I could absolutely see Vice President Biden running for the Senate again after leaving the Vice Presidency. Biden LOVES the Senate, and he doesn’t seem like a guy who is just going to retire. He is beloved in Delaware, and I wouldn’t be surprised if one of Delaware’s Senators stepped aside so that Biden could reclaim his seat.
I’d be very happy with Biden winning the Democratic Presidential nomination in 2016, but I know that it isn’t going to happen. Regaining his Senate seat would be a great consolation prize.
If it had been a different time, I’d say Eleanor Roosevelt would probably be the one, but as a woman in the male-dominated political world of the mid-20th Century, Eleanor would had trouble breaking through the glass ceiling that female political leaders are still trying to shatter today.
Several of FDR’s sons had political careers, but they were also scandal-ridden and couldn’t rise to the level of their father or distant cousin. So, the Roosevelt with the best chance would have been Theodore “Ted” Roosevelt, Jr., who was a highly-decorated soldier in both World Wars, New York State Assemblyman, Assistant Secretary of the Navy (like his father and FDR), Governor-General of the Philippines, and Governor of Puerto Rico. Ted Roosevelt was also the Republican candidate for Governor of New York in 1924, but lost the election during a nasty campaign where he faced attacks from Franklin and Eleanor. Ted’s military career could have helped him in future elections, but he died young (he was only 56) while serving during World War II.
General Lew Wallace describes for posterity the president’s role in subduing an 1890s White House break-in.
Gen. Lew Wallace (1827-1905), friend and author of Ben-Hur, and Murat Halstead (1829-1908), newspaper editor and defeated Harrison appointee to Minister to Germany
Life and Public Services of Hon. Benjamin Harrison, President of the U.S. (1892)
The President has proved [his physical strength] on one occasion, at least, within a year, when his strong arm and cool head served so well their purpose as to be a revelation to everybody cognizant of the circumstances. The occasion referred to was one evening when a young man crazed with drink broke into the private part of the White House and threatened the life of the President. On account of the family of the young fellow, but especially because personal appeal of the distressed mother, little was said about it, and the affair was passed over as of no serious moment. But the facts proved that it was no light disturbance breaking the usual evening peace of the White House that night. The doorkeepers on duty in front were taken unawares by the attack from the South Portico. Their first warning was the crashing in of the Red Room windows, and the wild ravings of the young madman, shrieking with oaths his determination to kill the President. In the darkness it was not possible to know if the attack proceeded from one person or several. The excitement over the New Orleans troubles [of October, 1890, the Italian mafia allegedly killed an Irish police chief, which prompted citizens to lynch 11 suspects in March, 1891] was then high, and as the startled doorkeepers said: ‘We naturally thought of the Italian Mafia at once.’ Two doorkeepers grappled with the young man, but large, strong men as they are, were hardly a match for the superhuman strength of the crazed and foaming would-be-assassin, who, at the outset of the desperate struggle, succeeded in inflicting a painful and stunning blow on the head of one of his captors. In the next moment, the President, who had heard the crashing glass, came down stairs quietly with his cane in his hand, and with one bound passed through the window and stood over the struggling, raving young fellow, holding his arms down as firmly as if they had been fastened by a vice.
It was all like a sudden flash of light on the darkness around them. Not a word was spoken until the President, as quiet and cool as if he had just shaken hands with a visitor, turned and said: ‘Have you any more of them here?’ The men did not know. They had their hands too full with one to look for any more. When the President had made his search alone, into the dark corners of the portico, and had assured himself that there were no concealed accomplices to follow up the attack, he said in the same cool, quiet way:
'And now, what else can I do for you?'
'If you can cut that window-cord, Mr. President, I think it will do to tie him,' was the reply.
The President cut the cord, and bending over his young assailant, with a few passes had him securely tied, hand and foot. Then he went upstairs to assure his frightened family that nothing serious had occurred. The man whose face had suffered in the encounter, afterward said:
'The President was the coolest, quietest man I ever saw, and plucky, too. The thing was so sudden, and in the darkness nobody could tell how many there might be skulking in those corners. But he never thought of his own danger at all. He'd be a match for more than one, though, for his strength is something astonishing, and his is as quick as lightning. When it was all over, he looked after my broken head, and you ought to have seen him then — just as kind and tender as if I'd been his own son. He wasn't so cool then, when he was thinking of me. He was as warm and sympathetic as any man could be. Mrs. Harrison came down and fixed up the bruises herself — and they were both distressed and anxious to relieve the pain. It's the President's quiet way, without any words, that a fellow can't forget. When a man is brave, and tender, too, there isn't much more to be said. But I can tell you, since that night I would like to follow such a leader. I'd do anything in the world for the President. Every man of us in the White House feels the same way. We know him, and he's a brave, big-hearted man, tender as a child. All the stuff about his reserve and coldness is just his quiet way on the outside.'
Well, technically, it did make it to America since a couple of Americans who were infected were brought back home to be treated, but no, I don’t think that there will be an outbreak in the United States. Then again, I’m not medical expert.
As for the response to the Ebola outbreak, it’s a shame that it continues to spread and so many people have been affected, but it’s not something that the President should be too harshly criticized for. People say that the United States shouldn’t be in a position where it polices the world, but then they criticize our leaders for not being the EMTs of the world. Should we help? Yes. Are we helping? Yes. But short of sending troops to the affected countries, imposing martial law, and forcing conditions that will stem the outbreak, any aid from the President or the United States is quite limited.
