Dead Presidents

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

By Anthony Bergen
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Posts tagged "Barack Obama"

So, USAID covertly funded and created a “Cuban Twitter” called ZunZuneo in an effort to “destabilize” the Cuban government. Obviously worked out really well…oh wait…USAID ran out of money and it sputtered.

By the way, covert actions by federal agencies require Presidential authorization. Apparently, President Obama has learned nothing about the resiliency of the Cuban Revolution from his TEN IMMEDIATE PREDECESSORS.

Asker Anonymous Asks:
Which presidents would you say had the most successful post-presidencies?
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

There are four whose “retirements” stand out heads-and-shoulders above the rest:

•John Quincy Adams: Defeated for re-election in 1828, but elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1830 and spent the last 17 years of his life in Congress as a passionate opponent of slavery. He was also a major advocate of what became the Smithsonian Institution and continued his fight for internal improvements throughout our growing country while also opposing Andrew Jackson and the Jacksonian-era Democratic Party.

•William Howard Taft: After losing his bid for re-election in 1912’s three-way race against Woodrow Wilson and Theodore Roosevelt, Taft spent the entire Wilson Administration as a law professor at Yale. More importantly, just a few months into President Harding’s term, Taft finally got his dream job — Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. Taft’s term as Chief Justice was undoubtedly the happiest and most fulfilling time of his professional life and he stayed on the Court until just a few weeks before he died.

•Jimmy Carter: Carter forged an entirely new role for an ex-President with his humanitarian work around the world through the Carter Center. His efforts at personal diplomacy have not always been welcomed by incumbent Presidents, but much of what Carter has accomplished during his 33+ years of “retirement” (the longest post-Presidential life of any POTUS in history) has been remarkable. It’s also set the tone for the modern post-Presidency.

Bill Clinton: Following Carter’s lead, the work the 42nd President has done (and continues to do) since 2001 via his Clinton Foundation and the Clinton Global Initiative has helped millions around the world. Because of Clinton’s popularity, domestically and internationally, as well as the fact that he’s the best politician alive and likely married to the next President of the United States, he is in a unique position in comparison to every other former President in American history. There’s really no ceiling for what he can accomplish other than his personal health and the 22nd Amendment.

It will be interesting to see how active George W. Bush and Barack Obama decide to be and what they focus on during their post-Presidential life. Bush 43 obviously is not as interested in being as visible as Clinton, but he has continued the extraordinary work in sib-Saharan Africa that he began as President. I’m not sure what Obama’s focus will be, but I don’t think he’s going to just retire to a beach house in Hawaii. I’d like to see him focus on domestic poverty and income inequality. I think all of our former Presidents from this point forward will follow the Carter model to some extent. I’m sure they’ll still cash in on some paid speeches (which I have no problem with), but Carter set the standard for post-Presidential public service.

The best part isn’t even something that they SAID! It’s the lower-third with Obama’s title!

And #42 continues to be the coolest President ever.

In Dreams From My Father, I don’t remember Barack Obama mentioning that his father was Brother Mouzone from The Wire, do you?

I mean, I know Obama and his father had a complicated relationship, but you’d think he would have mentioned that his dad and Omar (whom President Obama has mentioned is his all-time favorite television character) killed Stringer Bell.

Asker Anonymous Asks:
Any ideas for Obama when he's term ends? Would you like to see him go down the John Quincy Adams path and return to congress, maybe in the senate or wait for a Supreme Court nod Taft style?
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

I can’t see Obama seeking any other type of political office after his Presidency. Quite frankly, I don’t think Obama likes politics all that much. For him, politics has been a necessary evil — the means to a very specific end (the Presidency).

I don’t envision Obama seeking or accepting a less prestigious position after two terms in the White House. Nor do I think that he needs to do so in order to remain an influential voice. I believe he has the ability to stay relevant without holding any further office. In fact, that could be a strength as he would have the freedom to focus on the issues most important to him without fearing the response from his constituency.

I’ll tell you what I’d love to see Obama do after the White House. Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton have been wonderful examples of the type of meaningful work that an ex-President can do by putting to use his talents, influence, and unique connections with foreign leaders and people around the world. The humanitarian accomplishments of the Carter Center and Clinton Foundation are impossible to list, but those groups (and their partners), under the leadership of our former Presidents, have done and continue to do remarkable things for the world. George W. Bush has also began to follow in the Post-Presidential footsteps of his predecessors, particularly in Africa where Bush directed a tremendous amount of humanitarian aid while he was President. Since leaving office, Bush has continued to show his interest and concern for the people of sub-Saharan Africa and has expanded his relief efforts there.

