Thursday, February 28, 2008

Leaked Results for the 2008 Presidential Election

Diebold Accidentally Leaks Results Of 2008 Election Early

Dang, someone leaked the 2008 Presidential Election results early! The Overlords of the nation are not happy...

Hat Tip.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

U.S. Presidency Isn't Easy to Pass Along

So, is it tough for one American President to pass the job onto someone else? An article at Yahoo! argues that it is. David Shribman wrote an essay titled U.S. Presidency Isn't Easy to Pass Along. The current Presidential election is included as he talks about Hillary Clinton and George W. Bush.

Shribman wrote, "The thing about the presidency is that it's usually nontransferable...There are exceptions, of course. James Madison wanted James Monroe, his secretary of state (and his secretary of war), to ascend to the White House. Thomas Jefferson supported Monroe as well. Together, they pulled it off. Monroe served two terms and lent his name to the most important foreign-policy doctrine in American history. Andrew Jackson was able to choose his successor, too."

Teddy Roosevelt was able to get Taft elected as well. However, he soon regretted it and ran against him in 1912. And the first President Bush probably had soon influence in getting the second President Bush elected as well eight years after his term ended.

However, many other presidents have failed to get their annointed successor elected. Or, they have not even tried to do so. Shribman wrote, " The problem with trying to transfer the presidency is that the transferrer (a) doesn't have any power to do so; and (b) oftentimes has disadvantages of his own ("negatives," in the argot of politics). Touring the United States in 1842, Charles Dickens described Washington as a City of Magnificent Intentions. Every presidential aspirant is a candidate of Magnificent Intentions. But every president is necessarily a politician of Magnificent Disappointments. The hazards of a president's record detracts from the hope of a candidate's appeal."

Which leads to Hillary Clinton. Can Bill Clinton help get her elected or does his presence actually hurt her? McCain is supportive of many of President Bush's policies but Bush is not embracing McCain. And McCain seems to appreciate that. Is Hillary's link to a past president hurting her? Or has it gotten her further than she would have on her own? Of course, it may make no difference at all.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The War of 1812

I saw this article on HNN about the War of 1812 and thought I'd share to go with our opinion poll of the week.

Pat's Presidential Places

I found a fun site relating to the American Presidency. It is Pat's Presidential Places. It features pictures of the gravesites of U.S. Presidents, Vice Presidents, presidential and vice-presidential election losers. It also has the gravesites of some New York State Governors.

The site is a bit hard to navigate as it is laid out somewhat haphazardly. The picture of Wilson's grave is still missing too. Despite this, I enjoyed the site and found it fun.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

An Anachronism with Value

It was independent reading time. Many students were at their desks with books they had chosen from my classroom library. Some students were reading at the computers. Two or three had gotten on the floor up under the table portion of their desk. A group was at the back table huddled around a book about the Civil War rich with images. A child with special needs was partnered with another student, and every so often you could hear them reading to each other. Students were also coming and going to the media center. As one student would return they would quietly tap the next one on the shoulder so they could depart. I read during independent reading time as well, but I periodically eye the room and walk the room to make sure everyone is on task.

Occaisionally a student will become so excited about what they have learned or they get so involved with the action in the story they will want to share it with me. I noticed one young man had gotten up and was on his way back to where I sat. He stopped occaisionally to show his book to his friends and neighbors. I could tell by their reactions…..snickers, guffaws, and a continuous stream of hands slapped over open mouths….that whatever was in the book was something that shouldn’t be there, or it was something that was being misinterpreted.

Like the Pied Piper of Hamlin the reporting student soon had a stream of gawkers behind him. By the time he reached my desk there was a line of eight people behind the Pied Piper wanting to get in on the scandal.

I looked up from my book and said, “May I help you?”

A torrid of reports issued forth from each young mouth at the same time.

“There’s a bad word in Kevin’s book.”

“It’s the c-word, Elementaryhistoryteacher.”

“I don’t think my mother wants me to see that word.”

“Why would they have that word in a book for kids?”

