Posts Tagged ‘Presidents’

george herbert walker bushI’ve had complicated feelings about George Herbert Walker Bush, the 41st president of the United States, for a long time. I don’t remember him as a Congressman from Texas in the 1960s, but I do recall his tenure as ambassador to the United Nations (`1971-1973).

Then he was named the chairman of the Republican National Committee, trying to negotiate a fine line between supporting the party and trying not to be disloyal to Richard Nixon, who was becoming increasingly mired in the Watergate scandal. His loyalty to the President, while consistent with his military training, made me mighty uncomfortable.

George Bush seemed suited to be the U.S. representative to China at a point when Sino-American relations were warming. He was passed over for Vice-President twice by Gerald Ford.

He ran for President in 1980 and was totally correct when he dubbed Ronald Reagan’s trickle-down fiscal plan as “voodoo economics.” Yet Reagan tapped Bush to be his Vice-Presidential candidate, and of course, they won.

I’m not much into conspiracy theories. But I’ve long wondered if the release of 52 Americans held hostage from November 4, 1979, to January 20, 1981, Inauguration Day was more than a coincidence. Some cite Reagan’s tough talk, but I looked more at Bush’s CIA connections, where he was the director for a year, mostly in 1976.

Interestingly, I have few strong recollections of George H. W. Bush’s eight years as Vice-President (1981-1989), other than some odd perception that the man, whose plane was shot down by Japanese antiaircraft fire during World War II was some sort of patrician “wimp.”

I do recall the nasty 1988 Presidential campaign, first against Republicans such as Senator Bob Dole (KS), Congressman Jack Kemp (NY), former Governor Pete du Pont (DE) and conservative Christian televangelist Pat Robertson.

His acceptance speech referred to the “thousand points of light” as a vision of the United States. He picked largely unknown lightweight senator Dan Quayle (IN) as his running mate.

Though Bush found it difficult to articulate what he wanted to accomplish as president — “the vision thing”, he called it – “he handily beat Governor Michael Dukakis (MA) in the general election.” He was helped by some sleazy ads suggesting that his opponent was soft on crime. The media attack was orchestrated by the infamous political strategist Lee Atwater.

As the Los Angeles Times noted:

“During his single term in the White House, the Berlin Wall fell, newly democratic states sprang up across Central and Eastern Europe, and the Soviet Union came to an end.” For a time he had an 89% approval rating.

George Herbert Walker Bush passed historic legislation, including the Americans With Disabilities Act (1990). On the other hand, he nominated to the Supreme Court the very problematic Clarence Thomas (1991), and not just over the sexual harassment allegations.

“But the end of the Cold War also signaled the end of an era of American bipartisanship that the long conflict with the Soviets had fostered. Bush, the product of an earlier era, seemed out of phase with a younger, harder-edged generation of conservatives rising in his party.”

His real undoing was going back on his convention pledge: “Read my lips: no new taxes” in response to “a short, but sharp, recession that took hold in 1990 and raised unemployment…” He lost his bid for re-election in 1992, “receiving less support than any incumbent president in 80 years.”

George H. W. Bush “had been a college athlete, a Navy pilot and war hero, a business success… [Yet] he often seemed out of place when trying to communicate with voters. His… small gaffes — appearing surprised by a supermarket price scanner… — fed an image of a man distant from the lives of average Americans.”

Frankly, his standing with the American public has taken an upturn, in no small part, because of his son George W. Bush’s two terms as the 43rd President. If the first Gulf War was considered successful, I certainly appreciate 41’s restraint in NOT taking over Baghdad, which 43’s administration did a dozen years later.

In his post-presidential life, George H. W. Bush “reemerged in the public eye for his humanitarian work in the wake of the tsunami that devastated southern Asia in 2004 and Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Through those efforts, he became close friends with Bill Clinton, the Democrat who had vanquished him.”

In 2011, President Obama awarded Bush the Presidential Medal of Freedom. In retirement, he became known for skydiving into his 90s. I’d been concerned about his health, especially when Barbara, his wife of 73 years, died on April 17, 2018.

Whatever misgivings I had about George Herbert Walker Bush, I saw him as a basically dignified man who loved his country and his family. As Arthur, who met the man decades ago, said: “He was the last of the Old School Republicans, a type we’ll probably never see again: Kind, decent, respectable, someone with whom one could disagree without it being personal or bitter.”

John Bayard Anderson

John Anderson, a moderate Republican congressman back in the day when there still were moderate Republicans, ran for President in 1980 against the incumbent, Jimmy Carter, the Democrat, and the Republican standard-bearer, Ronald Reagan. Of course, the former actor and California governor beat the former peanut farmer and Georgia governor by over 8.4 million votes cast.

Reagan also won an absolute majority of the voters (50.75%) to 41.01% for Carter. Anderson, who died recently, received 6.61% of the ballots. And 1.63% of the people, including, BTW, me, voted for someone else. So those who oppose the Electoral College – the system where all electoral votes go to each state winner – should be satisfied with the results, right?

But under the EC rules, was John Anderson really a spoiler, as some have suggested? 270 electoral votes are needed to be elected.

States won by Carter: DC-3, GA-12, HI-4, MD-10, MN-10, RI-4, WV-6 = 49 electoral votes.

States won by Reagan with more than 50% of the vote: AK-3, AZ-6, CA-45, CO-7, FL-17, ID-4, IN-13, IA-8, IA-8, KS-7, LA-10, MO-12, MT-4, NE-5, NV-3, NH-4, NJ-17, NM-4, ND-3, OH-25, OK-8, SD-4, TX-26, UT-4, VA-12, WY-3 = 263 electoral votes.

