Dead Presidents

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

By Anthony Bergen
E-Mail: bergen.anthony@gmail.com
Posts tagged "Presidential Politics"
Asker Anonymous Asks:
Obviously Romney's not going to run again for a number of reasons, but if he did, do you think he could/would snatch the nomination again? He's doing well in NH polling and there aren't a lot of moderate-wing candidates on the roster.
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

I don’t think he’d even have to “snatch” the Republican nomination.  If Jeb Bush doesn’t run for President, the only Republican who would have any shot at beating Hillary Clinton and winning the election is Mitt Romney.  Believe it or not, if Hillary Clinton shockingly decided not to run, I think Mitt Romney could very well be the front-runner, Republican or Democrat — and that might be enough to convince him to go through everything again and take another shot at running.

Otherwise, I doubt he would put himself and his family through another Presidential campaign that might end in loss.  The campaign itself is punishing, and that’s without even factoring in how devastating it is to lose. Romney and his family have dealt with losses in a primary campaign (2008) and a general election (2012), and I don’t see them doing that again unless there’s a really, really, REALLY clear indication that he’d do better than he did against Obama.  

There are a lot of people — even people who didn’t vote for Mitt Romney — who are now wishing he would have won the 2012 election.  I imagine there will be a lot of hope or nostalgia for Romney to run again in 2016, especially as the Republican field starts to battle for the GOP nomination and it becomes obvious how sub-standard many of the leading “contenders” are.  If Jeb Bush runs, he should set himself apart from that field quickly.  If he doesn’t run, a lot of people are going to urge a “Draft Romney” effort.  It’ll be interesting to see what happens and Romney as the GOP savior (for the Republican Party, not the country) can’t be totally discounted, but I think Jeb Bush will run in 2016 and give the Republicans somebody who at least won’t lose to Hillary by 400 electoral votes.

A report has reached here that President Polk was dead, which, I do not credit…while I regret to hear of the death of any one…I would [rather] have heard of his death…as that of any other individual in the whole Union.

General Zachary Taylor, writing about his Commander-in-Chief, James K. Polk, to his son-in-law from Monterrey, Mexico during the Mexican-American War.

As the war with Mexico progressed and General Taylor’s success in the field as a commander brought him military glory and his name began being put forth as a potential Presidential contender in 1848, a jealous President Polk saw him as a rival. Even though Polk had pledged to only serve one term and had no interest in breaking that campaign promise, he wanted to handpick his successor and made numerous attempts to cause difficulties for Taylor, place obstacles in his way, and neuter his military authority. General Taylor recognized that the President’s actions were politically-motivated efforts to slander his reputation, force his resignation, and handicap his shot at becoming President.

Although Taylor had not previously had any ambition for a political career — in fact, he had never even cast a ballot in his life — Polk’s efforts backfired, Taylor continued to be seen as a war hero, and the General was motivated by the President’s actions to seek the Presidency in 1848. Taylor, of course, won the election and an exhausted Polk — an intense workaholic who believed that it was just short of a sin if a President sought leisure or took a vacation while in office — was stricken with illness as he returned home to Tennessee and died just three months after leaving office.

Rode the ten-mile round before breakfast. Met Mr. Van Buren riding also his horse, and we stopped and exchanged salutations. Van Buren is now Secretary of State. He is the manager by whom the present Administration has been brought into power. He has played over again the game of Aaron Burr in 1800, with the addition of political inconsistency, in transferring his allegiance from [William H.] Crawford to [Andrew] Jackson. He sold the State of New York to them both. His first bargain failed, by the turn of the choice of Electors in the Legislature. The second was barely accomplished by the system of party management established in that State; and Van Buren is now enjoying his reward. His pale and haggard looks show that it is already a reward of mortification. If it should prove, as there is every probability that it will, a reward of treachery, it will be but his just dessert. Divine retribution is often accomplished by the perfidy of man. Nee lex est justior ulla.
John Quincy Adams, on Martin Van Buren’s role in helping Andrew Jackson get elected in 1828, personal diary entry, July 8, 1829
A fellow once advertised that he had made a discovery by which he could make a new man out of an old one, and have enough of the stuff left to make a little yellow dog. Just such a discovery has General Jackson’s popularity been to you. You not only twice made President of him out of it, but you have had enough of the stuff left to make President of several comparatively small men since; and it is your chief reliance now to make still another.
Abraham Lincoln, on Presidential politics during the Mexican-American War to Democrats in the House of Representatives, July 27, 1848
Asker Anonymous Asks:
If Dwight Eisenhower were a politician today do you think he would still be a Republican?
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