“It could mean a rooster. That word means that, you know…”

“My Daddy uses that word, but he put sucker on the the end of it.”

I held up one hand to silence the children before anything else was said that shouldn’t be and held out my other my hand for the book. The Pied Piper handed it over. It was a book from a series of biographies regarding the presidents that is very popular with school libraries. The books have all been reviewed and over the years I think I have read every single one of them at one point or another. The subject of Pied Piper’s book was James Monroe.

“Where’s the word you’re having a problem with?” I asked the Pied Piper. He pointed and there it was in black and white…..the word cock. Of course my young friends had just singled out the one word and alone it can have over fourteen different meanings other than the one that would be inappropriate for elementary age reading. The word was not alone on the page and taken within its entire context it did not mean anything remotely inappropriate.

“Hmmmmmmmm, “I said. “Can I hold your book for a bit? Perhaps we can discuss it later during Social Studies. Can you choose something else to read for the remainder of class today?”

The Pied Piper assured me that he could and we all returned to our reading.

Later I wrote the phrase “last of the cocked hats” on the board. We had a quick lesson reminding students that some words have several meanings and that when quotations are surrounding a group of words they should be taken all together for a particular meaning. The phrase that had set off the Pied Piper’s parade was used to describe President Monroe because he was the last of our presidents who participated in the American Revolution.

Then we had a short review regarding cocked hats and what they are. Many remembered we had discussed the hats many minutemen and other colonials wore during the 1700s. I attempt to develop a fashion sense in students regarding what was worn through various decades because I feel it is just one more skill students can rely on when analyzing historical information. I wrote about fashion sense in an introduction to this post over at History Is Elementary.

Tricorne or three-cornered hats were very popular during the 17th and 18th century. The tricorne style eventually developed into the cocked hat which was popular beginning in the mid-19th century. More than likely when you see an image of a tricorne the patriots and the American Revolution come to mind.

President Monroe was definitely an anachronism in that he continued to wear breeches and a cocked hat even though those items had fallen out of fashion. He wore what was comfortable for him. Even at their young age my students are very conscience regarding what they wear and what their friends wear, so I like to hit on the fact that Monroe was thinking very independently with his clothing choice. I ask them to brainstorm regarding reasons why Monroe chose Revolutionary dress rather than newer fashions. Some of the reasons why ranged from he couldn’t afford anything else (somewhat possible since Monroe had money problem) to he was simply more comfortable in the breeches and hat and that he didn’t care what anyone else thought.

To get kids into the mind-set of connecting to Monroe’s fashion sense I usually begin by asking them to write about a favorite piece of clothing they have. Perhaps it is a sweatshirt, a pair of jeans, a pair of shoes. I ask them to detail how the article of clothing came to be theirs and why it is a favorite. I encourage them to provide me with details that really tap into to their senses….how the article feels, how it smells (hopefully after being washed), and how it sounds as their body moves around. Finally, I ask them to address this question: If you could, would you always wear this article of clothing? Most say they would.

Early in his presidency James Monroe used his Revolutionary background to connect to the American people and to remind them concerning how our nation was created. He toured the nation three different times resulting in the fact that more Americans could boast they had seen their president with their own eyes than at any other time in the nation’s history.
James Monroe was not only an anachronism but he was considered to be the last of what is termed the Virginia Dynasty meaning that four of our first five presidents were from Virginia. There were several issues surrounding Monroe’s time in office….slavery, Native Americans, westward expansion, foreign relations following the War of 1812, and the young nation was still attempting to get a handle on the state and federal government relationship. It seems many folks had an opinion and very few wanted to compromise and agree on the best course of action to take regarding the nation’s problems. These problems could not be tackeled until the rift of party factualism had been tackled.

The first tour Monroe undertook was to New England and he paid for it with his own money. He traveled as any citizen would without pomp or ceremony. The President’s itinerary included important American Revolution as well as War of 1812 sites in order to honor veterans and to remind citizens how important certain events were in the founding of our nation.

