Archive for presidency
His name really was Mudd.
Today is the 179th birthday of the most vilified doctor this side of Mike Myers’ Dr. Evil.
Samuel Mudd was born on December 20, 1833. Before his 32nd birthday, he was a convicted felon.
With the rebirth of Abraham Lincoln in our social consciousness (they even made a movie where Abe isn’t a vampire hunter), now is a good time to remember Dr. Mudd, who was convicted along with several others for conspiring to kill the president in 1865.
Justice moved a lot quicker in those days, for good and for bad. The president was assassinated on April 14, 1865 (he died in the wee hours of the 15th). Less than a month later, Mudd and his co-defendants were on trial. By the end of June, Mudd was convicted along with the others.
It was Mudd’s prior acquaintance with assassin John Wilkes Booth that planted the seeds of conspiracy.
Mudd first met Booth, history says, in November 1864 in a church in Bryantown, MD. Booth used a guise of a real estate hunt as an excuse to visit the town, but his real intent was to scout out an escape route in his plot to kidnap Lincoln and ransom him for the release of Confederate prisoners of war. During this first Bryantown visit, Booth allegedly met Dr. Mudd and even stayed overnight at the doctor’s farm.
Historians pretty much agree that it’s unlikely that the doctor would have knowingly participated in Booth’s kidnap plot, though a second Booth-Mudd meeting occurred in December, which included drinks at a tavern and at Mudd’s farm. The nature of the meeting is unknown.
Mudd’s farm was only five miles from Bryantown.
Co-conspirator defendant George Atzerodt claimed that Mudd knew of Booth’s plot ahead of time, which turned into one of the murder variety.
You know the rest. Booth shot Lincoln at Ford’s Theater, and sought medical assistance at Dr. Mudd’s farm later that night. The doctor treated Booth’s broken leg (suffered while leaping from the balcony onto the stage after the shooting) and let Booth spend the night. It’s unclear—and this is a biggie—whether Dr. Mudd knew, at that time, that Booth had murdered Lincoln.
The doctor didn’t help his own cause. Mudd failed to contact authorities until several days after Booth left his farm, fueling speculation that Mudd was part of some sort of plot.
Mudd was also less than forthcoming about whether he had met Booth previously, once authorities were able to question the doctor. Mudd at first denied ever having met Booth, then retracted and confessed to the first meeting in Bryantown in November 1864. It wasn’t until he was in prison that Mudd confessed to the December 1864 meeting. Both denials were, obviously, big mistakes.
Mudd served less than four years in prison. It always helps to have friends in high places; Mudd’s defense attorney, Thomas Ewing Jr., was influential in then-President Andrew Johnson’s administration. This connection was a big factor in Johnson’s pardon of Mudd in February 1869. Mudd returned home in late March.
Dr. Samuel Mudd, as he appeared while in prison
Thanks to the pardon, Mudd resumed practicing medicine and in 1877 he even ran for the Maryland House of Delegates as a Democrat. He lost.
Mudd died of pneumonia on January 10, 1883. There is irony in his burial, which was in the cemetery of St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Bryantown.
That’s the church where Dr. Mudd first met John Wilkes Booth.
OK, so you’re Barack Obama. You woke up Wednesday morning having been re-elected as President of the United States.
But over 57 million people voted for the other guy—almost half the electorate.
It’s a sobering thought, or should be, as Mr. Obama starts Term II.
This was among the most bitter, divisive and nasty presidential campaigns in recent memory. Maybe ever.
You can blame Social Media for that. But more about that in a second.
Obama is president of everyone, of course (not just 47 percent), but knowing that about half the people don’t want you in the Oval Office certainly should have a bearing on how you govern, no matter if you feel that your agenda and ideology are right, and theirs isn’t.
But it’s also a great time for compromise and reaching across the aisle, because no longer can Obama’s detractors in Washington rally around their flag of making him a one term president. That ship has sailed, though not necessarily with breakneck speed, given how close the popular vote was.
But it has sailed, so let’s get to work and get some stuff done. Speaker of the House John Boehner has offered an olive branch and a conciliatory tone, which is more than you can say for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. It should also be noted that McConnell is up for re-election in 2014.
It’s time now for Obama to gather the haters in Congress around him and say, “You guys wanted me gone. Well, I’m back. Deal with it, and let’s end gridlock.”