No one would be surprised to see Obama commit himself to similar efforts after leaving the White House. The examples set by former Presidents Carter, Clinton, and now Bush, have made such humanitarian work almost seem part of the responsibilities of being an ex-President.

I hope Obama will continue such work, but with a different focus. I’d like to see the former community organizer bring relief efforts or humanitarian missions to troubled people and places right here in the United States. That would be very powerful, and I think it could be effective.

Imagine Obama, like Clinton, raising money for a Foundation through the force of his personality and mere presence. While Carter and Clinton use their foundations to build homes, provide low-cost or no-cost medication and health care, or offer educational opportunities internationally, imagine the impact an Obama foundation could have by rebuilding or reinforcing struggling communities here in the United States. Recreational centers with safe places to play sports, do homework, receive tutoring, take certain enrichment classes, and so on. Intramural sports leagues, a community library, performing arts program, adult education (including GED prep), literacy programs for all ages. Access to a school counselor to help find a path to higher education and navigate the application/financial aid process. Life skills, creative cooking classes, responsibility seminars for prospective/deadbeat dads, assistance for single parents/teen moms, child care resources for working parents, a food bank, clothing donations. Mental health resources, access to health care information, vaccines, STD screenings, quarterly health clinics, nutritional education. Even graffiti removal, clean-up crews, public art installation, and neighborhood beautification projects to instill some pride and a feeling of ownership within residents toward the community that they live in.

I could go on-and-on. This obviously is a subject that I have strong feelings about. If someone came up with the financial backing for such a program I would drop everything in order to have the chance to run it. Programs and resources such as these can mean the difference between rehabilitating communities or allowing them to wither and die. Having someone of Obama’s stature and influence advocating for such programs would bring attention to the issue and be a major factor in attracting direct funding as well as the in-kind donations from corporate partners, non-profit organizations, and other collaborators that help power such wide-ranging, ambitious projects.

As President, Obama has frequently mentioned the need to wrap-up our military commitments overseas so that “we can do nation-building here at home”. That would be a fantastic post-Presidential mission for Obama — “domestic relief” or “homefront humanitarianism”. That type of work even has a natural jump-off point — Chicago — due to Obama’s familiarity with his adopted hometown and the staggering number of young people being murdered in the city.

There is even a model for effectively organizing people at the grass roots level and empowering them to lead by telling personal stories and sharing why what they are doing is important to them — the Obama campaign in 2007-2008. By using Camp Obama training techniques like the “story of self”, it should be easy to establish programs in communities ripe for revitalization. Obviously, the message would no longer be about electing a certain individual, but the message could easily be changed while the delivery system, proven to be effective, remains the same.

Alright, I’ll stop daydreaming for now. But this is the perfect post-Presidential mission for Barack Obama — a chance to truly do that “nation-building here at home” that he has mentioned so many times.

(Oh, and I know you’re reading this because you’re a big fan, so, Mr. President, count me in if you need help with this idea.)

He’s luckier than a dog with two dicks.

Bill Clinton, to aides, on Barack Obama’s good fortune against Mitt Romney during the 2012 campaign

•For hundreds of more fascinating quotes just like this, go buy my book TRIBUTES AND TRASH TALK: WHAT OUR PRESIDENTS SAID ABOUT EACH OTHER for just $4.95.


•Barnes & Noble/Nook:

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


Really, the whole White House Communications Office has been a mess for a while.  The biggest mistake of the Obama Administration (in my humble opinion) was taking ownership of the name “Obamacare”.  It’s divisive.  In fact, it’s intentionally divisive.  That was the idea behind branding the Affordable Health Care Act as “Obamacare” by the right, and it’s the same reasons that the left co-opted the name.  Both sides are playing the same game, and we’re losing.

There is a huge difference between campaigning and governing, and I feel like Obama’s Communications team is still in campaign mode.  You won..twice…now govern.

I think it’s just time to hire the writers from The West Wing to run communications.