The tours were very successful. President Monroe, an anachronism representing our nation’s founding and the “last of the cocked hats”, did a great job of tying together the memory of George Washington and patriot feelings to help heal some of the division in the nation caused by the War of 1812 and other national issues. Monroe is often remembered as the president who ushered in the Era of Good Feelings which is characterized by a time period of conciliation and compromise rather than partisan attacks. Actually the phrase regarding good feelings was bestowed by a journalist in response to the reactions stemming from Monroe’s New England visit.

Of course, the good feelings didn’t last and soon the nation was experiencing the Panic of 1919 and the debate over slavery came to the forefront again resulting in the Missouri Compromise of 1820, and by 1824 four men vied for the presidency resulting in cries of a corrupt bargain.

For a brief time, however, an anacronism reminded our country what it was to have a hunger for liberty and why we owe our Revolutionary forefathers so very much.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Funny President Facts Video

Funny President Facts

This is mildy amusing and short. Someone may enjoy it. Nothing I had not read about before with the exception of Ronald Reagan seeing a UFO. I knew Carter had seen one but Reagan was new.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Poll: Which president was least loyal to his party or campaign promises after being elected?

The poll has closed for the question, "Which president was least loyal to his party or campaign promises after being elected?" Thanks to all who participated by voting.

The current President Bush was the winner with 39%. Bill Clinton was a close second with 30%. President Wilson was third with 14%. Thomas Jefferson and FDR were fourth and fifth with 8% and 7%. Thanks to Inner Prop for the poll suggestion.

These polls are a popular feature at this blog. However, it is also a pain to think up a new question every week. Starting with the new poll, I am going to let each one run fourteen days instead of seven. As always, feel free to post a comment if you have a suggestion for a poll.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Apparent clue to JFK death likely a fake. Or is it?

A new trove of material related to the Kennedy Assissination has been made available to the public. Included in this batch is an apparent transcript of a possible conversation between Lee Harvey Oswald and Jack Ruby two months before the murder of Kennedy. Details can be found at Apparent clue to JFK death likely a fake, DA's office says.

Do not get too excited. It looks like the transcript is actually an attempt at a movie script. The transcript was found in the same safe with a movie contract signed by former Dallas District Attorney Henry Wade.

"The fact that it's sitting in Henry Wade's file, and he didn't do anything, indicates he thought it wasn't worth anything," Curator Gary Mack of the Sixth Floor Museum said. "He probably kept it because it was funny. It's hilarious. It's like a bad B movie."

"It's not real. Crooks don't talk like that," Terri Moore said. "If that transcript is true, then history is changed because Oswald and Ruby were talking about assassinating the president."

Of course, if you believe in a conspiracy, maybe the transcript is real. Perhaps they (whoever "they" are) just want us to believe the transcript is fake. I think though that destroying the transcript if it was real would have been much easier. Wouldn't "they" have had plenty of time to have shredded this document? It must be a fake. If not...

Monday, February 18, 2008

Tips from Washington's self-help manual

As a teen, George Washington copied a 16th century self-help book written by Jesuit priests. The future president copied all 110 tips into a notebook. An article by David Holzel titled Tips from Washington's self-help manual has the details.

Here are a few of the tips:

- Kill no vermin, as fleas, lice, ticks etc., in the sight of others. If you see any filth or thick spittle put your foot dexterously upon it, if it be upon the clothes of your companions put it off privately, and if it be upon your own clothes return thanks to him who puts it off.

- In company of those of higher quality than you, speak not till you are ask'd a question, then stand upright, put off your hat, and answer in few words.

- Make no show of taking great delight in your victuals. Feed not with greediness. Eat your bread with a knife (i.e. cut it into small pieces), lean not on the table, neither find fault with what you eat.

- Shew not yourself glad at the misfortune of another though he were your enemy.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

TR and "In God We Trust"

I was recently checking trivia facts off a Teddy Roosevelt site (a bad one so I'm not sharing the link) for one of my classes. One of the random facts was that the TR was against the use of "In God We Trust" on coins. I found this interesting because of all the hype in recent years about this motto and so did some research. I found a New York Times article from 1907 that reports on this issue. TR was against the use of the motto on coins because he felt was sacrilegious and cheapened the motto.

