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
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Posts tagged "Democratic Party"
Asker Anonymous Asks:
When grouping presidents by party, where should Andrew Johnson go?
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

It’s a confusing one, but Andrew Johnson was a Democrat.

The reason for the.confusion stems from the fact that Johnson was elected Vice President in 1864 alongside Abraham Lincoln, who was a Republican. Lincoln and Johnson ran in 1864 under a unified party ticket — they were nominated as the National Union candidates, in fact.

But Lincoln was a Republican, of course, and Johnson’s ties to the Democratic Party were no secret. Actually, that was the appeal. To balance the ticket better in 1864, Lincoln dumped his first term Vice President, Hannibal Hamlin, a Republican who came from about as far North as one could come from — Maine.

The Republicans, gathering under the National Union banner in 1864, wanted to balance the ticket better because there were worries about a strong challenge from the Democratic nominee, former General George B. McClellan, and McClellan’s running mate, George H. Pendleton of Ohio.

The National Unionists were made up of the Republicans who had supported Lincoln since 1860 and Democrats supportive of Lincoln’s leadership in prosecuting the Civil War and wary of what McClellan might do if he happened to be elected President. Johnson fit right in with the National Unionists — a Democrat who supported Lincoln and, better yet, a running mate who could balance the ticket politically and geographically.

Despite belonging to a different party, there was no doubt about Johnson’s loyalty to Lincoln and the Union. Johnson was the only Southern Senator to remain loyal to the Union and hold on to his seat after secession, the formation of the Confederacy, and the outbreak of Civil War. Johnson spent most of the war as Military Governor of Tennessee.

Johnson only served as Vice President for 42 days, succeeding to the Presidency upon Lincoln’s assassination. Once Johnson became President, the fact that he was actually a Democrat eventually caused him major problems. Johnson clashed with his Cabinet, most of whom were holdovers from the Lincoln Administration. His battles with Congress, particularly the Radical Republicans, helped contribute to his failures as President, and after the House of Representatives impeached him in 1868, Johnson was narrowly acquitted in his Senate trial. The Senate was just one vote short of the two-thirds necessary to convict him and remove him from office.

As President, Johnson wasn’t quite a “President without a party” like John Tyler, but his election alongside Lincoln in 1864 on the National Union ticket did put Johnson in an awkward position once he assumed the Presidency. After all, Lincoln and Johnson DID defeat opponents duly nominated by the Democratic Party. Johnson was also in a strange position because the Democratic Party was so weak following the Civil War and throughout Reconstruction.

But Johnson was indeed a Democrat. Before the.Civil War, Johnson won elections as a Democratic candidate to become Mayor of Greenville, Tennessee, a Member of the Tennessee House of Representatives, a Tennessee State Senator, a U.S. Representative, Governor of Tennessee, and a U.S. Senator. And, despite his disastrous Presidency, Johnson found some redemption shortly before his death as he once again won election (as a Democrat) to the U.S. Senate.

Asker Anonymous Asks:
The favorites for the democrat and republican nominations in 2016 are already pretty obvious even if we don't know if they are running for sure. If those favorites decide not to run and you take them out of the equation, who are some surprise candidates on each side that people might not know very well but who could possibly win? Are there any?
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

First of all, I personally don’t think that there is a frontrunner for the 2016 Republican Presidential nomination yet.  The GOP is a mess right now.  Of course, we hear certain names being tossed around, but a lot of those names are the Tea Party Republicans.  People like to talk about the Tea Party Republicans as if they are credible Presidential candidates because they are adept at capturing headlines, but I will confidently and adamantly continue to say this: none of the politicians who are identified as leaders of the Tea Party wing of the GOP will be elected President of the United States.  They make a lot of noise, they get a lot of TV time, and they might even raise a lot of money…but they cannot win a national election.  They can’t even win the GOP nomination.  It’s not going to happen.  Maybe they can stretch out the primary process by splitting the GOP, but that’s only going to hurt the Republican Party, not result in a Tea Party candidate as the nominee.

So, with that said, who is a dark horse from the GOP that could surprise people?  Well, right now it seems insane to suggest that a Republican member of the House of Representatives or U.S. Senate could be a Presidential contender, but I’ve been worried about Senator John Thune of South Dakota since 2007.  Senator Thune didn’t run in 2008 or 2012, but Thune would be a formidable candidate.  He is experienced, he is well-respected, he isn’t a bomb-thrower, he comes across as Presidential, he’s solidly Conservative and should appeal to the GOP’s base, yet he doesn’t come across as an extremist.  John Thune could absolutely be elected President if he decided to take a shot at the White House.