Asker Anonymous Asks:
what was the new hampshire speech from obama?
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

Obama’s speech after losing the New Hampshire primary in January 2008 was the “Yes, We Can” speech:

Thank you, New Hampshire. I love you back. Thank you. Thank you.

Well, thank you so much. I am still fired up and ready to go.

Thank you. Thank you.

Well, first of all, I want to congratulate Senator Clinton on a hard-fought victory here in New Hampshire. She did an outstanding job. Give her a big round of applause.

You know, a few weeks ago, no one imagined that we’d have accomplished what we did here tonight in New Hampshire. No one could have imagined it.

For most of this campaign, we were far behind. We always knew our climb would be steep. But in record numbers, you came out, and you spoke up for change.

And with your voices and your votes, you made it clear that at this moment, in this election, there is something happening in America.

There is something happening when men and women in Des Moines and Davenport, in Lebanon and Concord, come out in the snows of January to wait in lines that stretch block after block because they believe in what this country can be.

There is something happening. There’s something happening when Americans who are young in age and in spirit, who’ve never participated in politics before, turn out in numbers we have never seen because they know in their hearts that this time must be different.

There’s something happening when people vote not just for party that they belong to, but the hopes that they hold in common.

And whether we are rich or poor, black or white, Latino or Asian, whether we hail from Iowa or New Hampshire, Nevada or South Carolina, we are ready to take this country in a fundamentally new direction.

That’s what’s happening in America right now; change is what’s happening in America.

You, all of you who are here tonight, all who put so much heart and soul and work into this campaign, you can be the new majority who can lead this nation out of a long political darkness.

Democrats, independents and Republicans who are tired of the division and distraction that has clouded Washington, who know that we can disagree without being disagreeable, who understand that, if we mobilize our voices to challenge the money and influence that stood in our way and challenge ourselves to reach for something better, there is no problem we cannot solve, there is no destiny that we cannot fulfill.

Our new American majority can end the outrage of unaffordable, unavailable health care in our time.

We can bring doctors and patients, workers and businesses, Democrats and Republicans together, and we can tell the drug and insurance industry that, while they get a seat at the table, they don’t get to buy every chair, not this time, not now.

Our new majority can end the tax breaks for corporations that ship our jobs overseas and put a middle-class tax cut in the pockets of working Americans who deserve it.

We can stop sending our children to schools with corridors of shame and start putting them on a pathway to success.

We can stop talking about how great teachers are and start rewarding them for their greatness by giving them more pay and more support. We can do this with our new majority.

We can harness the ingenuity of farmers and scientists, citizens and entrepreneurs to free this nation from the tyranny of oil and save our planet from a point of no return.

And when I am president of the United States, we will end this war in Iraq and bring our troops home.

We will end this war in Iraq. We will bring our troops home. We will finish the job — we will finish the job against Al Qaida in Afghanistan. We will care for our veterans. We will restore our moral standing in the world.

And we will never use 9/11 as a way to scare up votes, because it is not a tactic to win an election. It is a challenge that should unite America and the world against the common threats of the 21st century: terrorism and nuclear weapons, climate change and poverty, genocide and disease.

All of the candidates in this race share these goals. All of the candidates in this race have good ideas and all are patriots who serve this country honorably.

But the reason our campaign has always been different, the reason we began this improbable journey almost a year ago is because it’s not just about what I will do as president. It is also about what you, the people who love this country, the citizens of the United States of America, can do to change it.

That’s what this election is all about.

That’s why tonight belongs to you. It belongs to the organizers, and the volunteers, and the staff who believed in this journey and rallied so many others to join the cause.

We know the battle ahead will be long. But always remember that, no matter what obstacles stand in our way, nothing can stand in the way of the power of millions of voices calling for change.

We have been told we cannot do this by a chorus of cynics. And they will only grow louder and more dissonant in the weeks and months to come.

We’ve been asked to pause for a reality check. We’ve been warned against offering the people of this nation false hope. But in the unlikely story that is America, there has never been anything false about hope.

For when we have faced down impossible odds, when we’ve been told we’re not ready or that we shouldn’t try or that we can’t, generations of Americans have responded with a simple creed that sums up the spirit of a people: Yes, we can. Yes, we can. Yes, we can.

It was a creed written into the founding documents that declared the destiny of a nation: Yes, we can.

