Secretary of War

Presidents Without Prior Elected Occupation

A total of 6 Presidents have been elected without any prior elected position in government.

Three of them had careers in the military:

Zachary Taylor who was a Major General in the US Army, and served in, and became famous in the Mexican War of 1846-1848, and was elected President in 1848.

Ulysses S. Grant, who was a General in the Civil War, gained the surrender of Confederate General Robert E. Lee to end the war, and was elected President in 1868.

Dwight D. Eisenhower, who was General of the Army during World War II, and planned the D-Day invasion on France on June 6, 1944, and was elected President in 1952.

Two other Presidents had appointed experience in the US government as Cabinet Officers before they were elected President:

William Howard Taft, who served as Secretary of War under Theodore Roosevelt, and was elected President in 1908.

Herbert Hoover, who served as Secretary of Commerce under Warren G. Harding and Calvin Coolidge, and was elected President in 1928.

And then, finally, there is Donald Trump, in a category by himself, as Chairman of the Trump Organization, his whole career in real estate, and also a reality star on television, a public figure for decades, but never holding office in any form by election or appointment, or by military service, but elected President in 2016.

Cabinet Officers And The Presidency

Continuing our examination of the background of America’s Presidents, we will now look at the Presidency in relation to those who have held Cabinet positions under other Presidents.

So far, we have seen that there were 19 Presidents who served in the House of Representatives, 17 who served as Governors of their states, and 16 who served in the US Senate.

In regards to Cabinet officers a total of 8 Presidents served in a total of three different Cabinet positions.

Six of the 8 served as Secretary of State, including:

Thomas Jefferson under George Washington
James Madison under Thomas Jefferson
James Monroe under James Madison twice with a break of about a year when he served also as Secretary of War during the War of 1812, but then returned to the State Department.
John Quincy Adams under James Monroe
Martin Van Buren under Andrew Jackson
James Buchanan under James K. Polk

James Monroe served for about a year as Secretary of War under James Madison, as stated above, and William Howard Taft served in that position under Theodore Roosevelt..

Finally, Herbert Hoover served as Secretary of Commerce under Warren G. Harding and Calvin Coolidge before running for President in 1928. Arguably, Hoover proved to be one of the best Cabinet officers in all of American history, and added great distinction to a Cabinet agency not much thought of as a major position otherwise.

Additionally, Theodore Roosevelt and Franklin D. Roosevelt served as sub cabinet members under William McKinley and Woodrow Wilson respectively, both as Assistant Secretary of the Navy.

Also, William Howard Taft served as Solicitor General of the United States, the government’s lawyer before the Supreme Court, under President Benjamin Harrison.

Joint Party Tickets A Good Idea? History Tells Us NO!

Recently, there has been some discussion of a “fusion” ticket as the way to stop Donald Trump.

One such scenario is to have Hillary Clinton run with John Kasich as her running mate.

That is totally preposterous, and history tells us that when the Vice President is of a different party than the President, it does not work out well.

The first contested Presidential election led to Thomas Jefferson as Vice President under his opponent, John Adams from 1797-1801, and that did not work out well, and in fact, helped to promote the 12th Amendment in 1804.

Then we had John C. Calhoun as Vice President under John Quincy Adams in the years 1825-1829, and that did not work out well.

William Henry Harrison was elected in 1840 with this Whig candidate having a Democrat, John Tyler, as his Vice President.  Within a month, Harrison was dead, and Tyler had constant battles with the Whig Congress, because he did not wish to follow Whig platform ideas.

Abraham Lincoln chose Andrew Johnson as his second term Vice President, despite the fact that Johnson was a Democrat in a Republican Presidency, and when Lincoln was assassinated six weeks later, we had one of the worst struggles in American history, as Johnson fought and resisted the Republican Party which had put him into the Vice Presidency, albeit briefly.

With these four examples, none of them working out well, we have never had such a situation arise again since, but we have had suggestions of doing what has never worked out well.

There were suggestions that Hubert Humphrey select Nelson Rockefeller in 1968, and that John McCain choose Joe Lieberman in 2008.

It simply will not work, and it undermines party loyalty and commitment to a President and his administration, if the next in line, in case of tragedy, transforms the power base in the Presidency.

As it is, we have had top cabinet members who are of the other party, particularly in the War Department as it was known before 1947, and the Defense Department, as it has been known since then., including:

Henry Stimson under Franklin D. Roosevelt from 1940-1945

Robert McNamara under John F. Kennedy, beginning in 1961, and continuing under Lyndon B. Johnson until 1968.

William Cohen under Bill Clinton from 1997-2001

Robert Gates under Barack Obama from 2009-2011

But the Vice President needs to be “on the team”, not a rival of the President in office!

