Dead Presidents

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

By Anthony Bergen
Asker Anonymous Asks:
If Wilson was so incapacitated by the end of his presidency, how did he go to Harding's inauguration?
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

The outgoing President Wilson was dressed by his valet and helped into a car with President-elect Harding for their trip from the White House to the Capitol for the Inauguration, but Wilson was in such bad shape that he wasn’t able to walk from the car to the East Portico of the Capitol for the actual inaugural ceremony. He did take part in the tradition of the outgoing President and the new President traveling to the Capitol together, but all Wilson had to do was be put into a car for the trip (it was also the first time that an actual automobile was used for the inauguration). And that was basically the extent of his participation. Wilson didn’t actually witness Harding being sworn in as President.

The car ride itself was quite the spectacle. Harding was smiling and waving at the crowds lining the route, but Wilson just stared straight ahead, practically catatonic. Harding later revealed that Wilson had tears rolling down his cheeks during the ride.

When Jill Lepore review A. Scott Berg’s biography, Wilson (BOOK | KINDLE), last year in The New Yorker, this was her description of that day:

In 1921, on the day of Harding’s Inauguration, Wilson rode with the President-elect from the White House to the Capitol. In the car, Harding was horrified to see that the President was weeping. When the motorcade halted, Harding leaped out and bounded up the Capitol steps, waving his hat at the crowd. Wilson stayed in the car as it inched ahead to a seldom-used freight door. There, concealed from the crowd by mounted police, guards lifted the President out of his seat and took him inside.

He had earlier suffered a massive stroke. As A. Scott Berg details in "Wilson" (Putnam), he had spent the last seventeen months of his Presidency almost entirely confined to his bed, the state of his health unknown to the public and little known even to his own Cabinet. He could see only out of a tiny corner of his right eye. His thoughts no longer came in trains but in torrents. He could not use his left arm. He could barely walk. By no means could he manage the Capitol steps. He could not possibly attend the Inauguration. “It cannot be done,” he said quietly.

So, he rode to the Capitol with Harding, but he wasn’t there for the actual Inauguration and he did nothing under his own power. “Incapacitated” is putting it mildly; he was partially paralyzed and dying.

Asker Anonymous Asks:
Still an Everton fan?
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

I don’t know what you are talking about. I clearly recall sharing my lifelong devotion and support for Manchester City before the Premier League season kicked off.

Here’s what that replica of the copy of the Acts of Congress (with the Constitution and Bill of Rights) presented to George Washington by the First Congress in 1789 looked like. It’s available now from the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association and Andrews McMeel Publishing.

Asker Anonymous Asks:
Are you one of those people who carry around a copy of the constitution with them? And if you are then why do you do it
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

And exactly what do you mean by "those people"?

In a way, yes, I do carry a copy of the Constitution around with me. I have an app on my phone of the Constitution and the Federalist Papers. Why? Well, the question should really be “why not?” But, I have it in case there is something I need to quickly reference for my writing or for a discussion. I’m pretty well-versed in the Constitution, but it’s always helpful to have the exact wording so that you can shoot down some of the ridiculous interpretations that people often have about it. Plus, it’s the Constitution! (and the Federalist Papers!) You should have a copy, too.

You should also have your own edition of this beautiful replica of the copy of the Acts of Congress, featuring the Constitution and Bill of Rights, presented to George Washington by the first Congress in 1789. It is a gorgeous replica of the actual book, which is in George Washington’s collection at Mount Vernon and features Washington’s annotations in the margins. The Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association and Andrews McMeel Publishing did an amazing job with the replica and it’s not something you’ll carry around in your pocket, but it’s definitely something you’d want on your bookshelf or coffee table.

Asker chrisdelberk Asks:
What do you think of the possibility of a Tea Party 3rd candidate in 2016?
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

If it happened, it would automatically hand the election over to the Democrats. A third party candidate would split the non-Democratic vote, and neither the mainstream Republican candidate or the third party Tea Party candidate would be able to garner the votes needed to win many, if any, states. It would result in a Democratic landslide in the Electoral College, and it would be catastrophic for the GOP.

An example of what this would look like is the 1912 election when incumbent President William Howard Taft, a Republican, was challenged by his mentor and predecessor, Theodore Roosevelt, for the GOP nomination. Since Taft was President and the President is head of the party, Taft controlled enough delegates to hold on to the Republican nomination despite Roosevelt’s popularity nationally and scores of dissatisfied Republicans. When Taft was renominated, Roosevelt bolted from the party and became the Progressive Party (or “Bull Moose” Party) nominee. The Taft/Roosevelt split also fractured the Republican Party and the scattered any possible majority for President Taft or Roosevelt. It also drove many progressive Republicans towards the Democratic candidate, Woodrow Wilson, who pledged a progressive platform. Wilson hadn’t even served two years as Governor of New Jersey at that point (his only experience in elective politics), but the drama within the Republican Party during the 1912 election guaranteed Wilson’s victory so far out that Wilson spent much of the final weeks of the campaign working to elect Democratic members of Congress to work with him once he was elected President instead of focusing on his own campaign.

