Dead Presidents

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

By Anthony Bergen
Posts tagged "Q&A"
Asker dexterpine Asks:
Who would win in a wrestling match of Andrew Jackson vs. Teddy Roosevelt?
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

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.

It’s been a while since I answered this question, so here are some of my past answers explaining who I thought would win a fight between Jackson and TR if no weapons were involved.  

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.

Asker Anonymous Asks:
Your answer to the Syria question got me thinking, do Rubio or Paul have any chance of becoming the GOP nominee?
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

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.

Which president has the lowest-quality books written about them?
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

I have never read a good, solid book about Benjamin Harrison, so I’d have to go with him.

Asker rygar35 Asks:
What's a good way to learn about how the President's ran their administrations, in terms of office expectations? I keep hearing rumours about who ran really tight ships and who were more laid back
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

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.

Asker Anonymous Asks:
shawn michaels or rey misterio?
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

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.

Asker Anonymous Asks:
Can you recommend any books on Alexander Hamilton on his life, economic philosophy, etc? I've read Ron Chernow's book on him last christmas and he really became a personal hero for me and after I've read about other significant people in US history and US history books I'd really like to read another about him.
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

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.

Asker bbkld Asks:
As a veteran, I pick Truman as the first "modern" POTUS because he: finished a war with nuclear weapons, could have finished a war w nuclear weapons but didn't; fired a popular general who took on the office of the POTUS; and integrated the armed forces. The last is very underrated, IMO, b/c many inside and outside the DoD were against it, but he pulled it off. What do you think & who's your first modern President?
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

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.

Asker Anonymous Asks:
along the lines of the last question about sports, you have posted before about wwe wrestling, so who is your favorite wrestler(s)? what is your favorite match? have you ever been to any wrestling shows? and have any presidents been wrestling fans?
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

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.

I’ve been dealt a rather unfortunate hand when it comes to my favorite sports teams because, with a few heartbreaking exceptions, they’ve completely sucked during my adult life.

My favorite football team is the Oakland Raiders.  I’ve been a Raiders fan since I was a little kid, which almost led me to be cast out of my family.  Everyone else in my family — on every branch of every side of my family tree —are die-hard San Francisco 49ers fans.  My grandfather used to be a season ticket-holder to the Niners and even built a room in his home that was known as the “49er Room”.  Basically, it was a precursor to what is now homoerotically referred to as a “mancave”.  My grandfather’s 49er Room was full of memorabilia and was where he watched the 49ers after he gave up his season tickets, drank Olympia beer out of his mini-fridge, and teased me unmercifully because the 49ers were so good and the Raiders were so not very good in the late-80s and early-90s,

The Sacramento Kings are my favorite NBA team.  I have some great memories of attending Kings games at ARCO Arena — both when they sucked and during the early-2000s when they were robbed of an NBA Championship.  Of course, now they suck again, but I’m just happy that they are staying in Sacramento.  I was lucky enough to see some great games and some legendary players.  The highlight was seeing the Kings play the Chicago Bulls during the season that the Bulls went 72-10.  It wasn’t easy getting tickets to that game, but I can always tell the grandchildren that I’ll never have that I saw that Bulls team featuring Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, and Dennis Rodman.  Plus, I saw some heated battles between the Kings and the Lakers when they had the best rivalry in the league, and I saw the first regular season game in the career of LeBron James

I’ve never been a fan of baseball or hockey, so I can’t say that I favor any teams.  I’ve actually never been to a hockey game, but I’d love to check it out sometime.  I always meant to go to a Sharks game in San Jose when I lived in Sacramento, but never did.  Now that I live near St. Louis maybe I can take in a Blues game sometime.  I’ve been to baseball games in Oakland, San Francisco, Minneapolis, and St. Louis, but there isn’t any team that I have ever had real interest in.  When I was a little kid, I liked the A’s because of Jose Canseco, Mark McGwire, Walt Weiss, etc, because the “Bash Brothers” were cool at the time, but I doubt that I even had an Oakland A’s t-shirt or hat.  I just liked collecting their baseball cards.

