During this election, a Facebook friend Eric Wise took it upon himself to post little bits of interesting material he found on the former Presidents of the United States along with a few of his own thoughts and opinions. These weren't meant to be comprehensive portraits, but just tidbits that caught his eye that he thought would be interesting to share.
I began a series of portraits of the presidents as a project of my own. I am fascinated with changing our normal perception by introducing another means of viewing the same old commonplace view that we're used to and find comfortable. I photographed these through a few different common kitchen glasses with my cell phone. I tried to not make the pictures with any opinion or political bent, just make some pictures and see which ones interested me beyond just a flattering or soul capturing portrait. Some are cooler than others, but then again, the same could be said for our former presidents.
I asked Eric if he were interested in pairing his research and writing with my images and he agreed.
Please take a look through the history of this country through its leaders and for more click on the links.
He avoided this by sending his slaves back Mt. Vernon in Virginia before they reached six months in Pennsylvania. This reset the clock, and he was able to replace them with more slaves from Virginia.
Where was this President's House? During renovations a few years ago at the Liberty Bell Plaza, the site was confirmed as the location of the President's House, which meant it was also home to these slaves -- in the Cradle of Liberty, just before our society realized we should give that liberty to all.
Although John Adams was known for writing eloquent love letters to wife Abigail, he had no love for Thomas Jefferson, in fact he skipped Jefferon's inauguration.
Adams complained about the way Washington had left the President's House in Philadelphia, as raucous partiers had trashed the place. He moved into the White House for the last four months of his presidency. No word on how he left it for Jefferson....
Thomas Jefferson enjoyed having an extensive garden that included exotic foods such as lima beans and tomatoes, neither of which was commonly farmed in the United States during his lifetime. I assume his hundreds of slaves actually raised them.
We all know that when he sent Meriwether Lewis and William Clark to explore his Louisiana Purchase, he requested they return with specimens of plants and animals they encountered. However, Jefferson also enjoyed collections of ancient beasts, taking a particular shine to mastodon specimens, which he acquired and kept at the White House. Jefferson's mastodons are owned by the Academy of Natural Sciences at Drexel University in Philadelphia who included them in a special exhibit in July 2016.
The media assures us that modern presidents are constantly aware of the legacy they leave to history, and journalists frequently ask about this evolving legacy. From my readings, Madison was acutely aware of his legacy (perhaps paranoid about it) , and he altered documents to improve it. He was also a bit upset at the way his words as a shaper of our democracy were used by others after he finished his time as president.
Madison is generously credited with serving as a colonel during the American Revolution, however, his health prevented him from taking any substantial or remarkable duty. He was a revolutionary with his pen and his words, to the extent that it overshadowed his presidency.
In 1992, the United States officially saw the 27th Amendment (Congress cannot raise its pay until after the next election) to the Constitution ratified. This amendment had only taken 202 years to be ratified, and was introduced by Congressman James Madison. Maryland kicked things off with ratification in 1789, and Michigan's ratification in 1992 is the one officially credited with making it official, although other states slowly ratified it through 2016. My home state of Pennsylvania is one of four states that never ratified it.
A great deal of the history of Madison's life is known from Paul Jennings, a man who had been Madison's slave who later earned his freedom. He published works about Madison that are enlightening.
As president, Madison had two vice presidents die in office, George Clinton (who may not have been as funky as you think) and Elbridge Gerry. There was no provision for these men to be replaced at the time.
The college dropout Monroe would be wounded in the Battle of Trenton that followed on Dec. 26. After he recuperated, Monroe was commissioned as a colonel (some sources report the lower rank lieutenant colonel) by Gov. Thomas Jefferson. He liked to be addressed as "Colonel" throughout his life, including as president.
As far as large estates go, the plantations of Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and James Monroe were close to each other in Central Virginia. That same trio each served two four-year terms consecutively -- something that we would not see again until Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama each was re-elected to a second term.
Five years after John Adams and Thomas Jefferson died on July 4, James Monroe died July 4, 1831.
Adams, was the second president (like his father), who did not own slaves and never served in the military. He was fiercely anti-slavery, as is well-known, and it characterized his time in Congress, after he was president. I cannot think of another president who disliked his time as president as much as Adams.
Adams kept a pet alligator at the White House and liked to swim (nude, legend has it) in the Potomac River, presumably without the accompaniment of his alligator. Scholars have rated him to be the most intelligent man to ever serve as president (highest IQ), and I have my own ideas about who had the lowest (no, not anyone in the past 50 years).
Adams had witnessed battles of the Revolution, and met the founders of our nation, as his father was among them. He, along with Martin Van Buren, is considered a bridge from the founders to the Civil War, as he served with Abraham Lincoln in the House of Representatives. When Adams collapsed in the Capitol and died in the building two days later, the young Lincoln was appointed to plan his memorial.
Jackson railed against the Electoral College, which should surprise no one as it delayed his rise to the presidency by four years.
He was the first president to survive an assassination attempt, when the would-be assassin's guns both misfired. Legend has it that this pissed Jackson off enough to attack the man with his cane. Politicians surrounding president Jackson overtook and restrained the assassin, including Davy Crockett. Before he was president, Jackson had already been shot at least twice, and was carrying a bullet from one encounter in his chest.
He has a (probably well-deserved) awful reputation for his policies that were brutal against the Native Americans. In light of this it is surprising that he adopted two Native American orphans, both of whom died prior to Jackson's inauguration as president.
We see Jackson all the time because he is depicted on the $20 bill. In the past, Jackson appeared on the $5, $10 and $50 as well as Confederate money.
His Tennessee plantation grew cotton, making him plenty of money on the work of 100+ slaves.
Van Buren holds the distinction of being the first to serve as president who was born in the United States while also being the only president to grow up speaking any language other than English, in his case, it was Dutch.
The Red Fox of Kinderhook, as he was sometimes called, served as governor of New York for about 10 weeks in 1829.
Van Buren weathered the sex scandal during Andrew Jackson's first term, and made an enemy of Vice President John Calhoun in the process. Calhoun thought his vote to deny Van Buren a presidential appointment would kill his career, instead, it bolstered Van Buren's image and helped put him on track to replace Calhoun as Jackson's running mate in 1832.
As vice president, Van Buren was close to Jackson, one of his top advisors. He was swept into office as Jackson's successor, and quickly swept out four years later -- something we will see again as former vice presidents rarely get two full terms of their own.
William Henry Harrison beat him badly in the election of 1840, which did not stop Van Buren from attempting to run again in 1844 and 1848. The voters wanted no more of him, it would seem.
He did write an autobiography, which was lengthy, but failed to mention his wife, and did not cover the years of his presidency.
In the past six months, I was struck by how often Harrison came up in the my reading of history from the 19th Century. He was a player in the years before he became president, although he did not have much of a chance for substantial accomplishments as president.
The common story about Harrison is that he refused an overcoat and hat for his inauguration and proceeded to give the longest inaugural speech ever on a freezing day in March. His friend Daniel Webster (appointed as Harrison's secretary of state) had, of course, edited it for him, cutting it down to two hours for being too lengthy.
Despite all the stories for years about Harrison's long speech without a coat getting him sick, Harrison did not become ill until three weeks later. Nine days later, Harrison was dead from what was believed to be pneumonia. Years later, we found out it was probably typhoid fever that stemmed from the poor sanitation at the time, basically contact with an infected person's poop.