As for the Democrats, President Obama still has three years left in his term, yet Hillary Clinton has been all but crowned as his successor and the leader the party.  Nearly everybody thinks that she’s going to run and, if so, that she will win.  Vice President Biden, who has been a loyal, hard-working, efficient, and important partner to Obama, is waiting in the wings just in case Hillary decides not to run.  Hillary and Biden are the obvious frontrunners.

But the Democrats have a superstar-in-the-making who also has nowhere to go but the White House and, quite frankly, with the right campaign, with the perfect introduction to the American people, and if he caught the right breaks since anything can happen in Presidential primaries, Maryland’s Governor Martin O’Malley could shock the establishment and steal the nomination from Hillary Clinton and Vice President Biden.

Governor O’Malley is Bill Clinton in 1992, except O’Malley is more experienced, tougher, and doesn’t have the “weaknesses” that almost cost Clinton the Democratic nomination in ‘92 and ended up leading to his impeachment.  Like Senator Thune, O’Malley looks like a President.  Now, being telegenic and charismatic doesn’t make someone a good President, but it sure as hell helps with getting elected.  O’Malley is a proven executive with a record he can run on while also pointing out that he isn’t part of Washington’s business-as-usual.  He’s had a successful political career with a variety of significant experience, but he’s never served in American’s least popular institution — Congress, his name isn’t Bush or Clinton, and he hasn’t served in previous Presidential Administrations like many of Washington’s other recycled bureaucrats.  Could Martin O’Malley be President of the United States?  Without a doubt.

It’s only October 2013, and the more famous 2016 contenders will continue to hog headlines until Iowa and New Hampshire, but keep your eyes on Senator John Thune and Governor Martin O’Malley.     

Asker Anonymous Asks:
Why do modern liberals idolize Hubert Humphrey?
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

Hubert H. Humphrey became a hero to progressives because of a ballsy speech that he gave at the 1948 Democratic National Convention in support of civil rights.  HHH was Mayor of Minneapolis at the time and running for the U.S. Senate in Minnesota, so it was basically Humphrey’s coming-out party as a national figure and he didn’t disappoint.  Instead of being cautious, Humphrey took the lead in fighting for a pro-civil rights section in the Democratic platform.  HHH’s speech helped get it adopted as part of the platform and resulted in many Southern delegates walking out of the convention.  Southerners formed the States’ Rights or Dixiecrat Party and nominated South Carolina’s Governor Strom Thurmond as a third party candidate for the Presidency that year.  Thurmond actually won four states and 39 electoral votes but it wasn’t enough to play the spoiler and President Truman still won reelection.

Humphrey’s controversial/courageous speech at the ‘48 DNC was really good and ended with this memorable conclusion:

My friends, to those who say that we are rushing this issue of civil rights, I say to them we are 172 years late.  To those who say that this civil rights program is an infringement on states’ rights, I say this: The time has arrived in America for the Democratic Party to get out of the shadow of states’ rights and to walk forthrightly into the bright sunshine of human rights.  People — human beings — this is the issue of the 20th century.  People of all kinds — all sorts of people — and these people are looking to America for leadership, and they’re looking to America for precept and example.

My good friends, my fellow Democrats, I ask you for a calm consideration of our historic opportunity.  Let us do forget the evil passions and the blindness of the past.  In these times of world economic, political, and spiritual — above all spiritual — crisis, we cannot and we must not turn from the path so plainly before us.  That path has already lead us through many valleys of the shadow of death. And now is the time to recall those who were left on that path of American freedom.

For all of us here, for the millions who have sent us, for the whole two billion members of the human family, our land is now, more than ever before, the last best hope on earth.  And I know that we can, and I know that we shall began here the fuller and richer realization of that hope, that promise of a land where all men are truly free and equal, and each man uses his freedom and equality wisely well.

My good friends, I ask my Party, I ask the Democratic Party, to march down the high road of progressive democracy.  I ask this convention to say in unmistakable terms that we proudly hail, and we courageously support, our President and leader Harry Truman in his great fight for civil rights in America!”

Asker kennedyforme Asks:
do you think bobby was the greatest president America never had?
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

Bobby Kennedy?  No, I don’t think so.  In my opinion, the greatest President that we never had was probably either Charles Evans Hughes or George C. Marshall.

I should probably be careful with what I am about to say because as a lifelong Democrat — and quite a Liberal (with a capital “L”) Democrat at that — the personal opinion that I am about to give may result in somebody revoking my membership in that wing of the party.  Now, I know that Robert F. Kennedy was becoming the idealistic, anti-war hero of the Democratic Party who picked up the torch of his slain brother’s Camelot before he too was murdered by an assassin’s bullets. Because of the political dynasty he belonged to and because he was cut down while he was still a young man in the midst of fighting to lead the country through turbulent times, there is and will always be a romantic perception of RFK — just like there will always be one of JFK.

