Dead Presidents

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

By Anthony Bergen
E-Mail: bergen.anthony@gmail.com
Posts tagged "American Politics"
Asker ultra-pop Asks:
Weird question, but are there any Know-Nothing (or American Party) Governor's you think were good at their jobs? I've always found them to be an "interesting" party if nothing else.
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

They were a terrible party — virulently anti-immigrant, anti-Catholic, and extremist.  They got lucky in an election or two in a few states or regions during a horrible era in our history.  There weren’t many Know-Nothings elected Governor (there’s a joke waiting to be written there), but those who were elected were not very good, didn’t get much done, and didn’t last in office very long.  I don’t know if any of them were even re-elected.

Have you read Joe Klein's Politics Lost: How American Democracy Was Trivialized By People Who Think You're Stupid? The basic assertion of the book is that authentic moments in politics have been replaced by consultant driven overly managed stuffed shirts. Would be curious as to your reaction to the book and what we could learn from the "arc of history" in order to rectify the stuffed shirts politics we see at every level today.
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

I have not read Klein’s book, but it sounds like something I definitely want to take a look at.  From you description of it, I definitely agree with what he’s trying to say.

The reason why, as Klein’s subtitle says, American Democracy has been “Trivialized By People Who Think You’re Stupid” is because it works.  Most American voters don’t take the time (and, sometimes, don’t have the time) to swim past the soundbites and headlines and get to the meat of the story on the issues and candidates during elections.  I’m sorry, but the majority of the American people are “average” — that’s why we use that word — and “average Americans” are easy to cater to.

Anti-intellectualism is nothing new in American politics.  I wrote about it a couple of years ago:

Anti-intellectualism has ALWAYS been a favorite of American political campaigns.  For some frustrating reason, Americans don’t like somebody who is *too* smart.  I don’t know about you, but I want my President to be the smartest guy in the country.  Most of the time, campaigns just dumb things down because they know it appeals to the people.  It’s one of the biggest things that bothers me about this country — dumbing things down works.

This is not a new tactic.  It’s also not a dead tactic.  In 2008, we had Sarah Palin and Joe The Plumber speaking for the “regular Americans”.  The thing is, I don’t actually know any “regular Americans” who pride themselves on being simple people.  Why this works in political campaigns is beyond my ability to understand.  It is Walmart advertising and it is infuriating.

When did this start in Presidential campaigns?  Definitely during the 1824 campaign that John Quincy Adams won against Andrew Jackson, Henry Clay, and William H. Crawford.  It didn’t work in that campaign because the election was decided by the House of Representatives, but Jackson campaigned as the down-to-earth, man of the people.  In 1828, he did the same thing and won.  Other Presidents who used the same tactic successfully:  William Henry Harrison in 1840; James K. Polk in 1844; Zachary Taylor in 1848; Franklin Pierce in 1852; Abraham Lincoln in 1860; James Garfield in 1880; Benjamin Harrison in 1888; Warren G. Harding in 1920; and Jimmy Carter in 1976.

Besides the Bush 43 campaigns, Carter is the most recent clear example of a President who completely dumbed down his abilities and personality for his Presidential campaign.  In 1976, Carter campaigned against Gerald Ford as the smiling peanut farmer from Georgia who was ready to bring the Presidency back to the people.  In reality, Carter was a graduate of the United States Naval Academy who studied nuclear physics, was a disciple of Admiral Hyman Rickover, and handpicked by Rickover to serve as the engineering officer on one of the first atomic submarines.

I don’t understand why this appeals to the American electorate.  I don’t understand why it works.  All I know is that it is not a good reflection on the American electorate as a whole.  If anybody says, “Oh, I voted for him because he was dumber than the other guy”, they should have their right to vote revoked.

Unfortunately, delivering political candidates to people by dumbing things down works — and it will probably keep working.  That’s why Lincoln is the poor rail-splitter instead of the clever, corporate railroad lawyer and Carter is Mr. Smiley Peanut Farmer instead of the nuclear physicist that he actually was.

I don’t know how to rectify it other than proving those stuffed shirts wrong.  If you’re presented with Jed Bartlet vs. Robert Ritchie, you damn sure better vote for Bartlet and let them know that you want the smartest person possible sitting in the chair when decisions have to be made.

Anonymous asked:  Any thoughts on Bob Dole’s recent Senate appearance to ask for the passing to the UN Disability Treaty?

I wish I could say that I was surprised that the Senate didn’t do the right thing despite the appearance and support of a nearly 90-year-old Bob Dole who not only dedicated his life to public service, but did so with significant disabilities because of the fact that he very nearly gave up his life fighting for this country in World War II.

