A weird question but if you were to meet George Washington somehow and the topic somehow switched to religion, do you think you'd openly say that you were atheist, fake it, or try to sway away from the topic? From my understanding, Atheists were at the level (and lower according to some articles I've reaD) of Satanists. I think I'd be scared to come out as an atheist back in Colonial/Revolutionary America. I'd fear I'd be flogged or something.
I’d absolutely tell him that I was an atheist. Look, it’s 2014, and an openly atheist person could not be elected President today. Part of the reason for that is that there’s been a tendency to keep quiet about that or shy away from declaring that you are atheist because it might make others uncomfortable or make for awkward conversation with a believer. The problem is that we’ve made it weird and I don’t know why. I know very few people who go to church regularly or are religious, but people still feel uncomfortable to talk about religion or a lack of religion. Religion is a choice. It’s not like your sexuality; religion is a choice.
Atheists shouldn’t be afraid to declare that they don’t believe, and people who do have faith in religion shouldn’t be afraid to declare that they do. Disagreements shouldn’t negate debate or discussion. A lot of atheists bring trouble on themselves and the cause by being such assholes about religion. Religion might seem silly to you, but it’s very important to a lot of people, and has been for thousands of years. Arguing about religion has NEVER worked. Reacting to someone’s faith by saying, “Oh my not-God, you are so dumb for believing in some invisible person in the sky because that isn’t scientifically possible and it doesn’t even make sense. Use reason,” doesn’t do anything for that person, for atheism, for reason, for anything. Believe or don’t believe. Be who you are and don’t be afraid to let others know who you are. But respect the same thing in others.
Now, back to your question, yes, I would tell him that I am atheist and I’d explain that I’ve read scores of religious texts, have thought about religion for years, and that I’ve come to the decision that it isn’t for me but respect its purpose for others. I’d also say that I understand his religious faith and appreciate it, but that my atheism and his faith should have nothing to do with the government of our country. And he would agree with that, and nearly every other Founding Father passionately agreed with that, as well.
ok, congress can impeach the president and supreme court justices. is there anyone who can impeach a congressperson? im wondering more about the senate since they get 6 years before we the people can remove them.
Congress can impeach and remove its own members, which is pretty rare because a congressperson has to actually do something really contrary to law or the chamber rules to get kicked out. They can also be censured by their chamber (in which they lose all their committee chair positions but still keep their seat) or be formally reprimanded for bad behavior.
It’s really up to the constituents (the people represented) to kick their Congresspeople out if they’re not doing their job. It’s unfortunate that so many people focus on voting for high offices like the President because they forget that it’s Congress that is the major policy-maker of the country.
I damn near forgot that it was Tyrant Tuesday, but caught the show just in time. The season finale definitely left me wanting to see what happens next.
I’m kind of bummed that they made Jamal into such a monster with the early episodes because he is, by far, the most interesting character and Ashraf Barhoum’s performance makes up for some of Adam Rayner’s wooden performance as Bassam. The really interesting story would be Bassam wanting to overthrow his brother and “save” Abuddin from Jamal, but really have Bassam be the power-hungry brother. That could still be the direction they are heading, but it’s tough to walk back the things Jamal did in the first two or three episodes. That actually wasn’t necessary. They could have made Jamal a flawed character without making him evil. And Jamal coming through at the end (instead of Bassam) could be the redemption story and the twist. To use the Godfather analogy I’ve referenced in the past when talking about Tyrant, it would be like Fredo saving the family as Michael Corleone got more-and-more evil and distant. If they hadn’t made Jamal do some terrible things at the beginning of the series, Jamal would easily be the most likable character on the show. Bassam isn’t likable, Bassam’s wife and kids aren’t likable, Jamal’s wife and son aren’t likable, Jamal’s daughter-in-law isn’t likable, Tucker and the other American characters from the State Department and Embassy are definitely not likable, none of the Abuddin military leaders are likable, and even the opposition in Abuddin (the Sheikh’s son) isn’t likable. Jamal is the most interesting and likable character, but we can’t like him because they had the character commit totally unnecessary (to the story) sexual assaults, cheating, and murders.
Don’t get me wrong, I really like the show, and I hope it gets picked up for another season. I just think it could be so much better.
Do you think President Nixon really meant it when he said that he would have gone for a rap career if they were around in the 30s? Do you think he would have been any good?
Most of my readers will probably look at this question and think that it is one of those silly questions or messages where someone asks or says something odd or outrageous just to see how I might respond. It’s funny to imagine Richard Milhous Nixon simply having rap music explained to him.
But, in reality, Nixon actually did mention the possibility of him becoming a rapper if rap had been popular when he was young. At Nixon’s Presidential Library and Birthplace in Yorba Linda, California, visitors used to be able to tour the exhibits while listening to the 37th President of the United States guide you via an audio recording (I’m not sure if you can still take the tour guided by Nixon’s voice; when I visited Yorba Linda in 2004, I just did a self-guided tour). The small house that Nixon was born in stands on the grounds of Nixon’s Library, and visitors listening to the audiotape while making their way through the house had their attention directed to several musical instruments that belonged to the Nixon family. When the former President referenced the instruments (on the audiotape) and mentioned his lifelong love for music, Nixon added, "I have often though that if there had been a good rap group around in those days, I might have chosen a career in music instead of politics."
Was he serious? No, of course not. Nixon did have an appreciation for music, and was confident enough in his abilities as a pianist that he played in public from time-to-time. But Nixon was also notoriously awkward and uncoordinated; he usually needed help to open bottles of any type and was so inept when it came to technology that it really is entirely possible that the infamous 18½-minute gap on the Watergate tapes was the result of Nixon clumsily erasing and/or taping over part of the recording.