With all of that said, I have to admit that I think Bobby Kennedy is vastly overrated as a politician and I am certain that if he had lived, not only would he not have been elected President in 1968, but he wouldn’t have even won the Democratic nomination.  

It is important to remember that RFK had made it clear on numerous occasions that he would not challenge LBJ for the Democratic nomination in 1968.  But as soon as Minnesota Senator Eugene McCarthy made a strong showing with a second-place finish as the anti-war candidate in the New Hampshire Democratic Primary (a result that is partly explained, as I have written before, by the fact that LBJ won despite being a write-in candidate), RFK jumped into the race and usurped McCarthy’s position as the peace candidate.  RFK really screwed McCarthy over in the process.  LBJ, of course, announced that he wouldn’t seek reelection soon afterward and Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey (the main opponent of John F. Kennedy in the 1960 Democratic primaries) jumped in the race.

While RFK and McCarthy battled each other in primary contests, HHH shored up support amongst surrogates in non-primary states and built up a solid bloc of delegates.  In a way, RFK and Senator McCarthy were canceling each other out, splitting primary states and sharing the anti-war support while Vice President Humphrey gave himself a foundation of the important Democratic leaders that he needed in his corner in order to control the Democratic National Convention and win the nomination.  Had Robert F. Kennedy lived, the DNC probably would have started with Humphrey enjoying a sizable advantage in delegates with RFK needing McCarthy to release his delegates to Kennedy in order to have a shot at the nomination.  McCarthy had refused to bow out of the race and the fact that RFK blindsided him by jumping into the campaign as another anti-war candidate after pledging to stay out gave McCarthy added incentive for denying RFK his help.  Even if Kennedy had lived and McCarthy had thrown his support behind RFK and released his delegates to him at the Convention, Humphrey most likely would have still won the nomination because his lead was too strong.

Plus, with LBJ withdrawing from the race, the favored candidate of the Democrats who controlled the party (and, thus, the Democratic National Convention) was LBJ’s Vice President, Hubert H. Humphrey.  Although he was no longer seeking the Presidency, Lyndon Johnson was still the incumbent President of the United States, still the leader of the Democratic Party, and still the most clever and effective politician in the country.  LBJ would have rather seen anybody, including Richard Nixon, elected President than Bobby Kennedy.  LBJ and RFK hated each other and President Johnson wouldn’t have lifted a finger to help Bobby but would have done everything in his power to deny the nomination to him.  

Had RFK lived and won the Democratic nomination in 1968, it’s difficult to say how he would have matched up against Richard Nixon in the general election.  But I am so convinced that RFK wouldn’t have been nominated in ‘68 that I don’t spend much time considering the options if he had.

As for the reasons that I think RFK is overrated as a politician, it’s always tough to make these arguments about someone who was assassinated because, as I said, their lives tend to be romanticized.  But there’s also the simple fact that it’s almost unfair to judge someone on a political career that they weren’t able to see through because they were murdered.

RFK had definitely changed after his election to the U.S. Senate from New York, particularly after 1966.  Kennedy was becoming more idealistic and progressive and since that aspect of his life and career was beginning to bloom right around the time of his Presidential run and assassination, that’s what we tend to remember best about him.

We tend to remember RFK as the voice of reason announcing the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. to a stunned crowd at an Indianapolis airport.  Personalizing things by reminding the people that his brother had also been the victim of a senseless, violent crime, RFK urged the crowd to remain calm and remember Dr. King’s devotion to non-violent demonstrations at the heart of the Civil Rights Movement.  That’s the Bobby Kennedy we tend to remember rather than the Attorney General who authorized tapping Martin Luther King, Jr.’s phones and bugging his home and hotel rooms in order to help J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI gather dirt on the Civil Rights leader.  

Before that progressive pivot in the last couple of years of RFK’s life, Bobby Kennedy was fairly conservative for a Democrat.  He was JFK’s bulldog and rubbed almost everyone who didn’t know him really well the wrong way, especially those who worked for or around him.  When his brother was elected President, he was named Attorney General despite cries of nepotism.  RFK was the federal government’s top law enforcement official despite an absence of any courtroom experience on the federal or even state level.  What RFK really was during JFK’s Presidency was his brother’s consigliere — not merely Attorney General but also Chief of Staff and whatever role he felt needed to be played no his brother’s behalf.  He worked outside any traditional chain of command and was often disrespectful to those who were nominally his superior, particularly members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Vice President whom he treated with disdain.  It was basically the same role that he played during JFK’s 1960 campaign for the Presidency, and it made him extremely unpopular with a lot of powerful people.