 

Presidential Succession Law Of 1886-1947 Needs To Be Renewed!

In 1947, the Republican controlled 80th Congress, in a fit of partisanship and anti FDR sentiment, changed the Presidential Succession Law of 1886, enacted during the first term of President Grover Cleveland.

That law made the succession for the Presidency beyond the Vice President to be as follows: Secretary of State, Secretary of the Treasury, Secretary of War, Attorney General, and then other cabinet agencies, including Interior and Agriculture.

That law made sense, as it meant that in case of tragedy hitting the President and Vice President, that members of  that President’s cabinet, people loyal to him, knowledgeable in  foreign and defense policies, and domestic policies, would be next in  line, in case of an emergency.

But the Republicans after World War II were furious that Franklin D. Roosevelt had been elected four times, so not only added the 22nd Amendment, limiting any future President to two elected term, or a maximum of ten years if he succeeded during a term, but also decided to make the Speaker of the House and the President pro tempore of the Senate second and third in line behind the Vice President.  That, of course, meant, that if anything had happened to President Harry Truman, and with no Vice President for the remainder of that term of office, that Speaker Joseph Martin, a Republican, would have succeeded him.

The idea of having the opposition party gain the Presidency during a term due to a tragedy was not based on what was good for the nation, but pure partisanship by the GOP.

But now, the extremism in the GOP, including the Tea Party Movement right wing whackos, makes the idea of John Boehner, or some other Republican gaining power of the executive branch under a Democratic administration totally reprehensible, as that would mean a dramatic turn to the far Right, although the people voted in a Democratic administration.  Also, the President pro tempore of the Senate, a position which is honorary based on seniority in the majority party in the Senate, brings the danger, not only of partisanship, but also the reality of a very old Senator, unfit to serve, being third in line for the Presidency, and at the time of Truman, second in line to be President!

That is why there is a need to repeal the 1947 law and return to the 1886 law, which makes the most sense, as the Speaker of the House, while elected, is only chosen by one Congressional district out of 435, and is therefore NOT representative of the nation, as much as a cabinet member, selected by the President but subject to Senate confirmation, is representative of the policies and ideals of the elected President!

The likelihood of this happening short term is near zero, but it is worthy of consideration for the near future!

“Crossing The Aisle”: BiPartisanship Of America’s Presidents From FDR To Obama

A common theme in American history is the “crossing of the aisle”, the bipartisanship encouraged by just about every American President, and the utilizing of leaders of the opposition party to help make his administration successful.

Franklin D. Roosevelt had Henry Stimson as his Secretary of War from 1940-45, with Stimson having served as Secretary of State under Herbert Hoover. He also had Frank Knox as Secretary of the Navy from 1940-1944, who had been the Republican Vice Presidential nominee in 1936.

Harry Truman had Warren Austin as his United Nations Ambassador from 1947 to 1953.

Dwight D. Eisenhower had Robert Anderson in various roles, as Secretary of the Navy, Deputy Secretary of Defense, and Secretary of the Treasury, during his eight years in office from 1953 to 1961.

John F. Kennedy had Robert McNamara as his Secretary of Defense and D. Douglas Dillon as his Secretary of the Treasury and Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr. (who he had defeated for the Senate in 1952, as his Ambassador to South Vietnam.

Lyndon B. Johnson kept on McNamara, Dillon and Lodge as close advisers in his administration, after he succeeded to the Presidency upon Kennedy’s death.

Richard Nixon had Sargent Shriver as Ambassador to France, John Connally as Secretary of the Treasury, and Daniel Patrick Moynihan as Ambassador to India.

Gerald Ford had Moynihan stay on as Ambassador to India, and then as Ambassador to the United Nations.

Jimmy Carter had James Schlesinger as Secretary of Energy, and Lawrence Eagleburger as Ambassador to Yugoslavia.

Ronald Reagan has Mike Mansfield at Ambassador to Japan, Jeane Kirkpatrick as Ambassador to the United Nations, William Bennett as Secretary of Education, and Paul Volcker as Chairman of the Federal Reserve.

George H. W. Bush had Richard Stone as Ambassador to Denmark, and Robert Strauss as Ambassador to the Soviet Union.

Bill Clinton had Alan Greenspan as Chairman of the Federal Reserve and William Cohen as Secretary of Defense.

George W. Bush had Norman Mineta as Secretary of Transportation.

And Barack Obama has had Robert Gates as Secretary of Defense, Ray LaHood as Secretary of Transportation, Jon Huntsman as Ambassador to China, John McHugh as Secretary of the Army, Ben Bernanke as Chairman of the Federal Reserve, and now has pending the nomination of Chuck Hagel to be Secretary of Defense.

Notice that Obama has had more members of the opposition party in his administration than any President!