Woodrow Wilson

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 PBS “Roosevelts” Series Inspires Need For Progressive Leadership To Stop New “Gilded Age”!

The Ken Burns PBS series, “The Roosevelts”, started on Sunday night and continues through Saturday night, a 14 hour event, and is easily the best documentary presented on PBS in many years!

Seeing the story of Presidents Theodore Roosevelt and Franklin D. Roosevelt  and First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt inspired a desire in this author and blogger of the need for Progressive leadership of the type that TR and FDR and Eleanor represented, now in the 21st Century, to stop the abuses and damage that right wing conservatism has done, creating a new “Gilded Age’, and seeing wealthy billionaires wield power, and attempt fix elections, similar to JP Morgan and other millionaires at the time of TR in the White House.

But TR used the Presidency and federal power to crack down on unregulated capitalism, in what became known as the Progressive Era, and future Presidents of both parties, including Woodrow Wilson, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry Truman, Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama followed suit, but except for FDR and JFK, not in the same exciting vein and dynamic leadership that TR represented!

We now desperately need a new “Progressive Era”, but the right wing Supreme Court, picked by conservative Republicans, has done great damage, and the Congressional Republicans have made it very difficult for President Obama to accomplish many of his goals, although he has done a great deal that can be commended, despite strong obstructionism!

But to recognize the democratic nation that TR and FDR promoted, we need a massive change, and this series could have such an effect on the American psyche in the future, and we should all pray for that as the only way to advance democracy, justice, and true freedom in America in the future!

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!

A Century Ago, Full Scale Outbreak Of “The Great War”, And Woodrow Wilson’s Neutrality Declaration!

A century ago, with Great Britain and France joining the war in Eastern Europe, which had begun on July 28, “The Great War”, World War I, was in full swing!

The event shocked President Woodrow Wilson, who declared American neutrality, and stated that America would be “neutral in thought, as well as action”, a statement not easily enforced, as how could one prevent partisanship on the events going on, as to which side should win, and whether American should join the war “to save democracy?”

So the debate goes on ever since, with many blaming President Wilson for us entering the war in April 1917, and some stating the whole interventionist foreign policy of America dates from that event, and sees Wilson as the perpetrator, indirectly, of every “sin” America has been engaged in since 1914!

Others have seen Wilson as the great idealist, who wanted to make the world safe for democracy, and supports his goals of ending war and starting the ill fated League of Nations.

Others have argued over the years for isolationism in world affairs, that this is the only way to keep America safe from foreign wars, and loss of life on a massive scale.

The historical reputation of Woodrow Wilson has gone through ups and downs over the past century, and continues to be heatedly debated even in 2014!

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!

Presidential Candidate Losers Become Secretaries Of State

If one cannot win the White House, there is always the consolation prize of being the leader of the Presidential cabinet, as Secretary of State.

So we see a distinguished list of Presidential candidate losers who took on the most important and most publicized cabinet agency, the State Department. What follows is the list of these distinguished public servants and the national election that they lost.

Henry Clay (1824) was Secretary of State under John Quincy Adams.

Daniel Webster (1836) was Secretary of State under William Henry Harrison, John Tyler, and Millard Fillmore.

Lewis Cass (1848) was Secretary of State under James Buchanan.

James G. Blaine (1884) was Secretary of State under James Garfield, Chester Alan Arthur, and Benjamin Harrison.

William Jennings Bryan (1896, 1900, 1908) was Secretary of State under Woodrow Wilson.

Charles Evans Hughes (1916) was Secretary of State under Warren G. Harding and Calvin Coolidge.

John Kerry (2004) was Secretary of State under Barack Obama.

Hostile Relationship Of Former Presidents With Incumbent Presidents

The question of the relationship of former Presidents with incumbent Presidents is an interesting one, with usually the former Presidents avoiding open criticism of their successors, even if they are of a different political persuasions, and did not support the nomination or election of their successors.

There are only a few cases of open criticism and attack, including:

John Quincy Adams highly critical of Andrew Jackson, and returning to Washington, DC as a Congressman to “keep watch” over his policies and actions. Adams was also a sharp critic of the slavery and expansionist policies of John Tyler and James K. Polk.

Martin Van Buren being a major critic of the expansionist policies of John Tyler and James K. Polk in the 1840s, and of the slavery policies of Franklin Pierce and James Buchanan in the 1850s.

John Tyler, Millard Fillmore, Franklin Pierce, James Buchanan all critical of the policies of Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War.

Grover Cleveland being a sharp critic of Benjamin Harrison, who he had lost to, and then ran against again and defeated in 1892, and then opposed William McKinley and Theodore Roosevelt on the issue of imperialism and expansion.

Theodore Roosevelt very critical of his successor William Howard Taft, who he ran against on the Progressive Party line in 1912, and then against Woodrow Wilson’s policies toward World War I, after losing to him in 1912. Also, TR was resentful that Wilson “stole” some of his progressive ideas, and enacted them as President in his first term.

Herbert Hoover harshly critical of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s policies during the Great Depression and World War II.