One of the most crucial building blocks that make up the foundation of a good rapper is rhythm. Not only was Richard Nixon completely absent of rhythm but his lack of coordination actually made anyone around him seem awkward and out of place. Oddly enough, the rest of Nixon’s story resembled that of many contemporary rappers — as a young man, he faced quite a bit of adversity, growing up in an impoverished family on the West Coast (WESTSIDE!) and losing two brothers at a young age. He also had a way with words that very well could have translated into success for rap music in a different time period. While attending high school, Nixon represented the West Coast on the national level in debate/oratory contest. Later, he became the captain of the debating team at Whittier College and coaches marveled at his unique ability to successfully take on any viewpoint on any of the subjects up for debate.
It’s certainly a funny and outlandish image to picture Richard Nixon as a rapper. It’s even funnier to try to figure out who Tricky Dick’s favorite rapper would have been (I’m going to guess Mystikal just because it’s the strangest combination I immediately thought of). But, unfortunately, he wasn’t serious about wanting to be a rapper. And while his verbal skills and talent as an orator could have made him a dangerous freestyler and potential success in rap battles, the complete absence of rhythm would have been a lethal handicap to his reputation as an MC.
(Just out of curiosity, though, what would the best rap name for Richard Nixon be? Just his old-fashioned “Tricky Dick” moniker? “DJ Watergate”? “Presidential MC?” “DJ POTUS?” Since Nixon tried so hard during his lifetime to get his initials over like TR, FDR, JFK, and LBJ, how about “MC RN”?)
I said that I’d be responding to “speed-round questions” tonight while I watched the VMAs and FIFA’s U-20 Women’s World Cup, made a point of suggesting “yes or no” questions, and then kicked off that “speed-round” session by spending several hundred words answering ONE question about something that is ALWAYS confusing — Constitutional interpretation of specific Presidential Succession situations, the difference between a Vice President assuming the President permanently or temporarily assuming office as “Acting President”, and the fact that there a VP assuming the Presidency as President and a VP assuming the Presidency as “Acting President” are two different situations yet result in no difference between the actual duties and powers.
I’m glad I was able to stick with my plan to be concise and quickly answer easy, “speed-round” questions.
If a Vice President takes over for a period of time from the President, and the President resumes his job but later resigns from office, does the time previously served count for the new President's service? If that makes any sense.
I understand what you’re saying. This is another one of those instances — as is the case with most questions about Presidential succession or the 25th Amendment — where there are no precedents to follow and a lot of confusion, and where that confusion will remain until something happens that actually puts the 25th Amendment into effect and tests the process.
To refresh everyone’s memories, a President can permanently relinquish his office by resigning, which leads to the Vice President (or the person next in the line of succession) becoming the new President. If that happens, the VP-turned-President can be elected to two full terms as President in his own right unless the VP completes more than two years of the unfinished term of the President he succeeded. In that case, the VP is only allowed to be elected to one term in his own right. As an example: when LBJ assumed the Presidency upon the death of John F. Kennedy, JFK had less than two years left in his term. So, LBJ was able to run again in 1964 (and won), and would have been allowed to run for another term in 1968 if he had chosen to. After that, he would have been term-limited and unable to seek the Presidency again in 1972. On the other hand, when Gerald Ford succeeded Richard Nixon in 1974 following Nixon’s assassination, Ford completed more than two years of Nixon’s term. Ford was unsuccessful in trying to win a term of his own in 1976, but if he had won the ‘76 election, he would have been term-limited from seeking another term as President in 1980.
But a President could also temporarily the powers of the Presidency if he or she were incapacitated or unable to discharge their duties, and then reclaim their duties when they are ready. This has happened a couple of times when recent Presidents have undergone medical treatment which required anesthesia. When that happens, the President invokes the 25th Amendment, and the Vice President becomes “Acting President” until the President feels clear enough to reclaim the full duties of the Presidency once again.
Now, this is where the questions start popping up. When a President resigns and a Vice President permanently assumes the powers, duties, and trappings of the Presidency (as in the aforementioned cases of LBJ and Gerald Ford), the VP becomes President of the United States in full. However, when a President invokes the 25th Amendment and temporarily transfers power to the Vice President, the VP does not become “President of the United States”. Instead, the VP becomes “Acting President”, and remains “Acting President” until the President reclaims the position, resigns, or is removed from office.
Since this Constitutional curiosity has never been put to the test, we don’t know for sure what the answer to your question is. But my interpretation is that the time that a VP served as “Acting President” in an instance where the 25th Amendment was invoked would not count towards term limits if that VP eventually became the President in his own right. Plus, the invocation of the 25th Amendment in order to temporarily relieve an incapacitated President of his duties is not meant to be a long-term solution. The 25th Amendment also has a mechanism for removing a seriously incapacitated President who has little change of regaining the ability to discharge his duty. If things got that serious, a temporary fix would be bypassed in favor of removing the incapacitated President and handing power to the next in the line of succession. At that point, the clock would begin ticking to determine whether the successor would be limited to being elected to one or two terms as President on their own, but that’s a different discussion.
The strangest (and most confusing) thing about the differences between someone who assumes the Presidency permanently and someone who temporarily becomes “Acting President” is that there isn’t any difference in actual power. The difference is in the title, but — whether temporary or permanent — they exercise all of the powers of the Presidency.
Do you believe in Barack Obama or do you think he's just an urban legend?
"Urban" legend? Racist!
Yes, I still believe in Barack Obama. I’m disappointed in many aspects of Obama’s Presidency, but I have been a supporter since the very beginning (before he even officially announced that he was forming an exploratory committee back in February 2007) and I remain a loyalist. He has made some mistakes, but he’s also had to face one of the most obstructionist opposition groups in Congressional history. Time is rapidly running out on the Obama Administration, but I still hold on to some of that hope that I started out with way back when Barack Obama had gray hair.
