The House in Which Richard M. Nixon Was Born
Today Martine and I visited the Richard M. Nixon Library and Birthplace in Yorba Linda. It is a humble house that was built from a kit by Nixon’s father in 1912. Most of the furniture is original, including the bed in which Hannah Nixon gave birth to the 37th President of the United States. In keeping with that humility, within a few feet of the house’s rear entrance are the graves of Richard and Pat Nixon, who died within a year of each other.
There is no doubt that Nixon was a flawed man. Yet—at the same time—his list of accomplishments in office is impressive. He ended the unpopular war in Viet Nam. He ended the military draft. He was a staunch supporter of civil rights. His Title IX legislation made women’s sports at the collegiate level a major success. He courageously took it upon himself to re-open China to the West. He founded the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The list goes on and on.
Yet, despite his smashing victory over George McGovern in the 1972 election, he saw his opponents as a personal threat to him and initiated a burglary of the weakened Democratic National Committee in the Watergate Building. Like our current President, who also maintains an enemies list, Nixon was also a public servant who was intelligent and hard-working on behalf of the American People—which our current President is decidedly not.
The Grave Site of Richard M. Nixon
During the Sixties and Seventies, I was a determined enemy of Nixon. Now I am not so sure I feel that way. There was something about the man which could have made him our greatest political leader of this century. But he was all too human, and his life is like a Shakespearean tragedy of overwhelming promise and ambition brought down by an all-too-human flaw.
Trump with His Plane
There is a certain category of voter who thinks we need a businessman at the helm of this country. Do we? What have businessmen done for us lately?
Perhaps their biggest contribution has been to send American jobs overseas. My father used to be a machine tool builder in Cleveland. Now there is an ever-dwindling number of machine tool builders in the United States. Plenty of them in Southeast Asia, however!
If a hypothetical President Trump were in charge, what might he do? For starters, he could send less desirable (i.e. Democrat) voters to Syria, Libya, and Somalia—countries which are in the process of being rapidly depopulated.
He can raise his salary and create new perks for his office. (Isn’t that what billionaire businessmen do best?)
He could find sneaky ways of making his investments worth more (and those of his competitors worth less).
Really, in the end, all American CEOs care about is me, Me, ME, ME! After all, they didn’t get rich by helping losers. And we are all losers, aren’t we?
That’s How Many Days There Are From Now to Election Day
The nastiness began early last year as a whole host of candidates declared themselves for the 2016 Presidential Election. We, who pride ourselves as a nation that produces first class entertainment, have fallen down on the job. On the contrary, our elections have caused consternation among our allies and emboldened the growing number of peoples who hate us. Is this really the most powerful nation on earth? Or is this some Three Stooges pie fight?
My mailbox is filling up daily for requests for me to donate money to the Democratic Party so that they could:
- Buy advertising space on television, which I do not watch
- Pay for more frequent robocalls, which I hang up on within seconds
All of a sudden, I am receiving numerous calls from “surveys.” I stay on the line with them only long enough to say, “We do no participate in surveys.” Apparently, I am not the only one, because a recent New Yorker article indicates that the response rate is down to eight percent or less, down from a majority a couple decades ago.
We have grown to hate our politics, our politicians, and in fact ouwhole political process. And, instead of slinking off into a dark corner somewhere, the whole political process continues to gather steam and explore new ways of getting into our faces.
To make matters worse, I shouldn’t be surprised if the 2020 Presidential Election cranks up before the current race is resolved.
Get ready for an ugly year!
None of These Bozos Will Make It to the White House
There are currently so many GOP candidates for the Presidency that they could not fit into any vehicle smaller than the trailer of an eighteen-wheeler. Frankly, I don’t think I can name them all from memory. All I know about them is that they tend to say a lot of stupid things, which the echo chamber of the press magnifies until it seems that there is only one political party: The Tea Party.
As for Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton, no one really likes her. I don’t like her. Martine despises her. She is probably more competent to run our country than any of the Klown Kar Republicans. But she knows that everything she says will be drowned out by cries of Benghazi! E-mail! Foundation money! Why, I wouldn’t even be surprised if Faux News reveals that she had a torrid affair with Monica Lewinsky, and they probably have the dress to prove it!
Our political process has become so toxic that the only reason I vote is that I know that, if I didn’t, some Evangelical Jesus child molester will win. Gone is any Roman sense of duty. I will trudge down to the polling precinct by myself, thinking dark thoughts, while crowded church buses full of rednecks vote en masse.
I Can’t Think of Any Advantages, Can You?
The above picture of a standee of Mitt Romney after his 2012 electoral debacle pretty much sums up for me the joys and sorrows of being the President of the United States.