Happy President's Day Eve!

My nine year old son said to me today, "Happy President's Day Eve!"

I should not have been surprised. He is big on holidays. He looks at the calendar every day. Every holiday noted, no matter how obscure, gets mentioned in this house. As a librarian, I get lots of free calendars from vendors. Many are from overseas and I have had to explain what Boxing Day and New Zealand Independence Day are to him in the past. No holiday gets past him if it is on the calendar.

Recently, he has been noting the eve of each holiday. He recently was excited about Groundhog Day Eve and Valentines Day Eve. I guess since Christmas Eve and New Years Eve get noted every year, why not the other days too? It makes sense to him.

This is cute but I am going to have to draw a line eventually. There will be no Arbor Day Eve in this house!

So, happy President's Day Eve everyone. May your festivities be worthy of all the Presidents who have served this nation.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Astrocartography of Eleanor Roosevelt's Least-aspected Saturn

Astrocartography of Eleanor Roosevelt's Least-aspected Saturn. If you find astrology interesting, this First Lady horoscope may be of interest. The focus on how the planetary metaphor of Saturn was reflected in Roosevelt's life and work. It is always easy to intrepret this stuff correctly after the fact isn't it? It is by astrocartographer Rob Couteau. This may be bunk but it is interesting.

From the site:

Eleanor Roosevelt was born in New York City, in the center of a Transcendental Mid­point-Field that extends from her Primary Saturn, which sets over the eastern sea­board, to her Secondary Uranus, which is positioned over the eastern U.S. in a vertical, Midheaven line that runs just west of New York State. This V-shaped Transcendental Field over the East Coast frames an area that played a primary role in her life: initially as the wife of Governor Roosevelt, of New York, and then as First Lady to President Roosevelt, in Washington, D.C.

One of the most “accomplished / and independent” (Primary Saturn / Secondary Ura­nus) of First Ladies, in 1933 she called the first press conference ever held by a president’s wife (Uranus rules “innovative action”). After F.D.R.’s death, she was a delegate to the U.N. Assembly; Chairman of the Commission on Human Rights; and U.S. rep­resentative at the General Assembly: positions all held within her Transcendental Mid­point-Field region, i.e., in the United Nations building, in New York. Again, these were “ground-breaking roles” (Uranus) for a woman of that period, especially since they represent positions of “serious social responsibility” (Saturn).

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Poll: Which presidential assassination affected the country the most?

The poll has closed for the question, "Which presidential assassination affected the country the most?" Thanks to all who participated by voting.

President Lincoln was first with 56%. President Kennedy was second with 34%. McKinley and Garfield trailed far behind with 4% and 3%.

Although I do not disagree with this assessment, I would like to speak up for the importance of the McKinley and Garfield assassinations. Without McKinley's murder, Teddy Roosevelt may have never been president. His trust busting and environmental activitism had a huge impact on the 20th century. Garfield's death allowed Arthur to become president and begin a major reform of the civil service system. Take way either presidential murder and we are probably looking at a very different world today.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Motorola Celebrates Lessons from Abraham Lincoln’s Life with Dedicated Grant Program

Motorola Celebrates Lessons from Abraham Lincoln’s Life with Dedicated Grant Program

Illinois Technology Company Partners with Civic Groups to Commemorate Bicentennial

SCHAUMBURG, Ill. – Motorola Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Motorola, will partner with the Chicago History Museum to commemorate the 200th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln's birth. Working in collaboration, the groups will identify projects developed by civic, educational and cultural organizations that actively engage the public in the lessons from Lincoln's life.

“Lincoln’s quest for education despite the most humble of origins reminds us all of our potential. His determination motivates us. His courage and leadership in the most difficult of times inspires us,” said Eileen Sweeney, director of Motorola Foundation. “Motorola is proud to fund programs that bring to life Lincoln’s powerful legacy of education and excellence.”