Just to mix it up as I watch the VMAs (and the tournament final of FIFA's U-20 women's World Cup between Nigeria and Germany!), I'll answer speed-round questions. Anything that I can answer quickly, preferably with a yes or no, have the best chance of being answered...
they ooze and call each other “darlings”
they hire fortune tellers who lie
they frame pictures of the kid they’ve sent away
they call the old black bartender by his first name
they hire watered-down R&B bands and make them play acoustic
they frown on nude swimming
they confess to anyone who’ll listen
they each have an “oldest and dearest” friend
he’s usually the one they’ve confessed to the most
they hate being wished “Happy Birthday”
they love having not seen someone for such a long time
then they rush to the next one
their loneliness is covered with grins
their loneliness is smothered in a circle of “friends”
“Do books matter? Do they change minds — or do we just read into them whatever we want to know? We live in the most literate age in human history, yet many people today find few things less useful than books, and no books as useless as those of the philosophers. Many scholars today take for granted that philosophy is a technical discipline concerned with questions that can make sense only to a cadre of professionals trained to a perfection of irrelevance. The wider public, meanwhile, tends to think of philosophy as a place to stash all the questions that well up wherever our knowledge runs completely dry: the meaning of life, why there is something rather than nothing, the existence of the supernatural, and all that. Of the many attributes that seem to mark America’s Founders as residents of a foreign time and place, probably none is more astonishing today than their unapologetic confidence in the power of books — and in particular the books of the philosophers.”—Matthew Stewart, Nature’s God: The Heretical Origins of the American Republic (BOOK | KINDLE)
Who was the last president to have ever personally met a slave or freed slave?
I have no idea. That’s a pretty difficult question to answer; in fact, it is likely impossible to accurately answer. After all, it’s entirely possible that there were people born into slavery in the United States prior to the ratification of the 13th Amendment or the emancipation of all slaves who might have lived very long lives and not died until the 1950s or 1960s. The last surviving Civil War veteran whose story could be legitimately confirmed lived until 1956, so it’s likely that the last surviving former slave lived past that date since people were still being born into slavery during the Civil War (1861-1865).
Unfortunately, because of the lack of proper record-keeping, it is difficult to confirm who the last surviving American born into slavery or last living American who had been kept as a slave truly was. It’s also nearly impossible to know which President was the last person to meet a former slave, especially since such a meeting could have happened earlier in a President’s life or career, when there were more former slaves still alive.
There is also the question of slaves from other countries who might have met the President of the United States in one form of another. Ever since Franklin D. Roosevelt met with King Ibn Saud aboard the USS Quincy in the Suez Canal as FDR was returning home from the Yalta Conference, American Presidents and the Kings of Saudi Arabia have had many meetings and visited each other’s countries. However, it wasn’t until 1962 that Saudi Arabia officially abolished slavery in the Saudi Kingdom. In 1957, King Saud traveled to the United States on an official visit and brought with him a massive royal entourage, and many of the Saudi King’s courtiers and servants had traditionally been slaves — even up to that point of time. It’s possible that slaves attended to King Saud during that trip, and it’s also a possibility that some of the King’s slaves briefly met or came into contact with President Eisenhower. Most likely, there would not have been much of an opportunity for that to occur during such a visit, but we just don’t know the answer about the last American slave — or the last slave of any kind — to meet with the President.
Slavery still exists, in many different forms, throughout the world. The United Nations and partner organizations estimate that there are over 30 million people in some form of slavery or involuntary servitude today, in 2014. With as many people as Presidents meet or briefly come in contact with, it’s entirely possible that even recent Presidents have met with slaves or former slaves. Slavery is a continuing crisis, so Presidents didn’t get to cross that issue off of their list with the end of the Civil War, the ratification of the 13th Amendment, or the abolition of slavery as most people have traditionally seemed to recognize it within the borders of our country.
WHOOPS I’M GOING TO READ ANOTHER GEORGE WASHINGTON BOOK
Hey, I know a guy whose quote is on the back cover of the hardcover edition of that book! Or, I guess it would be more accurate to say that I AM a guy whose quote is on the back cover of the hardcover edition of that book.
Well, I had a devastatingly bitter post-mortum analysis planned for that match (mostly a rant about how often Arsenal seem to have their heads up their asses), but my Gunners pulled it out in that last 15 minutes for a draw, so I would like to extend a warm hand of sportsmanship to deadpresidents and simply say “Suck it.”
My attachment to Everton is a grand total of 8 days old and they have already allowed late goals in both games so far to deny themselves outright wins. If any of my readers have been lifelong, die-hard Everton fans, I apologize for carrying over my sports curse and turning the team into the Sacramento Kings/Oakland Raiders of the Premier League. Before I choose a club in La Liga, I should allow people to make donations so they can pay me to root for a team other than theirs.
Just finished reading All the Presidents Men. Yeah it's pretty boring to me, not enough sexy political intrigue, what did you think of it?
All the President’s Men (BOOK | KINDLE) didn’t have enough political intrigue for you?! It’s literally a book entirely focused on political intrigue and featuring groundbreaking investigative reporting by two relatively young and low-level journalists, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein of the Washington Post. I mean, the main subject of the book is the biggest and most serious political scandal in American history, an attempt at covering up the scandal (making things even worse), and eventually led to the first and only resignation of the President of the United States.
I’m not really sure what could possibly be added to that in order to make it “sexier” or increase the level of political intrigue. Strippers and Godzilla? Did we need a drunken, obscenely nude Richard Nixon lighting a bonfire on the South Lawn of the White House and then tossing the Watergate tapes into the flames from the Truman Balcony while he fired round-after-round into the air from a shotgun and screamed, “I WON 49 STATES IN 1972! IF YOU WANT ME OUT OF OFFICE, YOU BEST BRING SOME FIREPOWER, PACK A LUNCH, AND KISS YOUR MAMA GOOD-BYE!”
Maybe those two books didn’t feature the political intrigue that you are used to, but you might be watching too many dramatic political thrillers on television. All the President’s Men and The Final Days recount things that actually happened in real-life.
