Dead Presidents

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

By Anthony Bergen


The Abraham Lincoln Book Tower! You can find it across the street from Ford’s theatre in Washington D.C., as a part of the Lincoln exhibit attached to the house where he died. 

This tower is 34 feet high and took only 2 weeks to create! My sister and I were debating whether they had to add a new book to it every time another Lincoln biography was published, but apparently they created this tower in 2010 and haven’t gone back to add anything to it. 

When I die, I would like this done to the books I own. 

Apparently someone slipped into my house and took a picture of my books.

(via pantheonbooks)


President Truman - Just Stopping By

On this day in 1947, President Harry S. Truman stopped by the U.S. Capitol unannounced.  According to the President’s appointment calendar for the day:

 ”White at the Capitol, the President visited the Senate Chamber, took his old seat, was recognized by the President of the Senate and made a brief impromptu speech.”

Addressing the senators around him, he said, “I get homesick for this seat.  I spent the best 10 years of my life in this seat.”

More - Search Truman’s White House Appointment Book from the Truman Library

Photo: Senator Harry S. Truman on the Capitol Steps, circa 1940.

(via ourpresidents)

Asker ultra-pop Asks:
Which President's would have hung out at raves if they were around in their days?
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

I’m not 100% positive that I didn’t see Bill Clinton at a rave in an old San Francisco warehouse in 1999.

Asker onedayer Asks:
Hi just followed too. You were on the featured blogs page. Tho I'm not particularly political, I get my world news from npr, I'm fond of democracy and adore history. Look forward to following this blog.
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

Thanks for checking my site out! I was just surprised because I usually get a few new followers every day, but I hadn’t been on Tumblr at all today and once I did, I noticed that I’m now closing in on 1,000 new followers in one day and had no idea what happened.

Anyway, thanks for following, and I hope that I don’t disappoint!

Asker Anonymous Asks:
so now you're on the front lines of the liberal overreaction to this supposed "war on women"?
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

I’m on the frontlines of any battle against injustice. I always have been, and I always will be. I’ll fight against injustice and bleed to ensure that every human — female, male, child, Batman…whoever — is treated equally and presented every opportunity that everyone else deserves, whether they are rich or poor or dead center in the middle class. Inequality and injustice are violations of incredibly basic human rights, and last time I checked, our country, despite many decades of pitfalls, is supposedly on the side of equality for all, no matter who they are, where they are born, what gender they do or do not identify as, what religion they believe in or do not choose to accept into their lives, what the color of their skin is, what accent their tongues speak, and who it is that they choose to fall in love with. Any time that anybody denies another human being the equal rights that they deserve on account of being born a human being, there is an injustice that needs to be corrected. I don’t know how to fix our societal failures, but none of us should rest until we do because a restraint on one person’s human rights is an invitation to infringe on all of our human rights.

The last time I checked, this was the United States of America, and we have some major faults, but until we change our country’s name to the Loosely-United-States-of-Intolerant-Americans-Unwilling-to-Accept-That-Personality-Differences-Don’t-Abrogate-the-Fact-That-We’re-Still-All-Created-Equal, it will remain our duty to fight against injustice, inequality, and intolerance. Right now, we do it with words and with #hashtag activism, but someday we’ll need to go beyond social media and become true warriors and engage in direct action on behalf of true equality. 

Asker kray814 Asks:
Why do you think Democrats and Liberals have been able to convince women and others that there is a "War on Women"?
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

Because if there isn’t a war on women, there is a concerted effort to dismiss the independence of women by challenging their ability to make choices about their own lives and health, there is a blatant ignorance of what women’s rights truly means and the daily threats women face just by leaving their homes, there is widespread income inequality in the professional world between men and women, there are several hundred years of judicial decisions that ignore their effect on women, and a disturbing lack of understanding of the fact that just because men and women are different sexes doesn’t mean they are different species, and that human rights apply to all humans. Yes, all humans. 

Asker Anonymous Asks:
Who do you think was the strangest President in terms of personality and in terms of being suited for the job?
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

The strangest President personality-wise was probably Calvin Coolidge. I’ve written a couple of essays about his eccentricities, unorthodox personal qualities, and unique leadership style — "I Thought I Could Swing It: The Strange Life and Presidency of Calvin Coolidge" and "I feel like I no longer fit in with these times". Readers interested in Coolidge’s odd personality should check out both of those essays.

As for the Presidents who were least suited to do the job, in most cases those Presidents entered office with better resumes than anyone else serving in the Executive Branch. On paper, Presidents like John Quincy Adams, Martin Van Buren, James K. Polk, James Buchanan, and William Howard Taft seemingly had more experience in more important positions than nearly all of their predecessors and successors. Unfortunately, you can’t govern a nation on paper or potential, and those highly-qualified leaders found that their personalities were not suited for the job of President of the United States.

I have a ton of questions in my inbox, but I’m not sure how long I’m willing to pull myself away from Rick Perlstein’s The Invisible Bridge: The Fall of Nixon and the Rise of Reagan, so if you have some speed-round questions, ask them now and I’ll get through a few of them.

Questions that require longer answers will still be answered (eventually), but speed-round questions are the best bet for being answered tonight, so ASK away!

Asker Anonymous Asks:
Why do you think First Ladies stay married to their husbands amidst their infidelity? Jackie, Lady Bird, Hillary to name a few.
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

I don’t know. Relationships are difficult and complicated, and it’s not my place to pass judgment on other people’s relationships, especially when my track record has been far from perfect.