Before JFK ran for President, RFK had gained some notoriety going head-to-head with organized crime figures as the lead Senate counsel for the Rackets Committee.  He went toe-to-toe with Teamsters leader Jimmy Hoffa in hearings and boosted his public profile, but it didn’t necessarily erase the fact that RFK’s earlier job as a counsel for the Senate was on the staff of Senator Joseph McCarthy.  The bulldog role that RFK later played for his brother was refined during his time working with McCarthy, a man who Bobby Kennedy often expressed his admiration and “fondness” for.

I don’t mean to completely discredit Bobby Kennedy.  He did inspire a lot of people and I do think that he changed his outlook — personally, professionally, and politically — following his brother’s assassination.  Despite his early conservatism, the progressive track that he traveled during the last 18 months or so of his life was something that he truly believed in.  Reaching out to the poor, to minorities, breaking bread with César Chávez in Delano after César’s hunger strike, vocally opposing the Vietnam War — all of these issues were obviously something that he started to feel strongly about.  Some of the issues represented a change in his stance from what he supported or recommended as a member of his brother’s Administration to where he found himself as the 1960s continued.  

I imagine that I’d have a much better appreciation for RFK if he just had more time to establish himself, move forward with those progressive changes in his political philosophy, and achieve some of the opportunities that he was robbed of by Sirhan Sirhan.  Unfortunately, he didn’t.  But as tragic and unfair as an assassination might be, we cannot judge a politician on what could have been.  We have to judge him on what was.

Asker Anonymous Asks:
Jerry Brown ran for president three times - 1976, 1980, and 1992. If you had to pick one, which instance would you say "fit" the best? Which Jerry Brown campaign was just at the right time?
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

None of the campaigns were at the right time.  That’s the problem.  Poor Jerry Brown has been the victim of terrible timing.

In 1976, Brown had only been Governor of California for one year and was just 38 years old.  In reality, it was way too early for him to make a step toward the Presidency.  Oddly enough, it was also the closest that he ever got to winning the Democratic Presidential nomination.  Brown had name recognition because he was making headlines in California, was a fresh face who appeared to be at the forefront of the next generation of American politicians, and was the son of a former California Governor.  He made a good showing in some of the Democratic primaries in 1976, but he entered the race too late.  Jimmy Carter had too much of a head start and Brown simply couldn’t catch him.  Despite all of that, 1976 was probably his best shot.

The 1980 bid was rough because he was challenging an incumbent President for his own party’s nomination.  Governor Brown wasn’t the only Democrat challenging President Carter in 1980 and he wasn’t the most exciting or buzzworthy with the media — that was Senator Edward Kennedy.  Brown also faced backlash back home in California because it was the second time he sought the Presidency since being elected Governor.  Californians wanted him at work in Sacramento rather than hitting the trail in Iowa and New Hampshire.  Even if he had overcome Carter for the 1980 Democratic nomination (not an easy task despite Carter’s unpopularity since Kennedy couldn’t beat him, either), Brown would have most likely been trounced in the general election by the man who preceded him as Governor of California — Ronald Reagan.

Jerry Brown’s 1992 campaign for the Democratic nomination was a very interesting one, largely because of the genuine animosity between Brown and the eventual nominee (and President) Bill Clinton.  There was a nasty confrontation in one of the Democratic debates where it looked for a moment like Clinton might actually punch Brown.  Because of his low-budget fundraising, Brown shouldn’t have done as well as he did in 1992, but he started picking up some momentum in the later primaries.  Unfortunately for Brown, he needed some of the earlier primaries to keep Clinton from clinching the nomination from the convention in order to force a brokered convention.  The dislike between Clinton and Brown was apparent at the Democratic National Convention when Brown refused to endorse Clinton during Brown’s speech.

Of the three bids that Jerry Brown made — 1976, 1980, and 1992 — it was the first attempt in 1976 that was probably the closest Brown came to winning the Democratic nomination.  The best chance that Brown might have had to become President was actually in a year that he didn’t run — 1988.  The field was wide-open for Democrats and Republicans because the election of then-Vice President George H.W. Bush was no sure thing.  As I said, however, Brown’s timing when it came to seeking the Presidency has been rather unfortunate.

That hasn’t changed, by the way.  Right now, Jerry Brown looks like he will easily be re-elected as Governor of California in 2014.  From what I have read (granted, I haven’t lived in California since 2010),  Brown has been doing a better-than-expected job and his popularity is high.  Because of the size of the state, its worth in the Electoral College, and the nature of the job, California’s Governors are always potential Presidential contenders.  Unfortunately for Governor Brown, the man who was once the youngest Governor in California’s history is now the oldest Governor in California’s history and he’ll be 78 years old in 2016 — way too old to be a serious contender for the Presidency.  If he were 15 years younger, Brown would be a frontrunner in 2016

Asker Anonymous Asks:
How much would you pay to be able to laugh at Mitt Romney tonight and keep reminding him about how much he lost by? Good riddance to you Mittens.
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

Just because I voted for Barack Obama doesn’t mean that I want to see Mitt Romney destroyed, or even hurt.  I don’t agree with Governor Romney’s politics, but I don’t wish him ill and I certainly wouldn’t disrespect him.

