Dead Presidents

Historical facts, thoughts, ramblings and collections on the Presidency and about the Presidents of the United States.

By Anthony Bergen
E-Mail: bergen.anthony@gmail.com
Asker Anonymous Asks:
Do you like the song "Bridge Over Troubled Water"?
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

That’s kind of an odd, random question, isn’t it? I’m not trying to be mean, but that just seems like an odd song to throw out there; it’s not exactly tearing up the charts right now, is it?

Anyway, yes, I like “Bridge Over Troubled Water”, but only by certain artists. I like the original version by Simon & Garfunkel. Aretha Franklin kills it when she sings that, but she’s pretty much awesome with everything. I love Elvis’s version of it, but I could also just listen to a pilled up Elvis making bad jokes on stage while the audience uncomfortably laughs in the hope that he’ll break into “Trouble” soon. (In fact, I have listened to that.) And Johnny Cash, of course.

I guess it’s not that random of a song to pick because I just tossed out four versions that I like without having to think too hard.

Asker Anonymous Asks:
I read someone say that Andrew Johnson was worse than Buchanan because the Civil War was inevitable, but Jim Crow was not. Agree?
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

No, not at all. I don’t know how someone could say that Jim Crow laws weren’t inevitable when the country just freed a significant amount of its population that was enslaved for purely racial reasons, fought a Civil War that was largely due to slavery, and institutional racism was not only a fact of life then but continues to be so today.

Andrew Johnson was a really bad President, too, but James Buchanan was the worst, by far.

Asker ultra-pop Asks:
I'm reading The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt, a book that is obnoxiously rarer in hardcover then it's successors, and I just read the chapter on the 1884 convention. How do you think Blaine, who lost in New York by little more then a thousand votes, would have done as Arthur's successor? Would he roll back all of the Gentleman Boss's work, would he have sullied the Republican brand and name? Or was his experience and nomination despite everyone proof of his slickness, and inability to fail easily?
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

Blaine was so crooked that, at the height of the stuffy Victorian-era, rumors spread that his opponent in 1884 (Grover Cleveland), had fathered a child out of wedlock, paid hush money to shut the mother up and get the baby transferred to someone’s care, made sure that the woman was way out of the picture (for good), and Cleveland responded by basically saying, “Yep, that’s pretty much what happened”, and STILL won. 

I’m convinced that the Republicans finally nominated Blaine in 1884 just because they wanted to prove to him that he couldn’t win the Presidency. And, yes, if he had won, he would have packed his Administration with political patrons and Blaine loyalists, just as he tried to do in 1889 when Benjamin Harrison appointed him as Secretary of State. Blaine was unsuccessful in that effort because President Harrison knew him well enough to make sure that didn’t happen.

YES! Saddam Hussein did the “dirt of your shoulder” brush because “a lion doesn’t care if a monkey in a tree is laughing at him”!

I’m telling you, if you want to get sucked into a wormhole, start watching clips from Saddam’s trial. It’s almost a shame that they executed him so quickly because a retrial would have probably brought some more fun moments.

What’s that? Oh yeah, it’s a war crimes trial of a dictator who used chemical weapons against his own people, so maybe I shouldn’t be entertained.

Asker Anonymous Asks:
Is there a place to watch the Saddam trial?
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

There are lots of long clips on YouTube. It was a pretty extensive trial and their were a lot of instances where Saddam Hussein just got up and started  rambling and talking about how great Saddam Hussein was (he spoke in the third person, like any crazy dictator should). But you have to sift through a lot to get good stuff, and you also have to remind yourself, “This is a war crimes trial, so maybe I shouldn’t be laughing at how funny Saddam can be.”

That reminds me, there’s also this:

Asker Anonymous Asks:
Bro, have you read Matt Bai's new book on the Gary Hart scandal?
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

Matt Bai’s book, All the Truth Is Out: The Week Politics Went Tabloid (BOOK | KINDLE) is sitting on my desk right now. I’m looking forward to reading it, but I have a couple of other books I need to get to first this week. I hear that it’s really good; it’s certainly an interesting story and Gary Hart is a fascinating figure — a guy who probably would have been President if he had run eight or twelve years later, in a different time.

Asker Anonymous Asks:
If you were to write a biography on anybody who would it be?
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

I’d love to write the definitive biography of Fidel Castro. I don’t feel like it’s been properly done yet. It’s not quite in my comfort zone yet, but maybe I’ll get there eventually.

Asker Anonymous Asks:
Who are you rooting for in the World Series?
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

I’m not much of a baseball fan, but the two teams that I like the best are actually Kansas City (even though I lived closer to St. Louis) and San Francisco (since I grew up in Northern California and have been to more Giants games than any other baseball team), so it’s cool that they are both in the World Series.

