How much blame does Martin Van Buren deserve for the Trail of Tears?
Well, the Indian Removal Act was put into effect in 1830, when Van Buren was Secretary of State, but he was one of President Jackson’s closest advisors, so he deserves some blame.
Plus, the forced march of the Cherokees from Georgia to the Oklahoma Territory — what we call the Trail of Tears — actually took place when Van Buren was President. When he was elected to succeed Jackson, Van Buren pledged “to tread generally in the footsteps of President Jackson, happy I shall be to perfect the work he has so gloriously begun.” President Van Buren loyally followed many of Jackson’s policies, and he could have stopped the forced removal of the Cherokees. So, actually, he deserves more than “some” blame. He deserves just as much.
I had been so near the office (the Presidency) for four years, while in the Cabinet of (Franklin) Pierce, that I saw it from behind the scenes, and it was to me an office in no way desirable. The responsibilities were great; the labor, the vexations, the disappointments, were greater. Those who have intimately known the official and personal life of our Presidents cannot fail to remember how few have left the office as happy men as when they entered it, how darkly the shadows gathered around the setting sun, and how eagerly the multitude would turn to gaze upon another orb just rising to take its place in the political firmament.
Worn by incessant fatigue, broken in fortune, debarred by public opinion, prejudice, or tradition, from future employment, the wisest and best who have filled that office have retired to private life, to remember rather the failure of their hopes than the success of their efforts. He must, indeed, be a self-confident man who could hope to fill the chair of Washington with satisfaction to himself, with the assurance of receiving on his retirement the meed awarded by the people to that great man, that he had ‘lived enough for life and for glory,’ or even of feeling that the sacrifice of self has been compensated by the service rendered to his country.
”—Jefferson Davis, on the toll that the Presidency takes on its occupants, “The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government, Volume 1”, 1881
Now that 41 has joined Clinton and Obama on Twitter, think we can expect Carter or 43 join?
I didn’t know that 41 had joined until you just told me. That’s awesome.
I’m surprised that President Carter isn’t on Twitter considering how many e-mail updates I receive from the Carter Center and The Elders. It seems like Twitter would be a natural medium for spreading word about his foundation work.
As for 43, I doubt we’ll see him on Twitter. He has been pretty adamant about enjoying life as a private citizen and I think he’s genuine about it. I don’t think he has much that he is interested in sharing about himself, and he is very strict about refraining from publicly involving himself in politics.
Many men are great, but few capture the imagination and the spirit of the times. The ones who do are unforgettable. Four administrations have passed since John Kennedy’s death; five Presidents have occupied the Oval Office, and I feel sure that each of them thought of John Kennedy now and then and his thousand days in the White House.
And sometimes I want to say to those who are still in school and who sometimes think that history is a dry thing that lives in a book: Nothing is ever lost in that great house; some music plays on.
I’ve even been told that late at night when the clouds are still and the moon is high, you can just about hear the sound of certain memories brushing by. You can almost hear, if you listen close, the whir of a wheelchair rolling by and the sound of a voice calling out, ‘And another thing, Eleanor!’ Turn down a hall and you hear the brisk strut of a fellow saying, ‘Bully! Absolutely ripping!’ Walk softly, now, and you’re drawn to the soft notes of a piano and a brilliant gathering in the East Room where a crowd surrounds a bright young President who is full of hope and laughter.
I don’t know if this is true, but it’s a story I’ve been told. And it’s not a bad one because it reminds us that history is a living thing that never dies. A life given in service to one’s country is a living thing that never dies — a life given in service, yes.
History is not only made by people; it is people. And so, history is, as young John Kennedy demonstrated, as heroic as you want it to be, as heroic as you are.
Ronald Reagan, speech given at a fundraiser for the JFK Library at the home of Senator Ted Kennedy, McLean, Virginia, June 24, 1985
Reading about Benjamin Harrison V got me thinking, when did it start that politicians stopped running for lower office? By that I mean if you look at early America (pre-Civil War mostly), a lot of Governor's, Senators, and Reps would run for lower office like state house or senate, rather than retire or try moving up. I can't think of a Governor or Senator today that would be content in the House of Representatives or a lower state office (other than like Jerry Brown).
