I hate to burst anyone’s bubble but, no, the Lincoln Bedroom is not haunted. Nowhere else in the White House is haunted, either. Nothing is legitimately haunted — anywhere — because ghosts aren’t real. Unless you happen to be Scooby-Doo. If you are, indeed, Scooby-Doo, please accept my apologies as I meant no disrespect. But if you’re Shaggy, get a haircut and some pants that fit you. And if you are Scrappy-Doo, you can go fuck yourself. Nobody likes you, Scrappy — you ruined everything. Everybody knows that you’re not really tough; you’re just overcompensating because of your Napoleon complex and the embarrassment that comes from never wearing pants. Plus, you’re just biting Scooby’s style. You are a
copycat…I mean…copydog. Yeah, you’re a copydog.
Sorry, I got distracted from the main point of the question because Scrappy-Doo is an asshole. Where was I again? Oh yeah, the Lincoln Bedroom.
No, the Lincoln Bedroom was not actually Lincoln’s bedroom when he lived in the White House. There was no West Wing of the White House until Theodore Roosevelt’s Administration, so the President and his staff largely worked out of offices in the area of the Executive Mansion which is now considered to be the Residence. During the Lincoln Administration, the President worked and held Cabinet meetings in offices located in the general area of where the Lincoln Bedroom and Lincoln Sitting Room are situated at today. The White House was completely gutted and renovated from 1948 to 1952, so it was during that extensive renovation that the Lincoln Bedroom (and the Lincoln Sitting Room next door) was restored and decorated in a way to honor its connection to Lincoln.
Lincoln did not sleep in what is now the Lincoln Bedroom, but he did sign the Emancipation Proclamation there when he used the room as an office. Today, along with many artifacts from Lincoln’s time, the Lincoln Bedroom also has a copy of the Gettysburg Address on display. The copy of the speech has written out by Lincoln’s own hand and signed by him; it’s one of just five such originals in existence.
Of course, the centerpiece of the Lincoln Bedroom is the massive, ornate bed which most people understandably assume was the bed that Lincoln actually slept in because (a:) it is located in the “Lincoln Bedroom”, and (b:) the bed is 8 feet long by 6 feet wide and seems as if could have comfortably accommodated the 6’4” President. But, it is not the bed used by President Lincoln when he lived in the White House. However, the bed does date from his time — Mary Todd Lincoln ordered it from a Philadelphia furniture dealer in May 1861, nearly three months after the Lincolns moved into the White House.
While Abraham Lincoln didn’t sleep in the Lincoln Bedroom or the actual bed that the room now contains, several other Presidents have slept in the bed since Lincoln’s time and many famous (and not-so-famous) visitors have found themselves situated in the Lincoln Bedroom when staying overnight as guests of the First Family. One person who was rumored to have steered clear from the room was Harry Truman’s elderly mother, Martha, an unreconstructed Confederate sympathizer whose feelings about Lincoln and the Civil War were still raw and supposedly refused to sleep in Lincoln’s bed or room.
Perhaps more White House guests would have followed Mrs. Truman’s rumored example if they had been aware of one connection that Abraham Lincoln likely did have with the enormous bed in the room which carries his name. Although it was located in a different part of the White House at the time, many historians believe that there was at least one time that Lincoln was in that big bed — a few hours after President Lincoln was pronounced dead on April 15, 1865 and following an autopsy performed in the East Room. Abraham Lincoln may have never slept in the famous bed that still hosts visitors today in the Lincoln Bedroom; however, that bed is where the first assassinated President in American history was most likely embalmed.
No, it’s not true. LBJ was definitely a consummate politician, but he believed in civil rights dating back to his time as a teacher at a small school for Mexican-American children in Cotulla, Texas. He believed that the time had to be right in order to line up the number of votes needed to pass civil rights legislation, but he also recognized that the time was long overdue and he could not continue to ask for patience or sacrifice. LBJ also pushed hard for the Voting Rights Act and that was for political reasons, but not the cynical political reasons that people suggest. LBJ understood that true power and influence for minorities would come when they had the ability to vote out those political leaders who were holding them back. That was when things changed. The “political reason” was giving political power to the segment of population that had been long discriminated against and denied their civil rights. LBJ was already the most powerful person in the world, and fighting for effective civil rights legislation wasn’t going to help him at the polls in his home state of Texas. Lyndon Johnson had a lot of faults, but there wasn’t anything selfish for LBJ in signing the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act, and any other general civil rights legislation or specific bills prohibiting discrimination that the President put his name to during his Administration.