This is the problem with American politics — Americans like the person who asked this question.  They are on both sides of the aisle and they are equally horrible for our country.  Last night, I found no glory in the fact that Mitt Romney lost; instead, I was hopeful and happy that Barack Obama won.  I didn’t go to the polls to vote against Mitt Romney; I was there to vote for Barack Obama.

Much like John McCain four years ago, Mitt Romney went out with class last night, and he deserves our respect.  I have never thought that Mitt Romney was a bad man.  I thought Obama would be a better President, but there was never any hatred on my part for Romney.  We can disagree with his politics or the way he campaigns, but there is no reason to look at Mitt Romney as a villain.

Yes, Governor Romney is incredibly wealthy and was probably out-of-touch with “average Americans” like you and me.  But with all of that money, Romney could live a life of leisure and never have to work at anything again.  Instead, what did he do?  He devoted himself to public service.  There’s no question that he loves his family and has a great relationship with them.  He spent a significant amount of time in a leadership role with his church — not just by sitting in a pew every Sunday but by taking a leadership role where he gave up time to help the families and people of his community.  Saving the Salt Lake City Olympics, serving as Governor of Massachusetts, running for President in 2008 and 2012 — none of those things were token jobs where Romney was a figurehead that got the credit while others did the work.  They were all challenges that Romney tackled with hard work and, in each instant, he “left everything on the field”, as he said in his concession speech last night.

Make no mistake about it — running for President is one of the most difficult, exhausting, and thankless journeys that an American can take.  Everyone who runs for President makes tremendous sacrifices, and nobody seeks the Presidency because they are bad people who want to do harm to the United States.  Candidates for the Presidency like Mitt Romney — win or lose — are patriots.  They have a vision for this country and the passion to put themselves on the frontline.  To serve all of us.

Laugh at Mitt Romney?  Taunt him?  No, I would thank Mitt Romney.  I’d tell him that I may not have cast a ballot for him, but that I appreciate the sacrifices he made in order to try to move our country forward.  I’d admit that I disagree with his politics, but that I respect his beliefs and admire his passion for going after what he felt was right.  I’d tell him that I know last night was probably one of the most difficult experiences of his life, but that he conceded with class, he demonstrated a remarkable work ethic throughout the campaign, and that I hoped that my fellow Democrats would have offered their support of him if Obama had lost as seamlessly and earnestly as he offered his support for the President during his concession.

We cannot and will not bridge the divisions in this country if we continue to be ugly towards each other.  Politics alone will not take us where we need to be.  There must be some magnanimity, some cooperation, some compromise between all of us — from the President and the Congress to the State Governors and Legislatures, and right on down to you and me and our neighbors.  “Politics” and “compromise” are dirty words because we drag them through the mud along with anyone connected to those ideas.  That has to stop.  It has to stop between the Democrats and Republicans in Congress, it has to stop between the talking heads on cable news networks, and it has to stop with people who anonymously leave messages on blogs encouraging a celebration over the heartbreaking defeat of someone who put everything on the line to serve his country.  Celebrate Obama’s victory, not Romney’s defeat.  Congratulate Obama and his supporters, but don’t hesitate to appreciate Romney’s work ethic and devotion to service.

We are at our best when all of us — or at least the largest majority of us — are moving forward.  We are at our best when we remember the first word in our nation’s name is “United”.  The idea of a constant conflict pitting Democrats vs. Republicans where one side must win and one side must lose is not progress.  It’s Civil War without violence — but not without casualties.  As someone who knew something about Civil War, Ulysses S. Grant, once said, “Let us have peace.”  We should follow General Grant’s advice and add, “Let us have progress.”  With peace and progress will come prosperity for all of our people.

Asker Anonymous Asks:
If you're doing Bergen-2016 who is your runningmate?
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

Well, I’ll only be 36 years old — Constitutionally eligible to be President, but just barely — and woefully inexperienced, so I’d need someone who is respected and has a solid resume.  How about Leon Panetta? 

Actually, Panetta would be a damn good running mate for someone (not just in the hypothetical “Anthony for President” silliness).  Panetta served eight terms in Congress, was President Clinton’s OMB director and White House Chief of Staff, and is now President Obama’s Secretary of Defense after serving the first two years of the Obama Administration as CIA Director.  That’s about as solid of a resume for a present-day American public servant as I can think of.  Any Democrat running for President in 2016 should have him on their short list for Vice President.