Well, it’s important to remember that there was no direct election to the Senate until the early 20th century. Until then, Senators were elected by their State Legislature, so hanging around the statehouse was good for the career. It allowed for politicking and maybe a shot at a Senate seat.
With that said, we have a President now who served as an Illinois State Senator, so coming out of the Statehouse isn’t dead by any means. The four Presidents before Obama had very different backgrounds — the Bushes came from a political family so they had a jumpstart into politics, 41 to the House and 43 to the Governor’s Mansion, Reagan wasn’t a professional politician — his fame propelled him to political success, and Clinton was a natural — a political freak of nature. But Carter came from the state legislature and JFK, LBJ, Nixon, and Ford all started in the House.
The people can never understand why the President does not use his supposedly great power to make ‘em behave. Well, all the President is, is a glorified public relations man who spends his time flattering, kissing, and kicking people to get them to do what they are supposed to do anyway.
“Offered the chance to be free by the avowed white supremacist P.W. Botha if he would renounce violence, Mandela replied, “Let him renounce violence.” Americans should understand this. Violent resistance to tyranny, violent defense of one’s body, is not simply a political strategy in our country, it is taken as a basic human right. Our own revolution was purchased with the blood of 22,000 nascent American dead. Dissenters were tarred and feathered. American independence and American power has never rested on nonviolence, but on the willingness to do great—at times existential—violence.”—Ta-Nehisi Coates, on Nelson Mandela and the question of violence. (via theatlantic)
I enjoy your thoughtful posts on Pope Francis and agree that he is a fascinating man. I recently read a quick gossip column item claiming the Pope's undisguised work in the evening among the homeless in Rome is a ploy and taken from a 1968 film The Shoes of the Fisherman. Do you think Pope Francis and the Vatican are doing as masterful PR job, or is he as genuine as we hope.
I think Pope Francis is genuine.
For almost 2,000 years the Catholic Church has been known for many things, but I can assure you that top-notch public relations has never been the Vatican’s strength.
Ideologically how would you describe someone that favors a strong national government that favors business interests and thinks that social legislation debate is so ridiculous and everyone should have equal rights and the right to choose what they do with their body?
given the means, would you ever choose to live in a country aside from the US for some extended period of time? if so, where and why?
I would definitely do that. I’ve actually never had the opportunity to travel outside of the country, so I’d probably be up for experiencing anywhere.
One place that has always fascinated me is Cuba, so that might be my first choice. Other places at the top of my list would be Italy, the Azores, Madeira, the Canary Islands, and mainland Portugal and Spain.
If only you weren’t an anonymous person posting anonymous messages on my blog. We could consummate our love, run away, and live happily ever after.
Where art thou, Muse, that thou forget’st so long
To speak of that which gives thee all thy might?
Spend’st thou thy fury on some worthless song,
Dark’ning thy power to lend base subjects light?
Return, forgetful Muse, and straight redeem
In gentle numbers time so idly spent,
Sing to the ear that doth thy lays esteem
And gives thy pen both skill and argument.
There's reports House Republicans are in some vague early talks of putting Obama up for impeachment. It's probably unlikely, but if they were to hypothetically try to charge Obama (probably based on Benghazi or one of the many recent "scandals") how do you think that would play out?
There is absolutely nothing that the House could find to bring articles of impeachment against the President. And, even if there was, he would be quickly acquitted in the Senate trial and remain in office.
Impeachment and removal from office is meant to be a serious punishment for individuals who break the law or abuse their power. Politically-based impeachment threats are the dumbest, emptiest threats possible.
Do you know why?
Let’s say, for example, that the GOP had the numbers in the House to impeach President Obama on some politically-motivated bullshit and somehow had the numbers in the Senate to convict him and remove him from office. Guess what we get — President Biden!
That’s why I would always shake my head when people would scream “Impeach Bush!” Did they not realize that the result would be Dick Cheney as Presidents?
Impeachment and removal from office is not supposed to be easy or taken lightly, and it is certainly not something meant to play politics with. That’s a good example of the wisdom of the Framers of the Constitution — there is a built-in protection against politically-motivated impeachment/removal called the Vice Presidency.