So we have a dichotomy of sorts here. There’s the fact that nearly half of over 117 million voters wanted Mitt Romney as president. Yet there’s also a magnificent chance to work on the soft underbelly of a GOP that got slapped in its behind on Tuesday, losing some key Senate races, most notably Elizabeth Warren beating Scott Brown in Massachusetts.
Obama Term II should be more interesting and even more productive than Term I. It could also lay the groundwork for continued Democratic presence in the White House come 2016. Someone might have some long coattails on which to ride into the Oval Office.
Obama had over 59 million votes, but 57 million voted for the other guy
Back to Social Media.
Facebook and Twitter weren’t nearly as widespread in their use during the 2008 campaign. But in 2012, the vitriol and political posts and ensuing mean-spirited, nasty threads that resulted truly ended Facebook friendships or at the very least caused animosity that will take a while to dissolve. Sounds silly, I know, but it’s true. I was among those who got involved in some pretty nasty back-and-forths.
With FB and Twitter, it’s just so easy (too easy) to log on, rap out something in anger or passion, and then maybe you’d wished you hadn’t. Maybe what you threw out there you should have kept to yourself. But the flip is that sometimes you stay on the sidelines too long, holding too much in, and you have no choice but to put in your two cents.
Trouble is, those two cents can rapidly turn into a buck and a half once the dissenters start responding.
I’m sure we’ll all heal from this angry campaign. We always do. But the tone is set in Washington. If we see our leaders coming together, reaching across and banging out some bi-partisan legislation, maybe that will accelerate the healing.
But I think we can agree on one thing.
Thank goodness this campaign is over with!
Was George McGovern the worst presidential candidate to come from the two major parties, in history?
Leave it to an old Wayne State guy to cut to the chase.
James Lipton, who’s so much more than just the host of Bravo’s “Inside the Actors Studio,” was on Chris Matthews’ MSNBC show last night. And the former Wayne State attendee (he received an honorary doctorate from WSU in 2002) boiled the presidential election down to this.
“The choice is clear,” Lipton said. “Do you want a president, or a boss?”
Lipton was asked to give his impressions of the performances of Mitt Romney and President Obama at Tuesday’s debate, from the perspective of someone who is very used to critiquing on-screen, on-stage bits.
Lipton felt that Romney was every bit the CEO and Obama every bit the statesman.
“Romney is that boss who tells bad jokes to his employees and waits for everyone to laugh,” Lipton said. And, “He’s very used to getting his way.”
Lipton thought that Romney was less-than-deferential to the president, particularly when Romney told Obama, “You’ll get your turn,” as he motioned for the president to sit down in the middle of a diatribe.
“This is the President of the United States, being told this by a…civilian,” Lipton said, incredulously.
Lipton’s bottom line is spot on. Romney does indeed come off as the CEO, talking down to his subjects in a board room. Obama looked like, well, the president—and how a president should look.
Matthews chimed in at one point and said Romney is “like that guy on the plane who won’t turn his cell phone off after the stewardess tells him to.”
Again, spot on.
Lipton said it again. “Do you want to be governed by a statesman, or supervised by a boss?”
Wayne State University’s own James Lipton
Romney’s lack of statesmanship was supremely evident in the exchange during Tuesday’s debate about the tragic loss of diplomats in Libya on September 11. The former Massachusetts governor drew Obama’s ire, as the president both scolded Romney and took offense to the suggestion that the administration’s response to the attacks in Libya was political in nature.
“That’s not what we do,” Obama said, glaring at Romney in the eyes. “It’s not what I do as commander-in-chief.”
It was Obama’s “I’m the president and you’re not” moment.
It got worse, as Romney pressed the issue, claiming that Obama didn’t call the attacks a terrorist act until two weeks later. That blew up in his face when moderator Candy Crowley noted that the president did, indeed, call the attacks an act of terror the day after they occurred.
Romney tried to bully the president and Crowley, and just as he’s done in previous debates, the governor barked out his own interpretation of the rules.
“He got the last word on that one so I get the last word on this one,” Romney said early on as he apparently was not only debate participant but also the rules sheriff.
“It doesn’t quite work that way,” Crowley said.
Not that it matters.
