Thomas Jefferson

The Struggle Of Donald Trump With Chief Justice John Roberts More Dangerous Than Earlier Challenges Of Presidents To Supreme Court Chief Justices

Donald Trump has challenged Chief Justice John Roberts and the Supreme Court, just as he has challenged every other institution of government, but Chief Justice John Roberts seems well prepared to deal with Trump, if and when he gets out of hand.

It is certainly a dangerous struggle, as Donald Trump has an authoritarian bent unlike any earlier President, but it seems clear that Roberts is ready to do what must be done to keep the President within the Constitution.

Earlier in history, there were major confrontations of Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson with Chief Justice John Marshall; Abraham Lincoln with Chief Justice Roger Taney; Franklin D. Roosevelt with Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes; Dwight D. Eisenhower and Richard Nixon with Chief Justice Earl Warren; Richard Nixon with Chief Justice Warren Burger; and Barack Obama with Chief Justice John Roberts.

But Trump has demanded that the court system favor him in all of his executive orders, and other executive actions, but the Court has refused to back him on a regular basis, leading Trump to say that there are Clinton Judges, Obama Judges, and Bush Judges, but Roberts responding that there are no such descriptions, as all are dedicated to the rule of law, a true rebuke of the President.

On a recent executive order to deny asylum automatically to those who seek it, the Court ruled 5-4 against it, with Roberts joining the four Democratic appointments on the Court, and he has earlier upheld ObamaCare in 2012, and at other times, has sided against conservatives.

It is clear that Roberts sees the Supreme Court as “his Court”, and is concerned about the reputation of the Court long term, so one can be assured that if a case comes up against Trump trying to grab too much power, that he will, likely vote against him, as the entire Court, including three Nixon appointees, voted against him in US V. Nixon of 1974, and when the Court, including two Clinton appointees unanimously voted against Clinton in the Clinton V. Jones Case of 1997.

Is George H. W. Bush The “Best” One Term President In American History, Surpassing James K. Polk, And What About Jimmy Carter?

Now that George H. W. Bush is part of American history, the question arises whether he should be judged the “best” one term President in American history.

We have had the following 12 one term elected Presidents who finished their term, but were not given a second term:

John Adams
John Quincy Adams
Martin Van Buren
James K. Polk
Franklin Pierce
James Buchanan
Rutherford B. Hayes
Benjamin Harrison
William Howard Taft
Herbert Hoover
Jimmy Carter
George H. W. Bush

Eight of them, all but Polk, Pierce, Buchanan, and Hayes were defeated for reelection, with those four choosing not to run, and all of these four, except Polk, very unpopular and aware that they were not wanted to be nominated for another term.

The usual viewpoint has been that James K. Polk, with the acquisition of the American Southwest by war with Mexico, and acquisition of the Pacific Northwest by the Oregon treaty with Great Britain, was the most successful one term President. Labeled an expansionist and an imperialist by many, the fact that he presided over the greatest expansion of US territory since Thomas Jefferson, has helped him to be regarded by scholars as a “successful” President, rated 12 to 14 in scholarly polls.

Now, some are saying that George H. W. Bush may be greater than Polk, due to his foreign policy accomplishments in particular, including the end of the Cold War, the unification of Germany, and the Persian Gulf War, along with his domestic policies of “A Thousand Points Of Light”, and the Americans With Disabilities Act.

Some on this list, including Van Buren, Pierce, Buchanan, Hayes, Benjamin Harrison, Taft, and Hoover are seen in a poor light, while J. Q. Adams is seen as not having succeeded in his one term, although a great man, and his father, John Adams, criticized for the Alien and Sedition Acts in 1798, curbing civil liberties during his term.

The only other one term President who could be seen as competing would be Jimmy Carter, with his Camp David Accords between Egypt and Israel, the Panama Canal Treaty, his Human Rights advocacy, his creation of new cabinet agencies (Departments of Education, Health And Human Services, Energy), and his exceptional record on the environment, but his negatives, including high inflation, the Iranian hostage crisis, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, and the Cuban Mariel Boat Lift all help to undermine his case.

So, one could argue that Polk and Bush may be competitive as the “best” one term elected President, without a clear cut answer to the question of who was the better President.