And George Wallace? Come on! George Wallace?! As Governor of Alabama, George Wallace literally stood in the doorway of the University of Alabama and tried to prevent black students from integrating the school. He’s also the guy who called for “segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever” in his gubernatorial inaugural address. I don’t care if or when or how his viewpoint on race and segregation changed — George Wallace can’t even be hypothetically inserted into this discussion. Wallace might have signed the Civil Rights Act or the Voting Rights Act in the 1980s if he had been President, but he wouldn’t have signed either piece of legislation in the 1960s, and as Governor of a Southern state during that time, he actively fought against it to the point that enforcing the new laws required federal oversight and intervention.
The outgoing President Wilson was dressed by his valet and helped into a car with President-elect Harding for their trip from the White House to the Capitol for the Inauguration, but Wilson was in such bad shape that he wasn’t able to walk from the car to the East Portico of the Capitol for the actual inaugural ceremony. He did take part in the tradition of the outgoing President and the new President traveling to the Capitol together, but all Wilson had to do was be put into a car for the trip (it was also the first time that an actual automobile was used for the inauguration). And that was basically the extent of his participation. Wilson didn’t actually witness Harding being sworn in as President.
The car ride itself was quite the spectacle. Harding was smiling and waving at the crowds lining the route, but Wilson just stared straight ahead, practically catatonic. Harding later revealed that Wilson had tears rolling down his cheeks during the ride.
In 1921, on the day of Harding’s Inauguration, Wilson rode with the President-elect from the White House to the Capitol. In the car, Harding was horrified to see that the President was weeping. When the motorcade halted, Harding leaped out and bounded up the Capitol steps, waving his hat at the crowd. Wilson stayed in the car as it inched ahead to a seldom-used freight door. There, concealed from the crowd by mounted police, guards lifted the President out of his seat and took him inside.
He had earlier suffered a massive stroke. As A. Scott Berg details in "Wilson" (Putnam), he had spent the last seventeen months of his Presidency almost entirely confined to his bed, the state of his health unknown to the public and little known even to his own Cabinet. He could see only out of a tiny corner of his right eye. His thoughts no longer came in trains but in torrents. He could not use his left arm. He could barely walk. By no means could he manage the Capitol steps. He could not possibly attend the Inauguration. “It cannot be done,” he said quietly.
So, he rode to the Capitol with Harding, but he wasn’t there for the actual Inauguration and he did nothing under his own power. “Incapacitated” is putting it mildly; he was partially paralyzed, dying, and wholly incapable of even preparing himself for a short ride down the street in a car let alone discharging the duties of President of the United States for nearly the last year-and-a-half of his term.
However, the quick answer, which is not nearly as interesting as the question is this: We don’t know.
It’s largely due to tradition. George Washington placed his hand on the Bible while taking the oath of office and most of his successors followed suit. As President, Washington’s major contribution was setting precedent after precedent, which helped shape the Presidency into the position that it became. Some of those precedents were common sense; some of them were necessary for a brand-new federal government of a brand-new country; but some of them were choices that George Washington made because he had his own personal style of governing and a strict set of beliefs when it came to honor and respect. John Adams was famously trying to figure out which grandiose title was most deserved and fit best with the man, the position, and the times, but it was Washington who shut down the discussion and said that he’d be referred to as “Mr. President” and nothing more, and that’s how that tradition was born.
After two terms as President, Washington could have continued in office until the day that he died, but he recognized the importance of civilian leadership in a democratic republic returning to civilian life and went home to Mount Vernon after two four-year terms as President. That began another tradition — the two-term tradition that was rarely challenged by Washington’s successors. Ulysses S. Grant sought renomination for a third term as President, but the strength of Washington’s two-term tradition made it difficult for Grant’s candidacy to gain any traction. It wasn’t until 1940 when someone — Franklin D. Roosevelt — did break the two-term tradition, but the country was working its way out of the Great Depression and American involvement in World War II was on the horizon, so voters stuck with FDR and elected him to an unprecedented third term (and then a fourth in 1940). But Washington’s two-term tradition was so highly-regarded that FDR’s decision to run for a third (and the fourth) was controversial and became a campaign issue; Roosevelt even received flak from his fellow Democrats. Two years after FDR died (in office early in his fourth term), Congress passed the 22nd Amendment to the Constitution, making Washington’s two-term tradition into law, and it was ratified in 1951.