And that, quite simply is Harrison, a man who is seldom rated as a good or bad president because his term was so brief. I have heard from those who rated him highest, as he did not have any time to mess things up too badly in 30 days and 12 hours.
Yet after his presidency, Tyler supported states rights and was elected to the Confederate Congress. He had some 40 slaves and he never freed any of them (he died in 1862, in the midst of the Civil War), although he believed slavery was evil.
Tyler vetoed bills as presidents have before and after his term, but he was the first to see Congress override his veto. He worked to have Texas admitted as a state, perhaps earning him the recognition he received as Tyler, Texas, was named in his honor. However, Texas officially became a state after Tyler left office.
Tyler took over after William Henry Harrison died early in his term, Both men were born in Virginia, but Harrison had moved around, so it was not his "home state" at the time of the election.
The strangest thing about John Tyler is that although he was born when George Washington was president, he has living grandsons (at least as of earlier this year).
When Tyler died in 1862, President Abraham Lincoln did nothing to honor the former president, a traitor.
Polk was brilliant -- he came back from a series of childhood illnesses to begin formal education at about 18, entered college a few years later and graduated with honors. First Lady Sarah Childress Polk was equally smart and educated, and she worked beside him as his personal White House secretary for 10-12 hours a day, sometimes more.
Of course, no president ever served as speaker of the house aside from Polk, who ran against James Buchanan, the only man born in the 18th Century to become president after Polk. Buchanan was Polk's secretary of state.
Polk set four goals as president: to reduce tariffs, acquire the Oregon territory, re-establish the independent treasury, and acquire California and New Mexico from Mexico. He achieved his four goals and fulfilled a promise to not run for a second term, the first president who did not seek a second term. He was decisive and deliberate. A standout among the presidents between the founders and Abraham Lincoln.
Polk left office at 53 and was dead 103 days later -- the shortest retirement of anyone to survive his years in office and youngest former president to die in retirement. He got sick touring the south before sanitation became a thing...
Harry Truman remarked that Polk was "a great president. Said what he intended to do and did it." Certainly a great president, and perhaps the best president who most people forget.
Taylor, called "Old Rough and Ready," served as a major general, what we now call a two-star general. Although Washington had been a lieutenant general (three star today), the rank was not used in Taylor's time, until the Civil War more than 10 years after his death.
As a 40-year military man, Taylor never held any public offices before he was elected president. His election provided him with both the first time he actually experienced voting in his life, and once the result was known, his first chance to meet his running mate, Millard Fillmore.
Taylor did not appreciate the threat of secession, he threatened to hang anyone who tried -- starting with his son-in-law, Jefferson Davis. The future president of the Confederacy, Davis, was not Taylor's favorite person as Sarah Knox Taylor Davis died as a teen three months after she married Davis. The romantic Davis waited 10 years to marry again and took his second wife to Sarah's grave during the honeymoon.
He oddly owned slaves and opposed the spread of slavery to western states. It is believed he would have vetoed the "Compromise of 1850" that admitted California as a free state and settled some slavery-related disputes -- but he died. Strangely, the slave-owning Taylor had died with his stance against slavery in the Southwest, allowing Millard Fillmore, a New Yorker who did not own slaves, to compromise with legislators in the slaveholding states.
Taylor is considered a pretty lousy president, but the best among the members of the Whig party. Keep in mind, the other members were William Henry Harrison, who spent a month as president; John Tyler, who was expelled from his own party as president and was ineffective at best; and Millard Fillmore, a man we'll get to soon enough.
Fillmore never met Taylor before the election, although they wrote a couple letters during the election year. They were opposites in many ways. The best-dressed president until at least Chester Alan Arthur, Fillmore wanted to show everyone he was his own man, and he immediately fired everyone in Taylor's cabinet as soon as he took over.
Fillmore, from upstate New York, accepted the compromise of 1850 that Taylor had rejected. The compromise allowed California to enter the nation as a free state, while the Fugitive Slave Act was passed, allowing slaveowners to better track down runaways in the north.
The compromise didn't really give either side what they wanted, and Fillmore was content knowing that it ignored questions of other states by keeping land added following the Mexican War to remain "territories." He thought he had reached a compromise that answered the slavery question for good, when tensions had grown worse.
Although Fillmore was from the north, he resented the troublemakers of the abolition movement, and he believed freeing slaves would disrupt the southern economy that accounted for some 60 percent of U.S. exports.
Fillmore completed his term, having been denied a chance at a full term of his own by his party. His wife attended Franklin Pierce's inauguration with him, caught a cold and was dead within two weeks.
He returned in 1856 to run as a member of the Know Nothing Party, and ended up winning just one state, Maryland.
Fillmore is viewed as one of several lousy presidents leading up Abraham Lincoln, a president that Fillmore criticized often. His son was also named Millard, but if my experience is any guide, the name never really caught on.
He entered the presidency shortly after his last remaining child, his son, had died in a tragic accident.
He affirmed his oath on a law book rather than swearing upon a Bible. He was not in any way a popular president.
However, Pierce left office after four years with his cabinet still in place. This never occurred again.
Wheatland is the last place you ever want to visit if you want to learn something about James Buchanan. The guides are trained to discuss the home's furnishings and paintings.
Buchanan is one of many presidents with military service, but he is the only one who served as an enlisted man, not an officer. He lost a finger in combat. Lewis and Clark planned to take the young Buchanan with them on their exploration of the Louisiana Purchase, however, he had a problem with his buttocks that prevented it (an archery injury, it was said).
He loved wine, which earned him a reputation in Drinkinson -- I mean Dickinson College in Carlisle, where students continue his tradition of heavy drinking.
The only bachelor president, Buchanan had a special relationship with William Rufus DeVane King. He was likely homosexual, although Buchanan's nieces destroyed many of his personal letters after his death. Their affections earned them the nicknames "Aunt Fancy and Miss Nancy." King, vice president under Franklin Pierce, died just over a month after his term began, although he was outside the United States for all but two days of his vice presidency.
Buchanan took office in the following term, and is believed to be the first president to wear blue jeans in his presidential office, but not in the Oval Office.
Buchanan poorly dealt with the rising tensions and start of the Civil War, earning him a reputation of one of America's worst presidents. The presidents who served before him also dealt poorly with the problem, and the only man I consider a worse president came four and a half years after Buchanan left office, when Andrew Johnson took over for Lincoln.
The next time you visit Washington, walk down to Meridian Hill Park, where you may gaze in amazement at the James Buchanan Memorial. I personally wonder why anyone would want a memorial for the man, but then again, we have airports named for both excellent and terrible presidents....
An enthusiastic baseball player, Lincoln just might have made an excellent first baseman. Legend -- and pure legend, in my view -- has it that he was called from a baseball game with the news that he had been nominated as a candidate for president.
Stories also had Lincoln as a young and fearsome wrestler, although I have my doubts as to their veracity as well. He was an officer in the Black Hawk War, and made light of his capabilities as a soldier, although he did write about all the blood he lost to mosquitoes during that time.
Lincoln loved a good, bawdy joke. He loved to tell of visiting British people who had a picture of George Washington in the outhouse. Mentioned after he visited the privvy, Lincoln replied that nothing makes the British shit faster than George Washington.