So, there you go, that’s my ticket: Bergen/Panetta 2016 (although “Bergen/Panetta” kind of sounds like the name of a concentration camp.)

(And the previous sentence is a clear example of why I could never be President.)

George McGovern, the former South Dakota Senator, 1972 Democratic Presidential nominee, and longtime advocate for minorities, the poor, and the hungry, died this morning in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.  The 90-year-old former Senator’s death was not unexpected as recent reports have detailed his failing health, but McGovern was actually quite active in politics and the issues he believed in until earlier this year.

McGovern was nominated by the Democrats to face incumbent President Richard Nixon in 1972 and routed in both the popular vote and Electoral College, winning only Massachusetts and the District of Columbia.  But McGovern’s legacy extends far beyond his unsuccessful 1972 bid for the Presidency.  As liberal as Barry Goldwater was conservative, McGovern was a tireless advocate for the poor and the hungry, not just during his career as an elected official, but throughout his life and up until his death. 

After the turbulent 1960s, as the Democratic Party was reshuffling itself demographically into what it has been for the past 40 years, it was George McGovern who welcomed and embraced minorities, women, young voters, and gays.  Some people call this “progressive” in 2012; George McGovern thought that way in 1972.  He was way ahead of his time — even for many Democrats.  As he later joked about his landslide loss to Richard Nixon, “I opened the doors of the Democratic Party — and twenty million people walked out.”  Indeed, in the 1972 election, nearly 1/3rd of all Democrats voted for Nixon instead of McGovern.

The GOP successfully painted McGovern as a radical, peace-seeking pacifist in 1972, and tried to portray him as somewhat of a wimp.  McGovern was a dove on Vietnam, but he was no radical, no pacifist, and certainly no wimp.  Several days after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, McGovern enlisted in the Air Force and flew 35 combat missions over Germany, Italy, and Nazi-occupied Eastern Europe during World War II, earning the Distinguished Flying Cross.

Yet, peace was certainly an aspect that drove McGovern throughout his career, and helping those who were less fortunate was his ambition for public service.  The war that McGovern constantly sought to fight was a war on hunger.  It was a concern that he was vocal about during his time in the House and later in the Senate, and President Kennedy appointed McGovern as the first director of the Food For Peace program.  Later in life, that fight to feed the hungry continued.  Nearly 20 years after leaving the Senate, President Clinton (who, along with Hillary, managed the McGovern campaign in Texas in 1972) named him as the U.S. Ambassador to the UN’s Agencies for Food and Agriculture.  For the last decade of his active life, McGovern was a United Nations’ Goodwill Ambassador on World Hunger for the UN’s World Food Programme.

Though the Democratic Party distanced itself from McGovern following the 1972 election because of the magnitude of his defeat and the Nixon campaign’s successful portrayal of him as a radical, McGovern’s impact on today’s Democratic Party cannot be denied.  The voters that helped elect Barack Obama in 2008 — African-Americans, women, Hispanics, gays, and young voters — were the people that George McGovern opened the doors of the Democratic Party to in 1972.  He was a monument to American Liberalism and his legacy cannot be denied.  Nearly all who worked with or against George McGovern — Democrats, Republicans, or Independents — respected his honesty, his ability, and his heart.  In a divisive time when many politicians have forgotten the definition of public service, they should look to people like George McGovern and Bob Dole who personify the true intent of public service.

In the bipartisan spirit that he worked while seeking solutions that would help the most people possible, we should honor and remember George McGovern — not as a forward-thinking father of modern American Liberalism, and not even as a war hero — but as an American who represented the best of what our country can be and dedicated his life to the most faithful definition and purpose of public service.

If you missed Part I, featuring John Kerry, you’re lucky.  If you survived Part I, you’re now in a better place because it’s time for my favorite member of the Obama Administration, one of my favorite Democratic politicians of my lifetime, and, let’s be real, the greatest thing to ever come out of Delaware (even though he was born in Scranton, Pennsylvania — Dunder Mifflin represent!) — the 47th Vice President of the United States of America, Joseph Robinette Biden, Jr.!