It might be best to say that Polk was the best 19th century one term elected President, while Bush was the best 20th century one term elected President, with Jimmy Carter as the runner up in that regard.

George H. W. Bush And John Adams: Comparisons

With the death of George H. W. Bush, we can make many comparisons with John Adams.

Both were born in Massachusetts.

Both served as Vice President under their Presidents for eight years, John Adams under George Washington, and George H. W. Bush under Ronald Reagan.

Both only had one term as President, defeated for reelection.

Both are seen as lower in ranking than their predecessors, George Washington and Ronald Reagan, who served two terms in office.

Both had the President elected after them rank higher in rankings of Presidents, and both Thomas Jefferson and Bill Clinton served two terms in office.

Both outlived their wives.

Both had a son become President, and live to see that occur.

Both reached to the age of 90, with Adams being the longest lived until Ronald Reagan, then Gerald Ford, then George H. W. Bush, and then Jimmy Carter surpassed his age.

Bush died at the oldest age of any President, although Jimmy Carter could surpass Bush if he lives to March 22, 2019.

Both died after 25 plus years in retirement.

Both have been rated higher than their son, John Quincy Adams and George W. Bush, in rankings of historians and political scientists, and it is unlikely that their sons will ever surpass them.

Presidents In Conflict With The Judiciary Are Nothing New Historically, But Trump Could Be The Biggest Threat Yet To Our Constitutional System

The conflict of President Donald Trump with the judiciary is not the first time there has been a challenge from a President to the judicial branch.

Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson had regular conflict with Chief Justice John Marshall and the federal courts in the first third of the 19th century.

Abraham Lincoln had vehement disagreements with Chief Justice Roger Taney in the era of the Civil War.

Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson both found the Supreme Court as standing in the way of progressive reform in the early 20th century.

Franklin D. Roosevelt was so frustrated by a conservative Supreme Court negating important legislation of the New Deal in the mid 1930s, that he proposed the idea of adding six new Justices to the Court in 1937. This came to be known as the “Court Packing” plan, and was soundly defeated, including by members of his own Democratic Party.

Richard Nixon had issues with the rulings of the Earl Warren Court before he was President, and the continued Warren influence on the Court under his successor, Warren Burger. And, Nixon was stopped dead in his tracks in US. V. Nixon in 1974, forcing him to hand over the Watergate Tapes to the Special Prosecutor, Leon Jaworski, leading him to resign the Presidency in August 1974.

Barack Obama was critical of the John Roberts Court on its conservative decisions early on in his Presidency in 2010.

And now, Donald Trump has unleashed what many consider the strongest challenge to the whole federal judiciary, alarming many constitutional experts as far more dangerous and threatening to the checks and balances of the Constitution and the separation of powers.

It is clear that Trump has declared war on the judiciary, but it could be that the Roberts Court will smack back at him when cases regarding his abuse of power make it to the Court, so Trump may be “hoist by hid own petard”, and regret the attacks he has made on the whole court system.

One Term Presidents Who Lose Reelection Reassessed

The historical image of One Term Presidents is that it is the worst thing imaginable to lose reelection, and that their historical image is damaged.

Actually, though, it could be argued that a one term Presidency often is a blessing in disguise in the long run.

Let’s examine what happened to the lives of Presidents defeated for a second term.

John Adams lost reelection to Thomas Jefferson in 1800, but went on to live another 25 years, see his son John Quincy Adams be elected and inaugurated President, and die at the age of 90 years and seven months, the all time record until the 21st century, when four other Presidents surpassed him in age.

John Quincy Adams lost reelection to Andrew Jackson in 1828, but went on to live another 19 years, and be elected to nine terms as a Congressman from Massachusetts, engaged in the fight against slavery as the only President elected by popular vote to an elected office after being President.

Martin Van Buren lost reelection to William Henry Harrison in 1840, but went on to live another 21 years, and be the Presidential nominee of the Free Soil Party in 1848, winning about 10 percent of the national popular vote, the first such third party to have an impact on a national election.

Grover Cleveland lost reelection to Benjamin Harrison in 1888, but came back to the White House by election in 1892, and later served on the Princeton University Board of Trustees after his retirement.

William Howard Taft lost reelection to Woodrow Wilson in 1912, but went on to become the only President also to serve as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court from 1921-1930.