Bill O'Reilly wrote a stupid book, Killing Lincoln, that traced the president's final weeks, and scenes placed Lincoln in the Oval Office of the White House. Lincoln was dead for 44 years before the first Oval Office was built in the White House, and it was more than 20 years after that the building saw the creation of the modern Oval Office. Lincoln's office was in the location now occupied by the Lincoln Bedroom, but he obviously never slept there, and it's not really the same room when you consider how the White House was completely torn apart from within during the Truman renovations (all floors, interior walls and ceilings were removed and replaced while a huge new basement was dug).
Lincoln, like other presidents, did not really like the White House, especially because the heat and humidity of that section of Washington in the summer. He liked the cottage at Soldiers' Home, now the Lincoln Cottage, that was used by presidents before and after him; it was Lincoln's primary residence from June to November at the least. You can now visit the renamed "Lincoln Cottage," thus named because the Chester Alan Arthur Cottage doesn't carry the same prestige, I suppose. And yes, Lincoln did often visit recovering soldiers at Soldiers' Home.
At the time, there was actually talk of moving the executive mansion, which died with Lincoln himself. The building was just the executive mansion until the assassination, after that, it took on a deeper meaning and mythology in American minds because Lincoln had lived there.
Lincoln took an interest in the arms used by his army, attending tests and even test firing weapons himself on grounds that today we consider part of the Smithsonian Institution and the National Mall.
Lincoln was taken home by a funeral train to Illinois, where he was buried. His body was moved several times, and his coffin was opened five times. The final time, they verified it was the fallen president in 1901 and buried him in a steel cage, and then poured about 28,000 pounds of concrete on top of him. Nobody will reach him anytime soon.
Johnson came from illiterate parents and only learned to read and write in the early days of his marriage. His profession as a tailor and state of primary affiliation provided his nickaname, The Tennessee Tailor (although he was born in Raleigh, N.C.).
Lincoln added Johnson as his running mate for his second term. During Lincoln's first term, Johnson had remained loyal to the Union, and he freed his slaves a month after the Battle of Gettysburg.
After taking office, Lincoln and Johnson would meet just once, on the day Lincoln was assassinated. A conspirator was assigned to kill Johnson that day, but Johnson lucked out when the guy got drunk instead.
He did insist upon the freedom of the slaves being a requirement for re-admission to the Union, but his policies concerning the former rebels were generally too lax for the leaders in the North. To the first point, he was a strong supporter of the 13th Amendment, which freed the slaves. In contrast, the racist Johnson opposed the 14th Amendment, which granted slaves citizenship.
Johnson, a Democrat who ran with Lincoln under the National Union banner, broke with the Republican leaders on Reconstruction. This eventually led to a series of vetoes by Johnson and then his impeachment. The first president to be impeached, Johnson avoided conviction by one vote.
Johnson did oversee William Seaward as he purchased Alaska from Russia for $7.2 million.
Despite his impeachment and problems in office, he was considered a serious candidate for the 1868 election, mainly because his blanket pardon of Confederates not already indicted was well-received by southern whites.
Grant apparently wanted nothing to do with Johnson during the inauguration, and Johnson thought so little of the general he skipped it entirely.
Grant was seen in photos through the Civil War sporting a beard, like many officers and enlisted men. In the most popular images that come to mind, Grant is seen with a beard that is trimmed relatively short, in comparison to some men's long, bushy beards. However, in the first year of the war, Brig. Gen. Grant sat for a portrait sporting a much longer beard.
Grant ascended to the presidency in 1969, with both of his parents, who were from Pennsylvania, living to see the day -- the first for a president. He was the youngest president up to that point.
I admire some aspects of his presidency, especially when he stood up for civil rights. Already despised by some southerners over the war, his defense of the freedmen's rights did not go well with them, which I think led to a smear campaign that made his presidency seem worse than it was.
Grant's character led to him standing up for native rights in a humane and progressive agenda that set him apart from past presidents -- also forgotten in many descriptions. For the scandals that marred his years as president, Grant was probably guilty of trusting the wrong people more than anything.
When he became president, Grant had to give up his military pension, and back then, presidents received no pension until about 70 years after Grant was dead. Congress restored Grant's military pension after he left office.
Grant did enjoy speed: He once drag-raced in a carriage against President Andrew Johnson in Manhattan, and he received a $20 fine for riding his horse too fast in Washington.
The man who served as our 19th president wanted to change the system to allow presidents to serve just one, six-year term. He did not seek a second term.
His wife, Lucy, was the first First Lady to have a college degree.
When he ran for president as a Republican, his chief opponent from the party was former Speaker of the House James G. Blaine. I got to know Dr. James G. Blaine, a descendant, in one of my former jobs. He was a classy man who had once run for Congress himself.
Hayes wanted to reform the Civil Service appointment service of his time. He didn't like the political appointee system in place. Let's get back to that later.
Hayes was followed in office by another Ohio Republican, James Garfield. Then followed two New York presidents, Chester Alan Arthur and Grover Cleveland. This pattern of two presidents with a primary affiliation in one state followed by two presidents with a primary affiliation in a second state has never been repeated.
Yes, since I know you are dying to know, Rutheford Hayes held the first Easter Egg Roll at the White House.
Garfield appointed several African-Americans, or freedmen (in the language of the time) to government posts, including Frederick Douglass. He also worked with former Confederate Gen. William Mahone, who became a U.S. Senator with somewhat progressive ideas (for a Southerner) when it came to African Americans, regarding appointments to patronage jobs. My wife's family members are descendants of Little Billy Mahone.
Garfield, a Republican, had been president for two months when he headed for vacation, planning to board a train in Washington. Charles J. Guiteau, a man who was mentally disturbed, shot Garfield. In a sane moment in court, Guiteau said, "The doctors killed Garfield. I just shot him!" He was probably right. Garfield received treatments, including doctors probing for the bullet in his body, that would not have killed him, left where it was. But Garfield died 79 days later, of blood poisoning.
The loss of the president thrust people into action, and a massive 180-foot tall mausoleum, where you may view the caskets of Garfield and his wife. Not sure any other president has his casket on permanent display.
The greatest accomplishment of Garfield's presidency was that his death was used to campaign for the creation of the Civil Service system to replace pure patronage for government jobs, a corrupt system that led many to seek appointments from the president and ultimately led to many unqualified people responsible for government functions. The call to end the pure political appointment system came prior to Garfield's presidency, and its success afterwards, but in part due to the this campaign that said the competition for appointments led a failed office seeker and neurologically damaged man, Guiteau, to shoot the president.
He picked up the banner of civil service, and thanks to support of those who used Garfield's murder by a deranged officer seeker under the patronage system, saw it pass.
Oddly, Arthur was not all that well regarded when he took over, but had a largely sterling reputation when he left office that seems to have tarnished over time. He probably made some of the best appointments to the Cabinet and other posts of any president of the era. He deserves a better reputation than the one he's often been given -- especially when you consider just how ill he was as president in an era when kidney disease was not handled well.
Arthur was diagnosed with Bright's Disease, what is now called nephritis, or inflammation of the kidneys. That's why he didn't really push hard to be nominated for a second term. He was dead about two years later, at age 57.
Or no other president married a teenager while in office. Or no other president hid a potentially serious tumor from the public and had it secretly removed on a boat.