I’m actually not even that big of a fan of going to baseball games.  If it’s a stadium that I’ve never been to, I’ll go just for that experience, but I get really bored at baseball games.  It’s just too ponderous.  People-watching at baseball games can be fun, but not usually for nine innings.  The exception would probably be going to Giants games in San Francisco because Pac Bell or AT&T Park (I forget what it is now) is such a beautiful setting that I would just enjoy sitting in the stands and watching the bay all day.  

By the way, just to kinda, sorta connect this with Presidents, in August 2007 I went to the initial Camp Obama training at the Longshoreman’s Hall in San Francisco.  The only thing more ponderous than a baseball game was 13 hours each day of Camp Obama training.  It just so happened that my friend Sarah, who I actually just met that weekend, had been given tickets to a Giants game by her boss.  The game was scheduled in the early afternoon of the first full day of the Camp Obama training.  Being the responsible campaign workers that we were, Sarah and I decided that we would take an extended lunch break and take advantage of the awesome seats that she had.  So, we skipped out and spent a couple hours at the Giants game!  When we returned to the Longshoreman’s Hall, some of our fellow campers were quite unhappy with us.  Sarah was pretty safe from rebuke because she had just recently volunteered, but I was supposedly a leader, so some of the higher-ups in the campaign were mean-mugging me for the rest of the weekend (Hey, we still won the election!).  The crazy thing was that we still had several hours left to go once we returned from the game!  I mean, we were wiped out from the training once it ended for the day despite the fact that we checked out for several hours and went to a baseball game in the beautiful, crisp, sunny weather of an August day in San Francisco!  It probably didn’t help that we drank so much the night before (that’s what you do when you work on campaigns) that we were still drunk through most of that Saturday.  Anyway, the point is that I don’t have a favorite baseball team, but Giants games in San Francisco are a wonderful experience and bring back fun memories.  

Oh, and I don’t get to watch it often enough, but I love soccer and decided on Sporting Kansas City as my favorite team in MLS.  I wish I lived a little closer to Kansas City so that I could make it out to some of their games.  From what I’ve seen, they have a pretty sweet soccer-specific stadium, too.  Since it looks like a pretty good possibility that one of the expansion teams that MLS plans to add by 2024 will be Sacramento, I’ll probably change allegiance out of hometown loyalty, but until then, Sporting KC will work.

Chester A. Arthur.  Expectations were not only low for Arthur, they were dominated by worries that he would turn the country over to his cronies from New York’s political machinery who had made him a national figure.  Then Arthur turned around and started to clean up the corrupt civil service system that had made him Vice President and then, through Garfield’s assassination by a disgruntled, insane office-seeker, made him President.  President Arthur wasn’t afraid to push back against a Congress full of politicians far more experienced than he was and he ended up stunning his biggest political supporters — and a grateful country — by actually becoming a reformer.

When Arthur attempted to win the Republican nomination in 1884 for a term as President in his own right, he found opposition from the wing of the GOP that he originally belonged to, the Stalwarts, because his reform-minded ways was putting them out of business.  It was a half-hearted bid for the nomination since Arthur was clearly dying of Bright’s disease and his health was noticeably deteriorating throughout his term, but it’s ironic that the thing most Americans distrusted him to do — tackle some of the worst of the political and civil service corruption, particularly in his home state of New York — ended up costing him a shot at election in his own right because he alienated his “friends”.

I still have not yet read Donald Rumsfeld’s book.  It’s one of those books, much like his buddy Vice President Cheney’s book, that I’ve had on one of my bookshelves for a long time and I always mean to read it, but I just never get to it.

Rumsfeld always bothered me when I’d see him giving a briefing as Secretary of Defense or when I’d read of his narrow-minded “focus” in Bob Woodward’s books about the Bush Administration or, more recently, Kurt Eichenwald’s 500 Days: Secrets and Lies in the Terror Wars (BOOKKINDLE), which reminds us that Rumsfeld was determined to go to war with Iraq as soon as September 12, 2001.  That was his focus, despite every shred of evidence that we had at that point and despite the overwhelming opinions of people throughout the White House, Pentagon, State Department, CIA, DIA, NSA, NFL, NBA, WWE, and so on.  That one-track mind is frightening from someone who had so much power and influence in such a critical time.  It’s unforgivable.