I hear Obama despite being charismatic and gregarious in person actually isn't that great at creating and maintaining good inter-personal work relationships between himself and members of congress from both sides. Is there truth to that?
The President is supremely confident in his own abilities and has an almost clinical approach to doing his job. He believes he is a better speechwriter than his speechwriters and a better political strategist than his political strategists. Quite frankly, he’s probably right, but his job is to be President of the United States, and something isn’t clicking.
Jimmy Carter was also supremely confident and felt he was never wrong. Now, Obama has better people skills, better political instincts, and is less of a micromanager than Carter. But a President is in trouble when he withdraws so deeply within the White House bubble that he can no longer feel the political pulse of the American people. I fear that Obama is reaching that point.
Listen, I want my President to have unshakable confidence in himself and I want my President to be the smartest person in the room. But we also need our President to show some emotion. It sounds silly, but it’s true. We cannot connect with a robotic Commander-in-Chief. President Obama has dealt with an obstructionist legislative branch throughout his Presidency. He’s had to battle the worst, most unpopular Congresses in American history, but he’s the same guy in every press conference. I need to see him either reach out and build something with Congress or smack the shit out of Congress (figuratively, even though I’d rejoice if he did so literally). But, no, he hasn’t built the relationships he needs, he doesn’t have an effective Congressional liaison besides Vice President Biden (who has been the closer on several deals for the Administration), and, again, the White House Communications shop is the worst in recent history.
And, one other note: when was the last time Obama took his case to the people and made a sale. In 2004, he burst on the national scene behind the strength of his oratory and charisma. In 2007 and 2008, he built a campaign on inspirational speeches and hopeful messages. Since he was inaugurated, he hasn’t come close to sounding like he did. What happened to that Barack Obama?
Despite the fact that the Presidency of William Henry Harrison (1773-1841) lasted for only a month, the Harrison family left its mark on history before and after the 9th President’s 31-day stint in the White House in 1841. In fact, the Harrisons were one of the first American political dynasties.
John Scott Harrison (1804-1878), who served two terms in the U.S. House of Representatives in the 1850s, is the only person in American history to be the son of one President and the father of another. His son (and William Henry Harrison’s grandson), Benjamin Harrison (1833-1901), was the nation’s 23rd President from 1889-1893.
However, the family’s most accomplished member was William Henry Harrison’s father and the man whom the 23rd President was named after — Benjamin Harrison V (1726-1791).
One of the nation’s Founding Fathers, the elder Benjamin Harrison never served as President himself, but he had direct or indirect links to several Presidents, not counting his son and great-grandson.
Benjamin Harrison V served in Virginia’s House of Burgesses for nearly 30 years (1748-1775) and became an early, vocal opponent of British policies towards the colonies. As Revolution approached, Harrison was a leading member of the Virginia delegation to the first and second Continental Congresses and a signer of the Declaration of Independence.
During the second Continental Congress, Harrison shared a home in Philadelphia with a fellow Virginian — his roommate was George Washington. During the Revolutionary War, Harrison was often entrusted with drafting orders and dispatches to General Washington on behalf of Congress.
As war raged on, Harrison returned to the Virginia state legislature, newly christened as the House of Delegates, where he crossed paths with another future President — Thomas Jefferson. In 1778, Harrison defeated Jefferson in a race to become the speaker of Virginia’s House. Three years later, Harrison succeeded Jefferson as Governor of Virginia.
Following his term as Governor, Benjamin Harrison V sought to regain a seat in Virginia’s House of Delegates. While he eventually won re-election to the House and remained in Virginia’s legislature until his death in 1791, he initially came up short. Harrison lost a race in 1784 to John Tyler, Sr.
It wouldn’t be the last campaign featuring a Harrison and Tyler.
In 1840 — 56 years after Benjamin Harrison V and John Tyler, Sr. faced off for a seat in Virginia’s legislature — their sons, William Henry and John Jr., teamed up and were elected President and Vice President of the United States.
Do you still think that Obama's terms have been a "success." As someone who once supported him and his platform, I'm incredibly disillusioned at all the things he's done, and I seem to have grown quite a distaste for him.
I think Obama has had successes, but in many areas, he has been disappointing.
