“WHY MONITOR A PROBLEM IF WE DON’T FIX IT?” by Milt Hankins

“WHY MONITOR A PROBLEM IF WE DON’T FIX IT?” by Milt Hankins

I’m always amused by the TV advertisement where the character tells people in distress that he doesn’t fix a problem, he’s only a monitor. The announcer says, “Why monitor a problem if you don’t fix it?” As to our president-elect, we’re in that kind of a situation right now.

Over two and a half million people do not find it amusing!

A sufficient number of people, apparently, have elected a man to the presidency who is, at his best, frightening. If you’re not scared of a Donald Trump administration, you’ve not been paying attention.

PRESIDENT WARREN G. HARDING

PRESIDENT WARREN G. HARDING

He reminds me of Warren G. Harding, but there is a singular, conspicuous difference—Harding did not have access to nuclear weapons!  As far as I know, Trump isn’t a drinker or gambler as Harding was, but Harding had a warm, endearing personality; whereas, Trump is thin-skinned, vindictive and unpredictable.

Trump even talks nuclear weapons! Remember, he said “If we have them, why can’t we use them?” Apparently, he hasn’t the foggiest notion the power unleashed by a nuclear weapon. I saw it firsthand during a test in 1962 while I was in the USAF.

Those people who think our military is deficient or lacks the strength and power have no idea how strong the U.S. military is. When I think about what it was like in 1962, fifty years later, now, with our new series of bombers and rockets, I’m very reassured that we can handle ourselves with anyone in the world.

NUCLEAR WEAPONS TEST (1962)

NUCLEAR WEAPONS TEST (1962)

Our enemies–Iran, North Korea, Syria–know this! When we make them think we are weak, as Trump did during his campaign, it does us no good. As a matter of fact, it’s dumb!

NUCLEAR MUSHROOM CLOUD

NUCLEAR MUSHROOM CLOUD

We have the strongest, most capable military in the world…and we’ve never been afraid to use it. We’ve never had to be afraid. But we’ve always needed to be alarmed by talk about the use of nuclear weapons.

PRESIDENT-ELECT TRUMP

PRESIDENT-ELECT TRUMP

I have difficulty thinking of someone who attended Fordham and graduated from the Wharton School of Economics at the University of Pennsylvania as functionally illiterate. But, what we have on our hands is a sociopathic, narcissistic, habitual liar…a “con, a fraud,” Mitt Romney called him. Apparently, we have elected a womanizing, immoral, self-indulgent individual who obviously plans to use the high office of the presidency to enrich himself and his family. He is certainly already taking advantage of the opportunities to use his “position” as president-elect to negotiate or manipulate those foreign governments where he has holdings.

 What we have is more than a sad day for America. We’re in the midst of a national crisis! Every person in a state where it is permissible should contact their electors and make a plea for voting for Hillary Clinton in the Electoral College. I’ve had lots of history courses and a course in constitutional law, and that’s the only way he can be stopped now…if the electors care enough about this country to do the right thing!

“Why monitor a problem if [we] don’t fix it?”

 

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WE ARE A NATION OF SURVIVORS by Milt Hankins

WE ARE A NATION OF SURVIVORS by Milt Hankins

 seal-president-of-the-united-states-1163420_1280               Let’s suppose that Donald J. Trump, against the odds, becomes the next president of the United States.  He will not be the first businessman to arrive at the White House. Nor will he be the first to be totally out of his league.  Let me say at the outset, the United States of America will survive.  We have found ourselves under the leadership of incompetents in desperate times, and we have always made it through.  We are a nation of survivors!  With a nod to Dickens, interestingly, our “worst of times” are often followed by our “best of times.”A little history can help us better understand.