•People can disagree about politics and policies and social issues and a myriad of other flashpoints, but how can anyone dislike Joe Biden?  Sure, maybe you wouldn’t vote for him, but wouldn’t you love to hang out and watch a football game with him?  It’s easy to hammer him about his gaffes, but I would wager that no one who has worked closely with him has ever said, “I hate that Biden guy.”
•And he immediately sweet-talks his wife.  This is a man who knows where his bread is buttered, if I can use a phrase that makes me sound like an 80-year-old man.
•Wow, it’s taken me this long to realize that the Vice President’s daughter is hot?  What’s my problem?  Hello, Ashley Biden. 
•With that said, I feel it’s important to note that Abby Huntsman still holds they key to my heart.  Also, a restraining order.
•No current American politician is as good as Bill Clinton, but Vice President Biden is a very underrated speaker with a similarly natural, folksy delivery.  Sure, he slips up from time-to-time and says something dumb, but I still feel like he’s an underrated orator.
•Joe asked Jill to marry him five times and “I don’t know what I would have done on that fifth time had you said no.”  Come on, how can you not love Joe Biden?
•As a speaker, Biden is usually hot or cold.  When he’s cold and undisciplined, he trips up and says something goofy.  Just a few minutes in tonight and the VP is on fire.  Great delivery so far.
•As good as Clinton was on Wednesday night, Biden’s speech is tighter, less rambling.  This is one of his better speeches ever.
•I’m glad John Kerry showed up earlier so that I could be mean-spirited because I don’t have much to be a smart-ass about with the Vice President.
•”Loyalty” is definitely the one word I’d use to describe the Biden Vice Presidency.  By the nature of the office’s historical evolution, it is the recent VPs, particularly Mondale, G.H.W. Bush, Gore, Cheney, and Biden (and, to a lesser extent, Nixon and LBJ), who stand head-and-shoulders above the rest.  I think Cheney was more powerful, but Biden is better and more helpful to his President.  If I were to rank the “best” Vice Presidents in history, I think it would be Gore at #1 and Biden at #2.
•Speaking of Al Gore…where the hell has he been?  He split with Tipper and there were those allegations of some misconduct with a masseuse and now he’s Democratic persona non grata, isn’t he?
•I wonder if Gore, John Edwards, and Jimmy Carter are sitting somewhere all pissed off because the Democratic Party intentionally gave them the wrong directions.
•I can just imagine those three calling and trying to make arrangements for the Convention while Debbie Wasserman-Schultz tells them, “Oh, that’s weird…we totally sent your tickets to you…..Yeah, those were the only ones available, so if you can’t find them, I’m really sorry………You know, there’s a lot of television coverage and that’s much better than being in the arena………No, of course we’re not hiding you like the GOP hides George W. Bush during Convention time.”
•If any party delegates — Republican or Democratic — are reading this, do you realize how silly your dumb hats look?  Nominating a President and building a party platform is important work; it’s not New Year’s Eve in Times Square.
•The Vice President is giving one hell of a speech.  This is way better than I expected.
•It drives me crazy to see people in the audience watching the speech through their phone or iPad screen.  IT’S HAPPENING RIGHT IN FRONT OF YOU!  JUST EXPERIENCE IT!
•”God love Jennifer Granholm.  Wasn’t she great?” — No, I’ve gotta disagree with you there, Mr. Vice President, she came across like a lunatic.  I thought she was going to end her speech with “Cocaine’s a helluva drug.”
•Oooh…I want one of those circular UAW Obama/Biden signs!  Those things look badass!
•Damn, they got a whole wheelchair section on the floor of the Convention hall.  They should call it the “FDR Section” just to be cute and see if anybody complains.
•Biden halted the crowd when they booed Mitt Romney’s name and said, “I don’t think he’s a bad guy.”  Thank you, Mr. Vice President.  We don’t have to hate each other to disagree with each other’s politics.  Except for Rick Santorum.  We should definitely hate him.
•”Osama bin Laden is dead and General Motors is alive” really is a good tag line.
•With Biden’s reputation for verbal gaffes, I bet President Obama and his aides hold their breath every time the Vice President gets that smirk on his face before he finishes one of his punchlines.
•The Vice Presidential candidate’s usual role at Conventions is to be the hatchet man (or woman), but Biden’s not doing a hatchet job; he’s giving a very focused speech.
•I’m sorry, guys, I just don’t have much to poke fun at here.  I’ve been a fan of Vice President Biden for a long time, but I’ve never seen him like this.  That was undoubtedly the best speech of Joe Biden’s life and I think it even rivaled President Clinton’s barn-burner from Wednesday night.  Damn solid speech, Mr. Vice President.  I’m proud to have Joe Biden on my side.

We’ll finish this up in Part III with the main event as President Obama accepts the Democratic nomination for a second term as President.

It’s the big night and I am back to bring you my Smart-Ass Commentary for the final night of the 2012 Democratic National Convention as President Obama and Vice President Biden prepare to accept their party’s nomination for a second term and this seemingly endless campaign cycle officially kicks in to gear with the stretch run to Election Day.