I think the better question is if Dwight Eisenhower and Herbert Hoover and Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford were in politics today, would they have allowed batshit crazy extremists who have NO chance of ever winning a national election to hijack the Republican Party? 

No, they would not have allowed that.  Because Eisenhower, Hoover, Nixon, and Ford were leaders.  And the GOP doesn’t have any leaders right now.  That’s why hey have to have a 15-person Royal Rumble every four years to decide on their Presidential nominee.  That’s why they haven’t elected a President not named “Bush” since 1984 — 1984!  If JFK hadn’t been assassinated, he would have been 67 years old in 1984 — the same age Hillary Clinton will be this year.  That’s the last time the Republicans nominated someone not named “Bush” who could win a Presidential election.  And the most reasonable of the rumored 2016 GOP contenders is the guy with that same last name, too.

The question isn’t if so-and-so would be a Republican if they were around today; it is who does the Republican Party belong to?  What does it stand for?  What country does it really believe it represents?  Where is Lincoln’s Republican Party?  Where is Theodore Roosevelt’s Republican Party?  Eisenhower’s Republican Party?  Hell, where is NIXON’s Republican Party?  Because I don’t know many people who today’s GOP represents, and I’m certainly not close with anybody who represents today’s Republican Party because those aren’t the type of people I surround myself with.  The GOP had an identity that I might not have agreed with, but I respected it and Republicans could be proud of it.  They were the party which helped make Civil Rights a reality — not just with Lincoln, but by delivering the votes that LBJ needed in 1964 and 1965 to offset the Southern Democrats.  Today, if the GOP has an identity — and they don’t, I don’t know what they truly stand for, I just know what they are adamantly opposed to — it’s that they are the dysfunctional family that thinks Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, Rick Perry, Scott Walker, and Rick Santorum are viable contenders for the Presidency.

So, this is a long way of saying, yes, Dwight Eisenhower would be a Republican if he were active in politics today.  Why?  Because Dwight Eisenhower was a warrior and a true leader.  Dwight Eisenhower believed in himself, in his ideals, and in this country and the American people.  And if Dwight Eisenhower were around today, he’d take charge of the Republican Party, clear out the crazies, stand his ground, and say, "I am a Republican.  This is what the Republican Party represents.  And you — Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, Rick Perry, Scott Walker, Rick Santorum, Jim DeMint, Mike Lee, Cory Gardner, Raul Labrador, Dan Burton, David Vitter, Michele Bachmann, Tim Scott, Eric Cantor, etc, etc, etc — are NOT Republicans. Give us back our party so we can make our country work again."

I suppose this means I’ll be Martin Van Buren — one term, no war, no greatness.
Dwight Eisenhower, on worries that his ill health would limit him to one term in the Presidency like Martin Van Buren, 1955
Lincoln is the leanest, lankest, most ungainly mass of legs, arms and hatchet-face ever strung upon a single frame. He has most unwarrantably abused the privilege which all politicians have of being ugly.
Editorial about Abraham Lincoln in the “Houston Telegraph”, June 1860
You are looking at the most surprised man who ever lived!

Franklin Pierce, upon learning that he was the 1852 Democratic Presidential nominee. It required 49 ballots at the Democratic National Convention in Baltimore before Pierce was finally nominated as a compromise choice.

Pierce’s wife, Jane, who abhorred politics, was even more surprised. When she learned of her husband’s nomination, she fainted.

The idea of Jim Polk being President of the United States! We are more disposed to laugh at it here than to treat it seriously.

A Congressman from James K. Polk’s home state of Tennessee dismissing Polk’s chances as a dark horse candidate in the 1844 Presidential election.

Polk was elected President several months later.