No, Cleveland did something that others have tried, and a few more have considered or attempted: He returned to the presidency four years after moving out of the White House. Sure, rumors from 1988 through the 1990s suggested Gerald Ford or (after 1992) George Bush would come back and recapture the presidency, but Cleveland (a distant relative of the military hero for whom the city in Ohio is named) actually did it.
In his three runs for the presidency, Cleveland had three running mates, starting with Thomas Hendricks, the first vice president, who died eight months into his term. Allen Thurman joined the ticket next, when Cleveland lost to Benjamin Harrison. Adlai Stevenson joined the ticket four years later, when Cleveland was elected again.
The "Baby Ruth" candy bar was allegedly named after President Cleveland's daughter, Ruth, who was born between Cleveland's terms as president. She died at age 12, some 17 years before the candy bar debuted during the popularity of a certain baseball player.
In his second and final retirement from the presidency, Cleveland retired to his birth state of New Jersey, where he was a trustee for Princeton, where Woodrow Wilson was the university president. His last memorable political foray was probably his opposition to allowing women to vote.
First term link: http://www.ipl.org/div/potus/gcleveland.html
No president since Harrison had a full beard as president, a Civil War general, unlike Cleveland, who had paid a replacement in the draft.
Harrison started a tradition for presidents, as he was the first to display an indoor Christmas tree in the White House. In the era, this makes sense, except you would think another president would do it a bit earlier.
He was also the president responsible for wiring the White House for electricity, although he was actually scared to turn it on.
Despite cutting down one tree for indoor display, Harrison did sign the law allowing presidents to set aside lands as "forest preserves," and he found 22 million acres to protect by the time he left office.
First Lady Caroline Harrison became ill and died during Harrison's final year as president, which led both sides to have low-key campaigns. Grover Cleveland and his growing family were back in office the following year.
After leaving office, Harrison remarried, to the dismay of his adult children. He and second wife Mary had a daughter Elizabeth, who later became a lawyer. Elizabeth married a relative of James Blaine, a man I mentioned previously who had served in Harrison's cabinet. Elizabeth's daughter ended up marrying the great-grandson of President James Garfield.
If you go looking for Benjamin Harrison, you will find him buried in a plot with both wives.
Second term: http://www.ipl.org/div/potus/gcleveland.html
When a gold prospector heard McKinley had been nominated in his run for president, he took it upon himself to rename Denali in honor of McKinley, although it was finally named Denali again in 2015.
He was the first president to ride in a car while in office, and he used the telephone for campaigning.
Like James Garfield, another Civil War vet from Ohio who was shot and died in office, McKinley's above ground resting place is available and on view.
Note: McKinley also attended Allegheny College in Meadville.
Speaking of Franklin Roosevelt, at his wedding, Theodore Roosevelt gave away the bride, Eleanor.
TR, who preferred being called Theodore or Colonel (never Teddy), was his own PR campaign manager when he bragged about his exploits in the Battle of San Juan. While he promoted himself and his Rough Riders, of course, a regiment of African American soldiers were the ones who played the key role in the battle and made the difference. Roosevelt was awarded the Medal of Honor for that battle in 2001, about 100 years after he served as president.
As I have written about previously, Roosevelt's son, Quentin, left school to enlist and serve in World War I, where he was killed. Quentin, Pennsylvania, is one of several places named in his honor. Schools and a military installation were also named for Quentin, but were generally replaced through the years.
The former president's other son, Theodore Roosevelt III (who was known as Theodore Roosevelt Jr.) served in World War I and landed with his troops as a general in the D-Day invasion of Normandy, and died of a heart attack soon after. Quentin Roosevelt II, son of the general and named for his uncle, also landed on D-Day. Gen. Theodore Roosevelt III was buried at Normandy, and his brother's remains were moved next to his.
Thus, two of TR's sons saw duty in World War I, with the survivor of the pair continuing to serve through World War II, along with three grandsons of the former president. This service -- especially the death of young Quentin in World War I -- was inspiring to the people of the United States. It is even more remarkable today, when it sounds far-fetched to imagine the child of a former president volunteering for and dying in the war -- and two of TR's sons did that (the general did volunteer for dangerous duty in WWII, even if he did perish from a heart attack).
Following his presidency, TR went on an expedition to South American in 1913-1914. A minor injury would lead to a serious infection that ultimately was partially to blame for cutting his life short. He died in 1919.
Of course, it is fitting that a national park is named in honor of the man who preserved so much of our nation's natural heritage.
Taft, as you see, sported a splendid mustache and was the final president to have facial hair (at least of those I will be covering in my challenge). He was known for his considerable size, he was fairly tall at 5'11" and weighed more than 300 pounds.
All presidents seem to have a place in society in which they occupy an intersection of modern vs. traditional. I could probably bridge the old days with modern ways in a different way for each of them. For Taft, he was the final president to have a cow at the White House and the first to own a car.
Taft appointed few African Americans to federal posts in the north, and he removed dozens in the south.
Although Taft was not known for athletics, he did attend baseball's Opening Day and threw out the first pitch (poorly, everyone said), beginning that tradition.
Taft rests today in Arlington National Cemetery, which also serves as President John Kennedy's final resting place.
Wilson, the first president with a PhD, is often associated with New Jersey, where he served as governor and as the president of Princeton University from 1902 to 1910. However, it's best to consider Wilson a product of his birth state of Virginia, and his early years in South Carolina and Georgia.
His southern years probably helped form his godawful views on Civil Rights. He moved to segregate the government, including where it had been integrated, and kept the military segregated during World War I (actually, The Great War at the time). His views toward blacks are simply repugnant and vile.
Women picketed the White House in support of women's suffrage during Wilson's term, which was a fairly new thing at the time, and his reaction to them was quite negative (he may have even threatened them, as I recall). Eventually, he did support the movement.
Wilson's wife Ellen died in 1914, allowing him to marry Edith Galt Wilson a year and a half later. Following Wilson's illness that led to a severe stroke in 1919, Edith Wilson and the president's doctors misled the nation on the severity of the president's condition. For a year and a half, she essentially served as president, making decisions on his behalf.
Woodrow Wilson made some appearances and gave speeches, but rarely, if ever, had meetings with his cabinet and staff during this time, allowing Edith Wilson as the go-between or "steward."
Woodrow Wilson is the only president who remained in Washington after his death. You may visit his grave at the National Cathedral.
Edith Wilson died on Woodrow's birthday in 1961, the year she attended the inauguration of John F. Kennedy.
Harding, known by nickname Winnie, dodged rumors of having blacks in his family tree to win the election,(DNA says no) in which he campaigned on a return to normalcy following World War I. The grandfatherly image of Harding was thought to take the nation back to a simpler time, and more isolationist views. In fact, Harding was clear about this, striving for " not submergence in internationality, but sustainment in triumphant nationality."
The Harding Administration started off by sounding a foul note: He named Albert Fall, a buddy, to become the Secretary of the Interior. As a former rancher and miner, Fall was given responsibility for the management and conservation of National Parks, National Monuments and all federal lands.
The administration's reputation dropped when Fall was convicted of taking bribes from the oil industry. His bad judgment was compounded by surrounding himself with other men who robbed the country blind.
Harding and his wife, Florence, had no children, although he served as a stepfather to her son, until his death in 1915, years before he ran for president. Harding had a child out of wedlock with teenager Nan Britton a couple years before he ran for president.
He also had a much longer affair with Carrie Phillips, and she and her husband blackmailed Harding to keep quiet as he ran for president. Evidence surfaced after his death to prove it.