The $750,000 grant program will fund programs that focus on three themes:

Bringing History into the Future

Motorola Lincoln Grants will support individuals or organizations using new technologies to educate students or their broader communities – particularly in civics, history, social studies -- or disciplines such as the fine arts. Preference will be given to those integrating lessons from Lincoln’s life.

Engaging in Current Events

In recognition of Lincoln’s engagement of the public in shaping policy, Motorola Lincoln Grants will support programs engaging young people or community members in national and local public policy issues and providing creative forums and innovative tools to facilitate debate and dialogue in the online and physical worlds.
Leadership Skills

Lincoln’s legacy as an agent of change will be honored with support of organizations that are creating change – of perceptions or actions -- in their communities with leadership programs for young people or the underserved that are based on collaboration, problem-solving and project management skills.

Motorola Lincoln Grants will be awarded in two grant cycles - the first in spring of 2008 and the second in the fall of 2008. Spring applicants will be notified in May 2008; fall applicants by September 2008. The awards will fund curriculum design, speech competitions and debates, community programming developed by educators in schools, community organizations, museums, arts and culture organizations and other non-profits exploring themes such as diversity, freedom, history and leadership.

“A longtime champion of education in Illinois and around the globe, Motorola’s special program will ensure the lessons from President Lincoln’s life will be shared and celebrated today, and inspire tomorrow’s leaders,” said Gary T. Johnson, Chicago History Museum president.

“Offering a special funding initiative to commemorate the bicentennial of President Lincoln’s birth demonstrates Motorola’s commitment to values shared with the revered American leader,” added Eileen Mackevich, executive director, Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission.

Organizations must apply for spring grants by March 30, 2008. The fall application deadline is July 30, 2008. To submit an application or for more information on the Lincoln grant program, please visit

Friday, February 08, 2008

1, 2, 3, 4....I Declare a Paper War!

Ok, take a piece of notebook paper in your hand and ponder its many uses. You can use it to diagram sentences, solve complex mathematical equations, begin the next great novel or…use your hand to squish the paper up into a ball.

Yep, you read that right….create a paper ball.

Now ponder the different uses for that same piece of paper in ball form. When faced with a mistake you can release your frustration by crumpling your paper. Perhaps you’re out of those bits of Styrofoam and you need to pack something fragile. In some young minds a paper ball equates to trash which we all know must be gotten rid of as quickly as possible when sitting in a classroom. Students have some strange notion that a paper ball cannot remain on a desktop until the end of class. They must be thrown away as soon as they are formed or something terrible will happen. I don’t know what that is, but paper balls sharply increase the gravitational pull between students and the trash can. What I do know is when I challenge a student regarding why they are up and walking to the trash can during a lesson I am also instituting a power challenge between the student and myself.

Thanks to James Madison one way I have reduced the number of trash can power struggles is by instituting what I call “Paper War Rules”. It’s very simple. Stay in your seat during whole group lessons and partipate as instructed. The reward? A no holds barred just short of physical injury paper ball fight in the classroom.

Some might be asking themselves what the big deal is about going to the trash can. Well, maybe you’ve forgotten what fun it can be to stand in front of a trash can and lob paper balls into it one by one. Suddenly the whole group isn’t looking at me or listening to me. They are watching “the star” at the trash can. On average I have approximately two whole group lessons a week where I need the undivided attention of students for ten to fifteen minutes at a time. Basketball antics followed by a student who wishes to challenge me with vulgar actions and words can be extremely disruptive for everyone.