So if you add the states where the difference between Reagan votes and Carter votes is greater than the Anderson votes, the Republican easily hits 270. In Alabama, for instance, Reagan bat Carter 48.75% to 47.45%, a difference of only 1.3%. But Anderson only managed to scrape up 1.23% of the votes, with others garnering 2.57%. 9 electoral votes to the Republican anyway.

Anderson did very well in the Pacific Northwest, getting 9.51% of the vote in Oregon and 10.62% in Washington. Yet the difference between Reagan and Carter was 9.66% and 12.34% respectively, meaning those 6 and 9 electoral votes were destined for the GOP column.

Even Illinois, Anderson’s home state, fell into that column. Reagan, who grew up in the Land of Lincoln, got 49.65% of the vote compared with Carter’s 41.72%. Anderson’s 7.3% is less than the 7.93% of the major party candidates. 26 electoral votes solid for the Gipper.

This is not to say Anderson wasn’t a spoiler in some states. In New York, Reagan beat Carter by 2.67% but Anderson got 7.54% of the votes. AR, CT, DE, KY, ME, MA, MI, MS, NC, TN, VT, and WI theoretically COULD have gone to Carter if it weren’t for Anderson. It would not have mattered to the outcome.

I’m old enough to (barely) remember Dwight Eisenhowever as President. But I was paying attention during the 1960 Presidential campaign. I don’t recall having a strong preference between John Kennedy and Richard Nixon initially.

I became sympathetic towards JFK after he gave a speech about his Catholic faith in September 1960 in Houston, TX. It seemed unfair then, and now, that he was forced to defend his religion and his participation in it.

Photowannabe’s high school band played and marched down Pennsylvania Avenue for President Kennedy’s Inauguration Parade.

I liked the Kennedys in the White House. They had a couple children, Caroline, a little older than my baby sister, and the baby, John, Jr., who was born just after the election.

I wasn’t paying attention to the disastrous Bay of Pigs incursion in Cuba in April 1961. But all of us were aware of the Cuban Missile Crisis in October 1962, because we had the vague feeling that because of…WHATEVER was happening, we could end up at war, perhaps in the United States.

The cliche that there was a picture of JFK, MLK Jr and Jesus in every black home was an exaggeration, but I surely saw the phenomenon many times. In terms of the 35th president, it seemed more for his POTENTIAL for aiding the civil rights movement, which, by the last year of his life, I was paying a lot of attention to.

Here’s a factoid: “After a meeting with the National Council of Senior Citizens, President John F. Kennedy encouraged all Americans to pay tribute to older people across the country by designating May 1963 as Senior Citizens Month. Every president since has issued a formal proclamation during or before the month of May in support of older Americans.”

I do recall, with some detail, the death of Patrick Kennedy in August 1963, at less than two days old. This made me incredibly sad.

Of course, the shooting in Dallas was etched in the minds of everyone above a certain age. Some months later, the Warren Report on the assassination was released, with excerpts appearing in the local newspaper. I cut out those pages and taped them on paper which I then put in a three-ring binder. I still have that binder in the attic somewhere.

It was only later I thought, it wasn’t even supposed to be John that his father would groom to be President, it was supposed to be Joe, Jr. But he died in the war,the same one that almost took Jack’s life as well.

Of course, there are a bunch of centennial stories out there, from the Kennedy Center and Celebrate JFK at 100 by walking in his footsteps, e.g. Or Inside the Scandalous Life of JFK’s Sister, Kick Kennedy.

Jackie was right: Camelot was over on 11/22/1963. I didn’t know what that meant at the time, but surely I felt it, that loss of innocence and possibility. Lyndon Johnson undoubtedly achieved more for civil rights, using the slain leader as a prod for Congress to take the right action. But things would never be the same.

I collected as many Kennedy 50-cent pieces as I could, which were – alas- stolen, because I wanted to, quite literally, hold onto that time as long as I could.


George Washington’s first inaugural address (April 1789), referring to himself: “One, who, inheriting inferior endowments from nature and unpractised in the duties of civil administration, ought to be peculiarly conscious of his own deficiencies.”

Now I Know: The Case of George Washington versus Pinocchio

John Quincy Adams: When The People Cheered

Presidents in Our Backyard – Part 1 (Martin Van Buren, Chester A. Arthur, Ulysses S. Grant)

The highest-ranked President who only served one-term is James Knox Polk.

Sarah Knox Taylor, the second daughter of Zachary Taylor and the first Mrs. Jefferson Davis

This is an actual standard fantasy I’ve had over the years Read the rest of this entry »

bornintheusa-obama
Arthur’s FIRST question to me for this round, about Barack Obama, I took some time answering:

BoyOhBoyOhBoy, have I been waiting for THIS! You asked me a LOT of awesome questions, – I DID! but one I thought of for you keeps popping into my head, and it’s heavy:

About a year ago (and probably early this year), many political commentators were saying that President Obama would be regarded as “one of the most consequential presidents in US history”. Given that the Orange Guy and his Republican Congress are poised to undo everything President Obama accomplished over the past 8 years (and pretty much every good thing done by all presidents, Republican and Democratic, over the past several decades…), do you think the pundits’ assessment is now laughable? Or, will it be that Obama’s image will soar Read the rest of this entry »

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