                In one of the most critical periods in our nation’s history, the years immediately preceding the Civil War (War Between the States) three of the most incompetent presidents, men who hadn’t the slightest notion of what to do to save the Union, were presidents of the United States–Millard Fillmore, Franklin Pierce and James Buchanan.  Millard Fillmore (who?) filled the remainder of Zachary Taylor’s term.  Taylor, I must add, was equally incompetent! Fillmore was the last president not to be affiliated with either the Democrats or the Republicans, and he is undoubtedly the least remembered of the presidents.

                Franklin Pierce was a playboy and an alcoholic whose tragic life was encumbered with a miserable marriage and a political philosophy that was almost totally out-of-step with the times.  James Buchanan was a strange, complicated socialite with a shaded reputation (in Washington, D.C.) who had the dubious distinction of watching the nation fall apart without the slightest idea what to do about it.

               abraham-lincoln-60558_1280                 Along came Abraham Lincoln! And the Civil War. Followed by two other failures–Andrew Johnson and Ulysses S. Grant.

                But, we’ve had seriously flawed presidents in the modern era. Perhaps the worst was Warren G. Harding. He was the Ohio newspaper (business) man who followed Woodrow Wilson.  He looked like a president; he sounded somewhat like a solid, intelligent man, but he was a disaster in the White House.  His flaws would fill a book, and his lack of interest in his position lead to a corrupt administration that included leasing public lands for private gain. A gambler, tippler, and womanizer, Harding once gambled away a set of White House china!  His administration was cut short when he suddenly died in San Francisco, California following a presidential trip, for no apparent, good reason, to Alaska. He was popular with the people, but rumors were circulated that his wife had poisoned him to save his reputation, as some of the scandals of his administration were about to be exposed. He probably was not poisoned by his wife, but interestingly, Florence Kling Harding refused to allow an autopsy on the dead president.

                Harding was followed by Calvin Coolidge.  What can be said of “Silent Cal?” Not much. Equally incompetent; at best a reasonably successful local politician, Coolidge was neither prepared for the White House nor able to do anything substantial to enhance the office or overcome the entrenched bureaucracy.  Coolidge was essentially disempowered by depression when one of his sons died of blood poisoning in the White House.  It was the jazz age, the flapper era–a time when not much was to be done and nobody seemed to foresee the great depression looming.

                If Harding and Coolidge in succession were not enough, along came Herbert Hoover! Hoover, too, was an extremely wealthy businessman.  He acquired his fortune as an overseas mining engineer. No one could ever fault his good intentions, but he seemed absolutely powerless to deal with what was happening to the common man.  The Great Depression completely undid Hoover’s administration.  As a matter of fact, shacks housing the poorest, out-of-work and starving Americans were called “Hoovervilles.”

                Along came Franklin D. Roosevelt!  And World War II.patriotic-1345268_1280

                All of the aforementioned, less-than-stellar presidents were one-termers or less with the exception of Calvin Coolidge.

                I am not going to get into the politics of these presidents, except to say that most of them, including Abraham Lincoln, were Republicans.  Reason?  Because the Republicans of yesteryear bear little resemblance to today’s Republicans. We did reasonably well, until along came the latest disaster…George W. Bush.

                Since most readers should remember the George W. Bush years, I won’t take much space to go into detail.  I will simply refer to 9-11, a disastrous foray into Iraq that totally unsettled the Middle East, and a severe economic crisis that nearly pushed the nation into a second great depression.  Bush, like so many of the other failures, was a wealthy businessman (owner of a baseball team) and a not-so-accomplished governor (Texas) before going to the Oval Office, where he was a disaster!

                Along came Barack Obama.  You be the judge!

President Barack Obama

President Barack Obama

                All too often, history repeats itself because “those who cannot remember the past, as George Santayana said, “are condemned to repeat it.”  