Really, I think the biggest issue throughout his Presidency has been the fact that his White House Communications staff has been terrible. I can’t think of another recent Administration that has had such an awful record of explaining , or touting its accomplishments. Even when they have done some great things, they invariably botch the public relations aspect. Obama should have fired his Chief of Staff, his Press Secretary, and his Communications team long ago. As I’ve said many times, one of the biggest blunders (if not THE biggest) of Obama’s Presidency was trying to take ownership of the term “Obamacare” instead of pushing it as the Affordable Care Act. It’s an intentionally divisive name for the program and trying to take ownership of the term was flat-out stupid politics. It’s not Presidential, it makes what should be an important step in governing feel and sound like a constant campaign rallying cry, and it made the ACA about Obama instead of about the millions of uninsured Americans who would benefit from the legislation. President Obama should have been smarter than that, and his Communications team should have recognized the perils of branding something so important in Obama’s name simply to try to be cute with campaign techniques.
Presidents eventually have to govern, especially if they’ve won re-election and have nothing else to campaign for. Obama’s team has failed him — numerous times — and the President has failed his supporters by not cleaning house. One of the biggest blows to Obama’s Presidency was Rahm Emanuel’s departure to become Mayor of Chicago. If any President needed a strong White House Chief of Staff, it’s Obama. Obama needs a Chief of Staff who isn’t a longtime member of his inner circle or a close political buddy. I wish he’d get a Leon Panetta-type to run his White House operations for the remainder of his term and try to salvage things. Hell, I wish he’d just ask Leon Panetta.
"Age is creeping inexorably in. I’m only just now beginning to see the first glimpse of what it truly means to be between two natures. I must admit this had always remained an intellectual notion for me for many years. Now I can really feel it. The incredible weakness of my wish & how it is always swallowed up by this adversary of my imagined self — the picture of who I am. This greedy one, never satisfied, always hungry for something ‘more’, something different, something else, something elsewhere. My inclination always is to do battle with this part of myself — to ‘get rid’ of it; to smother it; cast it out somehow but never to simply ‘see’ it. Very difficult. I don’t find it easy at all to accept. It’s hugely seductive &, in fact, such a major part of me I don’t see how I could live without it. Maybe this is the beginning of understanding ‘sacrifice’. I don’t know. At times I feel I’m right on the cutting edge of a whole new understanding & right in that moment I see I’m unwilling to take the leap. Scared maybe; afraid to lose the very aspect of this false self that keeps me in prison." — Sam Shepard, letter to Johnny Dark, August 17, 1998 (From "2 Prospectors: The Letters of Sam Shepard and Johnny Dark")
Can you give more info as to why LBJ didn't attend Winston Churchill's funeral?
LBJ had recently been hospitalized with a bad cold and his doctors advised him not to make the trip. He was heavily criticized domestically and internationally, not only for not making the trip to London himself, but also for not sending Vice President Humphrey.
LBJ noted that he had spent several years as VP and wanted to break the idea that the main responsibility of Vice Presidents was to attend funerals. He tabbed General Eisenhower and Chief Justice Earl Warren to lead the U.S. delegation and felt that was sufficient.
There were allegations that LBJ had snubbed Churchill’s funeral because Churchill didn’t attend the funeral of FDR (one of LBJ’s mentors). That’s just silly. FDR died in the hectic, closing days of World War II in Europe and Churchill couldn’t be expected to make a risky Trans-Atlantic trip as the Allies and Soviets were closing in on Hitler and Berlin.
Do you have any internet crushes besides Abby Huntsman and Alex Wagner
Wow…you’ve been paying attention. I think I only mentioned Alex Wagner a couple of times, and not recently!
I’ve been quiet about my internet crush for a while, mainly because she follows me on Twitter and about.me and I don’t want to creep her out. However, I’m totally into Asha de Vos and the extraordinary work she is doing to help save the blue whales. Asha is amazing.
I don't want to sound stupid and I feel stupid and ignorant for asking. But who exactly was Mendela. I've heard of him a few times but who exactly was he. What did he do?
MANDELA deserves a Google/Wikipedia search, at least, not a quickie Tumblr answer.