This isn’t normally something that I do, but caitlinfaith tagged me and Caitlin is awesome and is one of my favorite Tumblr buddies, so here we go.
Name: Anthony Bergen Selfie: This is a photo of me after reading half of the questions that I receive:
FAVORITES (du jour) Food: Pizza. I’m 34 years old, and this isn’t going to change. Ever. Drink: Hi, my name is Anthony, and I am a Pepsi-holic. Book:Fraternity: A Journey in Search of Five Presidents by Bob Greene (BOOK | KINDLE) Author: Sam Shepard. I am a historian and 99% of what I read is non-fiction, but Sam Shepard is my favorite writer, whether it is his short stories, his poetry, or his plays. I say this nearly every time that I mention him, but Sam Shepard is a national treasure. If you’ve never read a Sam Shepard book, pick up a collection of his short stories and poetry, and then see how quickly it takes you to go back to the bookstore and buy the rest of his work. Song: This depends on the day or my mood, but I’ll always love "Nuthin’ But A G Thang" by Dr. Dre & Snoop Dogg, "Triumph" by Wu-Tang, the "I Got 5 On It" Remix by Luniz (feat. Spice 1, E-40, Richie Rich, Shock G & Dru Down), "Ms. Fat Booty" by Mos Def, "Passin’ Me By" by The Pharcyde, everything by 2Pac ("Never Had a Friend Like Me" and "Blasphemy" are my two favorite ‘Pac songs), and that’s just a sampling of my favorites from hip-hop. I feel wrong leaving so many songs out, particularly anything from Jay-Z. Two songs that some of my readers might be surprised about my appreciation for are "Sleep Walk" by Santo & Johnny, and Radiohead’s “No Surprises”, which I wasn’t familiar with until 2009 despite the fact that it was released in 1997. Movie:The Assassination of Jesse James By the Coward Robert Ford. I love everything about the film — the story, the visual beauty, the musical score — everything. I don’t normally re-watch movies or television show and I don’t re-read books, but I feel an almost physical need to watch this film again at least once a year, even though it’s damn near three hours long. TV Show:The West Wing. Caitlin had the same answer in her post, so good work, Caitlin! Band: The Wu-Tang Clan. For those who are not familiar, this particular group of musicians includes “The RZA, the GZA, the Ol’ Dirty Bastard, Inspectah Deck, Raekwon the Chef, U-God, Ghostface Killah, and…the M-E-T-H-O-D Man.” (And, for completists, Masta Killa and Cappadonna.) Solo Artist: 2Pac. Place: Capitol Park in Sacramento, California during the magic hour. Subject: History. I hope this isn’t a shocking revelation. Sport: Does professional wrestling count? Because, if so, professional wrestling. Otherwise, soccer and basketball. Male Actor: I don’t really have a favorite actor that comes to mind — Johnny Depp, I guess? Female Actor: Again, I don’t necessarily have a favorite. Meryl Streep is the easy answer because she’s always incredible in everything, but I don’t know if she’s my “favorite”. Let’s just go with her since I’ve spent way too much time on this question already.
LIFE Siblings: One younger brother. Three significantly younger half-sisters. Dream Job: Chief of Staff/Chief political strategist to an executive branch politician. That doesn’t mean it would have to be at the federal level (President, Vice President, Cabinet secretary). I might even prefer working for a Governor. Political Ideology: Liberal/Democrat, possibly bordering on Socialist. The reason why the previous question’s answer won’t ever come true is because declaring yourself as a “Fidel Castro/Che Guevara /Camilo Cienfuegos Democrat” can be troublesome. Religion: Atheist. Wish I could believe, but my mind doesn’t allow me to. If it means anything, I love Pope Francis! Languages: English. I can read Latin, understand a good amount of it by ear, but I can’t speak it or write purely in Latin myself (I can translate Latin to English). I can read quite a bit of Spanish, understand enough while listening to recognize what I’m being told, but I am a poor Spanish-speaker myself.
TUMBLR Reason Behind URL: When I first started Dead Presidents, I didn’t really have a game plan behind what I was going to use it for and had no idea that it would gain a following. Originally, I was going to post essays about how each of the Presidents died. I also thought it was a catchy and memorable title, and it tied in to my love and appreciation of hip-hop. Reason Behind Icon: One of my fans (sorry, that sounds pretentious…one of my “readers”) customized the Presidential Seal to reference Tumblr. Tracked tags: None. Why You Joined: Honestly, I started it as a strictly personal place to write and archive essays about the Presidents and Presidency — initially, as I mentioned, planning to write essays focused on each President’s death, funeral, and lasting legacy. I had no idea that there would be an audience for my writing about Presidential history, especially since I definitely have a wordy, longform style. When I started, I simply liked Tumblr’s interface and basically decided to use it as an online word processor. Eventually, I expanded on the variety of aspects of the Presidents/Presidency that I wanted to write about, and started gaining a significant number of followers. Once I started answering questions from readers, it really took off, and the opportunity to capitalize on the blog’s popularity financially presented itself, and I took advantage of that because I am, at heart, a red-blooded, capitalistic, opportunistic American consumer with high hopes of being able to become fully materialistic. USA! USA! USA! First URL: It’s always been deadpresidents, and it always will be. Number of Blogs: I maintained a personal blog, which is still up and never updated (anthonybergen), and my real-life friend, Keith (dividedbyframes), and I used our blogs for evil instead of good by trying to write funny shit. Some of it worked, some of it didn’t, but for about a year-and-a-half, my personal blog was actually far more popular than deadpresidents. Unfortunately, Keith and I eventually realized that we had to grow up because he got married and had an adorable daughter, and I recognized that Doris Kearns Goodwin and David McCullough probably didn’t have a personal blog apart from their normal websites where they did things like post their friend’s contact information and encourage people to send that friend explicit photographs of animal genitals and/or suggest that he was staying at a hotel in hopes of meeting another gentleman for sex (and sharing his contact information and immediate location) rather than staying at said hotel because he was actually out of town for work. Sorry, Keith. Anyway, I really had nothing to say on my personal blog that I couldn’t say here to a far bigger audience. I also started a companion blog to Dead Presidents called Dead Popes (deadpopes), and would love to have the time and energy to post updates there, but I can’t even clear out the questions in my Dead Presidents inbox.
