Ah, another variation on everyone’s favorite question. Seriously, since I started Dead Presidents, I have been asked about who would win a fight between Andrew Jackson and Theodore Roosevelt more than I’ve been asked anything else — even more than who killed JFK.
Now, you asked about a wrestling match and in that case, my answer still remains the same (Theodore Roosevelt), especially since TR actually had experience in amateur wrestling and jiujitsu, as well as a significant weight (and, I assume, strength) advantage.
Also, in order to save everyone some time, here is the answer to the follow-up question that I always get after the Jackson vs. Roosevelt question — which President would come out on top if all of them faced off in a huge brawl.
Not in my opinion. There’s a possibility that Senator Rubio could end up as a Vice Presidential nominee — he seems like a classic ticket-balancing pick — but I don’t see it happening in 2016.
I imagine Senator Paul taking his father’s place as the GOP’s “outsider” candidate who creates a nice buzz, catches some headlines, raises money extremely well, and yet somehow doesn’t have it translate into votes when folks go to the polls. A potential nominee needs more than a buzz with the voters — he or she actually needs votes. And they also need the support of the core of the party and many of the party elders because that’s how the game works. Appealing to those bases of the Republican Party is not one of Rand Paul’s strengths. He is better at it than his father, but he’s not good enough at it to earn the GOP Presidential nomination.
I have never read a good, solid book about Benjamin Harrison, so I’d have to go with him.
The University Press of Kansas in Lawrence, Kansas publishes a lot of books about the Presidents and the Presidency. One specialty that they seem to have is publishing scholarly but concise studies of individual Presidential Administrations. They are not complete biographies of Presidents, but targeted histories of the actual Presidency of individual Chief Executives and they are perfect for focusing on how the Presidents ran their Administration, the relations and influence of their Cabinet, major Executive branch decisions, and everything you need to know on how they did their job from the moment they took the oath of office until the day they turned the keys over to their successor.
I’m not entirely sure what you are asking, but I’ll assume that you’re asking whose work I enjoy more and the answer is obviously Shawn Michaels because I have impeccable taste and am not 6 years old. And there’s also the fact that Shawn is the greatest performer in the history of professional wrestling and anybody who disagrees is banned from reading Dead Presidents for 48 hours. I expect people to use the honor system and monitor their own temporary banishment if they are in line for a punishment.
You’re off to a good start because I think that Chernow’s book is probably the very best biography of Alexander Hamilton that you will find. Willard Sterne Randall (Alexander Hamilton: A Life) and Richard Brookhiser (Alexander Hamilton, American) are top-notch historians of the Revolution and Founding Fathers, so they also have written solid biographies of Hamilton, but Chernow’s is the cream of the crop. While they aren’t completely focused on Hamilton, there is also great insight in Joseph J. Ellis’s Founding Brothers and Thomas Fleming’s Duel.
If you are wanting to dig a little deeper into Hamilton’s political philosophy and his role is shaping the American government, there is a book edited by Douglas Ambrose and Robert W. T. Martin called The Many Faces of Alexander Hamilton: The Life and Legacy of America’s Most Elusive Founding Father that you may want to check out.
However, the very best source for Hamilton’s political thought would be The Federalist Papers. While they were all published under the pseudonym “Publius”, it’s easy to find editions which identify whether you’re reading an essay by Hamilton, James Madison, or John Jay. The vast majority of the essays were written by Hamilton. I think Jay wrote just 5 out of the 85 essays and Hamilton wrote almost twice as many as Madison (Hamilton and Madison also teamed up on 2 or 3 of the essays). You can get a good understanding of Hamilton’s political philosophy and his ultimate influence on the government that was formed through The Federalist Papers. Plus, you can easily find them for free online.
There are a lot of different ways that you can define “modern” when it comes to the Presidency, so it is tough. I can make a good argument for probably five or six Presidents that could be considered the first modern President. Truman is a good one because of the reasons you mentioned, as well as the fact that he was the first post-World War II and first post-FDR President. And I do agree that is integration of the military is an underrated achievement.
Since making a case for five or six different Presidents who could possibly be considered as the first modern POTUS doesn’t really clear things up, I will narrow it down to the one I feel most strongly about. It actually might be a surprising choice to some people, but I think that the first modern President was William McKinley.