Harry Truman very critical of Richard Nixon for years before he became President, and never really making peace even when Nixon gave the Truman library the piano in the White House that Truman had played. Also, Truman was critical of Dwight D. Eisenhower, and the two men only resolved their differences at the funeral of John F. Kennedy in 1963.

Jimmy Carter very critical of the policies of his successor, Ronald Reagan, and at times, of George H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama.

Otherwise, the tendency has been to sit on the sidelines and avoid open criticism of one’s successors to the Oval Office!

47 Vice Presidents, But Only Nine Have Had Two Terms, Including A First, The Last Three Vice Presidents!

America has had 47 Vice Presidents, but only nine have had two terms of office, including the last three, once Joe Biden completes his term in January 2017!

In fact, NEVER have three Vice Presidents in a row had two terms of office until Al Gore, Dick Cheney, and now Joe Biden, assuming he completes his second term.

Before these three, the only Vice Presidents to have two complete terms were John Adams under George Washington; Daniel Tompkins under James Monroe; Thomas Marshall under Woodrow Wilson; John Nance Garner under Franklin D. Roosevelt; Richard Nixon under Dwight D. Eisenhower; and George H. W. Bush under Ronald Reagan.

Two others–George Clinton under Thomas Jefferson and James Madison (dying in the last year of the second term), and John C. Calhoun under John Quincy Adams and Andrew Jackson (resigning with three months left in the Jackson term), nearly finished eight years.

On The Brink Of A Record Not Attained Since 1825–Three Presidents With Eight Years In Office!

We are on the brink of accomplishing a record in the Presidency which has not occurred since the early days of the Republic–three Presidents in a row finishing eight years in office over 24 years!

The one and only time this happened was the administrations of Democratic Republicans Thomas Jefferson (1801-1809), James Madison (1809-1817), and James Monroe (1817-1825).

With all of the controversies, divisions, emotions involved in the past two plus decades, IF Barack Obama can avoid any assassination threats in the next two and a half years, God willing, he will have done what Bill Clinton (1993-2001) and George W. Bush (2001-2009) did before him, finish two complete terms of office!

We have not even had two Presidents in a row finish two terms of office otherwise, an amazing record, demonstrating the trials and tribulations of the Presidency!

The only other Presidents to finish two consecutive terms of office include: Andrew Jackson, Ulysses S. Grant, Woodrow Wilson, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Dwight D. Eisenhower, and Ronald Reagan. Of course, FDR was also elected to a third and fourth term in office.

George Washington started his first term 57 days late, so did not complete a full eight years in office, and Grover Cleveland’s two terms were non-consecutive.

Abraham Lincoln and William McKinley were elected President twice, but both were assassinated early in the second term.

Theodore Roosevelt and Harry Truman inherited most of a term, but were only elected President once.

Richard Nixon was elected twice, but resigned early in his second term due to the Watergate Scandal.

So this is a record, three straight Presidencies over 24 years completed, worthy of note!

Barack Obama And Executive Orders: The Truth, Rather Than Myths!

Conservatives and the Republican Party constantly lie about Barack Obama’s use of executive orders, stating that he has issued more than 1,000 such orders!

Obama has made it clear that he will override Congressional inaction where he can, and he is absolutely correct in such assertions, but he is far from overusing the concept of executive order.

Somehow, when a Republican President uses executive orders aggressively, that is seen as alright, and even positive!

The fact is that any President will use executive orders to promote his agenda, and he has a constitutional right to do just that, and it has been done by all Presidents!

News in the past two days that Obama will use executive orders to promote LGBT employment rights, and to declare a large area of ocean off limits to mining and fishing, therefore protecting the environment, is in support of goals that Congress has been unwilling to take action on, after five years, so Obama is asserting his Presidential authority to do what should be done!

In reality, Obama has issued approximately 180 executive orders up to this point, while George W. Bush used 291 in eight years; Bill Clinton a total of 364 in eight years; and Ronald Reagan a total of 381 in eight years. At the same time, Gerald Ford used 169 executive orders in just two years and five months in office; Jimmy Carter a total of 320 in four years; George H. W. Bush a total of 166 in four years; Richard Nixon a total of 346 in five and a half years; Lyndon B. Johnson a total of 325 in five years; John F. Kennedy a total of 214 in three years; Dwight D. Eisenhower a total of 484 in eight years; Harry Truman the very high total of 907 in almost eight years; and Franklin D. Roosevelt the overwhelming total of 3,522 in twelve years!

But even Theodore Roosevelt used a total of 1,081 in seven and a half years in office; William Howard Taft a total of 724 in four years in office; Woodrow Wilson a total of 1,803 in eight years in office; Warren G. Harding a total of 522 in two years and five months in office; Calvin Coolidge the high number of 1,203 in five and a half years in office; and Herbert Hoover the high total of 968 in four years in office.

So both conservatives and progressives, Republicans and Democrats, have used executive order in large numbers, and Barack Obama is definitely on the low side of usage after five and a half years in office!

But do conservatives and Republicans care to speak the truth? The reader knows the answer to that question!