Debate score: 1-1, with one more remaining next Monday.
But Lipton was dead on accurate in his assessment.
President, or Boss?
The clothes had no emperor—or president.
It was a vanishing act of the most extreme. Someone start rolling milk cartons off the presses with the president’s mug on them.
“Have you seen me?”
Mitt Romney is a magician. He walked on stage at the University of Denver last night, opened his mouth, and made Barack Obama disappear.
Obama, for his part, did some “Abracadabra” of his own—by making Romney’s baggage go away, just like that. Someone check back stage for an albatross slithering away, freed from Romney’s neck.
Last night’s presidential debate was made out to be Muhammad Ali vs. Chuck Wepner, redux. The challenger didn’t have a chance to touch the champ, right? Obama was going to wipe the floor with the former Massachusetts governor.
But unlike the Ali-Wepner bout, which featured the overmatched challenger Wepner hanging tough by showing he could take the pounding of a lifetime from champion Ali, it was the champ/president who entered the ring and immediately went into Ali’s famed Rope-a-Dope.
Romney pounded and pounded, from the get go, while Obama thrust his arms in front of his face, stood against the ropes, and took it, as if hoping Romney would tire his mouth out.
This was also a bout without a ref. Moderator Jim Lehrer was like one of those disrespected refs in a WWE match. Romney had as much respect for Lehrer as the Harlem Globetrotters do for the Washington Generals.
When tired of running roughshod over the president, Romney took to holding Lehrer in contempt, frequently ignoring the 78-year-old’s feeble attempts to rein the governor in. At one point, early on, Romney declared, “I have the last word on this subject.”
It was like a batter in baseball telling an umpire, “I get a fourth strike.” And the umpire agreeing.
But Obama doesn’t have Lehrer to blame. It was all on the president—the lack of fire, the refusal to break out even one weapon from an overloaded holster, the inexplicable silence on all the verbal and policy gaffes Romney has made in recent weeks.
Two of these men were invisible last night and the third pounced (guess)
Did you hear anything about 47%? Or offshore holdings? Or the multiple examples of flip-flopping? Or the hypocrisy on China?
Did you hear about Osama bin Laden (other than in the final 30 seconds)? Or the automotive bailout?
What was Obama waiting for? Approval from Lehrer, who one time inexplicably asked Romney, while the president was speaking, “Do you agree with the president?” thus allowing Romney a free opportunity to look good. And Romney took it.
But again, this is on Obama. He played it like a hockey team trying not to lose in the closing minutes, just dumping the puck out of their zone and hoping for the best, while the other guys pepper the goalie with shot after shot.
It could be rust. Romney debated just this year, while the president hasn’t done this in four years.
Regardless, Obama was flat. A bottle of Pepsi left out for several days had more fizz.
There are two of these debates left. Suddenly they matter.
Familiarity breeds contempt. That’s the saying, right?
It would seem to fit Mitt Romney like a glove.
For the second political race in a row, voters are drifting away from the Republican presidential candidate the more they get to know him, or at least see him in action.
It happened in the GOP primary, where Romney had difficulty putting away Rick Santorum, who was as far right of a candidate as has run in recent memory.
Polls indicated that the more primary voters got to know Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts, the less enamored they were with him.
The same thing is happening now, in Romney’s race against President Obama.
Romney suffered a double whammy in the past two weeks: the Democratic convention with its stirring speeches, and his big mouth in the wake of the Libyan crisis.
The former provided Obama with an expected (though maybe larger than expected) bounce, and the latter gave the country a sneak peek into what kind of man might occupy the Oval Office, should Romney win.
“Governor Romney tends to shoot first and aim later,” the president told 60 Minutes in an interview to air this Sunday. I don’t know whether the line was Obama’s or was written for him. Regardless, it captured, in nine words, how not to be president while simultaneously painting Romney as someone you wouldn’t want as president.
The latest Gallup Poll has Obama leading, 50-44, and even Fox News concurs, giving the president a 48-43 lead in its latest poll. This is a departure from before the conventions, when Romney was nipping at Obama’s heels, staying within two points in most polls.
But the contrast in conventions, plus Romney’s ham-handed criticism of the administration to the violence in Libya before he had all the facts, have wobbled him.
And this before the three debates, which are likely to even further define the fitness of the incumbent over the challenger in terms of who is more presidential and who is the best leader.