If you vote for Nixon, you ought to go to hell.
Harry S. Truman, speaking at a Democratic fundraiser in San Antonio, Texas during the 1960 Presidential campaign
Asker hewest1937 Asks:
In 1908 was it a forgone conclussion that Theodore Roosevelt would be re-elected if he ran?
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

Yes, if TR had run for re-election in 1908, he definitely would have won. Hell, William Howard Taft kicked ass in the 1908 election, and I’m sure TR would have racked up an even more impressive Electoral College victory.

Incidentally, had Theodore Roosevelt lived, he almost certainly would have been the 1920 GOP nominee and been elected President again. TR was only 60 years old when he died, so if his health had held up he still could have had plenty of years left to be politically active.

The 1920 election would have been pretty unique in another way if Theodore Roosevelt had lived and been the Republican Presidential nominee — the 1920 Democratic Vice Presidential nominee was none other than Franklin D. Roosevelt.

You know, before we had this meeting I thought Goldwater was just stubborn. Now I am convinced that he is just plain dumb.
Dwight D. Eisenhower, on Barry Goldwater, after meeting with him during Goldwater’s campaign for the 1964 Republican Presidential nomination
Asker bbkld Asks:
So how do you view Reagan's challenge of Ford in 1976? I think if RR had been patient, GF would have been re-elected and RR would have been POTUS in 1980, anyway. The 1976 challenge seemed like a political misstep from a smart politician known for caring about his public perception.
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

I agree.  Especially for the guy who always talked about the “Thou shall not speak ill of any fellow Republican”, Reagan really should have shown more respect to President Ford, been patient, and supported the leader of his party.  Historians talk of the Nixon pardon destroying Ford’s chances of being elected in his own right in 1976, and it certainly didn’t help, but what really beat Ford in 1976 was the challenge from Reagan and the right-wing of the GOP.  Ford had to move to his right to meet the challenge, made a move that he regretted for the rest of his life when he dumped Vice President Rockefeller as his running mate for Bob Dole to placate the conservatives, and had to spend all spring and plenty of money just to win his own party’s nomination.  Ford was spent by the time the Republican National Convention rolled around, stumbled during the general election against Jimmy Carter, and yet, he still barely lost the 1976 election.  Also, after the GOP Convention, Reagan really should have been out campaigning for Ford instead of nursing his wounds.

It’s said that Reagan himself was hesitant about challenging Ford in 1976 and that he was pushed into it by Nancy Reagan and his top political advisors.  They were worried that four more years of Ford would cause fatigue for Republican leadership and make it more difficult to win in 1980.  They were also worried that Reagan would lose some of his luster because he was already 65 years old in 1976 and his term as Governor of California had ended in 1975, removing a powerful platform for politicking.

But I agree that, even if Ford had won in 1976, Reagan would have almost certainly been elected in 1980 anyway.  Because Ford had served more than two years of Richard Nixon’s unfinished second term after he assumed the Presidency following Nixon’s resignation, Ford would have been term-limited in 1980 and Constitutionally ineligible to run for President again.  Reagan would have been the front-runner in 1980, no matter what.

In the end, of course, it worked out well for Reagan, but it was a pretty shitty way to treat Ford who had helped restore faith and trust in the Presidency in the wake of the Watergate scandal.  Ford deserved the Republican Party’s support in 1976 after all that he had done, and he deserved loyalty from Reagan and the conservative wing of the GOP that was just unwilling to offer it and impatient about electing Reagan.

Ford was understandably stung by the entire ordeal in 1976. Anybody who ever knew or met Gerald Ford talked about how kind and gentlemanly he was, mentioned that nobody ever said a bad thing about him, and noted how his optimism and how well he got along with even his political rivals. But the challenge from Reagan in 1976 left him bitter about it for the rest of his life and he blamed Reagan for his loss to Carter in ‘76 more than anyone or anything else. Even then, being the good Republican that he was, Ford wholeheartedly supported Reagan publicly in 1980 and campaigned for him — despite personal animosity over Reagan’s 1976 challenge and Ford’s own deep-seated fears that Reagan simply wasn’t suited for the job of President.