I wish I could say that I was surprised, but I’m not.  Nothing surprises me anymore about the Senate or the House, particularly in this 112th Congress.  I’m hoping that enough was done in November to, for a lack of a better term, flush the waste out of the Capitol so that the 113th Congress can get some good things done for our country.

It just makes me angry now.  It makes me angry that these are our representatives.  It makes me angry that 38 United States Senators voted against ratifying a treaty that was basically an international version of our own American With Disabilities Act.  The United Nations modeled the treaty after the ADA in order to urge people around the world to take care of and no discriminate against people with disabilities.  And after frail, wheelchair bound Bob Dole made an appearance in support of the treaty’s ratification, he was wheeled out of the Senate chamber and 38 American Senators said no. 

Thirty-eight American Senators opposed that treaty while Arizona Senator John McCain, who spent nearly six years being tortured in a North Vietnamese prison and can’t even raise his arm into the air to be recognized by the presiding officer, sat in that chamber.  I can’t even imagine how Senator McCain can caucus with those Senators in the future and work together with them.  I can’t understand it.

38.  Thirty-eight Senators rejected that treaty while Hawaii’s Senator Daniel Inouye was in the chamber.  Senator Inouye is 88 years old and disabled.  Do you know why Senator Inouye is disabled?  BECAUSE HE LEFT HIS ARM ON A HILLSIDE IN ITALY FIGHTING FOR HIS COUNTRY.  That was after he had already been shot in the stomach attacking a German bunker.  A German grenade blew his right arm off of his body as Inouye prepared to toss his own grenade.  Do you know what happened when Daniel Inouye’s arm was blown off of his body?  He reached down with the arm he had left, pulled the grenade that he was about to throw out of the closed hand of his severed right arm, and then he finished the job that he had started, tossed the grenade at the Germans, and kept shooting with the arm he had left until he passed out.  Thirty-eight of Senator Inouye’s colleagues rejected an international treaty protecting the rights of people like Inouye as he sat there.

It’s shameful.  After the vote, John Kerry (another American who served his country and was wounded in combat, by the way) said it was “one of the saddest days I’ve seen in almost 28 years in the Senate and it needs to be a wake-up call about a broken institution that’s letting down the American people.”  I couldn’t agree more with Senator Kerry except for one thing:  rejecting this treaty lets down the people of the world — 700 million of whom are disabled.

Thirty-eight United States Senators should be ashamed of themselves and their constituents should be disgusted by their representation.  Shame on you, Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, Roy Blunt of Missouri, John Boozman of Arkansas, Richard Burr of North Carolina, Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, Dan Coats of Indiana, Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, Thad Cochran of Mississippi, Bob Corker of Tennessee, John Cornyn of Texas, Mike Crapo of Idaho, Jim DeMint of South Carolina, Mike Enzi of Wyoming, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Chuck Grassley of Iowa, Orrin Hatch of Utah, Dean Heller of Nevada, John Hoeven of North Dakota, Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas, Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma, Johnny Isakson of Georgia, Mike Johanns of Nebraska, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, Jon Kyl of Arizona, Mike Lee of Utah (who took the lead in opposing the treaty’s ratification), Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, Jerry Moran of Kansas, Rand Paul of Kentucky, Rob Portman of Ohio, Jim Risch of Idaho, Pat Roberts of Kansas, Marco Rubio of Florida, Jeff Sessions of Alabama, Richard Shelby of Alabama, John Thune of South Dakota, Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, David Vitter of Louisiana, and Roger Wicker of Mississippi.  If I were running the DSCC, I would target all 38 of you in your next campaigns and lay your vote for the rejection of this treaty’s ratification on your doorstep every night so that you step in it every morning and drag it with you every time that you speak to a veterans organization or a group of people with disabilities or a senior citizen.  I’d add “go to hell”, but with the 112th Congress in charge, I’m not positive that we aren’t already there.

Asker Anonymous Asks:
Any thoughts on Bob Dole's recent Senate appearance to ask for the passing to the UN Disability Treaty?
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

I wish I could say that I was surprised that the Senate didn’t do the right thing despite the appearance and support of a nearly 90-year-old Bob Dole who not only dedicated his life to public service, but did so with significant disabilities because of the fact that he very nearly gave up his life fighting for this country in World War II.

I wish I could say that I was surprised, but I’m not.  Nothing surprises me anymore about the Senate or the House, particularly in this 112th Congress.  I’m hoping that enough was done in November to, for a lack of a better term, flush the waste out of the Capitol so that the 113th Congress can get some good things done for our country.