It’s a terrible virus, it’s a sad situation, and we should send whatever aid we can to the West African countries that need it, and help educate the population (here, in Africa, and around the world) about the disease to help prevent a larger outbreak. But not everything falls on the shoulders of the President or the United States — the United Nations should play a bigger role in situations like this. And when the United Nations fails, as it almost always does, there are other organizations that should take the lead: the World Health Organization, the African Union, the Economic Community of West African States, the ACP, and even the European Union through the Cotonou Agreement. Like I said, if we don’t want the United States to police the world, we also don’t want it to be the world’s EMT because there’s really no difference when we’re dealing with matters of sovereignty.
I would do just about anything if I was invited.
14%. That’s the percentage of American Presidents who have been shot after being elected. Four of those Presidents died, one almost died (Reagan), and another was shot and seriously wounded after leaving office but while campaigning for another term (Theodore Roosevelt).
Want some scarier statistics? Since the election of Franklin D. Roosevelt, there have been thirteen Presidents: FDR, Truman, Eisenhower, JFK, LBJ, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush 41, Clinton, Bush 43, and Obama. Of those thirteen Presidents, nine of them— FDR, Truman, JFK, Nixon, Ford (on two occasions), Reagan, Bush 41, Clinton, and Bush 43 — were either the victim of an actual assassination attempt (or, in Kennedy’s case, was actually assassinated) or were targets of serious attempts or plots that resulted in someone being charged with attempting to assassinate the President. That’s roughly 70% of the Presidents since the Great Depression who have either been victims or targets of assassination plots.
Through the long telescope of history, then, the ground between Reagan and Johnson appears vast, the distance between two opposite visions from two opposite moments in time. And it is the distance, as well, between two opposite types of men. It is hard to think of two Presidents in modern history, after all, who approached the office more differently than Reagan and Johnson. Johnson was among the most hyperactive executives the White House had ever seen, always seeking to put his fingerprints on every last scrap of administration business no matter how large or small…
…That would never be Reagan — an actor learns early the benefits of a good night’s sleep. From his earliest days in politics, Reagan was supremely confident in his own abilities as an executive. He had come to prominence in a career in which he constantly had to give up control — to producers and directors and studio bosses, to makeup designers and camera operators and press agents, to critics and millions of anonymous strangers who would form consequential opinions of him as they watched on distant screens. When he began his political career in the mid-1960s, he took to the disaggregated life of a political candidate quickly. Most first-time candidates struggle to adapt to the existence in which they must surrender control of their lives to other people. Reagan had been doing it for years. He understood an important distinction that Johnson never grasped: being in control and being successful aren’t always the same thing…
Each was a gifted performer and raconteur who could captivate an audience. But they excelled in different settings. Johnson was best in person. He was overwhelming, always, and his conversations hummed with transactional momentum. He told involved and engaging Texas tall tales, but he usually told them in order to drive home a pertinent point. He made use of his large girth and six-foot-three-inch frame. All the clichéd metaphors of politics — glad-handing, buttonholing, back stroking, arm twisting — were things Johnson actually, physically did in order to get his way. His greatest asset was his intuitive sensitivity to human emotion, his unmatched ability to spot people’s highest ambitions and their darkest fears. Even Alabama Governor George Wallace, one of the twentieth century’s most notorious racial demagogues, found himself mesmerized by an impassioned Oval Office conference with Johnson in the midst of a tense 1965 standoff over racial protests in Wallace’s home state. “Hell,” said Wallace afterward, “if I’d stayed in there much longer, he’d have had me coming out for civil rights.”
A conversation with Reagan, on the other hand, was usually pleasant and entirely superficial. In his early days as a politician, supporters would often walk away from first encounters with candidate Reagan disappointed. He’d told funny jokes, they’d laughed heartily, they’d had a ball. But they couldn’t remember much if any substance to what he’d said. The problem wasn’t that Reagan was an empty suit; rather, he struggled to connect with people when they came too close. Even his own children encountered a fog in their father’s eyes when they greeted him in a room. He was friendly, but he gave the impression that he was meeting them for the first time.
He was better with an audience watching him. Better still if they were watching him on a television screen from the comfort of their own homes. In these moments, he was great. He launched his 1966 campaign for governor with a thirty-minute television advertisement in which he pensively strolled around a comfortable living room. It was all so wonderfully familiar and authentic. There were pictures on the wall and a fire in the fireplace; Reagan’s sharp, pithy summation of California’s and the nation’s problems seemed to come to him spontaneously, a kindly father figure opining on issues of the day. None of it was real — the sentences were scripted and the living room was a studio set. But Californians didn’t mind; they were starting to expect their politicians to be great performers on TV.
Television was taking over politics in the midsixties. Anyone who’d lived through the Kennedy years could see that. Johnson could see that, and he worked tirelessly to adapt, but never with much success. As President, he obsessed over his televised press conferences, bringing in a shifting cast of experts for coaching on his diction, his posture, his eyewear. But his problem was fundamental: performing for a TV camera, he could never do what he did in person, he couldn’t see his audience and adapt his personality accordingly. And that introduced a terrifying possibility: that the people watching would see him as himself.
Johnson and Reagan, then, were both stars, but stars of different eras. It is difficult to fit them inside a single picture — when the mind focuses on one of them, the other becomes a blur. Even in the lore of practical politics, where both names have assumed vaunted status in recent years, they inhabit separate realms. Reagan is the President that politicians from both parties publicly say they admire — principled, noble, and strong. But Johnson is the President they secretly long to be — ruthless, effective, a man who got big things done.