Obama is even leading Romney in who can handle the economy better, and has a sizable lead with women and in the question of who is a more decisive leader.
These trends are proportional, almost directly, to the growing familiarity voters are getting with Romney—particularly those who weren’t paying much attention to the GOP primaries.
The governor’s steadfast refusal to reveal details of his budget and tax plan isn’t helping him, either. Neither is running mate Paul Ryan, who was theoretically chosen to give the ticket a boost but who has mostly played Charlie McCarthy to Romney’s Edgar Bergen.
The Romney campaign has had a rough couple of weeks, but all presidential campaigns have tough stretches. Even Obama, in his race against Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination in 2008, had his less-than-stellar moments and hurdles to clear.
Romney’s ability to rebound from his hoof-in-mouth disease and apparent disconnect with the electorate is being tested now like never before. His political track record doesn’t really give any examples of when he’s been able to do it.
Shoot first, aim later.
That is a tag that will follow Romney to the voting booths on November 6, like a piece of toilet paper stuck to his shoe.
In the history of the U.S. Presidency since 1865, on seven occasions the sitting president was unable to finish his term. All but one of those were due to death (Richard Nixon’s 1974 resignation). And it should be pointed out that another of those seven, Franklin Roosevelt, died in office but in the beginning of his fourth term, which is a Constitutional impossibility these days.
So it’s not all that common, of course, when the vice president has to step in and assume the reins of the Commander-in-Chief, mid-term.
Yet there is a fascination with the choice of presidential running mates every four years.
The vice presidency is a funny thing. You’re, as they say, a “heartbeat away” from becoming the most powerful man in the world, yet while you’re waiting for that to happen, you’re as relevant as, well the vice president.
The job is, as former VP John Nance Garner once famously said, “not worth a bucket of warm piss” (yes, he said piss—not spit as has been mostly reported).
But we wait on pins and needles every four summers to see who the non-incumbent party’s candidate will choose as his running mate. Yet on Election Day, we don’t vote for vice president. No one goes into the voting booth pulling the lever for a man’s running mate.
That doesn’t stop the analysis or the hand-wringing or the speculation or the talking points, all about a decision that doesn’t really have any bearing on the direction of the country.
The candidate usually picks the opposite of himself. If he’s a loudmouth, he’ll tab a quiet guy. If he’s Northern, he’ll go Southern. If he’s right or left of center, he’ll go with someone more central.
He doesn’t even have to like the man he’s choosing.
In 1960, Massachusetts’ John Kennedy, who wrested the nomination from the likes of Texan Lyndon Johnson, felt he needed Johnson’s appeal to Southerners and those who weren’t crazy about JFK’s being Roman Catholic.
So despite not being enamored with each other, the two joined forces on the Democratic ticket for the good of the party. It worked; Kennedy narrowly beat Richard Nixon on Election Day.
Does Paul Ryan matter? History says, not likely
The Kennedy/Johnson thing, though, is an exception to the rule. A presidential candidate’s running mate—and indeed, a president’s vice president—is mostly there not to embarrass his (or her) boss. Hence the occasional hoof-in-mouth Joe Biden, who sometimes makes Barack Obama cringe, no doubt.
Even dunderheads like Dan Quayle didn’t keep his candidate from winning.
Did Sarah Palin prevent John McCain from beating Obama in 2008? Well, she likely didn’t help, although I assure you the race was between McCain and Obama, not Palin and Biden.
Paul Ryan is Mitt Romney’s choice for vice president. Immediately after being picked, Ryan’s record on Medicare became the star of the day’s 24-hour news cycle. Polls show that, several days after being selected, Ryan hasn’t changed the Obama/Romney numbers all that much, if at all.
Which is how it should be. Which is how it isn’t treated, until Election Day, when voters vote for president, not vice president.
John Nance Garner knew that better than anyone.
It’s not rocket science to declare that, when running as a presidential incumbent, it’s better to run on a campaign of “Look what I did”, instead of “Just give me a little more time,” i.e. four years.
It’s looking like President Obama has been opting for the latter option.
It’s said that people vote for president from the inside out, meaning that they assess their own personal situation first, before they consider any state, national or international consequences.