Overall, Harding was a terrible president, surpassed by Andrew Johnson and James Buchanan, and scarcely any other president, despite the outpouring of national mourning when he died in office.
Harding had been the first directly elected from a U.S. Senate seat, and like the next one, John Kennedy, he died before completing a single term.
Harding died of the effects of heart disease while on a tour of the western states, a tactic he used to distract from the scandals that had started to come to light. Richard Nixon later adopted this strategy with a trip to China.
Coolidge rose in the Republican ranks to serve as governor of Massachusetts, where a Boston police strike thrust him into the national spotlight. The police had issues, ranging from 70-hour work weeks, tasks like delivering tax notices, cost of providing their own uniforms/equipment and lack of payment for court appearances. These men were appalled when Gov. Coolidge (Boston police were then under state control) called them "traitors" and "deserters," although many were proud veterans from World War I or the Spanish American War. The strikers were fired and replacements received better pay and benefits.
Another juxtaposition in terms of technology was that in 1924 Coolidge was the first president to campaign for the job on the radio, however, he was the last president who never flew in a plane or owned a car. He refused to ever use the phone for presidential business.
Coolidge liked to have Vaseline rubbed on his head, and he worked just four hours a day as president, with ample time saved in the afternoon for his naps.
Coolidge's signature act as president, and perhaps the most long-lasting effect of his years in office, was the Immigration Act of 1924, the most stringent limit of immigration the United States had seen to that point. This is the law to study should you ever wonder why Anne Frank, the passengers of the St. Louis and thousands of European Jews were not able to escape the evils of the Nazis. This is the law that deeply offended the Japanese, setting back our relations. If you think the law would make Coolidge the hero of today's anti-immigration Republicans, keep in mind it set no limits on Latin American immigration.
Despite being viewed as dull and hardly personable at all, Coolidge had a speaking voice that was effective in radio. Ronald Reagan viewed Coolidge as among the best presidents, the exact opposite of my assessment.
Asked about his interest in a second full term as president, Coolidge provided the verbose, eloquent and thoughtful answer "I choose not to run for president in 1928." Not sure if he gave such a colorful answer when Republicans approached him about replacing Herbert Hoover four years later, and he refused again.
Upon hearing the news that former President Coolidge had died, Dorothy Parker quipped, "How could they tell?"
His accomplishments, however, are staggering.
As The Great War (now World War I) flared in Europe, the wealthy Hoover left his private mining interests on the back burner to see that 120,000 Americans escaped from danger caused by the war in Europe. He personally led efforts to support the people of Belgium after the Germans invaded. About 7 million Belgians faced starvation at the time. His efforts later broadened and he helped people in 20 war-torn nations.
In the early 1920s, Hoover was instrumental in getting aid to 20 million people in famine-struck Soviet Union. Yes, he did this in the face of criticism for aiding people under communism.
President Harry Truman beseeched Hoover to aid hunger relief efforts again after World War II. Regardless of anything else in Hoover's life, the sheer number of people he fed is astounding.
I realize that Hoover was seen as callous and unfeeling in relation to the hardships of the Great Depression. His relentless criticism of Franklin Roosevelt was probably misguided.I have no problem saying he did not turn out to be a strong president.
But this man, the first president who donated his presidential salary to charity, saw that people who needed food got it.
When it came to feeding the world's hungry, I agree with the lyrics to the theme to All in the Family: "Mister, we could use a man like Herbert Hoover again."
Roosevelt had been struck with a serious illness at 39, which caused his paralysis and a prolonged fever. At the time, he was diagnosed with polio.
A year after his illness, Roosevelt set a goal of being able to walk down a short driveway. Either he did it just once, or not at all. Accounts vary. All told, he spent seven to ten years hellbent on trying to regain the use of his legs.
Roosevelt returned to public life in 1924 at the Democratic National Convention, however, it was his appearance at the 1928 convention that was more memorable.
Roosevelt forced himself with a stiff-legged gait to walk to the podium for this speech. He took a few steps -- that's it. Then he held on for dear life as he spoke words that careened him into history. He convinced people he was "recovering," and he showed incredible strength with this speech. This enabled Roosevelt to become elected governor of New York, and got him in the running for president in 1932.
Regardless of what you have heard, people knew he was disabled when he ran for president in 1932. They simply had no idea to what degree. He did believe in swimming and other exercise, and his upper body was strong -- quite muscular. However, when he ran in 1932, Time magazine reported his exercise had allowed him to walk 100 feet without braces or canes.
In truth, Roosevelt relied on braces that hurt him and sliced into his legs to keep him upright, "10 pounds of steel," he called them -- the one, and I mean one, time he mentioned them. He had to be hoisted into bed, to reach the toilet and to get to his desk in the White House. Reporters who regularly covered the White House never asked him about it, and it would have seemed "rude" for them to notice, according to grandson Curtis Roosevelt. In the times, it was more than the gentleman's agreement.
Churchill noticed the disability (not all European leaders did), although he brushed it off because it appeared that Roosevelt had been brought in on wheels that it appeared a dignified entrance fit for a world leader -- writing after FDR's death, of course.
Most photographers agreed not to take pictures of his condition, and those that did were subject to the wrath of the Secret Service. He visited while staying in his car, and he appeared at the back of train to speak. When he disembarked trains, he did so in a separate area of the rail yards, far away from passenger terminals, for "security reasons," as they said.
It was rare for American political adversaries to mention it, and those who did gained no traction from it. Mussolini mocked him, as did lower ranking Nazis. It is almost strange that this did not happen more often.
In the end, the wealthy New Yorker (New York State) made quite an impression on his countrymen as a man who fought for their welfare and led them through the war. He founded and raised millions for what was to become the March of Dimes, although its initial cause (polio) would be shown to not have caused his disability. Roosevelt likely had Guillan Barre, though an unusual case in some ways.
Roosevelt spoke of his disability once, when, weeks from his death, he briefly apologized for sitting down to address Congress. He refused to complain or to accept pity or sympathy. He said he had no time for "sob stuff."
Yes, we have a monument to this man, and his face on the dime.
While many people remember that Truman served as a captain in World War I, his service continued as an active reservist up until the early 1940s, even as he served as a judge and then a U.S. Senator from Missouri. Despite the jokes I constantly hear about a dearth of "liberal war heroes," Truman served on the front in World War I and continued his service during his political career.
During his time in office, Truman oversaw the renovations of the White House, but that was because he had no choice: His addition of a balcony exposed the problems with the building's structural integrity, and both his own bedroom and bathroom were closed for safety. The exterior walls were then shored up as the interior was torn out and built anew, from the top-level ceiling to the digging of a new basement.
Truman started the ball rolling when it came to the parties shift on Civil Rights when he desegregated the armed forces and forbid discrimination in Civil Service jobs. He honestly worked as hard as he could as president for as long as he was able. He recognized two World Wars had ended the days when the United States could pretend it existed as an isolated nation, and his foreign policy agenda recognized protecting our interests at home and abroad.
Truman retired from the presidency and refused corporate posts and other potential ways of earning a lot of money. Truman received just his paltry U.S. Army pension until Congress passed the Former Presidents Act in 1958, granting him a presidential pension. Herbert Hoover accepted this pension despite his considerable wealth as to not embarrass Truman.