I remember while growing up people asking me if I wanted to be President. While I was immensely flattered at the time, now I think the presidency is a booby prize, similar to being one of those carnival sideshow attractions in which people throw pies at your face or a ball that dunks you into a tank. This country is so evenly divided between the two political parties that you are guaranteed of being hated by millions of people, many of whom would like to see you impeached, assassinated, or at the very least publicly humiliated.
The only U.S. President in recent times to have been liked by more than 50.1% of the population was Ronald Reagan, and then even he came in for a forest of brickbats toward the end of his second term when it appeared that his memory was fading. I was actually at the Reagan Presidential Library when Ronnie died. A newsman pushed a microphone into my face and asked me what I thought his legacy would be. I answered: “I didn’t care much for him as President, but he was a good communicator.” Of course, that never made it into any news program.
I can see why Hillary Clinton may decide not to run in 2016: She would be roundly hated by millions. She saw that whole Kenneth Starr impeachment charade over her husband’s peccadilloes, not to mention that whole Whitewater fracas. And there were some who wanted to frame her for the “murder” of Vince Foster in 1993.
Would I run for President? I would—but only if I could have right-wing pundits executed at will and senate and house members arrested for being too obstreperous. And what are the chances of that ever happening?
Who Was the First U.S. President?
That doesn’t look a whole lot like George Washington, does it? George became President in 1789, but the United States was already a going concern (to some extent) by 1781. So what did the country do for the intervening eight years? Did it engage in anarchy?
Not quite. Before the Constitution was adopted, the law of the land of the United States consisted of the Articles of Confederation. As students, we didn’t study that eight-year period in depth, except maybe to note that these same Articles of Confederation were a condign failure.
Yet, there were eight U.S. Presidents of the Continental Congress, and therefore of the More-or-Less-United States, serving one-year terms under those same articles. They were, in order:
- John Hanson of Maryland (1781-1782, pictured above), who wanted to resign immediately because he had neither any compensation or power, but he manage to stick it out.
- Elias Boudinot of New Jersey (1782-1783) was next.
- Thomas Mifflin of Pennsylvania (1783-1784)
- Richard Henry Lee of Virginia (1784-1785), who wound up disapproving of the Constitution because it concentrated too much power—an early Tea Partier
- John Hancock of Massachusetts (1785-1786)—he’s the one with the oversized signature on the Declaration of Independence
- Nathaniel Gorham of Massachusetts (1786-1787)
- Arthur St. Clair of Ohio (1787-1788), born in Scotland
- Cyrus Griffin of Virginia (1788 only)
Only after Griffin’s presidency did the U.S. Constitution become formally ratified and George Washington elected the “first” President under the new rules.
For an interesting discussion of these eight presidents, who have become more or less lost to history, click here.
That I should give my hand, or bend my neck, or uncover my head to any man in mere homage to, or recognition of, his office, great or small, is to me simply inconceivable. These tricks of servility with the softened names are the vestiges of an involuntary allegiance to power extraneous to the performer. They represent in our American life obedience and propitiation in their most primitive and odious forms. The man who speaks of them as manifestations of a proper respect for “the President’s great office” is either a rogue, a dupe or a journalist. They come to us out of a fascinating but terrible past as survivals of servitude. They speak a various language of oppression and the superstition of man-worship; they carry forward the traditions of the sceptre and the lash. Through the plaudits of the people may be heard always the faint, far cry of the beaten slave.
Respect? Respect the good. Respect the wise. Let the President look to it that he belongs to one of these classes. His going about the country in gorgeous state and barbaric splendor as the guest of a thieving corporation, but at our expense—shining and dining and swining—unsouling himself of clotted nonsense in pickled platitudes calculated for the meridian of Coon Hollow, Indiana, but ingeniously adapted to each water tank on the line of his absurd “progress,” does not prove it, and the presumption of his “great office” is against him.
Can you not see, poor misguided “fellow citizens,” how you permit your political taskmasters to forge leg-chains of your follies and load you down with them? Will nothing teach you that all this fuss-and-feathers, all this ceremony, all this official gorgeousness and brass-banding, this “manifestation of a proper respect for the nation’s head” has no decent place in American life and American politics? Will no experience open your stupid eyes to the fact that these shows are but absurd imitations of royalty, to hold you silly while you are plundered by the managers of the performance?—that while you toss your greasy caps in air and sustain them by the ascending current of your senseless hurrahs the programmers are going through your blessed pockets and exploiting your holy dollars? No; you feel secure; power is of the People, and you can effect a change of robbers every four years. Inestimable privilege—to pull off the glutted leech and attach the lean one!—Ambrose Bierce, Antepenultimata (1912)