The final result was an Electoral College and popular vote bloodbath. In the Electoral College, Wilson won 435 votes to Roosevelt’s 88 and Taft’s 8. Wilson won 42% of the popular vote while Roosevelt won 27% and Taft won 23%. It would be very difficult for a third party candidate to win a Presidential election — not impossible, but very difficult. For a third party candidate to win, that party would likely need to be on the ballot in two or three Presidential elections first in order to gain exposure, complete ballot access nationally, and win the confidence of an electorate which has become conditioned to vote for one of two major parties. A third party candidate’s success in a Presidential election would also likely require a solid foundation on the local, state, and federal love, so that there is a base of supporters, surrogates, and other elected officials to advocate the party and its candidate. A third party’s success wouldn’t come from winning one Presidential election; it would come from electing members of Congress, Governors, local officials, and then winning a Presidential election. Like I said, it’s not impossible, but it is very difficult — and it is way harder now than it was in 1912 when Theodore Roosevelt was just a few years removed from a very popular Presidency and one of the most famous people in the world.

Finally — and this is the most important thing pertaining to your question — a Tea Party candidate absolutely can not and will not ever win a national election. A third party candidate winning a Presidential election is unlikely but not impossible; a Tea Party candidate winning a Presidential election is impossible. There is no way to make the Electoral College math work for a Tea Party candidate on the national level. And if the Tea Party did run a third party candidate for President, that would be as a major protest against the mainstream Republican Party. It would sabotage the party’s shot at that particular election, and possibly even fatally split the party on a national level. Tea Party candidates can win (and have won) seats in Congress, but a national election victory isn’t even slightly possible. The GOP would do everything it could to prevent a third party candidate from the Tea Party running for President.  

Asker nomica Asks:
*becomes excited because you and deadpresidents are two of my favorite blogs*
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:





According to the United Nations Office of Human Rights (via Vox), there have been more people killed in the last three years during the Syrian civil war than the number of Americans killed in combat in the Korean War, Vietnam War, Persian Gulf War, War in Afghanistan, and War in Iraq. Combined.

It appears as if bookshelves should be higher up on my shopping list, doesn’t it?

(And when I am searching for a specific book, why is it always on the very bottom of one of the piles? That’s just cold-blooded, right?)

What are your thoughts on the democratic gubernatorial primary in New York between Andrew Cuomo and Zephyr Teachout?
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

I haven’t been paying attention to the gubernatorial primary in New York. I know that Governor Cuomo has been facing some issues in New York and that many of the groups which traditionally endorse incumbent Democrats have backed off of Cuomo, but I also believe that he’s not at risk of losing the Democratic primary to Teachout. She might make a dent in his margin of victory, but he’s not going to lose.

These are the only books I received today — John Quincy Adams: American Visionary by Fred Kaplan (BOOK | KINDLE, available now from Harper) and Rebel Souls: Walt Whitman and America’s First Bohemians by Justin Martin (BOOK | KINDLE, available September 2nd from Da Capo Press) — but it’s all good because anything about JQA makes me happy, and Walt Whitman is Walt Whitman.

Both of these titles look like solid reads, so check them out!

Do you think/know if Marilyn Monroe and JFK really had an affair or if there's any solid evidence to suggest they did? It's impossible to research, since they're both so iconic and everyone has an opinion (and that's before you factor in the conspiracy theories). I always thought it was only "alleged", basically a lurid tabloid rumor.
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

I think that JFK and Marilyn Monroe definitely slept together, but I don’t believe it was an extensive affair. From what I’ve read and from what I believe of JFK’s closest friends and aides, as well as historians and biographers, I think that they probably hooked up two or three times at most. But I definitely think they hooked up. Longtime Florida Senator George Smathers, who was a very close friend of JFK’s (and fellow womanizer), admitted as much.

RT @Potus_Geeks: #FF Please also follow the terrific @chrisderose @Anthony_Bergen @mrszhistory @MrBarry628 @MrTomecko @JimmyCarterNHS1 @evanf213 @PresRBHayes
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I'm halfway through a biography of William O. Douglas and I'm sure you already know this but evidently a common motto leading up to '48 was "to err is Truman" and I just had to share with someone and say that's the best thing I've ever read
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

Yeah, since Truman is such a familiar and well-known President today, most people don’t realize that the famous "Dewey Defeats Truman" newspaper headline wasn’t that big of a reach for the Chicago Tribune because pretty much everybody expected Harry Truman to get his ass kicked in the 1948 election. Truman was not a popular President while he was in office, and he only gained enough ground to win the ‘48 election because instead of running against Thomas Dewey, he ran against the “Do-Nothing Congress” that had opposed so much of his agenda.