So, what does James Madison have to do with a paper war? Well, everything, of course! You see James Madison attended Jersey College or you might recognize the name it carries now….Princeton. In fact, the college likes to state he was their first graduate student. Ralph Ketcham’s biography of Madison recounts a friendly rivalry between the American Whig Society and the Cliosophian Society. Madison along with Pennsylvanians and Southerners were members of the Whigs while New Englanders tended to be members of the Cliosophian Society. Their paper war did not consist of paper balls but was a war of words when they could manage to trick or talk their professors into allowing it. Each society had their own poets who would write satiracal verse aimed at members of the other side. The verses would be volleyed back and forth in the prayer hall before the entire student body. Apparently it was great fun and some of the poetry exisits in a notebook that can be found at the college per Ketcham. He included in his biography of Madison two examples of verse. The first aimed at Samuel Springer who later became a Congregational minister and the second aimed at Moses Allen, another a minister who served at Midway, Georgia during the American Revolution. Both men remained great friends throughout their lives with Madison. Here are Madison’s verses aimed at Samuel Springer:

Urania threw a chamber pot
Which from beneath her bed she brought
And struck my eyes and ears and nose
Repeating it with lusty blows.
In such a pickle then I stood
Trickling on every side with blood
When Clio, ever grateful muse
Sprinkled my head with healing dews
Then took me to her private room
And straight an Eunuch out I come
My voice to render more melodious
A recompence for sufferings odious…

and Madison’s words towards Moses Allen:

Great Allen founder of the crew
If right I guess must keep a stew
The lecherous rascal there will find
A place just suited to his mind
May whore and pimp and drink and swear
Nor more the garb of Christian wear
And free Nassau from such a pest
A dunce a food an ass at best.

If you haven’t figured it out by now I don’t share all of Madison’s verses with students. This site here provides another Madison poem. Ketcham states in his book that the verses demonstrate abundantly what Madison never doubted: he was no poet. Students like to hear about the paper wars as I begin to explain to them how my own “Paper War Rules” work.

Part of instituting “Paper War Rules” in my classroom involve me placing the words “Paper War” on the board in different colors for each class I teach. As students challenge me or violate the stay seated policy I erase a small portion of the letters. A great day in class means I replace a small part that might have been deleted previously. At the end of class we collect the paper that needs to be thrown away in large lawn and leaf bags----only paper----no half eaten sandwiches, pencil shavings, or the assortment of strange items that end up in my trash can at the end of the day.

I’ve never had a class operating under “Paper War Rules” not get to have their paper war though there have been some close calls. Some of the more challenging students learn very quickly they will receive the wrath of their classmates if they continue to challenge me. Excitement mounts as we near the end of the term because I never announce when I will declare a paper war. Sometimes I stand at the front of the room smiling slyly as I wait for things to settle down. Under their breath someone whispers, “This is it….paper war!” Then I do an about face and say, “Ok, yesterday we discussed Jackson’s victory at New Orleans using citizen volunteers. Let’s move on by writing accounts of what Jackson might have said to get citizens to defend New Orleans.” Disappointment mixes with stoney resolve as students realize “Paper War Rules” are still in effect for one more day at least.

Finally, the day really does arrive and with fifteen minutes left in the class period I begin to walk to the back of the room to avoid getting run over announcing along the way in a loud teacher voice, “1 , 2, 3, 4…..I DECLARE A PAPER WAR!”

For exactly one second and a half there is no movement. There is no sound. Then the room magically transforms into a battle zone replete with a no-mans land. Tables are pushed away and a few are turned up on their sides to form trenches and fox holes for students to take refuge in. The bags and bags of collected paper balls are requisitioned to the two teams.

I walk to the front of the room and raise my hand. The attack is on as I exclaim, “Engage your enemy!” The room erupts into a verbal flurry of paper wads. There’s also a verbal volley as students must say social studies vocabulary words as they launch their paper balls across the room. No, it’s not the satiracal prose of Madison and his college buddies, but it makes them think while they have fun. It also slows down the throwing a bit so the fun is stretched out longer. It’s quite a scene as the air fills with paper zingers, giggles, squeals, and a mish-mash of vocabulary. George Washington, origin story, compromise, Renaissance, Line of Demarcation, Treaty of Paris, de Gama, compass rose, Samuel Adams, allegiance, barter, and Phyllis Wheatley are just some of the words kids shout at each other.

After the paper balls are all thrown and I have told at least three young men to NOT place the plastic lawn and leaf bags on their heads we clean up and refill the bags for the next group that might get to have a paper war. Every class has their war on a different day so they can’t pass along the good news to another group.