L. Milton ("Milt") Hankins is an author, columnist and editor who lives in Ashland, Kentucky. He is a life-long student of the American presidency. His book manuscript "Our Unusual Presidents and Their Families" provides source material for part of this article.
WHAT PRESIDENTS SAID ABOUT OTHER PRESIDENTS (Presidential Series) by L. Milton Hankins

WHAT PRESIDENTS SAID ABOUT OTHER PRESIDENTS (Presidential Series) by L. Milton Hankins

[Following is the tenth of a twelve-part series in COLUMNIST WITH A VIEW. The sketches are taken from the editor’s book manuscript Our Curious Presidents and Their Families. Many books of presidential trivia are available, however, the pieces I have selected from my own research are somewhat obscure. Most of them come from presidential autobiographies, approved biographies, or the sources indicated.]

John Adams said of his predecessor George Washington: “He is too illiterate, unread, unlearned for his station and reputation.” On the other hand, Thomas Jefferson had this to say about John Adams: “He is as disinterested as the Being who made him.” Jefferson said of Washington: “His mind was slow in operation but sure in conclusion,” which, I assume, was a compliment!

Thomas Jefferson

thomas-jefferson-153568_1280Jefferson said of Andrew Jackson: “I feel much alarmed at the prospect of seeing Jackson president.  A mixture of profound and sagacious observation with strong prejudices and irritated passions.”

William Henry Harrison said of John Quincy Adams: “It is said [John Quincy Adams] is a disgusting man…coarse, dirty, and clownish in his address and stiff and abstracted in his opinions, which are drawn from books exclusively.”

James Knox Polk, who is considered by presidential historians to be one of our most successful presidents, said of James Buchanan, who is considered one of our least successful presidents: “All his acts and opinions seem to be with a view to his own advancement….Mr. Buchanan is an able man, but is in small matters without judgment and sometimes acts like an old maid.”

Abraham Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln complimented Jefferson by saying: “The principles of Jefferson are the definitions and axioms of a free society.” Of James Knox Polk, he had this to say: “I suspect he is deeply conscious of being in the wrong–that he feels the blood of this war [the Mexican War] like the blood of Abel, is crying to Heaven against him….He is a bewildered, confounded, and miserably perplexed man.”

Andrew Johnson remarked of Ulysses S. Grant: “…his brain could have been compressed within the periphery of a nutshell.” Grant was not always solicitous. He said of James A. Garfield, “Garfield has shown that he is not possessed of the backbone of an angle-worm.” Garfield summarized Grant’s administration by, truthfully, saying,”Grant has done more than any other president to degrade the character of Cabinet officers by choosing them on the model of the military staff, because of their pleasant personal relations with him and not because of their national reputation or the country’s needs.”

Theodore Roosevelt called Benjamin Harrison “a cold-blooded, narrow-minded, prejudiced, obstinate, timid old Psalm-singing Indianapolis politician.”  That about said it all! He said essentially the same thing of Woodrow Wilson, but in fewer words: “He is an utterly selfish and cold-blooded politician always.” Roosevelt could never be accused of mincing words!

Woodrow Wilson said about Warren G. Harding:  “Harding is incapable of thought, because he has nothing to think with.”

Harry Truman

Harry Truman

Harry Truman once said of John Adams, “It’s just that he wasn’t very special.” He wasn’t particularly gentle with his successors either. Of Dwight D. Eisenhower he said, surprisingly, “The trouble with Eisenhower is he’s just a coward….He hasn’t any backbone at all.” About Richard Nixon he said,”I don’t think the son-of-a-bitch knows the difference between telling the truth and lying.”

John F. Kennedy

John F. Kennedy

John F. Kennedy shortened Truman’s opinion of Nixon by remarking simply, “He has no taste!” In 1960, Kennedy expanded his assessment of Nixon: “He’s a conservative, and if he became president, we could expect Republican policy would switch to the right….He is a filthy, lying son-of-a-bitch, and a very dangerous man!” No one seems to have had much good to say about Richard Nixon. Lyndon B. Johnson said, “I just knew in my heart that it was not right for Nixon to ever be president of this country.”  Of Nixon’s successor Gerald Ford, Johnson remarked, “He played too much football with his helmet off! Jerry’s the only man I ever knew who can’t walk and chew gum at the same time.”