I’ll say this: stringing together the names of Gandhi, Martin Luther King, and Nelson Mandela is not hagiography. Mandela was imprisoned, forced to break rocks, for 27 years — TWENTY-SEVEN YEARS — and when he got out and came to power, instead of lining up his enemies and having them shot, he forgave them. His fight became a battle for reconciliation and unity. Mandela was an extraordinary human being.
is mandela's funeral really the biggest since churchill's
It looks like it’s going to be pretty big. I think Pope John Paul II’s funeral was actually bigger than Churchill’s. After all, LBJ didn’t even go to Churchill’s funeral (big mistake — Sir Winston deserved better).
JPII’s funeral was huge. I mean, pretty much every world leader was there — OUTSIDE, in Saint Peter’s Square, with the people. You had the Israeli and Iranian Presidents sitting next to each other. That was a remarkable gathering. Mandela’s could surpass it.
I believe that all former presidents (maybe with the exception of Bush 41) may be attending Nelson Mandela's funeral along with President Obama; I guess that would be a secret service nightmare, but aside from President Obama, would they all travel together? still enjoying your blog, have a great christmas!! Rob of Sydney
I imagine that they will all travel together on Air Force One with President Obama.
I’m pretty sure everyone traveled with the incumbent President to Pope John Paul II’s funeral in 2005 and Yitzhak Rabin’s funeral in 1995. And when Sadat was assassinated, Reagan didn’t go to the funeral, but he sent Nixon, Ford, and Carter to Cairo together on AF1.
Held captive 4 your politics
They wanted 2 break your soul
They ordered the extermination
Of all minds they couldn’t control
4 u the fate was far worse
Than just a brutal homicide
They caged u like an animal
And watched u slowly die inside
As u Breathe your first air of freedom
On the day u become a free man
Raise your Regal brow in Pride
4 now you R in God’s Hands
The life of many were given
So that the day would one day come
That the devils in Power at Pretoria
Would pay for the evil crimes they’ve done
— Tupac Shakur, “Just a Breath of Freedom: 4 Nelson Mandela”, a poem from “The Rose That Grew From Concrete”
We will not likely see the likes of Nelson Mandela again — so it falls to us as best we can to forward the example that he set: to make decisions guided not by hate, but by love, to never discount the difference that one person can,make, to strive for a future that is worthy of his sacrifice.
President Barack Obama, statement on the death of Nelson Mandela, December 5, 2013
Do you think there will ever be more than 5 living former presidents at the same time?
Maybe not this decade since Presidents Carter and Papa Bush will both be 90 next year, but I think it will probably happen. Having several ex-Presidents alive at one time is much rarer than we realize. Since the 1980s we have had quite a few living former Presidents, but it takes long-living Presidents, short terms, or a combination of both (which is what we had with Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, and Bush 41).
Who do you think should be time's man of the year?
I’m pretty sure TIME finally did the right thing and made it “Person of the Year”, didn’t they?
Anyway, even putting my personal biases aside, I don’t see how it can’t be Pope Francis. Most people outside Buenos Aires didn’t kbow Jorge Mario Bergoglio existed in January. I bet most of the members of the College of Cardinals were barely familiar with him despite the fact that he was the runner-up in the 2005 Conclave to replace Pope John Paul II.
Then he was elected quickly in March to replace Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI and has done something that is, arguably, more difficult than forcing the Catholic Church to evolve — he has begun to change the perception of the Church, particularly the perception of non-Catholics and non-believers (like myself).
Making permanent changes to the Roman Curia and the culture of Catholicism will take more time and effort, but Franciscus is a positive force in a world that needs such people.
The Sisters of Saint Francis of the Neumann Community in Syracuse and by proxy, Saint Marianne Cope, have been very dear to my aunt recently who has been battling breast cancer since 2007. She spends months at a time in Syracuse with her daughter who is in PA school there and visits the nuns and the chapel almost daily. She’s been working closely with them and wants to help them keep their chapel and the remains of the saint in Syracuse. Now me being the young, internet, person that I am, my aunt asked me to create a page where people can donate money and help the (mainly elderly) nuns who live in the community to keep their chapel and New York’s own saint.
Now this is something that I’m helping my aunt with and helping her get online so she can share and spread the news. These nuns have been such a comfort to her lately and she wants to do what she can for them, and I want to do what I can for my aunt. So please share or donate if you can. I really appreciate it.