Herbert Hoover lost reelection to Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1932, but went on to the longest retirement of more than 31 years, only surpassed by Jimmy Carter in 2012, and Hoover having growing respect for his post Presidential activities, and dying at the age of 90 in 1964, only five months less lifespan than John Adams, and the second President to reach that age.

Gerald Ford lost election to Jimmy Carter in 1976, after succeeding Richard Nixon under the 25th Amendment, but went on to growing recognition and respect in his nearly 30 years after his Presidency, setting the record for longevity until 2018, dying at the age of 93 and five months.

Jimmy Carter lost reelection to Ronald Reagan in 1980, but went on to become the most outstanding former President in his activities and commitments to public service, and has had the longest retirement of any President, nearly 38 years, and has just reached the age of 94, being 111 days younger than George H. W. Bush.

George H. W. Bush lost reelection to Bill Clinton in 1992, but went on to see his son, George W. Bush be inaugurated and serve two terms in the Presidency, and growing respect as he set the all time record of age 94 in June 2018.

Supreme Court Membership Could Be Increased In Future By Democratic Party Senate Majority, Perfectly Legal

Progressives have developed the idea that in the future, when Democrats gain the majority of the US Senate, they may move toward increasing the membership of the Supreme Court, playing hardball as much as the Republicans have under Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

McConnell refused to allow hearings for Merrick Garland, Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee to replace the dead Antonin Scalia, saying it was an election year, and improper to allow an outgoing President to make an appointment.

This was preposterous, as John Adams named John Marshall Chief Justice in 1801, after losing reelection to Thomas Jefferson; Andrew Jackson chose Supreme Court Chief Justice Roger Taney in 1836, his last year in office; and Grover Cleveland, Benjamin Harrison and William Howard Taft chose Justices in their last year in office; and Herbert Hoover chose Benjamin Cardozo in 1932, his last year in office; and Dwight D. Eisenhower chose William Brennan in the year of his reelection campaign; and Ronald Reagan chose Anthony Kennedy in his last year in office in 1988.

We have had differing numbers of justices. up to ten, and there is no constitutional barring of adding more Justices, as Franklin D. Roosevelt wished to do in 1937.

What is good for the goose is good for the gander, as the saying goes, and this might be a way to wield power on the part of the Democrats to create a balanced Court, as otherwise, we will have the most extremist Court since the 1920s!

Presidential Campaigns Lost By 15 Presidents

In our final examination of Presidents and their background and experiences for the White House, we will now examine Presidential campaigns lost by Presidents.

A total of 15 Presidents ran unsuccessful campaigns for Presidents as follows:

Thomas Jefferson lost the Presidential Election of 1796 to John Adams, but then won in 1800 and 1804.

Andrew Jackson lost the Presidential Election of 1824 to John Quincy Adams, but then won in 1828 and 1832.

William Henry Harrison lost the Presidential Election Of 1836 to Martin Van Buren, but then won in 1840.

Martin Van Buren received the most votes on the first ballot at the Democratic National Convention in 1844, but failed to win the required two thirds majority, and lost the nomination to James K. Polk. He also ran on the Free Soil Party ticket for President in 1848, and finished behind winner Zachary Taylor and second place finisher Lewis Cass. However, he had won the Presidency earlier in 1836.

James Buchanan competed for the nomination of the Democratic Party in 1848 and 1852, but failed to get the nomination, losing to Lewis Cass and Franklin Pierce, respectively, but then won the Presidency in 1856.

Millard Fillmore ran on the American (Know Nothing) Party ticket for President in 1856, but finished behind winner James Buchanan and loser John C. Fremont. Earlier, he had served as President after the death of Zachary Taylor.

Andrew Johnson competed for the Democratic nomination in 1860, but lost the nomination to Stephen A. Douglas. He later served as President after the death of Abraham Lincoln.

Ulysses S. Grant competed for the Republican nomination in 1880, losing the nomination to James A. Garfield. He had earlier been elected President in 1868 and 1872.

Theodore Roosevelt competed for the Republican nomination in 1912, losing the nomination to President William Howard Taft. He ran in the general election as the Progressive (Bull Moose) Party candidate, having earlier served as President, after succeeding to the officer upon the death of William McKinley, and then being elected in his own right in 1904.

