Category Archives: history

Photo of the Day

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While driving people to the polls today, I decided to visit the Kennedy-King memorial in Indianapolis this afternoon.

It seemed appropriate.

If you’re not familiar with the history of the memorial or the history of MLK and RFK in Indy, consider these words from the plaque on the site:

Kennedy urged the crowd to follow Rev. King’s lead and respond with understanding and prayer. Citing the need to avoid division, hatred, and violence, he called for love, wisdom, compassion, and justice. The speech is credited with keeping Indianapolis calm, while other cities reacted with violence.

It seems to me that President-elect Obama carries on the dreams of RFK and MLK.

I don’t think I’ve ever been more proud to be an American than I am right now.

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9/11 Anniversary

Ugh. I hate this day.

I avoid reading media coverage of September 11 memorial events. They depress me.

When I was asked by my mother about my 9/11 avoidance, I told her that beyond 9/11 being a terrible time for our country, I avoid the day because it’s way too political.

She was baffled that her hyper-political son felt that way.

I explained that I hate how the event was used as an excuse to invade Iraq and may well be used as an excuse to invade Iran, or maybe to attack Russia.

I do think that things changed on September 11, 2001. It was a terrible day that horrified every American and responsible citizen of the world. But I worry that 9/11 made us stupid.

Invade Afghanistan?

Makes sense. The Taliban harbored Al Qaida.

Invade Iraq?

Why not? Sadaam was a bad guy. We don’t care if he had anything to do with Al Qaida or not. He was bad.

Invade Iran?

Sure. Their head of state is an asshole.

Attack Russia?

We’re all Georgians now.

I worry that the real damage 9/11 did to our country was that it inhibited critical thinking.

So let’s wave the flag. And while we do that, let’s think about how stupid we have become since a bunch of assholes tried to make us more weak and silly.

I worry that they may have succeeded in their goals.

Why Does Bush Hate Thomas Jefferson?

What Bush said:

Thomas Jefferson understood that these rights do not belong to Americans alone. They belong to all mankind. And he looked to the day when all people could secure them. On the 50th anniversary of America’s independence, Thomas Jefferson passed away. But before leaving this world, he explained that the principles of the Declaration of Independence were universal. In one of the final letters of his life, he wrote, “May it be to the world, what I believe it will be — to some parts sooner, to others later, but finally to all — the Signal of arousing men to burst the chains, and to assume the blessings and security of self-government.”

What Jefferson said:

May it be to the world, what I believe it will be, (to some parts sooner, to others later, but finally to all,) the signal of arousing men to burst the chains under which monkish ignorance and superstition had persuaded them to bind themselves, and to assume the blessings and security of self-government.

I agree with Jefferson on the monkish ignorance and superstition part. Apparently, Bush doesn’t.

Historians: McCain is Doomed

Since Obama wrapped up the nomination, I’ve been feeling better about his chances, despite the protests of the Clinton dead-enders.

I’m glad to see that my optimism is well-founded, according to some historians:

One week into the general election, the polls show a dead heat. But many presidential scholars doubt that John McCain stands much of a chance, if any.

Historians belonging to both parties offered a litany of historical comparisons that give little hope to the Republican. Several saw Barack Obama’s prospects as the most promising for a Democrat since Roosevelt trounced Hoover in 1932.

More:

“It is one of the worst political environments for the party in power since World War II,” added Alan Abramowitz, a professor of public opinion and the presidency at Emory University. His forecasting model — which factors in gross domestic product, whether a party has completed two terms in the White House and net presidential approval rating — gives McCain about the same odds as Adlai Stevenson in 1952 and Carter in 1980 — both of whom were handily defeated in elections that returned the presidency to the previously out-of-power party. “It would be a pretty stunning upset if McCain won,” Abramowitz said.

What’s more, Republicans have held the presidency for all but 12 years since the South became solidly Republican in the realignment of 1968 — which is among the longest runs with one party dominating in American history. “These things go in cycles,” said presidential historian Robert Dallek, a professor at the University of California at Los Angeles. “The public gets tired of one approach to politics. There is always a measure of optimism in this country, so they turn to the other party.”

I’m not breaking out the champagne just, yet, but things are looking damn good, especially since Obama is showing that he’s not afraid to fight back against GOP smears.

We are going to do this.