Asker ultra-pop Asks:
Do you think would have made a better Speaker then McCormack or Albert? And if he did become Speaker, would Nixon still appoint him VP (as resigning would have the same result), or appoint someone else (like say turncoat Democrat John Connally)?
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

I’m guessing that you meant to include Gerald Ford as the subject of your questions. Ford was the House Minority Leader from 1965 until 1973, and his main ambition throughout his political career was to serve as Speaker of the House. Ford loved serving in the House of Representatives and had never set his sights on the Presidency. It wasn’t until he had succeeded Richard Nixon following Nixon’s resignation in 1974 and decided that he wanted to be elected President in his own right that the Presidency ever became a goal of his.

Unfortunately for Ford, the opportunity to become Speaker of the House never presented itself because his party was in the minority for nearly every day of his Congressional career. He spent nearly a quarter-century in Congress, but the Republicans only controlled the House for two of those years — during the 83rd Congress (1953-1955), which was quite early in Ford’s Congressional career. By 1973, when Ford was appointed to fill the Vice Presidential vacancy resulting from Spiro Agnew’s resignation, he had all but given up his hopes of eventually becoming Speaker. In fact, Ford had made up his mind to seek re-election just one more time (in 1974), retire when his final Congressional term ended (in January 1977), and then enter the private sector to earn some money since he had been living off of his government salary for almost his entire adult life. If he had remained in Congress with the hope that the Republicans would finally gain a majority in the House and given him a path to the Speakership, Ford would have been waiting for a long time. The Republicans didn’t win control of the House of Representatives until 1994; by that time, Ford was 81 years old and it had been 40 years since the GOP had last won a majority in the House.

Would Ford have been a better Speaker of the House than John W. McCormack (Speaker from 1962-1971) and Carl Albert (Speaker from 1971-1977)? Yes, I think he would have. McCormack was quite old when he became Speaker following Sam Rayburn’s death in 1962, and he was far less dynamic and active than Rayburn was. Albert was a stronger Speaker of the House than McCormack was, but I think Ford would have shined as Speaker. Few members of Congress had the personal touch and solid connections (with members from both sides of the aisle and in both chambers of Congress) possessed by Gerald Ford. After nearly 25 years in the House, Ford was also an expert on the ebbs and flows of Congress, the legislative process, and parliamentary procedure. Ford was also — like Lyndon Johnson — extremely knowledgeable about individual Congressional districts and understanding of the unique challenges that each member of Congress faced when voting for or against certain pieces of legislation. Each bill affects different Congressmen in different ways and Ford recognized the importance of that when it came time to cast votes. The best Congressional leaders (and best Presidents trying to pass legislation) have that at the forefront of their mind and will use that knowledge to help members of Congress who find themselves in trouble after casting a vote which is unpopular with their constituents. That would have been a major strength of Ford’s if he had ever become Speaker.

I’m not sure if Nixon would still have appointed Ford to the Vice Presidency if he had been Speaker, but I don’t really see a reason why he wouldn’t. Ford might have been reluctant to accept the nomination as VP after finally winning the job he had always wanted, but I’m positive he would have eventually accepted the appointment because that’s just what you do when the President asks you to do something for your country.

What is important to remember is that President Nixon basically didn’t have a choice when it came to appointing someone to replace Spiro Agnew. You asked if I think Nixon would have tried to appoint someone like John Connally to fill the Vice Presidential vacancy if he hadn’t chosen Ford. In fact, Nixon did try to appoint Connally as Vice President, but VP nominees have to be confirmed by the Senate and the House and Democrats shot down any possibility that Connally, who had switched parties and become a Republican after years of rising through the political world as a Democrat. Although Connally was clearly Nixon’s first choice, he quickly recognized that he’d never win the confirmation battle and that he’d have to appoint someone else.

When Vice President Agnew resigned in October 1973, the Watergate scandal was already raging and new details seemed to emerge every day. Even at that point, impeachment and removal from office seemed to be a strong possibility. Because of that, it was clear that whomever Nixon appointed as Vice President could very well end up as President in the not-too-distant future. With that in mind and with significant Democratic majorities in the House and Senate (both chambers being required to confirm the VP nominee), Congress was not only in a position to “advise and consent”, but to basically dictate to Nixon which potential nominees would be confirmed. House Speaker Carl Albert would later admit that Congressional leaders gave Nixon no choice to appoint anyone other than Gerald Ford. Nixon was already in a battle for his political survival due to Watergate, so he was in no position to push back against Albert and nominate his own pick as President. Albert had made it clear that pretty much any other nominee would face a major fight in confirmation hearings and that, as Speaker, Albert could simply stall and keep Nixon’s nominee from even reaching the floor for a vote. That tactic would have opened up other worries for Nixon. If no Vice President had been confirmed and the Vice Presidency remained vacant, it was Speaker Albert who was next in line for the Presidency. If Nixon was removed from office or resigned, Albert, a Democrat, would have assumed a Presidency won by a Republican and been Acting President for nearly three years. Privately, Albert had no intention of maneuvering to become President himself, but the threat of it helped pressure Nixon into nominating Ford as Vice President, as Albert had urged. Ford was nominated just a few days after Agnew resigned in October 1973, was confirmed by both chambers of Congress, and took the oath of office to become Vice President on December 6, 1973. Eight months later he became President when Nixon resigned in the face of impeachment and almost certain removal from office. 

I’m just curious — when does the word “genocide” enter into the conversation?

You should definitely get this book when it is released on August 5th. I was barely able to tear myself away from it to make this post.

The Invisible Bridge: The Fall of Nixon and the Rise of Reagan (BOOK | KINDLE) by Rick Perlstein, author of Nixonland, and published by Simon & Schuster (@simonbooks) on August 5th.