It was whispered by slaves and abolitionists as they blazed a trail towards freedom through the darkest of nights: Yes, we can.

It was sung by immigrants as they struck out from distant shores and pioneers who pushed westward against an unforgiving wilderness: Yes, we can.

It was the call of workers who organized, women who reached for the ballot, a president who chose the moon as our new frontier, and a king who took us to the mountaintop and pointed the way to the promised land: Yes, we can, to justice and equality.

Yes, we can, to opportunity and prosperity. Yes, we can heal this nation. Yes, we can repair this world. Yes, we can.

And so, tomorrow, as we take the campaign south and west, as we learn that the struggles of the textile workers in Spartanburg are not so different than the plight of the dishwasher in Las Vegas, that the hopes of the little girl who goes to the crumbling school in Dillon are the same as the dreams of the boy who learns on the streets of L.A., we will remember that there is something happening in America, that we are not as divided as our politics suggest, that we are one people, we are one nation.

And, together, we will begin the next great chapter in the American story, with three words that will ring from coast to coast, from sea to shining sea: Yes, we can.

Thank you, New Hampshire. Thank you. Thank you.

Someone recently asked me about my favorite speeches, and I should have included this one.

Asker aplebian Asks:
What are your thoughts on Obama declining an invitation to the 150th anniversary of the Gettysburg Address? I understand that he's in a tight spot politically with budget negotiations and the ACA. However they seem to pale in historical significance to Gettysburg. Setting aside Obama's gifts as an orator, the symbolism of a black president giving the address would surely represent that those who died in the Civil War, were truly not in vain.
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

I am very disappointed.

I know that a President cannot take time to honor every anniversary of everything that has happened throughout our history, but the sesquicentennial of the Gettysburg Address is a perfect opportunity to pause and remember Lincoln, Lincoln’s words at Gettysburg, the Battle of Gettysburg itself, and package all of that in a way that honors the other 150th anniversaries of Civil War-era events that take place throughout Obama’s term.  

Honestly, I think it’s a a public relations decision rather than a political one.  I think that President Obama doesn’t want to go to Gettysburg, make a speech, and then have it compared (likely negatively) to Lincoln’s speech.  If that’s not the reason, I don’t understand what is.

(By the way, you mentioned Obama’s gifts as an orator, and he certainly  has them.  However, can anyone remember a truly great speech from Obama as President?  There have been highlights, but when was Barack Obama’s last great speech?  Both Inaugurals were disappointing.  The 2008 Democratic National Convention?  Maybe.  Acceptance speeches at nominating conventions tend to be long and overly-clichéd.  The “More Perfect Union” speech in Philadelphia in 2008 after the controversy with Reverend Wright?  Again, it was good at times, but not his best work.  Honestly, I think the last great speech that Obama gave was in New Hampshire on the night that he lost the New Hampshire primary to Hillary Clinton in January 2008.  He hasn’t given a speech like that as President.)  

Asker Anonymous Asks:
What do you think of the new reports about Obama and Biden's relationship from 'Double Down'? It seems the two still clash a lot in private.
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

I’m looking forward to reading the book.  I didn’t get an advanced copy of Double Down: Game Change 2012, so I probably won’t get a chance to read it until the beginning of next week.

I’m not surprised that the Obama campaign thought about dumping Biden for Hillary — it’s politics, and while Plouffe said they never seriously considered it, I’m sure they did because there was a point where it looked like Romney could actually win the election.  But as I said last year when I was asked whether they SHOULD dump Biden for Hillary, Joe Biden has been a hard-working, loyal, and incredibly influential Vice President.  They only reason that they should have done the switch and made Hillary VP and Biden Secretary of State is if Biden wanted to do it.  He deserved that much.  Biden has been the closer on several significant pieces of legislation with Congress.  Obama has needed Biden, no matter how much Biden might tend to go off page (and I think his tendency to speak his mind if both overrated and refreshing).

By the way, there’s no way Hillary Clinton would have taken the Vice Presidency in the second term of an Obama Administration.  She spent most of her time as Secretary of State traveling the world, and the best possible strategy for her potential 2016 run was getting the hell out of government.  If she was Vice President, whoever her opponents are in 2016 (both Democrat and Republican) could tie her to whatever goes wrong in Obama’s second term.