McKinley was the first President of the 20th Century and because of the Spanish-American War, he was the President when the United States truly and forever established itself as a force to be reckoned with internationally. McKinley’s campaigns were extremely well-organized and while he did the front porch campaign thing, he had surrogates traveling throughout the country singing his praises and selling his candidacy in 1896 and 1900. McKinley also organized his Administration in a way that would be much more recognizable to today’s Presidency than the Presidency of Thomas Jefferson or Andrew Jackson, or even Abraham Lincoln.
As I have written many times, McKinley made his first Vice President, Garrett Hobart, an active and influential member of the Executive branch. No President before McKinley had paid much attention to the Vice President at all, and after Hobart died in office in 1899, no VP would have as important of a role in an Administration until the second half of the 20th Century. McKinley’s vision for the role of the VP was the foundation for the modern Vice Presidency which is so much more than just a guy waiting around to break tie votes and checking the President’s pulse.
McKinley’s assassination leaves us with one of the bigger What Ifs? in Presidential history. The big one, of course, is probably what would have happened to Theodore Roosevelt — who was stashed away in the Vice Presidency in 1900 by Republican leaders who wanted him out of the potentially powerful position of Governor of New York. But there are many others. The Spanish-American War excited those Americans who had imperial ambitions, but President McKinley was not one of them. However, he was vociferous in his belief that now that the U.S. was a global power, isolationism would no longer work. In the last speech of his life, McKinley set the stage for a second term in which he hoped to push free trade and establish himself as an internationalist rather than the protectionist that he had long been. McKinley seemed like an old-fashioned, genial, 19th Century Ohio politician, but he was much more of a visionary than people realized. His speeches, particularly during the 1900 campaign and in his brief second term, show that his vision of the world in the 20th Century and the path that the United States should take in its new role as a global power was prescient.
Unfortunately, the first 20th Century President’s life was guarded by 19th Century tactics. The ease in which Leon Czolgosz was able to approach President McKinley and shoot him led to a different type of modernization. After seeing three Presidents shot to death in less than 40 years, the government finally put together a plan for protecting the nation’s leader. But even with his death, William McKinley worked to modernize the Presidency.
Someone asked me quite some time ago whether any Presidents were wrestling fans and since that isn’t something that is
usually ever touched upon in biographies or autobiographies, I asked the incomparable Dave Meltzer of the Wrestling Observer, who is a genius, the foremost wrestling/MMA reporter and historian alive, and really should be recognized more frequently for being a top-notch journalist — no matter what subject matter he is covering.
Of course, Dave had an answer to my question. Here is what I wrote and what Dave Meltzer said about Presidents who were fans of professional wrestling:
I know a lot about the Presidents, but I did not have the answer to this question about which Presidents were fans of professional wrestling. With the number of Presidents from the South, which has long been a stronghold of pro wrestling, in the last half of the 20th Century when television made wrestling such a popular form of entertainment, I figured that we had to have some professional wrestling fans in the White House.
Unfortunately, this was a question that didn’t seem to have an answer anywhere. I didn’t even know where to begin my research, but then I thought of the one person who was bound to know the answer. I contacted the great Dave Meltzer, editor of the Wrestling Observer newsletter, and the preeminent journalist and historian of professional wrestling and mixed martial arts.
Here’s what Dave had to say:
The Clintons were rumored to be fans.
George Bush (the older) used to go to matches in Houston and was good friends with Paul Boesch. In fact, he appeared on a TV special in Houston on Boesch’s life. Bush was also associated in some form with Wahoo McDaniel.
Jimmy Carter used to attend matches in Columbus, GA. His mother was more of a fan than he was. He knew Jim Barnett, who was at his inauguration (Boesch was at Bush’s) and Mr. Wrestling II was also invited.
Just to clarify a couple parts of Dave’s response, Paul Boesch was the longtime promoter of the Houston wrestling territory. Boesch was tremendously influential in the Houston community, and I’m speculating here, but I would assume that the wealthy Boesch was a financial supporter of Bush’s political career.
As for Carter, I was aware that his mother was a big-time wrestling fan. I don’t know Carter’s ties to Jim Barnett — another promoter, or financial backer, of a regional territory — but he was likely a campaign contributor. I’m curious as to whether Mr. Wrestling II wore his mask to Carter’s inauguration.