With the Presidential oath of office, there are few definite requirements, and a bunch of long-standing traditions that, again, mainly started with George Washington, like the placing of the hand on the Bible. Nothing requires Presidents to swear their oath on the Bible. John Quincy Adams didn’t swear the oath on the Bible at all. In fact, JQA took his oath in a way that I think is much more powerful than using a Bible — he placed his hand on a book of U.S. laws to represent his promise to “preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution.” After President McKinley was assassinated in 1901, Theodore Roosevelt didn’t use a Bible or any other prop when being sworn in. In Dallas, on Air Force One, there was no Bible, so stewards found a Catholic missal belonging to the slain President Kennedy, and that’s how he 36th President was sworn in.
But the Bible isn’t a requirement for the swearing-in ceremony. Swearing the oath isn’t a requirement, either. Presidents can say, “I do solemnly swear” or “I do solemnly affirm”. Only one President has given affirmed the oath rather than swearing it — Franklin Pierce in 1853, for religious reasons. When Bibles are used, the Presidents usually choose which Bible they want to use and whether or not the Bible is open or closed while taking the oath. Many Presidents choose to open the Bible and rest their hand on a specific scriptural passage, although no two Presidents have used the same passage when taking the oath. Several Presidents have used two Bibles — for example, in 1989, George H.W. Bush took the oath of office with an open Bush family Bible resting on top of George Washington’s Masonic Bible, which had been opened to a random passage. Bush 41’s inauguration was the 200th anniversary of Washington’s first inauguration in 1789, and he also had his Bible (the same one Bush used in 1989) opened to a random passage. Bush 41’s son, George W. Bush, used the Bush family Bible at both of his inaugurations (closed in 2001 and open in 2005). Incidentally, George W. Bush wanted to use the Masonic Bible belonging to George Washington at his first inauguration, just as his father had in 1989, but although it had been brought to Washington, D.C. from its home in New York City (and heavily guarded), poor weather at the 2001 Inauguration resulted in the first George W.’s Bible steering clear of the elements. The Library of Congress maintains a list of the specific Bibles used (if known) at each Presidential Inauguration, as well as the scriptural passages that the Presidents placed their hand upon when taking the oath of office.
Most of my readers will probably look at this question and think that it is one of those silly questions or messages where someone asks or says something odd or outrageous just to see how I might respond. It’s funny to imagine Richard Milhous Nixon simply having rap music explained to him.
But, in reality, Nixon actually did mention the possibility of him becoming a rapper if rap had been popular when he was young. At Nixon’s Presidential Library and Birthplace in Yorba Linda, California, visitors used to be able to tour the exhibits while listening to the 37th President of the United States guide you via an audio recording (I’m not sure if you can still take the tour guided by Nixon’s voice; when I visited Yorba Linda in 2004, I just did a self-guided tour). The small house that Nixon was born in stands on the grounds of Nixon’s Library, and visitors listening to the audiotape while making their way through the house had their attention directed to several musical instruments that belonged to the Nixon family. When the former President referenced the instruments (on the audiotape) and mentioned his lifelong love for music, Nixon added, "I have often though that if there had been a good rap group around in those days, I might have chosen a career in music instead of politics."
Was he serious? No, of course not. Nixon did have an appreciation for music, and was confident enough in his abilities as a pianist that he played in public from time-to-time. But Nixon was also notoriously awkward and uncoordinated; he usually needed help to open bottles of any type and was so inept when it came to technology that it really is entirely possible that the infamous 18½-minute gap on the Watergate tapes was the result of Nixon clumsily erasing and/or taping over part of the recording.
One of the most crucial building blocks that make up the foundation of a good rapper is rhythm. Not only was Richard Nixon completely absent of rhythm but his lack of coordination actually made anyone around him seem awkward and out of place. Oddly enough, the rest of Nixon’s story resembled that of many contemporary rappers — as a young man, he faced quite a bit of adversity, growing up in an impoverished family on the West Coast (WESTSIDE!) and losing two brothers at a young age. He also had a way with words that very well could have translated into success for rap music in a different time period. While attending high school, Nixon represented the West Coast on the national level in debate/oratory contest. Later, he became the captain of the debating team at Whittier College and coaches marveled at his unique ability to successfully take on any viewpoint on any of the subjects up for debate.