It just makes me angry now.  It makes me angry that these are our representatives.  It makes me angry that 38 United States Senators voted against ratifying a treaty that was basically an international version of our own American With Disabilities Act.  The United Nations modeled the treaty after the ADA in order to urge people around the world to take care of and no discriminate against people with disabilities.  And after frail, wheelchair bound Bob Dole made an appearance in support of the treaty’s ratification, he was wheeled out of the Senate chamber and 38 American Senators said no. 

Thirty-eight American Senators opposed that treaty while Arizona Senator John McCain, who spent nearly six years being tortured in a North Vietnamese prison and can’t even raise his arm into the air to be recognized by the presiding officer, sat in that chamber.  I can’t even imagine how Senator McCain can caucus with those Senators in the future and work together with them.  I can’t understand it.

38.  Thirty-eight Senators rejected that treaty while Hawaii’s Senator Daniel Inouye was in the chamber.  Senator Inouye is 88 years old and disabled.  Do you know why Senator Inouye is disabled?  BECAUSE HE LEFT HIS ARM ON A HILLSIDE IN ITALY FIGHTING FOR HIS COUNTRY.  That was after he had already been shot in the stomach attacking a German bunker.  A German grenade blew his right arm off of his body as Inouye prepared to toss his own grenade.  Do you know what happened when Daniel Inouye’s arm was blown off of his body?  He reached down with the arm he had left, pulled the grenade that he was about to throw out of the closed hand of his severed right arm, and then he finished the job that he had started, tossed the grenade at the Germans, and kept shooting with the arm he had left until he passed out.  Thirty-eight of Senator Inouye’s colleagues rejected an international treaty protecting the rights of people like Inouye as he sat there.

It’s shameful.  After the vote, John Kerry (another American who served his country and was wounded in combat, by the way) said it was “one of the saddest days I’ve seen in almost 28 years in the Senate and it needs to be a wake-up call about a broken institution that’s letting down the American people.”  I couldn’t agree more with Senator Kerry except for one thing:  rejecting this treaty lets down the people of the world — 700 million of whom are disabled.

Thirty-eight United States Senators should be ashamed of themselves and their constituents should be disgusted by their representation.  Shame on you, Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, Roy Blunt of Missouri, John Boozman of Arkansas, Richard Burr of North Carolina, Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, Dan Coats of Indiana, Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, Thad Cochran of Mississippi, Bob Corker of Tennessee, John Cornyn of Texas, Mike Crapo of Idaho, Jim DeMint of South Carolina, Mike Enzi of Wyoming, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Chuck Grassley of Iowa, Orrin Hatch of Utah, Dean Heller of Nevada, John Hoeven of North Dakota, Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas, Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma, Johnny Isakson of Georgia, Mike Johanns of Nebraska, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, Jon Kyl of Arizona, Mike Lee of Utah (who took the lead in opposing the treaty’s ratification), Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, Jerry Moran of Kansas, Rand Paul of Kentucky, Rob Portman of Ohio, Jim Risch of Idaho, Pat Roberts of Kansas, Marco Rubio of Florida, Jeff Sessions of Alabama, Richard Shelby of Alabama, John Thune of South Dakota, Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, David Vitter of Louisiana, and Roger Wicker of Mississippi.  If I were running the DSCC, I would target all 38 of you in your next campaigns and lay your vote for the rejection of this treaty’s ratification on your doorstep every night so that you step in it every morning and drag it with you every time that you speak to a veterans organization or a group of people with disabilities or a senior citizen.  I’d add “go to hell”, but with the 112th Congress in charge, I’m not positive that we aren’t already there. 

Possibly, but there’s an important factor to that youth opposition that a lot of these “slacktivists” who use social networking and Occupy-type protests to make a lot of noise don’t recognize:  their opposition only means something if they vote. 

See, Romney’s supporters will vote on Election Day.  If General Petraeus was a candidate, his supporters would vote on Election Day.  But the young people and many of the minorities who oppose Romney?  It’s a chore to get many of them out to vote.  If you’re reading this website or Politico and oppose Romney, chances are that you are politically active and will vote.  Yet, I would imagine that most of those young people who casually watch parts of the debates and Tweet about how Romney is part of the 1% will scream and yell and protest the GOP, but they won’t necessarily go vote on Election Day.  And, when push comes to shove, that’s all that matters.

Just to compare and contrast Romney with a hypothetical candidacy by Petraeus, while I do think a lot of the younger people who opposed the war would oppose General Petraeus, I think it would be offset by seniors (who love a leader like Petraeus) and veterans, including a lot of the younger veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan while General Petraeus was the commander of our forces.  General Petraeus would motivate a lot more supporters to get to the polls than Romney, he would definitely earn a lot more crossover votes than Romney, and any opposition would be offset by gains in areas that Romney wouldn’t be as successful.  General Petraeus would be a formidable candidate for President, no matter what party he represented or who he faced in the campaign.