Interestingly, Nixon said of Ronald Reagan, a fellow republican, “Reagan is not one that wears well. Reagan, on a personal basis, is terrible. He just isn’t pleasant to be around. Maybe he’s different with others. No, he’s just an uncomfortable man to be around…strange.”  Nixon may have hit the nail on the head when he said “Maybe he’s different with others.” Personally, although I empathized with the man, I’ve always thought Richard Nixon would have been an insufferably outspoken dinner guest.

cowboy-67630_1920

                                                     Ronald Reagan

Ronald Reagan said of Bill Clinton:  “This fellow they’ve nominated claims he’s the new Thomas Jefferson. Well, let me tell you something, I knew Thomas Jefferson.  He was a friend of mine. And governor, you’re no Thomas Jefferson!” The quote was paraphrased by Lloyd Bentsen in a debate with Dan Quayle.  Bentsen used “Jack Kennedy” instead of “Thomas Jefferson,” and the phrase, though well-remembered, lost a lot of  Reagan’s punch.

Bill Clinton said of George H. W. Bush:  “Every time Bush talks about trust it makes chills run up and down my spine. The way he has trampled on the truth is a travesty of the American political system.” About his father, George W. Bush said, “I had watched Dad climb into the biggest arena and succeed. I wanted to find out if I had what it took to join him.”

According to Blood Feud by Edward Klein, Clinton once said to his friends, “‘I hate that man Obama more than any man I’ve ever met, more than any man who ever lived.'” He was apparently referring to Obama’s once referring to him as a racist during Obama’s campaign for the nomination against Hillary Clinton.

At the dedication of the George W. Bush library, Barack Obama said of George W. Bush:  “…what President Clinton said is absolutely true–to know the man is to like the man, because he’s comfortable in his own skin. He knows who he is. He doesn’t put on any pretenses. He takes his job seriously, but he doesn’t take himself too seriously. He is a good man.”  On the same occasion, Clinton said, “He [George W. Bush] used to call me twice a year in his second term, just to talk. We talked about everything in the wide world.”

Referring, of course, to his relationship with his successor Barack Obama, George W. Bush said, “I don’t think it’s good for the country to have a former president undermine a current president; I think its bad for the presidency for that matter.”

 

 

 

 

 

[Readers can learn more about the writer's biography and publications by going to www.lmiltonhankins.com]
BREAKING TRADITIONS (Presidential Series) by L. Milton Hankins

BREAKING TRADITIONS (Presidential Series) by L. Milton Hankins

[The following column is the ninth of a series in COLUMNIST WITH A VIEW. The sketches are taken from the editor’s book manuscript Our Curious Presidents and Their Families. Many books of presidential trivia are available, however, the pieces I have selected from my own research are somewhat obscure. Most of them come from presidential autobiographies, approved biographies, or the sources indicated.]

Outgoing President John Adams was the first president to skip his successor’s inaugural ceremonies. (Other presidents who chose not to attend them were John Quincy Adams, Andrew Johnson, Woodrow Wilson (because of illness) and Richard Nixon (orderly transition upon Nixon’s resignation).

Thomas Jefferson immediately ordered the installation of an indoor water closet (bathroom) in the White House.

Dolley Madison was the first President’s wife to organize an inaugural ball.  A long tradition was broken when Dolley was the first president’s wife to be called “First Lady.”  President Zachary Taylor called Mrs. Madison the “First Lady” while delivering her eulogy at her funeral.

white-house-754766_640James Monroe was the first inaugural address (1st term) outdoors.

Elizabeth Monroe “ended the custom of [the] president’s wife making the first social call on the wives of other officials in Washington.” The result was that the insulted women refused to attend Mrs. Monroe’s White House receptions. (The National First Ladies’ Library)

Abraham Lincoln broke a long-standing tradition by being the first president to wear a beard.  He broke another long-standing tradition by including African-Americans in his inaugural parade.