Listen, I have to be very honest.  I’m having a much more difficult time coming up with Smart-Ass Commentary this week.  I guess part of it is that I am a Democrat and I did work for Barack Obama in 2007/2008, but to be fair, I was able to be a smart-ass during the President’s State of the Union Address earlier this year.  I think the bigger problem is that last night I was reminded why the 1990s were so awesome and why Bill Clinton should still be President, and instead of joking about it, I was just really sad.  I’m going to try to do a better job tonight, but I must note that my love for Joe Biden is just a little below my love for Bill Clinton, so just know that I know that I might be disappointing in this role tonight.

You know, if only there was something to help bring out the inner cynic within me.  If only there was a ghost from campaigns of the past.  If only there was some sort of a specter to remind me and my fellow Democrats of how far we’ve come and how low we once were.  If only there was a speed bump placed in between the utter awesomeness of Bill Clinton and Joe Biden in order to keep the Time Warner Cable Arena in Charlotte from exploding due to the fact that Clinton and Biden are the coolest fucking Democrats alive.  If only we could be interrupted by the political personification of a vacuum…



YES!  Now, THIS is something I can be a Smart-Ass about.  Let’s kick the night off with the only man who was less popular than George W. Bush in 2004 — Senator John Forbes Kerry of Massachusetts!

•It’s nice to see that Senator Kerry could take time off from being on the $20 bill to speak to us.
•If he salutes and says he’s “reporting for duty” like he did at the 2004 Democratic National Convention, I’m voting for Mitt Romney.
•Hey, fellow Democrats, remember when we nominated John Kerry to be President?  Man, that sucked.
•Let’s be straight here — John Kerry and Mitt Romney are pretty much interchangeable.
•What a weird speech.  It’s like Kerry started up from the middle of the speech.
•This reminds me of 2004 when everything was really shitty and I looked at my ballot and said, “Well, I can’t vote for Bush, so…I guess it’s Kerry.”
•Oh…another memory…remember when he picked John Edwards as Vice President?  That guy turned out to be a star.
•I have absolutely no interest in anything that John Kerry is saying and, as his speech goes on, my body is beginning to shut down in order to protect itself.
•John Kerry had everything backwards — your human form is not supposed to look like a Mount Rushmore sculpture. 
•In case you don’t understand, I’m insinuating that John Kerry is a fucking rock-headed bore.
•I do like the fact that Kerry’s talking about Osama bin Laden’s death.  As I’ve mentioned, if I were President Obama, I’d just have a photo of bin Laden’s body on the stage at every campaign stop.
•Kerry says that Romney/Ryan are the most inexperienced foreign policy two-some to run in decades.  Or, since that goofy Kerry/Edwards ticket.
•Is John Kerry criticizing somebody for being a flip-flopper?  Isn’t that like the pot calling the kettle “John Kerry”?
•Just think, if John Kerry had his way, this speech would be capping off his second term as President and he’d probably be nominating husband-of-the-year John Edwards as POTUS.
•”Let me say something else.  Let me say something else.” — YOU HAVE THE MICROPHONE AND THE STAGE, STONEHENGE FACE, GO AHEAD AND TALK.
•Jesus, I can’t believe I voted for this man to be President of the United States.
•John Kerry just spoke for twelve-and-a-half minutes without saying a goddamn thing.  •That might be #2 on my list of “Biggest Wastes of My Life”.  #1 is the entire year of 2004.  Congratulations, Senator Kerry, you finally won something!

I feel like we need to start a new post in order to cleanse ourselves after that reminder of the political abyss that John Kerry and John Edwards dragged us down into in 2004.  The good news:  Joe Biden is next!

Asker Anonymous Asks:
Should Obama swap Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden?
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

No.  Joe Biden is a good Vice President, and he has been a loyal member of the Obama Administration.  I have a lot of respect for Vice President Biden.  I think it would be totally unfair to dump him from the ticket.  Plus, it would look like a total panic move (which it would be), and it would leave the President open to criticism about the first really important decision he made as the nominee, make it possible for the opposition to say that he was blaming Biden for his troubles, and suggesting that he needed Hillary to save his ass in 2012.

Quick political note.

You know how I keep bringing up that I want to see the President instilling some LBJ-style fear in Congress, particularly amongst members of his own party?  I think it’s time to make an example of West Virginia’s Democratic Senator Joe Manchin.  I’ve had enough of his constant pot-shots at President Obama.  I wish the White House would say, “You’re the junior Senator from West Virginia and 84th in seniority in the Senate.  You either support your President or you’re persona non grata in this building and this party.”  And, if Harry Reid had even a semblance of power, he’d have all of the Democratic Senators in line.  Unfortunately, Harry Reid is the most impotent Senate Majority Leader in American History — such an ineffective “leader” that most people don’t realize the Democrats have control of the Senate.

That’s all I have to say about that.