Worst Ever

From Harper’s:

They (historians) want to stack him up against his thirty-three predecessors as the nation’s chief executive. Among historians, there is no doubt into which echelon he falls–his competitors are Millard Fillmore, James Buchanan, Andrew Johnson, and Franklin Pierce, the worst of the presidential worst. But does Bush actually come in dead last?

Yes. A Pew Research Center poll of 109 leading historians found that 61 percent of them rank Bush as “worst ever” among U.S. presidents. Bush’s key competition comes from Buchanan, apparently, and a further 2 percent of the sample puts Bush right behind Buchanan as runner-up for “worst ever.” 96 percent of the respondents place the Bush presidency in the bottom tier of American presidencies. And was his presidency (it’s a bit wishful to speak of his presidency in the past tense–after all there are several more months left to go) a success or failure? On that score the numbers are still more resounding: 98 percent label it a “failure.”

Though admittedly, the final historical verdict on Bush won’t be reached during my lifetime, these results are encouraging. It’s a strange victory for those of us who have spent the last eight years decrying that man’s performance in office.

Best quote offered by one of the historians?

This one:

“No individual president can compare to the second Bush,” wrote one. “Glib, contemptuous, ignorant, incurious, a dupe of anyone who humors his deluded belief in his heroic self, he has bankrupted the country with his disastrous war and his tax breaks for the rich, trampled on the Bill of Rights, appointed foxes in every henhouse, compounded the terrorist threat, turned a blind eye to torture and corruption and a looming ecological disaster, and squandered the rest of the world’s goodwill. In short, no other president’s faults have had so deleterious an effect on not only the country but the world at large.”

Obama the Executive

Check this out:

Or, in Christa Freeland’s words:

I’d like to share a little bit of reporting on this point. The caller referred to Bear Stearns and Wall Street. And when you talk to some of the Wall Street supporters of Barack Obama they say that last summer when he was first coming to them, one of their big questions was ‘How the heck are you gonna run the economy, you have no executive experience?’
And his answer was interesting. What he said then and it was before the campaign was ‘I am going to use my campaign and the way I run it as a way to demonstrate to you and to the country what kind of a manager I am.’

In 1992, Dan Quayle said of Clinton:

If he runs the country the way he ran his campaign, the country will be in good shape.

Indeed. If you’re worried about Obama as an executive, think about how he has run his campaign.

Ferraro: Now and Then

As you know, Geraldine Ferraro quit Clinton’s finance committee today with a letter to the Clinton campaign:

“I am stepping down from your finance committee so I can speak for myself and you can continue to speak for yourself about what is at stake in this campaign,” Ferraro wrote in a letter to Clinton.

“The Obama campaign is attacking me to hurt you. I won’t let that happen.”

She was unrepentant, arrogant, and a victim all at once.

Poor thing.

It’s interesting though, to take a trip back in time to read Lewis Lapham’s words about Ferraro’s memoir of her 1984 vice presidential campaign in the December, 1985 issue of Harper’s Magazine (subscription required):

Like most politicians who write self-serving memoirs, Ferraro blames as many other people as possible for her own failures. Mondale condescended to her; the sexists (mostly Republicans or insensitive newspaper reporters) didn’t take her seriously as a woman; Archbishop John O’Connor misrepresented her attitude toward abortion; bigots hated her because she was Italian, and her husband, the otherwise wonderful, supportive John Zaccaro forgot to tell her that he had been doing business with criminals. Newsweek published an abridged text of roughly 12,000 words, but over the full length of the book, I’m sure that Ferraro manages to nominate at least twenty additional individuals or historical accidents to her catalogue of recriminations.

The most grotesque aspect of this memoir is its tone. The writing attests to a mind complacently devoid of wisdom, skepticism, or humor.

Snip

Her jaunty egoism makes of the campaign the equivalent of a course in macrame or aerobic dancing. She is incapable of discovering even the tiniest flaw in her perfection, and it never occurs to her that voters in the hundreds of thousands might have failed to find her plausible because they saw her as a hack politician married to a real estate operator under criminal investigation.

Wow. I have loved Lapham’s writing for many years, but in this case his judgment of Ferraro’s character is supreme.

The major problem I saw in this whole flap was not so much the words of her first statement, but rather the lack of regret that her words could possibly be taken the wrong way. She seemed oblivious to any interpretation of why her words might be thought to be hurtful. And then to top it off, she later said:

“I really think they’re attacking me because I’m white. How’s that?”

I’ll tell you how it is Mrs. Ferraro: Lapham’s words about you seem even more accurate now than they did 23 years ago.