This is where I end this exercise by tagging all of my other friends, but that would require “other friends”. I don’t want to talk about it, okay? Even if I don’t have “other friends” or “many friends” or “a friend”, I do have a lot of followers, and that helps to filter out the sadness and fill the emptiness with…something? Right? Am I sharing too much? Anyway, if you are one of those followers and want to do this, consider yourself tagged. Oh, and totaldrivel (who I’ve been Tumblr buddies with from almost the beginning), existentialandshit (my favorite Guamanian), overworked-wino (my favorite Jewish girl smart enough to escape Texas), and the recently-married jheath and irish-mexi (if they aren’t too exhausted from their grueling honeymoon). Or don’t do it. After all, as Giovanni Pico della Mirandola wrote in his Oration On the Dignity of Man in 1486 (as I’m sure you all recall), “thou mayest fashion thyself in whatever shape thou prefer.” He also said, “Thou shalt have the power to degenerate into the lower forms of life, which are brutish” and “Thou shalt have the power, out of thy soul’s judgment, to be reborn into the highest forms, which are divine.” But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. It’s just an internet meme.
(By the way, Unreasonable Men is an especially interesting book that I really enjoyed. I breezed through the book because of the formatting and the great stories. I learned a hell of a lot from Unreasonable Men, so definitely check it out, particularly if you are a fan of Theodore Roosevelt or the Progressive era.)
How many times has America been without a president at the helm? I can think of several times where there was no sworn in president because of a death or assassination (for example, from the moment JFK was shot to hours later on the plan on the tarmac in Dallas, LBJ was not technically president... Is the vice president automatically president? And what if the president has not been declared dead? Sorry for such a dense question
This is one of those weird areas where there is a lot of confusion because the Constitution requires the President to take the oath of office before discharging the duties of the office, but in reality, we’ve never been without a President. In the eyes of the government and the military and the Secret Service, there is never an interregnum, even if the oath hasn’t been taken. While it might not be exactly what the Constitution sets forth, the powers of the Presidency instantly changes hands when a President dies or resigns.
Using the Kennedy Assassination for example, the powers of the Presidency passed to LBJ as soon as President Kennedy was pronounced dead. And, even as JFK was being worked on in the trauma room at Parkland Hospital in Dallas, the Secret Service recognized that he wasn’t going to survive and immediately began switching protection to LBJ. Some Secret Service agents regularly on JFK’s detail didn’t even know what to do at the time because there was no precedent for the protection of a deceased President’s family. They questioned who would go with LBJ from Parkland to Love Field — LBJ’s regular Secret Service detail, or the regular Presidential detail (since, to them, LBJ was now President — even if he hadn’t yet been sworn in). Even when people addressed LBJ at Parkland Hospital, minutes after President Kennedy was officially pronounced dead, they addressed him as “Mr. President”. Technically, he hadn’t raised his right hand and taken the Presidential oath, but he was President — and that’s how it’s been with every other transition.
There is never an instant where we don’t have a President because it’s potentially dangerous, and continuity-of-government is an extraordinarily important part of maintaining a democratic republic. The people need to know that somebody is always in charge, and our enemies always need to know that we will never be caught sleeping. That’s why we have “designated survivors” — individual officers in the Presidential line of succession that are taken to a safe place or undisclosed location during events like the State of the Union Address when most of the rest of the people in the line of succession are gathered in one place. That’s also why a nuclear football travels everywhere the Vice President goes, too. If there was a sudden nuclear attack on Washington, D.C. that took out the President and most of Congress while the Vice President was out of town, we wouldn’t wait for the VP to be sworn in as President. The VP has the same type of military aide as the President and the same authentication card for launching nuclear weapons as the President, so if something happens to the POTUS, the VP can take charge as Commander-in-Chief and launch retaliatory strikes, if necessary.
You asked about what would happen if the President hadn’t been declared dead. In that case, there are contingency plans under the 25th Amendment, but it depends on the situation. If there is the possibility of recovery, power can be transferred to the Vice President (or whomever is next in the line of succession) while an injured or ailing President is recovering. The President can transfer power to the VP himself with a letter to the Speaker of the House and President pro tempore of the Senate, and the VP would be Acting President until the President notifies the same two leaders that he is able to reclaim his office and discharge the duties.
But if the President is incapacitated and unable to transfer power to the VP by letter, there is another way to enact the 25th Amendment — and this would also be something necessary if a President was incapacitated and refusing to transfer power (an example of this is Woodrow Wilson clinging to office after his debilitating stroke, or if a President was clearly declining due to Alzheimer’s disease but wouldn’t resign). In that case, the Vice President and either a majority of “the principal officers of the executive department” (the Cabinet secretaries) or a majority of Congress could notify (by writing) the Speaker of the House and President pro tempore of the Senate of the President’s irreparable incapacitation. Then, it would require a 2/3rds majority from both the House of Representatives and the Senate to transfer power to the Vice President or next in the line of succession as Acting President.
The Constitution does specifically require that the President take the oath (or “affirmation) of office “Before he enter upon the Execution of his Office…” and that tends to be the first thing that a President actually does, but a President becomes President at the moment their predecessor’s term ends. Fortunately, we haven’t had any sort of Constitutional crisis where a new President who has not yet taken the oath has issued an order and been rebuffed by someone who says, “Ummm…you didn’t say the magic 35 words.”