President William Howard Taft was the first president to throw out the first ball on the opening day of professional baseball season.

Outgoing President William Howard Taft accompanied his successor Woodrow Wilson back to the White House following the inaugural ceremony. He had a sandwich with the new president and promptly departed. This return of an outgoing president to the White House was looked upon as a huge faux pas.

No person of African descent had ever been entertained at dinner at the White House in Washington, D. C. until President Theodore Roosevelt invited Booker T. Washington to join him for dinner.  John Adams entertained a person of African descent (Joseph Bunel), but Adams’ home was in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

When Herbert Hoover took the oath of office in 1929, the chief justice who administered the oath mangled it, substituting the word “maintain” for “protect.” Helen Terwilliger, an eighth-grade girl, caught the mistake and wrote Taft about it.  Taft answered Miss Terwilliger by insisting that he had said the words correctly. The newsreels were eventually played to see who was correct. Terwilliger was, and Hoover eventually conceded that he had said the oath incorrectly.

Although we take acceptance speeches for granted, Franklin D. Roosevelt was the first to actually go to the National Democratic Convention to give his acceptance speech in person, establishing a tradition which has continued to this day. Before Roosevelt it was not considered proper for the party’s nominee to appear before the nominating convention.

Dwight D. Eisenhower is responsible for having the words “under God” to the Pledge of Allegiance.

Jimmy Carter broke away from the long-standing tradition of wearing a morning coat and top hat for his inauguration in 1977. Carter chose to wear a business suit with four-in-hand tie.  President and Mrs. Carter broke the tradition of giving the president-elect and his wife a tour of the family quarters in the White House by failing to do so for the Reagans.

Ronald Reagan insisted that his first inauguration be held on the west front of the U.S. Capitol. For many years previously the inaugural ceremonies had been held on the east portico, but Reagan wanted to be sworn in facing his home state of California. Since Reagan, all presidents have been sworn in on the west front of the U.S. Capitol. Because of inclement weather, President Reagan gave his second inaugural address on January 21st beneath the U.S. Capitol dome. Since Reagan’s second term officially began on a Sunday, January 20th, he took the oath of office privately in the grand hall of the White House. The swearing-in ceremony was television.

President George H. W. Bush established the precedence of “pardoning” the Thanksgiving turkey which is annually presented to the president and his family.

“In 2000 to protect their situation, D.C. citizens changed the logo on their new license plates from “Nation’s Capitol” to “Taxation Without Representation.” Before he left office, Bill Clinton had these licenses put on the presidential limousine, but George W. Bush replaced them with plain District plates.” (Portable Press, Plunges Into the President, 2004, p. 19]

During President Barack Obama’s second inaugural parade, it became obvious that the license plate bearing “Taxation Without Representation” had been restored to the presidential limousine.

Barack Obama took the presidential Oath of Office four times! Chief Justice Roberts and the president-elect botched the oath on Obama’s inauguration day in 2009, so they repeated it the next day in the privacy of the White House. President Obama’s first term officially ended on Sunday, January 20, 2013, so Roberts administered the oath in a private ceremony in the White House. Then, Obama repeated the oath second time at the official inaugural ceremonies on January 21, 2013.

There are many, many more “firsts” for presidents, but the above are changes in long-standing policy or activities.

 

 

L. Milton Hankins is the author of Our Curious Presidents and Their Families, which is still in manuscript form. He is the author of three books and is a columnist for the Huntington, WV Herald-Dispatch. He is also the publisher and editor of the internationally-read online magazine Columnist With a View.
PRESIDENTS HAD MARITAL WOES, TOO! by L. Milton Hankins

PRESIDENTS HAD MARITAL WOES, TOO! by L. Milton Hankins

[The following column is the seventh of a series in COLUMNIST WITH A VIEW. The sketches are taken from the editor’s book manuscript Our Curious Presidents and Their Families. Many books of presidential trivia are available, however, the pieces I have selected from my own research are somewhat obscure. Most of them come from presidential autobiographies, approved biographies, or the sources indicated.]