Herbert Hoover competed for the Republican nomination in 1920, but lost the nomination to Warren G Harding, but then won the Presidency in 1928.

Lyndon B. Johnson lost the Democratic nomination to John F. Kennedy in 1960, became his Vice Presidential running mate, and succeeded to the Presidency upon Kennedy’s assassination in 1963, and was elected for a full term in 1964.

Richard Nixon lost the Presidency to John F. Kennedy in 1960, but then won the Presidency in 1968 and 1972.

Ronald Reagan competed for the Republican nomination in 1968 and 1976, losing the nomination to Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford, respectively, but then won the Presidency in 1980 and 1984.

George H. W. Bush competed for the Republican nomination in 1980, losing the nomination to Ronald Reagan, but became his Vice Presidential running mate, and then Vice President, and then was elected to succeed him as President in the Presidential Election of 1988.

Donald Trump competed for the Reform Party nomination in 2000, but withdrew before Pat Buchanan won that party’s nomination, and later won the Republican nomination and was elected in 2016.

Also, two future Presidents competed for the Vice Presidency, with Franklin D. Roosevelt being the Democratic Vice Presidential candidate in 1920, losing to Calvin Coolidge; and John F. Kennedy competing for the Vice Presidential nomination of the Democratic Party in 1956, when Presidential nominee Adlai Stevenson opened up the Vice Presidential nomination to be decided by the convention delegates, and Estes Kefauver being selected over Kennedy.

State Offices Held By Presidents Before Becoming The Chief Executive

Continuing the analysis of Presidents that has been done on this blog in the last week or so, today we will examine what state offices were held by Presidents before becoming the nation’s Chief Executive.

Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, James Monroe and John Tyler all served in the Virginia House of Delegates.

James K. Polk and Andrew Johnson served in the Tennessee House of Representatives, while Johnson also served in the Tennessee Senate.

James Buchanan served in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives.

William Henry Harrison, James A. Garfield, and Warren G. Harding served in the Ohio Senate.

Millard Fillmore and Theodore Roosevelt served in the New York State Assembly.

Martin Van Buren and Franklin D. Roosevelt served in the New York State Senate.

Franklin Pierce served in the New Hampshire House of Representatives.

John Quincy Adams and Calvin Coolidge served in the Massachusetts Senate, while Coolidge also served in the Massachusetts House of Representatives.

Abraham Lincoln served in the Illinois House of Representatives, while Barack Obama served in the Illinois Senate.

Finally, Jimmy Carter served in the Georgia State Senate.

Additionally, Martin Van Buren served as Attorney General of New York State; Millard Fillmore as New York State Comptroller; Warren G. Harding as Lieutenant Governor of Ohio;’ Calvin Coolidge as Lieutenant Governor of Massachusetts; and Bill Clinton as Attorney General of Arkansas.

Also, three Presidents served as Mayors–Andrew Johnson as Mayor of Greeneville, Tennessee; Grover Cleveland as Mayor of Buffalo, New York; and Calvin Coolidge as Mayor of Northampton, Massachusetts.

Presidents Who Served As US Ambassadors To Foreign Nations

This author and blogger has so far examined the history of Presidents serving as members of the House of Representatives and the US Senate, as State Governors, and as Cabinet Officers.

Now, let’s examine those 8 Presidents who served as US Ambassadors to foreign nations:

John Adams as Ambassador to Great Britain during the Continental Congress

Thomas Jefferson as Ambassador to France during the Continental Congress

James Monroe as Ambassador to France during the George Washington Presidency, and to Great Britain during the Thomas Jefferson Presidency

John Quincy Adams as Ambassador to the Netherlands during the George Washington and John Adams Presidencies; to Germany during the John Adams Presidency; to Russia and to Great Britain during the James Madison Presidency

Martin Van Buren as Ambassador to Great Britain during the Andrew Jackson Presidency

William Henry Harrison as Ambassador to Colombia during the John Quincy Adams Presidency

James Buchanan as Ambassador to Great Britain during the Franklin Pierce Presidency

George H. W. Bush as Ambassador to the United Nations during the Richard Nixon Presidency and as Chief of the US Liaison Office in China during the Gerald Ford Administration.

The most common Ambassadorship was to Great Britain, where five of the eight Presidents listed above served.

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.