“One thing that might help win this war is to get someone to shoot [Admiral Ernest] King.”—General Dwight D. Eisenhower, writing in his private diary about his frustrations with U.S. Navy Admiral Ernest King during World War II
In my American Government class today, we had to try and predict the outcome of the 2016 Presidential election based on passed voting trends. We concluded that the most likely candidate to win would be a Republican Governor. If there's any chance this assumption is right, which candidate do you think could pull this off?
An incumbent Republican Governor? As I’ve said many times, I don’t see the Electoral College math working out in 2016 for any Republican candidate, and I especially don’t see any current Republican Governor winning the nomination or election. The best two candidates for the GOP, in my opinion, are Jeb Bush and Mitt Romney. Now, they are both former Governors, of course, but not currently in office.
With that said, I do believe Governors tend to be the best Presidential candidates and have the best “head start” of sorts if elected President. Governors have executive experience that is about the closest thing to the Presidency that one can experience, even if they are on completely different levels.
If I had to choose the incumbent Governor who would be the best candidate nationally for the GOP in 2016, I’d say that it’s Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval. He has a lot going for him and is a rising star, but 2016 is too soon for Governor Sandoval. Still, if I’m forced to pick a GOP Governor currently serving, that’s who I would put my money on.
Is there a chance that the primary fight between Hillary and Biden (or anyone else) could turn nasty enough that it could hurt the Dems come November? Because that seems to me the only chance the GOP might possibly have in 2016.
No. I think there is a slight chance that Hillary and Biden might run, but I doubt it. I know that Vice President Biden REALLY wants to take a shot at the Presidency and that he only has one more chance, but Biden is also a realist and if they both run, he’ll be at least 50 points behind Hillary with no chance of catching her.
Both of them are such pros that I can’t imagine it getting nasty if they did run against each other. Plus, Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden genuinely like each other. They have been quite close for years, and I can’t see it getting rough between them.
Have you taken the vitally important buzzfeed quiz 'which founding father is your soul mate' ? (Hope I'm not bugging you but this was legitimately eating away at me.)
Next time I feel like clicking through 600 pages of crap and pop-up ads, I’ll make my way over to BuzzFeed and take the quiz. If there’s one thing I need to do more often, it is emulate all of my Facebook friends who seemingly spend hours each day taking “quizzes” and sharing the unique results with everyone so that we can learn more about them by which Friends character or vegetable they might be..
Have you read Kissinger's accounts of the Nixon and Ford administrations? Like pretty much everybody from that period-from Woodward/Bernstein to Nixon to John Dean to Bob Haldeman-it is self-serving in areas and must be taken with a pinch of salt, but they are very detailed and well written. If so, do you agree with his observations about Nixon's personality and administration?
In a genre of self-serving accounts, Henry Kissinger is on a completely different level. In The Assassination of Jesse James By the Coward Robert Ford, there’s a scene where Dick Liddil says, “You can hide things in vocabulary.” Well, that’s something that Henry Kissinger does over thousands of pages in several books. Everything that worked was Kissinger’s idea; everything that didn’t was due to the failures of others. In Kissinger’s account, Kissinger could do no wrong. He was not innocent of the failures of the Nixon and Ford Administrations, and I think Nixon possessed a far more brilliant foreign policy mind than Kissinger did.
How dare you have an opinion on anything outside of Presidential history! Haha JK. Glad to hear you're getting into the BPL with Everton, I'm a Liverpool supporter myself. Sacramento's team may be promoted to the MLS. If you ever make it to Boston, besides tons of historical stuff (just skip the Boston Tea Party, its a trap for folks with kids) there are some great soccer bars. I'm reading Meacham's American Lion, not sure if I like it or not, thoughts? Also, I'm solid for Sanders in 2016
A little bit of everything in this question, isn’t there?
I’m all about Everton until it becomes obvious that I’ve picked yet another sports team that is bound to disappoint me (like the Sacramento Kings and Oakland Raiders) and just decide to go with Manchester City and chalk it up to the fact that I dig the sky blue colors. I’m reserving my right to jump off-and-on Premier League bandwagons since I’m not actually British.
I think you’re right about Sacramento Republic FC. They’ve drawn great crowds here and Sacramento would be a great soccer city if promoted to the MLS, especially with built-in rivalries with Portland and Seattle, as well as San Jose and the two L.A. teams. I haven’t been to a Republic FC game yet, but I’m definitely going to make it out there eventually. Even though I might be kind of biased because it’s my hometown, I truly think that Sacramento is the best expansion option for MLS right now. I know the MLS is adding a couple of other teams first with a second team in New York, a team in Orlando, a team in Atlanta, and possibly a team in Miami, but I don’t know of another potential MLS city that would be a better opportunity and a larger media market than Sacramento. Even Miami is iffy as an expansion team because they’ve already had an MLS team fail and it isn’t as if Miami’s other sports teams are setting attendance records; they built a beautiful brand-new stadium for their MLB team and Sacramento’s Triple-A team regularly outdraws the Marlins in attendance. Minneapolis/Saint Paul would probably be a good MLS city, but the other cities I’ve heard mentioned besides Sacramento just don’t sound very promising. Las Vegas and San Antonio? Who wants to play soccer outside in Vegas or San Antonio throughout the summer? St. Louis would probably be a solid soccer city if they could build a stadium, but St. Louis has other problems right now. If MLS does expand to a few more cities and likely includes Sacramento and Minneapolis/Saint Paul, it seems like it would make sense to check out some cities without NFL or MLB teams where the MLS team would be the big game in town. Memphis, Birmingham, Albuquerque, Oklahoma City, Omaha, Louisville…those are all cities that would probably really welcome an MLS team.
If the 2000 election ended up deadlocked 269-269, and Bush and Gore decided to settle it with an arm wrestling contest rather then let Congress decide, who do you think would win?