The presidents of the United States were not immune from rocky marriages.

George  WGeorge Washingtonashington wrote several questionable letters of a private nature to Mrs. Sally Fairfax, his neighbor’s wife. She was definitely Washington’s first love interest. Fairfax eventually took his wife to England. Washington married Martha, a wealthy widow, and doubled his wealth!  Mrs. Washington was faithful to her husband, following him from camp to camp during the Revolutionary War.  But, she did not want him to be president and refused to accompany him to New York for his inauguration. 

John Quincy Adams had a difficult and unhappy marriage primarily because of differing temperaments. Louisa Adams’ anxieties and John Quincy’s eccentricities made them essentially incompatible.

Franklin Pierce and Jane Appleton Pierce had problems during their entire marriage because of background differences. Jane Pierce was austere and a teetotaler with strong religious convictions, while Franklin was a convivial, extroverted “party-animal” type. The tragic deaths at an early age of all their children put a tremendous strain on the couple’s relationship and Pierce’s aspirations. By the time they reached the White House, Jane Pierce was an emotional wreck and blamed her husband’s political ambitions for the accidental death of their remaining son, Benjamin, while he was president-elect.

Abraham and Mary Todd Lincoln’s marriage was less than ideal. Mary was high-strung, ambitious, and mentally unstable. Her lavish spending while first lady

Abraham Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln

 caused the president a great deal of worry; as well, the fact that she had relatives serving in the Confederate Army. Lincoln showed patience beyond measure with his wife 

James A. Garfield’s relationship with his wife Lucretia was troubled early-on. Garfield had an affair with a young widow while he was in the military, a fact his wife never forgot. Garfield also had an extramarital affair with a woman in New York. Later, the Garfield’s marriage seemed to stabilize. Incidentally, Garfield was the only ordained minister to become president. Nonetheless, he had an eye for the ladies.

Benjamin Harrison’s law career and his avid interest in political affairs kept him away from his family for considerable lengths of time. This caused tension in the marriage between him and his wife Caroline. Their relationship seems to have improved considerably following Harrison’s service during the War Between the States.

Woodrow Wilson carried on a three-year extramarital affair while married to his wife Ellen Louise Axxon Wilson. Washingtonians looked askance at how quickly he romanced and married Edith Bolling Galt following his first wife’s death in the White House.

Warren G. Harding was never close to his wife Florence Kling Harding because of emotional differences. He was known to have several extra-marital affairs before and during his presidency. And, yes, once he hid a paramour in a closet while the First Lady ranted through the house looking for her.

Franklin D. Roosevelt’s relationship with his wife Anna Eleanor Roosevelt became mostly cool and professional after Eleanor discovered he was having an affair with her social secretary. As a matter of fact, Roosevelt’s girlfriend was with him at his Georgia White House when he suddenly died.  She disappeared quickly…before Eleanor arrived to accompany his body back to Washington, D.C. 

Dwight D. Eisenhower reputedly had an intimate relationship with his driver, Kay Summersby, while serving in Europe.  President Franklin D. Roosevelt wrote a letter to Eisenhower “suggesting” an end to the affair and the rumors.

Recent findings substantiate the rocky relationship between John F. and Jacqueline Kennedy. He frequently consorted with other women during his entire marriage,Jacqueline Kennedy and his behavior continued in the White House, a fact well known to the first lady.

Lyndon Johnson’s reputed extra-marital and untoward affairs never seemed to interfere with his relationship with his wife.  The story is often told that when Lady Bird Johnson was told of a particular tryst between her husband and another woman, Lady Bird remarked, “Why, I wouldn’t think she’s Lyndon’s type!”

Bill Clinton’s relationship with Hillary Rodham Clinton was strained by numerous reported, reputed, and confirmed affairs with other women throughout their marriage.  The most well-known, however, was his affair with White House Aide Monica Lewinsky.  

Jacqueline Kennedy