning that a President, who had won 49 of the 50 states, and all but 17 electoral votes, would be the only President to resign after only one year and almost seven months of his second term.

It was also amazing that Nixon was the only President facing impeachment, and resigning after the House Judiciary Committee, in a bipartisan vote, adopted three articles of impeachment, who truly deserved impeachment.

Andrew Johnson was wrongfully impeached and found not guilty in 1868, and Bill Clinton was to face the same circumstances and results in 1998-1999. And now, there is a threat of Barack Obama facing the same scenario next year, but with the same results assured.

The point was that Richard Nixon had actually been abusive of his powers as President, and had led a lawless administration unmatched before or since.

It is also a tragic story as, in reality, Richard Nixon had many accomplishments in foreign and domestic policy, many of which remain part of American life 40 years later, particularly so in domestic affairs, including the Environmental Protection Agency, Consumer Product Safety Commission, and Occupational Safety and Health Administration, among others.

The evaluation and interpretation of Richard Nixon will continue to be controversial, and a new HBO special, “Nixon on Nixon,” has been unveiled this week, demonstrating the man’s illegalities and prejudices and biases, straight from the Watergate tapes themselves. Additionally, a new book has been published with the revelation of these tapes, authored by historian Douglas Brinkley of Rice University, with the assistance of Professor Luke Nichter of Texas A & M University.

So Nixon will be written about for generations, both for the good he did, as well as the bad!

The Mitt Romney Presidential Boomlet Neutralizes Age Issue For Hillary Clinton!

The sudden Mitt Romney Presidential boomlet that has emerged has one good result for Hillary Clinton!

It neutralizes the age issue, that Hillary at age 69 is too old to run for a first term as President, as Mitt Romney would also be 69, and actually is seven and a half months older than Hillary, and would reach 70 in less than two months after inauguration, while it would take Hillary another nearly seven and a half months to reach that age.

It could also help Joe Biden, who would be 74 on Inauguration Day, as there really is not that much difference between 69 and 74, if the opponent is either age listed.

More significantly, the issue arises whether Mitt Romney can really repeat what Thomas Jefferson, Andrew Jackson, William Henry Harrison, Grover Cleveland, and Richard Nixon managed to do, to lose election to the White House, and then win it (although Cleveland is a special case, having won, then lost, and then returned to the White House).

Putting betting money on that occurring again is to gamble one’s fortune!

Fifty Years Ago, A Lie Led To War: The Gulf Of Tonkin Resolution Under Lyndon B. Johnson

A half century ago, the move toward massive escalation of the war in Vietnam began, with the false, misleading report of the supposed attack on US ships, the Turner Joy and the Maddox, by North Vietnamese patrol boats off the of the Gulf of Tonkin.

Lyndon B. Johnson immediately called for a resolution from Congress, infamously known in history as the Gulf of Tonkin resolution, calling for a bombing attack on North Vietnam and its key cities, the capital of Hanoi and the port city of Haiphong.

The push for quick action led to a 416-0 vote in the House of Representatives, and an 89-2 vote in the US Senate, with Oregon Senator Wayne Morse and Alaska Senator Ernest Gruening, both Democrats, the only negative votes, and with both heavily criticized as “unAmerican” for their skepticism and doubts, and their desire to know much more information before they cast their vote for military action.

This event led to a war which killed 58,000 Americans, and divided the nation like nothing had since the Civil War a century earlier!

It divided the Democratic Party, and caused its defeat in 1968, as the nation repudiated LBJ through the defeat of his loyal Vice President, Hubert H. Humphrey.

It led to total disillusionment with American foreign policy, and growing distrust of the Presidency as an institution, something which remains the same way today!

LBJ might be remembered for his great domestic achievements under the appellation of the “Great Society”, but it caused the loss of his stature when he misled the nation on the road to proving his “manhood” by going to war, and it ultimately destroyed the liberal coalition which brought his domestic reforms.

This is a very sobering moment a half century later, what might have been if only LBJ had not gone into a massive war in Vietnam, including maybe a continuation of the “Great Society”, and no Richard Nixon in the White House at all!

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!

40 Years Since Impeachment Process Against Richard Nixon, And Now Impeachment Has Been Abused Against Bill Clinton And Barack Obama!

Forty years ago, in the waning days of the Richard Nixon Presidency, the House of Representatives began considering resolutions of impeachment against the 37th President.

That impeachment proceeding, leading to three articles of impeachment, was a bipartisan action by both Democrats and Republicans against a President out of control, and committing violations of his oath of office.

Therefore, with a bipartisan vote, the House Judiciary Committee recommended articles of impeachment against Nixon on the basis of obstruction of justice, abuse of power, and refusal to hand over evidence, in the form of tapes and other materials, to the Special Prosecutor investigating the Watergate Scandal.

Richard Nixon proceeded to resign after these resolutions passed, and with the knowledge that the Supreme Court, in an unanimous 8-0 vote a few days earlier, had demanded (US V. Richard Nixon) that the President hand over the Watergate tapes to the House of Representatives and the Special Prosecutor.

That impeachment proceeding was justifiable and necessary, but the move against Bill Clinton in 1998 was NOT justified, and neither is the impending movement, even acknowledged by the White House, against Barack Obama, that he has abused his executive powers with executive orders, even with far fewer such executive orders than previous Presidents! The first step toward impeachment of Obama is the vote of the House of Representatives, by party line vote yesterday, to sue the President for abusing his authority under the Constitution, a wholly political act with no justification!

Ironically, Obama is accused of abusing his powers, while at the same time being accused of being weak and indecisive in his conduct of foreign policy!

Both the Clinton impeachment and the pending Obama impeachment is purely partisan politics, a desire to besmirch two Presidents, who in many ways have achieved more in their terms of office than any recent Republican President, including the “knighted” and “holy” Ronald Reagan!

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!

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!