Truman had left office largely unpopular with a tense inauguration of a former friend, General Dwight Eisenhower. He and Bess boarded a train home to Missouri, surprised by a small crowd who gave him a round of applause as he stood waiting for the train in Washington. They mingled on the train and said hello to passengers with no Secret Service protection.
He would buy a Chrysler in retirement, and the next year, he drove it back for a visit to Washington, D.C., and New York. I really could not picture George W. Bush doing the same.
Over the years, a man unpopular as he left office gained a great deal of respect, rising to what some say is the "near great" rank of presidents.
The young "Little Ike" grew up reading about George Washington, a man he named as his favorite president. I can't help but mention that Presidents James Buchanan and Abraham Lincoln picked Washington, too.
Although he moved to Kansas as a toddler, Eisenhower ended up back in Texas with the Army, where he met his future wife, Mamie.
He commanded tanks in the Great War (later World War I) era, which I believe had a great influence on his generalship and use of armor during World War II. He was stationed and served at Fort Meade in Maryland both prior to and after the war. Of course, that fort is named for George Gordon Meade, the Civil War general in command at the Battle of Gettysburg, and it was Gettysburg he was first placed in command of tanks, where his unit practiced using tanks covering the ground where Pickett's Charge happened (as I have said previously, the Pickett Pettigrew Assault is a better name).
During World War II, Eisenhower wanted a functional light jacket that could be worn on its own or under a heavy field coat. He wanted it to have style. The "Ike Jacket" was modeled on his specs, a distinctive waist-length jacket neatly tailored at the waist, where it stops barely covering the man's belt. He wanted it functional for everyone, so it did not get special ornamentation or fancy buttons when he wore it. Ike was buried wearing his Ike Jacket.
Eisenhower is obviously well known for standing up for Civil Rights, for backing the creation of the interstate highways and his role as a Cold War president.
He appointed five justices to the Supreme Court as president, including influential Chief Justice Earl Warren, liberal William Brennan and very conservative Potter Stewart. Both Hawaii and Alaska became states during his presidency.
Eisenhower did not follow his mother's religion, in fact, he waited until he was president, when he was baptized in the Presbyterian Church.
Eisenhower retired to his farm near Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, which is now part of the National Park Service. As he lay dying, he dictated a letter to Irving Berlin, thanking him for providing music that he had enjoyed for so many years.
The son of Joseph Kennedy, JFK's 1960 campaign was bankrolled by the family money, which was largely money Joseph Kennedy made in stocks -- including short sales and other deals that allowed him to profit from the crash in 1929.
With wealth like Herbert Hoover, Kennedy became the second president to donate his salary to charity (He donated his paychecks from Congress, too). Few remember that another wealthy man ran for president in 1960: Nelson Rockefeller. Though he became vice president to Gerald Ford in the 1970s, Rockefeller lost the 1960 nomination to Richard Milhous Nixon, the vice president at the time. In the face of criticism about his father's money in the campaign, Kennedy joked that his father told him he wasn't paying for a landslide.
In respect to the things I heard about Kennedy's election, first, Kennedy won regardless of whether he won Illinois, where his father's influence was rumored to allow dead Democrats to vote. Second, he did wear a top hat to his inauguration, in a throwback tradition. Finally, he was the first president elected with the electoral votes of Hawaii, which had recently become a state at the time.
Kennedy did send 16,000 military "advisors" to Vietnam by 1963, which is what I call a "lot of advice." Ultimately, his death prevented us from knowing the response he would have had to the way the war developed. He called it their war, but also did not think we should withdraw.
Kennedy is remembered for setting our course for the space race, for abolishing the federal death penalty and for his role in the founding of the Peace Corps. He stood up for Civil Rights, including backing the Freedom Riders and taking a stand against hospital segregation.
Johnson made some sympathy calls from Air Force One's radio phone, but it has also been reported that he was chatty about his plans as president -- outlining parts of his Great Society vision.
Johnson relied on statements of completing Kennedy's unfinished work to gain support during the 14 months he served in Kennedy's term, including getting the Civil Rights Act passed.
Thus, the flip of the parties on Civil Rights was complete: The Democrats had embraced the movement and shed 100 years of standing in the way of progress. Senator Barry Goldwater, who had voted against the Civil Rights Act, challenged Johnson in the 1964 campaign, and he won the deep south, including Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia. Johnson ultimately won in a landslide, which is ironic, since Kennedy called him "Landslide" based on Johnson's narrow legislative victory by less than 100 votes years earlier.
Most of Johnson's Great Society became law, creating Medicare, investing in education and many other programs.
Since a president is now permitted to serve a maximum of 10 years (if a vice president takes over for less than two years remaining on a term, he may be elected twice on his own), Johnson was eligible to run in 1968, but he did not.
Eisenhower would keep Nixon, of course, setting up the race between his vice president and John F. Kennedy in 1960. Ike was never friends with Nixon, and did not help his 1960 campaign when he could not think of one of Nixon's initiatives that shaped policy of his administration.
When Nixon took office in January 1969, Truman, Lyndon Johnson and Eisenhower were all still living, but by the end of his time in office, Nixon was the only president still breathing.
Nixon basked in the glow of the Apollo 11 mission that took three Americans to the moon and back, however, he never even mentioned Kennedy in connection with Apollo. He then worked to set NASA's course on the creation of the Space Shuttle, forcing manned space flights to lag in low-Earth orbits ever since the final Apollo mission. While Gemini prepared for Apollo and Apollo took us to the moon and back, the low-Earth orbit missions had no grand vision or goal.
Known for playing the piano, Nixon also could play saxophone, clarinet, accordion and violin. Honestly, I can hardly picture him playing music at all.
Nixon had a certain way about him. He said he did not believe in working without a suit coat and tie, and he said he never did. He said he did feel comfortable wearing a "sport shirt" at Camp David, but never left the private area of the White House dressed down.
As president, he never invited any associate to call him by his name; everyone simply called him "Mr. President," and that was what he wanted. He said he had paid the same respect to Eisenhower, always calling him "Mr. President" and never referring to him in any conversation with others EVER as anything besides "the president" or "the general."
After his first term as president, Nixon sought to use his second term to bang the drum of small government and to get rid of as much as he could from the Great Society of Johnson. He called this the New American Revolution. He got basically nowhere with his domestic goals, faced with the Watergate crisis and Congress aligned against him.
He ended his presidency leaving the White House by helicopter and then boarding a plane to California. He insisted on allowing photographers and TV crews access to his final morning at the White House because "his supporters deserved it."
I do not have time or space to detail his crimes, and I need not to do this because we have 40 years of study about them. More than pictures of Nixon, his wife, his daughters and sons-in-law hugging before he walked out of the White House, his supporters deserved better from the man they elected. And so did the rest of the nation.
You may recall that in 1988, Sen. Lloyd Bentsen told Sen. Dan Quayle during a vice presidential debate, "Senator, you're no Jack Kennedy." Of course, Bentsen was telling the truth about knowing Kennedy well: John F. Kennedy, Bentsen and Gerald Ford were assigned offices near each other when they served in Congress. Ford and Kennedy knew each other quite well from those years, even though in the public's memory, Kennedy thought of in that early 1960s period and Ford is rooted in that 1970s era when he supplanted Spiro T. Agnew, and then Richard Nixon. But it's true: These men who were very different presidents used to walk around Washington together.