It’s certainly a funny and outlandish image to picture Richard Nixon as a rapper. It’s even funnier to try to figure out who Tricky Dick’s favorite rapper would have been (I’m going to guess Mystikal just because it’s the strangest combination I immediately thought of). But, unfortunately, he wasn’t serious about wanting to be a rapper. And while his verbal skills and talent as an orator could have made him a dangerous freestyler and potential success in rap battles, the complete absence of rhythm would have been a lethal handicap to his reputation as an MC.
(Just out of curiosity, though, what would the best rap name for Richard Nixon be? Just his old-fashioned “Tricky Dick” moniker? “DJ Watergate”? “Presidential MC?” “DJ POTUS?” Since Nixon tried so hard during his lifetime to get his initials over like TR, FDR, JFK, and LBJ, how about “MC RN”?)
I understand what you’re saying. This is another one of those instances — as is the case with most questions about Presidential succession or the 25th Amendment — where there are no precedents to follow and a lot of confusion, and where that confusion will remain until something happens that actually puts the 25th Amendment into effect and tests the process.
To refresh everyone’s memories, a President can permanently relinquish his office by resigning, which leads to the Vice President (or the person next in the line of succession) becoming the new President. If that happens, the VP-turned-President can be elected to two full terms as President in his own right unless the VP completes more than two years of the unfinished term of the President he succeeded. In that case, the VP is only allowed to be elected to one term in his own right. As an example: when LBJ assumed the Presidency upon the death of John F. Kennedy, JFK had less than two years left in his term. So, LBJ was able to run again in 1964 (and won), and would have been allowed to run for another term in 1968 if he had chosen to. After that, he would have been term-limited and unable to seek the Presidency again in 1972. On the other hand, when Gerald Ford succeeded Richard Nixon in 1974 following Nixon’s assassination, Ford completed more than two years of Nixon’s term. Ford was unsuccessful in trying to win a term of his own in 1976, but if he had won the ‘76 election, he would have been term-limited from seeking another term as President in 1980.
But a President could also temporarily the powers of the Presidency if he or she were incapacitated or unable to discharge their duties, and then reclaim their duties when they are ready. This has happened a couple of times when recent Presidents have undergone medical treatment which required anesthesia. When that happens, the President invokes the 25th Amendment, and the Vice President becomes “Acting President” until the President feels clear enough to reclaim the full duties of the Presidency once again.
Now, this is where the questions start popping up. When a President resigns and a Vice President permanently assumes the powers, duties, and trappings of the Presidency (as in the aforementioned cases of LBJ and Gerald Ford), the VP becomes President of the United States in full. However, when a President invokes the 25th Amendment and temporarily transfers power to the Vice President, the VP does not become “President of the United States”. Instead, the VP becomes “Acting President”, and remains “Acting President” until the President reclaims the position, resigns, or is removed from office.
Since this Constitutional curiosity has never been put to the test, we don’t know for sure what the answer to your question is. But my interpretation is that the time that a VP served as “Acting President” in an instance where the 25th Amendment was invoked would not count towards term limits if that VP eventually became the President in his own right. Plus, the invocation of the 25th Amendment in order to temporarily relieve an incapacitated President of his duties is not meant to be a long-term solution. The 25th Amendment also has a mechanism for removing a seriously incapacitated President who has little change of regaining the ability to discharge his duty. If things got that serious, a temporary fix would be bypassed in favor of removing the incapacitated President and handing power to the next in the line of succession. At that point, the clock would begin ticking to determine whether the successor would be limited to being elected to one or two terms as President on their own, but that’s a different discussion.
The strangest (and most confusing) thing about the differences between someone who assumes the Presidency permanently and someone who temporarily becomes “Acting President” is that there isn’t any difference in actual power. The difference is in the title, but — whether temporary or permanent — they exercise all of the powers of the Presidency.
I have no idea. That’s a pretty difficult question to answer; in fact, it is likely impossible to accurately answer. After all, it’s entirely possible that there were people born into slavery in the United States prior to the ratification of the 13th Amendment or the emancipation of all slaves who might have lived very long lives and not died until the 1950s or 1960s. The last surviving Civil War veteran whose story could be legitimately confirmed lived until 1956, so it’s likely that the last surviving former slave lived past that date since people were still being born into slavery during the Civil War (1861-1865).
Unfortunately, because of the lack of proper record-keeping, it is difficult to confirm who the last surviving American born into slavery or last living American who had been kept as a slave truly was. It’s also nearly impossible to know which President was the last person to meet a former slave, especially since such a meeting could have happened earlier in a President’s life or career, when there were more former slaves still alive.