With that said, there is nothing better than the time that Donald Rumsfeld called into the “Opie and Anthony Show” and Louis C.K. continuously asked the former Secretary of Defense, White House Chief of Staff, and Congressman if he was a “lizard person” and whether or not he “ate Mexican babies”, so that’s certainly a plus.

No, Wilson’s parents didn’t own slaves themselves, but they were ardent supporters of the Confederacy — Woodrow Wilson was born in Staunton, Virginia in 1856, but his family moved to Augusta, Georgia shortly afterward and they spent the entire Civil War and early years of Reconstruction (Wilson’s childhood and teenage years) living in the Deep South — and the institution of slavery.  

Shortly before the Civil War began, Woodrow’s father, Joseph Ruggles Wilson, a Presbyterian minister, delivered a sermon in which he used his own interpretation of the Bible to justify slavery.  Reverend Wilson’s defense of slavery was widely printed and disseminated throughout the South.

Of course, Woodrow Wilson never lost his devotion to the Southern cause.  Throughout his life — even once he was the president of Princeton University and the Governor of New Jersey — Wilson considered himself first and foremost, a Southerner.  Wilson was the only President to earn a doctorate and his doctoral thesis was Congressional Government: A Study in American Politics yet he was adamant in his belief that the Confederate states were not only able to, but completely justified in seceding from the Union.  And with the exception of possibly Andrew Johnson, no other American President was as virulent of a racist or white supremacist as Woodrow Wilson.  Even Wilson’s closest aide, Colonel Edward M. House noted that “The President is the most prejudiced man I ever knew and likes but few people.”

Oh, well, I guess now is a good time to point out that I am a fucking writer.  Maybe that has been lost in the shuffle at some point.  I write.  It’s what I do.  I do it professionally.  People pay me actual money to do it.

Too long?  Don’t read it.  I don’t know how many times I have to point this out, but I don’t do this for you.  I do it for me.  You just happen to have the opportunity to share it if that’s the type of thing that interests you.  I do it for those people, too.  But at no point…not ever…not even once…have I set out to write something for you.  I think it’s great if other people get something out of this site, but please understand that your wants, your needs, your opinion, your particular interests, your preference for how little or how much reading you want to do does not mean a goddamn thing to me and it never will unless you are in a position to pay me to write and I find a reason to accept your assignment.

Until then, I will write what I want.  It will probably be long-winded because I sit here and write from beginning-to-end, with no editor, and no filter.  If you want to read it, it’ll be there.  If not, there are plenty of Tumblr sites that copy-and-paste two or three sentences of pop history from Wikipedia every morning.  Or, go to Tumblr’s “history” directory and find yourself a nice, simple blog that barely has something to do with actual history.

I’m not in that directory; I don’t think I ever have been.  But this site is real history — actual history, with a specialty on Presidential history.  Do you know why?  Because I am a real Presidential historian.  This site is original writing.  Do you know why?  I already told you — I’m a fucking writer.  This site gives away feature-length essays and short stories and answers questions from readers and has done nothing else over the past five years except for create original content — real history — for free.  It’s not for you, it’s for people who aren’t shitty.  That’s who I create and produce for.  

And, do you know what?  It’s the best fucking history site that can be found anywhere on this platform.  I’ll put my history against anybody and I’ll put my writing against anybody, and maybe I’m a little cocky or arrogant or full of myself, but I am good.  I am one of the best that you will ever — ever — read.  And I am constantly getting better.

By the way, I don’t think that you can ever have too many words.  I don’t think knowledge needs boundaries.  I don’t think you have to place limits on the amount of new information you receive.  I mean, who knows?  Maybe you do, but I respect the intelligence of the vast majority of my readers, so I never think, “Okay, maybe they’ve learned enough.”  If you need to limit your own intellectual intake, maybe you ought to find something a bit more — oh, what’s the word I am looking for?  I know:  ”Simple”. Click the little “unfollow” option, go make some TV show GIFs and read about Shark Week.  

This site is for those who know, those who want to know more, and those who can never know enough.  This is Dead Presidents, motherfucker, and it is not for you.