Ford should be remembered for his calm leadership and steady hand when he took over for Nixon. Ford was sure of himself, but relaxed. He put others at ease. He focused on the job and did not try to extend an imperial presidency that stretched his powers as others before and after him had done. Subordinates Dick Cheney and Don Rumsfeld learned from this that taking the powers of the executive branch to the extreme was exactly what was needed when they showed up later in the George W. Bush administration.
Ford served out Nixon's term to be defeated by Jimmy Carter in 1976. He called that Election Day -- which ended up closer than anyone believed it would the summer before -- the worst night of his life.
Ford and Carter developed a strong bond, and the two men shared breakfast as ex-presidents when they happened to be in the same city for 20+ years after Carter left office.
Nixon and Ford did not share the same friendship before Ford ascended to the vice presidency, and then the presidency. At least in some ways to show the public the pardon was not a deal with close friends, they kept their distance after Nixon left office. They did always take time to call each other to wish a happy birthday, and sometimes for other holiday greetings.
Years ago, I researched the 1911 destruction that resulted from the failure of the Austin Dam in Austin, Pennsylvania. A professor from Mansfield University produced a DVD about the event, narrated by Willie Nelson, the singer who has the same name as a key person from this chapter of Pennsylvania history. The living presidents were all approached to read the statement issued back in 1911 by President William Howard Taft, and all declined except for Ford. Watching the video, I was struck by how Ford exuded a stately and reassuring tone as he read Taft's words for the DVD. I doubt most actors could have done better.
Ford, of course, enjoyed himself skiing and golfing in retirement, and he was talented at both, although he had once been caught on camera on his "fanny" (as he put it) during an otherwise great day of skiing.
He named Mrs. Doubtfire as his favorite movie, and he said he had thoroughly enjoyed the musical Hello, Dolly!
I never did hear what he thought of Dana Carvey's spoof of his possible death, "eaten by wolves."
Carter defeated Gerald Ford to become president, and he took office in 1977.
As president, he made human rights everywhere a priority, something that broke new ground and was not at all part of the plan of his successor. He believed in human rights above the establishment of far-right dictatorships as a hedge against communism, which led to our stance in the Vietnam War and the Iran-Contra Affair.
This drive for human rights was a drive for peace, and Carter pushed forward in this vein with the Camp David Accords, creating a lasting peace and recognition of human rights between Egypt and Israel. It was a far greater achievement than the results of efforts of the Republicans before and after him in the presidency.
Jimmy Carter set standards for honesty and justice in ways that allegedly successful presidents failed.
A man with an outstanding background in nuclear science, Carter visited Three Mile Island following the accident in 1979 and ordered a commission to investigate. He walked through places in Unit 2 where no one goes now. Workers spend four hours or less per year anywhere near Unit 2, and they only visit to ensure that everything is stable and secure since the last visit.
After his presidency, Carter became a role model for what a president can do. He has helped create a world for democracy in ways others have dreamed. He promoted the public health of the world on a scale that is unprecedented.
I know President Carter is more revered as a former president than as a president. This man's value of human rights was as rock solid in 1977 as it is today. That's why we should value his presidency more than many people do.
Reagan was famous as the Teflon President™, not because of his hair, but because scandals and the criminals in his administration never seemed to do much damage to Reagan himself.
One key reason for this was that Reagan was excellent at controlling his own image. When TV news reports aired stories about these misdeeds, they would look for recent video of the president, and he always seemed to be waving and smiling. If things are so bad, why is the president so happy, people thought.
This seemed to be part his strategy in that when tornadoes, earthquakes, floods and other terrible things happened, the administration acted quickly by sending VP George Bush. George Bush would visit the area and frown. He frowned a lot. I think Bush excelled in this role.
Reagan did address the nation following the Challenger disaster in 1986, as he did an excellent job reading aloud the speech Peggy Noonan had written for him. It ended with the memorable phrasing, describing how the crew "slipped the surly bonds of earth to touch the face of God." These words were borrowed from a World War II poet, as we all know.
Reagan was president as AIDS took root and spread in the United States. His communications staff thought it was worth joking about when reporters asked. Reagan forbid Surgeon General C. Everett Koop from saying anything about it during his first four-year term; Reagan himself kept silent until 1987.
Coming to his presidential run off service as governor where he fiercely backed teaching religious Creation "Science," Reagan announced that Mt. St. Helens put more pollutants in the air causing acid rain than human sources. His strong stance coming out against a volcano was interesting enough, but his assertion was patently false about an issue that was the global warming of its time. He took the lead from coal lobbyists, using their argument that the sources of acid rain cannot be pinpointed, which was completely absurd.
In international politics, Reagan felt it important to say on strong terms with South Africa, which he did, meeting many times with Botha, the pro-apartheid leader. He vetoed Congress' Anti-Apartheid Act and denounced sanctions against the nation. Congress overrode his veto and the sanctions proved valuable in helping to crush apartheid in the following years.
I do respect Reagan's optimism about America, and his vision and belief that our nation was always improving, always on the way up.
Bush is one of six presidents to serve in the U.S. Navy or Naval Reserve, following John F. Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter. Bush once dumped a plane off an aircraft carrier into the ocean. In another instance, his Avenger aircraft was shot down, and he was the lone survivor of the plane, lost during a battle around the Bonin Islands.
The man who was once captain of Yale's baseball team developed his own vision for the presidency, ramping up the War on Drugs that has been ongoing since the Nixon era.
Bush's Secretary of the Treasury, Catalina Villapando, was arrested and sent to federal prison during his term in office, making Bush the first president to have his own treasury secretary go to prison.
In another first, he is the only U.S. President to vomit on a foreign dignitary, as in January 1992, he vomited into the crotch of Kiichi Miyazawa during a visit to Japan.
As president, Bush was the only president to successfully veto a civil rights bill, the proposed Civil Rights Act of 1990, although he eventually backed into signing the Civil Rights Act of 1991, which was a much weaker type of civil rights protection. Bush's Immigration Act, one of his signature laws, helped raise immigration by 40 percent.
Bush also shamefully pardoned Caspar Willard Weinberger, the former secretary of defense who was indicted for the Iran Contra Scandal. Charged with perjury and obstruction of justice, Weinberger deserved a trial and prison.
During his vice presidency and presidency, Bush enjoyed recreational tennis, and was an excellent player for a man his age. He had a good-natured competitive streak with tennis, and he played members of Congress during his presidency. Despite my feelings about his politics, I am sorry to see his deterioration with vascular Parkinson's disease, as it has robbed him of the ability to stand and walk, a real shame for a man so fit later in life.
Bush also enjoyed horseshoes, and he organized a tournament a couple times a year as president for his extended family and those who worked at the White House. Not his Cabinet, it was for his drivers, cooks, stewards and cleaners. Bush emphatically said it was these people who made the White House a home for him, and they treated, and they will treat, the president's family the same way, regardless of who fills the office.
For his four years, they were his family. And he treated them with class, because that's the way he is.
Clinton continued the unfortunate tradition of presidents with embarrassing family members. Clinton had half-brother Roger Clinton Jr., a man who gave concerts to showcase an alleged musical talent. He reminded us of stellar exploits of Billy Carter and Patti Davis.
The man from Hope, Arkansas, came to Washington ready to take on economic issues. In his first year, he signed a budget law that gave tax breaks to millions of lower-income Americans, and 90 percent of family-owned businesses.