Students leave the room thanking me for the fun and I say, “You earned it and don’t thank me. Thank James Madison!

Thursday, February 07, 2008

George Washington in Michigan

I recently finished reading a book titled Weird Michigan by Linda S. Godfrey. I was quite surprised that there is a giant head of George Washington in the town of Onaway, Michigan. This town is on the northern tip of the lower penisula. has this description of the head, "On Highway 68 just West of Onaway, Michigan a giant bust of George Washington rests in a field watching traffic go by. He appears to be made of stainless steel. I don't know the name of the artist, but the bust was fabricated in the nearby Moran Iron Works. An even more impressive sculpture of an eagle's head can be seen in the center of Onaway itself. This one features overlaid feathers that appear to be stainless steel and brass."

Tom Moran is the creator of the work. Weird America noted, "Gleaming in the sun as if elves had just given him a good polish, George appeared to stare thoughtfully towards the highway. We noticed that the field was adjacent to the Moran Iron Works and surmised that there might be a connection; turns out we were right" (p. 164).

I guess I am going to have to head up north and take a look at this someday. It looks fun. I hope I can convince my wife...

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Which First Lady was the most charismatic?

The poll has closed for the question, "Which First Lady was the most charismatic?" Thanks to all who participated by voting. And thanks to Jennie suggesting the question.

Jackie Kennedy won with 50%. Eleanor Roosevelt was second with 31%. Julie Tyler was third with 11% and Mamie Eisenhower was last with 6%.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

"I Had Rather Be Right Than President."

Today is the anniversary of Henry Clay's 1839 declaration of "I had rather be right than president." Bonnie Goldman has a good article up about this at HNN titled On This Day in History: February 7, 1839 ... Henry Clay declares "I had rather be right than president."

Henry Clay really wanted to be President of the USA. He never got his wish. However, he may have doomed his chances by making this statement. It came back to haunt in the election of 1840. Goldman does a good chance of describing the harm that Clay did to himself.

From the article:

The venerable politician and statesman Senator Henry Clay of Kentucky believed his time to win the Presidency would finally be ripe in 1840. There were many obstacles to his winning the Whig Party's nomination. One of the most contentious issues in the country in the antebellum period was slavery. Clay tried to take a centrist position, but accusations flew in both the North and the South that he favored extremes. In the North he was accused of "being ultra" in favor of Southern slaveholders. In the South he was accused of being an abolitionist who plotted secretly to abolish slavery. (Remini, 525) As the historian Robert Remini explains, "It may have occurred to Clay that his apparent middle-of- the-road position invited attacks from both sides of the slavery question." (Remini, 525) Clay felt the charges that he was an abolitionist were detrimental to his chances for the presidency, and he needed to clarify his views on the slavery question. But he intended to stick to his views regardless of the political consequences. As he famously said, "I had rather be right than president."

In order eventually to capture the nomination he needed support from Southern Whigs, but at the same time, he needed support from the Northern Quakers who were passive abolitionists. The most important aspect was to distinguish himself from the most extreme abolitionists, the "ultras" which he did in a Senate speech on February 7, 1839. Clay's speech, "Petitions for the Abolition of Slavery," supposedly addressed a petition by Washington DC's residents to abolish slavery in the district. Clay actually wrote the petition himself.

The speech was Clay at his worse, which his supporters lamented. As Carl Schurz writes, "It was an apology for his better self. Formerly he had spoken as a born anti-slavery man, who to his profound regret found himself compelled to make concessions to slavery. Now he appeared as one inclined to deplore the attacks on slavery no less, if not more, than the existence of slavery itself." (Schurz, 164)

Friday, February 01, 2008

Bill Clinton: 9/11 Was NOT an Inside Job

Bill Clinton versus a heckler convinced that 9/11 was a government conspiracy. President Clinton was not amused and does a good job responding. This short clip is fun and shows how forminable a speaker President Clinton is when he gets going.