There is also the question of slaves from other countries who might have met the President of the United States in one form of another. Ever since Franklin D. Roosevelt met with King Ibn Saud aboard the USS Quincy in the Suez Canal as FDR was returning home from the Yalta Conference, American Presidents and the Kings of Saudi Arabia have had many meetings and visited each other’s countries. However, it wasn’t until 1962 that Saudi Arabia officially abolished slavery in the Saudi Kingdom. In 1957, King Saud traveled to the United States on an official visit and brought with him a massive royal entourage, and many of the Saudi King’s courtiers and servants had traditionally been slaves — even up to that point of time. It’s possible that slaves attended to King Saud during that trip, and it’s also a possibility that some of the King’s slaves briefly met or came into contact with President Eisenhower. Most likely, there would not have been much of an opportunity for that to occur during such a visit, but we just don’t know the answer about the last American slave — or the last slave of any kind — to meet with the President.
Slavery still exists, in many different forms, throughout the world. The United Nations and partner organizations estimate that there are over 30 million people in some form of slavery or involuntary servitude today, in 2014. With as many people as Presidents meet or briefly come in contact with, it’s entirely possible that even recent Presidents have met with slaves or former slaves. Slavery is a continuing crisis, so Presidents didn’t get to cross that issue off of their list with the end of the Civil War, the ratification of the 13th Amendment, or the abolition of slavery as most people have traditionally seemed to recognize it within the borders of our country.
All the President’s Men (BOOK | KINDLE) didn’t have enough political intrigue for you?! It’s literally a book entirely focused on political intrigue and featuring groundbreaking investigative reporting by two relatively young and low-level journalists, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein of the Washington Post. I mean, the main subject of the book is the biggest and most serious political scandal in American history, an attempt at covering up the scandal (making things even worse), and eventually led to the first and only resignation of the President of the United States.
I’m not really sure what could possibly be added to that in order to make it “sexier” or increase the level of political intrigue. Strippers and Godzilla? Did we need a drunken, obscenely nude Richard Nixon lighting a bonfire on the South Lawn of the White House and then tossing the Watergate tapes into the flames from the Truman Balcony while he fired round-after-round into the air from a shotgun and screamed, “I WON 49 STATES IN 1972! IF YOU WANT ME OUT OF OFFICE, YOU BEST BRING SOME FIREPOWER, PACK A LUNCH, AND KISS YOUR MAMA GOOD-BYE!”
All the President’s Men (BOOK | KINDLE) is one of the most interesting, influential, and important books ever written about a President, the Presidency, or American politics in general. And Woodward and Bernstein followed it up with The Final Days (BOOK | KINDLE), which I’ve always found to be even more fascinating than All the President’s Men.
Maybe those two books didn’t feature the political intrigue that you are used to, but you might be watching too many dramatic political thrillers on television. All the President’s Men and The Final Days recount things that actually happened in real-life.
I wish that those were all of the books that I read this week, but I didn’t even come close to getting that much done!
These are the books that I read this week:
•Thomas Jefferson’s Qur’an: Islam and the Founders by Denise A. Spellberg [Vintage Paperback, 2014] (BOOK | KINDLE)
•Unruly Places: Lost Spaces, Secret Cities, and Other Inscrutable Geographies by Alastair Bonnett [Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014] (BOOK | KINDLE)
•The Rush: America’s Fevered Quest For Fortune, 1848-1853 by Edward Dolnick [Little, Brown, 2014] (BOOK | KINDLE)
•Fear and Loathing in La Liga: Barcelona, Real Madrid, and the World’s Greatest Sports Rivalry by Sid Lowe [Nation Books Paperback, 2014] (BOOK | KINDLE)
•America’s Great Game: The CIA’s Secret Arabists and the Shaping of the Modern Middle East by Hugh Wilford [Basic Books, 2013] (BOOK | KINDLE)
•The First Family Detail: Secret Service Agents Reveal the Hidden Lives of the Presidents by Ronald Kessler [Crown Forum, 2014] (BOOK | KINDLE)
•Unreasonable Men: Theodore Roosevelt and the Republican Rebels Who Created Progressive Politics by Michael Wolraich [Palgrave Macmillan, 2014] (BOOK | KINDLE)
•And I’m currently in the middle of reading His Humble Servant: Sister M. Pascalina Lehnert’s Memoirs of Her Years of Service to Eugenio Pacelli, Pope Pius XII by Sister M. Pascalina Lehnert [St. Augustine’s Press, 2014]