Definitely George W. Bush. Even if Bush wasn’t a way better athlete than Gore (which he is), it wouldn’t be too hard to distract Gore during the arm wrestling match by yelling “Hey Al, look at that stupid glacier melting!” and then slamming his knuckles to the table.
By the way, I wouldn’t have a problem with deadlocked Electoral College results being decided in this way as long as it was televised nationally and we could all legally bet money on it.
I loved George W. Bush’s video, so that would probably be my favorite if I don’t include Abby Huntsman’s video. Some people would say that there’s nothing all that special about Abby Huntsman’s video, but those people are obviously not recognizing the fact that it is a video of Abby Huntsman dumping water on herself. I mean, everything about that is special, if you ask me.
On August 27, 1858, Daniel Marshall brought his young son, Tommy, into Freeport, Illinois, near the Wisconsin border, where nearly 15,000 people had gathered in a downtown square for the second of seven debates between Senator Stephen A. Douglas and his Republican challenger Abraham Lincoln. Marshall was a solid Democrat who had moved his family to Illinois from Indiana a year earlier and supported the incumbent Senator Douglas.
In Freeport, under the debating rules set by the candidates, Lincoln spoke first for 60 minutes, Douglas spoke next for 90 minutes, and Lincoln finished with a 30-minute-long rebuttal. The population of Freeport tripled on the day of the debate and the proceedings took place in unseasonably cool, cloudy weather for late-August.
As Lincoln and Douglas engaged in perhaps the most newsworthy debate of their historic series, 4-year-old Tommy Marshall found himself the best seat in the house. While Lincoln spoke, Tommy sat in the lap of Stephen A. Douglas. When Senator Douglas responded, Tommy sat in the lap of Abraham Lincoln.
Decades later, after little Tommy Marshall had grown into Thomas Riley Marshall and became Vice President of the United States under Woodrow Wilson, sitting in the laps of history at the second Lincoln/Douglas debate remained one of his fondest memories.
Vice Presidential Profiles: Thomas Riley Marshall (VP #28)
THOMAS RILEY MARSHALL 38th Vice President of the United States (1913-1921)
Full Name: Thomas Riley Marshall Born: March 14, 1854, North Manchester, Wabash County, Indiana Religion: Presbyterian College: Wabash College, Crawfordsville, Indiana Career Before the Vice Presidency: Lawyer, Columbia City, Indiana (1875-1909); Unsuccessful Democratic candidate for Prosecuting Attorney of Whitley County, Indiana (1880); 27th Governor of Indiana (January 11, 1909-January 13, 1913) Political Party as Vice President: Democratic State Represented as Vice President: Indiana Term as Vice President: March 4, 1913-March 4, 1921 Length of Vice Presidency: 8 years, 0 days Age at Inauguration: 58 years, 355 days Served: President Wilson (1st term and 2nd term)/32nd Administration (1913-1917) and 33rd Administration (1917-1921)/63rd Congress (1913-1915), 64th Congress (1915-1917), 65th Congress (1917-1919), and 66th Congress (1919-1921) Post-Vice Presidential Career: Lawyer, Indianapolis, Indiana (1921-1925); Author (1921-1925); Appointed by President Harding to serve as a member of the Lincoln Memorial Commission (1921), Appointed by President Harding to serve as a member of the Federal Coal Commission (1922-1923) Died: June 1, 1925, Washington, D.C. Age at Death: 71 years, 79 days Cause of Death: Heart attack Buried: Crown Hill Cemetery, Indianapolis, Indiana
Random Facts About Vice President Marshall:
•On August 27, 1858, 4-year-old Thomas Riley Marshall accompanied his father, Daniel, to Freeport, Illinois, where Abraham Lincoln and Stephen A. Douglas were engaging in the second of seven debates which would go down in history as the epic “Lincoln-Douglas Debates”. Little “Tommy” was too young to understand what was going on, but he had the best seat in the house. When Lincoln spoke, Tommy Marshall sat on the lap of Senator Douglas. When Douglas spoke, Marshall sat on the lap of Abraham Lincoln.
•While Marshall attended college, he wrote an article for the school newspaper about a visiting female speaker who gave a lecture on campus at Wabash College in Crawfordsville, Indiana. The woman felt Marshall had crossed the line and sued the future Vice President for libel in 1872. Each side lawyered up with notable legal representation. The plaintiff hired Lew Wallace, who was a Union General during the Civil War, later became Governor of the New Mexico Territory, and is best-known today as the author of Ben-Hur. Marshall found himself a lawyer in Indianapolis that was also a former Union General during the Civil War and who would later surpass even Wallace’s political accomplishments. Marshall’s lawyer was able to make it clear to the plaintiff that Marshall’s comments might have been in poor taste, but they were likely true, and the case was dropped. Marshall’s attorney was future President Benjamin Harrison.
•After beginning his own law career, Marshall fell in love with a young woman named Kate Hooper, but she died shortly after they were engaged to be married. Marshall was devastated by her death and began drinking heavily. Alcoholism took a toll on Marshall’s health, career, and reputation until he finally married Lois Kimsey in 1895. Lois helped Marshall quit drinking, which gave him the focus to begin his political career. He didn’t win his first political election until he was 54 years old.
•In 1909, Marshall — as Governor of Indiana — installed the final brick to complete the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the site of the Indianapolis 500.
•Marshall was not Woodrow Wilson’s first choice as his Vice President in 1912. In fact, Marshall wasn’t Wilson’s choice as a running mate at all. Wilson had wanted the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Oscar Underwood of Alabama, to join him on the ticket, but Underwood declined the offer. The delegates of the Democratic National Convention decided upon Marshall, and Wilson was not pleased with the choice. He thought Marshall was a “small-calibre man”.
•Despite his original doubts, Wilson stuck with Marshall in 1916 when many of the President’s closest aides suggested dumping the VP in favor of another running mate. With their victory that year, Marshall became the first Vice President since John C. Calhoun in 1828 to be re-elected to another term.