He was responsible for pushing forward in a movement to put more cops on the street thanks to federal government support, backing the nation's biggest investment in community policing in its history.
Clinton's compromise "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," allowed gay and lesbian people to serve in the armed forces, provided they kept it secret. While it was a liberal step forward at the time (even as a compromise), it quickly grew quaint and offensive. He was widely criticized for allowing any gays in the military in the 1990s in any respect, even as the policy to hide one's identity was widely criticized in later years.
Bill Clinton's support of the nation's African-Americans led him to be called "The First Black President." The black community generally did not care about his extracurricular activities, instead focusing on the economic success of the era and his other accomplishments. The international press also seemed puzzled by the fascination with Clinton's private activities despite his strong presidency.
Bill Clinton studied for his job as president, and he devoted many hours to picking the brains of some of the nation's experts on a variety of areas of public policy from his election until he took office -- and continuing during his eight years in office. Unlike Reagan's hero, Calvin Coolidge, who worked just four hours a day as president, Clinton worked long days often. He put everything into his work.
In August 2009, President Obama dispatched Clinton to secure the release of two American journalists from North Korea. Yes, you read that right, when Obama needed somebody to fly to Asia to pick up a couple of women, he sent Bill Clinton.
Clinton said he enjoyed Grey's Anatomy and 24 on TV. He is allergic to Christmas trees and cats.
A college cheerleader, Bush graduated from Yale with a GPA of 77. He then went into the oil business, with Arbusto and Bush Exploration, which was not all that successful.
He bought an interest in the Texas Rangers baseball team, and he served as managing partner until 1994. Bush oversaw the era that gave the Rangers a new home, the Ballpark in Arlington (now Globe Life Park), which the team announced in 2016 it would replace, after years of discussions about replacing it.
Early in Bush's presidency, it was clear that he had given Vice President Dick Cheney a significant role in the administration.
While Cheney met with Bush regularly through the end of their eight years in office, the men were not and are not personal friends. Cheney's role also diminished significantly over time. There were a few events that contributed to this, most notable is the incident in which Cheney shot a 78-year-old man in the face, mistaking him for a small bird with clipped wings. The second was the indictment and conviction of Scooter Libby, Cheney's chief of staff and one of his closest advisers. Libby is the highest ranking government official convicted of a crime in office since members of the Reagan administration were convicted for the Iran Contra Affair.
Some of Bush's views softened over time, leading to a divergence of opinion between Cheney and himself. Bush took baby steps when it came to LGBT policies, he proposed the expansion of Medicare for prescription drugs (a success), allowed some stem-cell research, proposed immigration reform and refused to pardon Libby -- all of which signaled a major rift with the vice president.
As president, Bush took the opportunity to meet some of the world's experts on HIV/AIDS and asked for their input about what could be done. These doctors came back with a different answer than most people expected: They did not ask for massive increases in research funding, they did not want money to find a vaccine or other audacious goals. They said they wanted money to get drugs to the most affected parts of the world and to discuss prevention. This led to President's Emergency Plan For AIDS Relief, which spent billions on antiretroviral drugs (80 percent) and prevention (20 percent), originally in the worst hit nations of Africa (plus Vietnam). The program is the most positive long-lasting achievement of George W. Bush. In later years, Barack Obama took some parts of the program and applied it to dealing with the HIV/AIDS problem in the United States, which Bush never considered.
Bush did get people talking about immigration reform, and his ideas were pretty liberal from the direction his party was headed. The problem with his employer backed immigration policy was tying a person's status to his employment. Employers would have had the ultimate control over workers to do what I say or get fired (and deported) with no competition from other employers to hire those workers.
Bush spent eight years in office that led me to believe he should have taken up painting in 1994 before he even sought the governorship in Texas. Bush's economic policies led to unsustainable increases in government spending paired with tax cuts (and his annual plea for more tax cuts for the rich), misguided policies enacted out of fear of terrorism, terrible ideas about education and starting two wars that proved disastrous in many ways.
Bush helped out a friend, Michael Brown, who had been forced out of the International Arabian Horse Association following institutional ethics problems by putting him in charge of the Federal Emergency Management Association. Despite Bush endorsing him with "Heckuva job, Brownie," Brown did a horrific job in response to Hurricane Katrina, and the overall federal response to the disaster was a low point -- among several of Bush's presidency.
Bush's economic policy led to a recession in his first term, and as the economy slowly moved forward, it showed signs of growth with job growth languishing much farther behind than during prior downturns. Fortunately, we did pull out of that downturn just in time for his policies to lead us directly into the Great Recession.
Barack Obama was criticized for his role in leading change as a community organizer. He has also faced 10 years of rumors that he is somehow a secret Muslim. Not only has Obama been a lifelong Christian, his time as a community organizer was with a Christian organization.
As a young man, Obama lived in Indonesia, where he ate dog meat, snake meat and roasted grasshopper. If his experience was like mine in Indonesia, he probably had chicken-feet soup, too.
While he promised wife Michelle he would quit smoking as he ran for president, he did not quit until the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act passed. He admits he still chews quite a bit of Nicorette Gum.
In literature, Obama loves Moby Dick, collects Spider-Man comics and has read all the Harry Potter books. He said he likes the classic films Casablanca and One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. For TV shows, he says M*A*S*H and The Wire are his favorites.
Obama, once a civil rights lawyer, signed the the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act and the Don't Ask, Don't Tell Repeal Act of 2010. He created the first White House Council on Women and Girls and the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault -- among those executive orders of his that seem to always draw such a reaction from his political opponents.
The Obamas' dog, Bo, was a gift from former Sen. Ted Kennedy.
I look forward to the day when America creates a monument honoring President Obama!
As a successful businessman, Trump routinely bankrupted casinos. Trump Steaks was his failure to sell Americans red meat. Trump University was his scam to profit from people thinking his name could be associated with something imparting knowledge.
Trump used the TV series and his status for being brash and well known to launch a Twitter account that drew attention as he used it to criticize President George W. Bush and then disparaged Sen. and later President Barack Obama with a racist birther campaign.
Trump's negativity extended from Obama back to Clinton and both Bushes. It appears he did not learn anything about positivity from Norman Vincent Peale, who married Trump and Ivana, the first of three marriages, all marred by his infidelity. But Trump proved a successful con man like Peale.
Originally unsuccessful in running for president under the Reform Party banner used by H. Ross Perot and Jesse Ventura, Trump ran for president in 2016, using his bluster in place of policy positions.
Following an unusual campaign, he lost the popular vote, but narrowly won just the right combination of states to become president.
Upon taking office, he appointed Cabinet members opposed to the missions of their federal departments, including Betsy DeVos, an opponent of public education. Rick Perry served as head of the Energy Department, despite his interest in eliminating it and his ignorance of what the department actually does.
In office, Trump finished four years free of accomplishments of his own, except for betraying the American people to benefit the rich and to enrich his own fortunes.
An imperious leader, Trump has his followers, who were not deterred as he failed the country by an embarrassing pow-wow with Kim Jong-un, disastrous response to a global pandemic and by never coming up with a healthcare plan to replace the Affordable Care Act. No amount of bombast excuses his months calling the pandemic a hoax, and his impetuous refusal of masks even a week prior to Election Day 2020.
The American voters rejected racism and bombast by electing Joe Biden as the next president November 3, 2020.