I’m back in NorCal and don’t have any real connection to Kansas City (although I did see them play the Twins during a trip to Minneapolis a few years ago) and everyone around here is really excited about the Giants, so I definitely have to go with…

The ROYALS! (ROYALS!) Come on! How could you not root for the Royals (Royals!)?!

Asker Anonymous Asks:
Do you think that Presidents should choose non-partisan people as their Surgeon General nominees?
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

Ideally, yes, but I don’t see the Surgeon General as being a significant enough position to justify a big fight over. I find it laughable that the people who constantly criticize the President for missteps and faulty responses from the Executive branch to emerging crises are the same people who categorically refuse to confirm the people appointed to do the jobs that need to be done.

Honestly, at this point in his Presidency and in the position that President Obama is in right now, I’d just say, “Fuck it”, with my popularity and just keep calling Congress into an extraordinary session until they start acting on his appointments and making progress with some of the issues on the table. I wouldn’t care if it dropped my popularity from 40% down to 25%, pissed off my party, and angered the opposition. I’d call Congress back into a special session the week before Election Day and then highlight the fact that certain members were focusing on personal political concerns rather than the business of the nation. It’s to the point where President Obama just needs to make a stand. He’s already so unpopular that politicians from his own party don’t want him anywhere near the districts during the campaign cycle and when he does campaign for somebody, as he did for Maryland’s candidate for Governor this weekend, the crowd — Democratic voters and supporters — aren’t even sticking around for his speech.

I’d seriously just wash my hands of politics and be President. A President who has the brass to make things happen can use the powers of his position — no matter how unpopular he might be or how close to lame duck status he might be approaching — to get shit done. It’s time for that, and anybody in Congress from either party who stands in his way should either be prepared to work, kick rocks, or get steamrolled by the power of the Presidency. The President himself might be unpopular, but the office of the Presidency is never out of the fight, never irrelevant, and always capable of getting things done.  

Asker Anonymous Asks:
I have always wondered if JFK and Reagan had any kind of communication with each other. I know Reagan was in the Hollywood scene during the 50's-60's, and JFK was drawn to that crowd... Also, did Carter and Reagan have a good relationship after the election like Ford and Carter did?
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

Ronald Reagan and John F. Kennedy actually never met each other, although Reagan campaigned strongly on behalf of Richard Nixon in 1960. In 1967, however, then-Governor Reagan debated the Vietnam War with Senator Robert F. Kennedy on television and beat him so badly that, as soon as the debate ended, RFK turned to an aide and said, “Who the fuck got me into that?” There’s a short clip of the debate here and a transcript here

Carter and Ford were unlikely friends, but none of Carter’s successors got along with him. A lot of them thought that he was out of line and freelancing in international matters as an ex-President. Carter reportedly isn’t the easiest guy to get along with, either. Clinton had problems with Carter dating to Clinton’s time as Governor of Arkansas. Reagan and Carter slugged it out pretty viciously during the 1980 campaign and Reagan didn’t think much of Carter. Bush 41 was very bothered by Carter saying that Bush 43 was the worst President of his lifetime. Bush 41 believed that former Presidents shouldn’t criticize incumbents, and he really took that personally, as did Bush 43.

Reagan also wasn’t close with very many of his fellow Presidents, but Reagan wasn’t close to anybody but his wife. He even had distant relationships with his children, and had almost no real friends. He was friendly and people liked him personally, but he never, ever let anybody get close to him (except Nancy). Plus, once Reagan left office, he began to decline pretty quickly as his Alzheimer’s disease progressed, so his public life ended when he announced his illness and nobody really saw him, even privately, besides his family during the final ten years of his life.

Asker 42alj Asks:
So after a pope dies/resigns, is anyone in charge of the Catholic Church or Vatican City? Or is everything put on hold until the Cardinals elect a new Pope?
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

The College of Cardinals takes over the government in a de facto regency role, much like a regent in other monarchies, but all government business basically grinds to a halt as the Conclave meets to elect the new Pope. The territory and treasury is managed by the Cardinal Camerlengo during the Sede Vacante, But during that time, the College of Cardinals are basically forbidden by canon law from actually doing anything more than planning for the mourning, funeral masses, and burial of a dead Pope, and the details of the Conclave to elect a new one. They can’t do anything significant without someone installed on the Papal throne. 

When it comes to war crimes trials against murderous dictators, Saddam Hussein’s really had its moments.

Asker Anonymous Asks:
when you lived in austin did you ever go to the texas book festival?
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

Yes, I did. It’s cool, so go check it out if you’re in the Austin/San Antonio area.