•Thomas Riley Marshall is largely remembered because of his many humorous quotes poking fun at the insignificance of the Vice Presidency. When he was nominated as VP, Marshall pointed out that it made sense since he was a native of Indiana, “the mother of Vice Presidents, the home of more second-class men than any other state.” A favorite Marshall story was one about a man who had two sons: “One went away to sea…the other was elected Vice President…he never heard from either one afterward.”
•Other popular Marshall quotes:
-"I don’t want to work [after retiring], but I wouldn’t mind being Vice President again."
-"If you look on me as a wild animal, be kind enough to throw peanuts at me." (To a group touring the Capitol)
-"What this country needs is a good five-cent cigar."
•Despite Marshall’s humor and frivolity, there was a serious Constitutional crisis near the end of Woodrow Wilson’s Presidency. Wilson suffered a massive stroke in 1919 that virtually incapacitated him and kept him from fully discharging the duties of his office. For the last 18 months of of Wilson’s Presidency, Wilson’s wife and a handful of close aides carefully managed the Administration, keeping the truth about Wilson’s health hidden. Today, a President in Wilson’s condition would almost certainly need to hand the office over to the officer next in the line of succession, either temporarily or permanently. But the 25th Amendment did not exist during Wilson’s time, and a group of Wilson confidants conspired to keep the truth from the rest of Wilson’s Administration, including Vice President Marshall. Marshall didn’t push to find out the extent of Wilson’s illness; if he had, Wilson likely would have been forced to resign and Marshall would have become President. Most of the people close to President Wilson believed it would be disastrous to pass the reigns of government on to Vice President Marshall. But considering the track record of the Wilson Administration at the end of his Presidency, many historians believe that “President Marshall” could have helped get the Treaty of Versailles ratified and shepherd the United States into joining the League of Nations.
Which presidential memoir do you think is the most candid?
Like I said in my post recommending the best Presidential memoirs/autobiographies, most of them are the last chance that Presidents have to shape their legacy, so they aren’t as candid as, say, some rock star’s autobiography or as we might hope. I’d say that Obama’s Dreams From My Fatheris probably the most candid book by a President, but he wrote that nearly a dozen years before he ran for the Presidency, so it doesn’t really count in a way. Other than that, I’d go with Ulysses S. Grant’s Personal Memoirs of U.S. Grant, but that has its drawbacks too because Grant basically wrote about everything BUT his Presidency.
Listen, I’m not exactly up on my pop-culture, so it takes me a while to catch up with current music and once I do, my tastes still run to 1990s hip-hop and R&B. So, I’m just curious where I have to send my ‘hood pass for how much I enjoy that “All About That Bass” song? Do I need to send anything else along with my ‘hood pass, or is that I’ll that I’m giving up for admitting this?
You can't tell me Rick Perry ain't a gangsta for going to a ice cream shop after getting his mugshot.
Rick Perry’s Lego-person hairstyle was the first hint that he wasn’t gangsta.
When I first heard about the indictment, I thought, “Rick Perry is done”. But the indictment might be the best way for him to overcome what happened in 2012. Even a lefty Liberal with a capital “L” like me who despises everything Texas thinks that the indictment is a little much and Perry might be able to use it to make some progress in 2016.
Hey, have you read Nixon's memoirs? If so, what do you think? Also, what are some other good presidential memoirs?
Yes, I’ve read RN: The Memoirs of Richard Nixon (BOOK | KINDLE), and it is an important book in my library. It’s obviously written from a Nixonian point-of-view, so it is quite defensive at times, and it is meant to help shape Nixon’s legacy. However, all Presidential memoirs feature that aspect of self-interest, so it is to be expected. To me, what is most interesting about Nixon’s Memoirs is the fact that Nixon is one of the better writers when it comes to Presidents. Nixon wrote many books and several of them were quite good, including his Memoirs. I’m especially fascinated by Nixon’s opinions about other leaders — U.S. leaders and world leaders that Nixon interacted with during his time in the House, Senate, as Vice President, and then President. In fact, Nixon actually wrote an entire book (separate from his Memoirs) called Leaders(BOOK | KINDLE), focusing on some of the major figures that he dealt with during his career, and which I would also recommend. But, his autobiography, RN: The Memoirs of Richard Nixon (BOOK | KINDLE) is definitely a must-read.
As for others, not all Presidents wrote memoirs or autobiographies, and not all of those who did ended up being good. In my opinion, here are the very best autobiographies or memoirs written by Presidents besides Nixon’s Memoirs:
•The Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant by Ulysses S. Grant (BOOK | KINDLE) — The very best book ever written by a President, in my opinion. Grant rushed to finish this book as he was dying, and ended up writing a masterpiece. Unfortunately, Grant basically ended the story with the end of the Civil War, so he didn’t write about his own eight years as President. •My Lifeby Bill Clinton (BOOK | KINDLE) — One of the better Presidential autobiographies that cover a President’s entire life and career. •Decision Pointsby George W. Bush (BOOK | KINDLE) — An interesting book because it isn’t a traditional autobiography, nor is it a complete memoir of George W. Bush’s Administration. Instead, Bush writes about some of the most important decisions he felt were made during his time in the White House and what led him to the decisions he made. •Dreams From My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritanceby Barack Obama (BOOK | KINDLE) — Another unique, non-traditional memoir written by a President, but what sets this book apart is that Obama wrote it long before he sought the Presidency. In fact, it was was published in 1995, before he had been elected to any political office. For that reason, this book is far more candid and honest than most other books written by Presidents (or people who would someday become President).
Those are the best. There are other autobiographies or memoirs written by Presidents, but I wouldn’t recommend them because they are either sleep-inducing (Mr. Buchanan’s Administration on the Eve of the Rebellion by James Buchanan) or polished and ghost-written to death (LBJ’s The Vantage Point: Perspectives of the Presidency, 1963-1969).