To add on to Dave’s response, I recall that Jesse Ventura spent a night in the White House during President Clinton’s administration. This, of course, wasn’t because Ventura was “Jesse The Body”, but because Ventura was Governor of Minnesota at the time. Ventura later talked about sitting up late with Clinton, smoking cigars and talking. I would have liked to have eavesdropped on that conversation.
Recently, Presidents and Presidential candidates have reached out in some ways to the WWE fanbase, which is a diverse group that was a much-sought-after demographic during the 2008 Presidential race. During the primaries of that election, to promote the WWE’s Smackdown Your Vote get-out-the-vote campaign, candidates Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and John McCain taped messages for the WWE audience that aired on the WWE’s Monday Night Raw television program. During that same election cycle, Republican candidate Mike Huckabee made a pretty big deal out of an endorsement that he received from legendary wrestler Ric Flair.
Over the past few years, the WWE has done an annual Tribute To The Troops show, frequently putting on shows in front of troops on forward operating bases in Iraq and Afghanistan. For those shows, Presidents have taped messages for troops and their families and showing appreciation to WWE for putting on the show for the soldiers. In 2010, President Obama and former President George W. Bush both taped messages that aired on the NBC broadcast of the WWE’s program.
I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the Presidents in the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s were wrestling fans. Professional wrestling was a huge television draw in the early days of television as it was a relatively cheap form of programming to broadcast and had a large following.
This was a really fun question. Thanks for asking it and, of course, thanks to Dave Meltzer of the Wrestling Observer newsletter and Yahoo! Sports for sharing his expertise!
As for myself, I’ve been a fan since I was a little kid, but like many wrestling fans have gone through phases of being into it and losing interest. I still check up on things every once in a while, but I haven’t been into it as much over the past few years.
My two all-time favorite wrestlers are Shawn Michaels and the late Eddie Guerrero. Even when I’m not really into the current product, I could sit and watch a Shawn Michaels match. I think that everything Shawn and Eddie did was awesome. With Eddie Guerrero, besides his wrestling career, I was really interested in his real-life story and his comeback from a drug addiction that nearly cost him everything. There have been a lot of wrestling-related deaths, but I was really bummed when Eddie died.
Off the top of my head, I think my favorite match would be Austin vs. The Rock from what I think was WrestleMania 17. It was their match in the Astrodome in Houston. That was such a fun one to watch. And pretty much anything with Shawn is tied for second. Maybe the first Shawn vs. Undertaker match from WrestleMania is second and everything else is tied for third.
I’ve been to many shows over the years. I guess I can go ahead and say this, but in a job that I had in Sacramento working with kids in the community, I set up community partnerships with several organizations and one of them was WWE. They were amazing. They sent tons of shirts and merchandise for the kids and we even had an event promoting literacy where two wrestlers came and read to students. They would usually take care of me when they came to town and hook me up with tickets, so I went to quite a few shows. The best was that they hooked me up with a couple of tickets to WrestleMania XIX in Seattle in 2003. That was an awesome show with some really amazing matches: Shawn vs. Chris Jericho (Shawn’s first WrestleMania match in five years); Rock vs. Austin (Austin’s last match); Hulk Hogan vs. Vince McMahon (!); and Kurt Angle vs. Brock Lesnar (in which Angle wrestled with a broken neck and Lesnar nearly killed himself with a botched move from the top rope). WWE shows are always fun live, but there was nothing like going to WrestleMania. Plus, Seattle is a kick-ass city.
Since I don’t have the community partnership deal with WWE anymore, I wanted to find a way to keep some sort of relationship with the company, so I wrote an article for AND Magazine last year on the 1,000th episode of Monday Night Raw. Fortunately for me, the 1,000th episode of Raw took place in St. Louis (near where I now live) and the right people from WWE enjoyed my article, so they again hooked me up big-time for that show, which was another fun one.
Even if the product isn’t top-notch — and they do go through these cycles where the writing is awesome and where it is not-so-great — I have great respect for what the wrestlers do and I can’t say enough good things about the people you don’t see, the corporate folks in WWE, who have always been amazing to me. They have always been supportive of the community and I have experienced that first-hand over the years, so I have nothing bad to say about WWE and I’m not ashamed to say that I enjoy it.