Makes sense. Taking care of Number 1 isn’t necessarily a selfish, arrogant thing to do. Who else is going to do it?
The latest jobs numbers came out, and for Obama, less than four months away from Election Day, they could be better.
Just 80,000 jobs added in June. Unemployment rate stubbornly remaining at 8.2%. Economic experts suggesting that the brief recovery may have already petered out.
It’s the economy, stupid. Isn’t it?
It hardly matters that the president, in reality, has limited influence, by himself, over the national economy and jobs creation. It takes a village to raise an economic child, re: Congress, the states, and the Executive Branch.
But as Harry Truman espoused, “The buck stops here.” Obama will, rightly or wrongly, take the hit if the jobs numbers remain sluggish come fall.
The economy, frankly, is the only thing that is preventing the dynamic president from trouncing the stiff, less-than-brilliant, hoof-in-mouth Republican nominee, Mitt Romney.
Obama has, so far, been forced to run a campaign that is a little more defensive than he would prefer. OK, maybe a LOT more defensive. The president is at his best when he’s on the attack, being proactive and framing a vision.
Then again, isn’t any candidate?
Obama, in 2008, was the attack dog, going after George W. Bush and assailing the president on his eight-year track record, and then doing a wonderful job in casting John McCain as someone who would simply be a Bush in McCain clothing.
It was a campaign filled with enthusiasm, vision, and that four-letter political word, hope.
2012 sees a much different Obama—one that doesn’t resonate as well and one who isn’t in his comfort zone.
Obama, until now, hasn’t really ever had to defend anything, politically. His has been a career of looking forward and asking that Bobby Kennedy question (as channeled by Teddy), “Why not?”
Now, Obama must ask a bastardized version of that.
“Why not give me another term?”
The president talking to patrons at an Ohio diner, on the campaign trail
It’s a question he doesn’t relish, and not just because the answers he will get are liable to be plentiful and soaked with battery acid.
It’s a question born of weakness, and Obama has never been about weakness in any political campaign.
The message that Obama and his campaign people ought to be drilling into the skulls of American voters, especially the so-called independent ones, is very simple.
Stay the course.
Now THAT can be a message filled with courage, determination and mettle.
Just think of the metaphors, some of them encapsulated in great moments in history.
The first that comes to mind is the brave ship captain, insisting his crew plow forward, because past these storms are blue skies, dry land and a bounty.
It takes more courage and guile, sometimes, to stay the course than to veer off at the first sign of trouble.
The second part of the message is to clearly identify why staying the course is wise instead of stubborn.
But that’s it, basically. Obama needs to convince the majority of the electorate that his way is best, despite the seemingly gloomy June jobs numbers.
He needs to stop defending and start defining.
There’s a difference, you know.
Jerry Ford must be beaming, somewhere in the afterlife.
Ole Jerry, before he became the only Michigan-born President of the United States, was the Vice President, under Dick Nixon.
Ford is also the only president to ascend to that position without being elected. He wasn’t elected VP, either, come to think of it.
Ford was the accidental president, assuming the role after first being picked by Nixon to replace the disgraced and resigned Spiro Agnew as veep, and then becoming president when Nixon himself also resigned under fire.
I say Ford must be beaming because, according to some reports out of Florida, Michigan’s governor, Rick Snyder, is under consideration to be Mitt Romney’s running mate in the race for president.
The possibility was raised by Tampa Bay Online, and it says, to wit: “The RNC (and to a large degree the Romney campaign) is loving Michigan, though. Detroit, Michigan’s largest city, is home to GM, the once-American company. Today, GM stands for Government Motors, and Detroit is the armpit of America. Once the fourth-largest U.S. city, Detroit is now ninth, and flight from the city continues. Michigan as a whole is overly reliant upon unionized, low-skilled industries. Built on a near-century-old economic model, Michigan’s economy is broken for sure.
Michigan hasn’t voted for the Republican nominee for president since 1988, when George H.W. Bush faced Michael Dukakis. But there is a reason Michigan got the second-best hotel assignment: Gov. Rick Snyder. My bet is he’s Romney’s man for vice president.”
There isn’t a byline other than “TBO.com staff,” so it’s unknown who is speaking when he (or she) said, “My bet…”
So how does Rick Snyder, VP, sound?
Recall that Snyder caused a stir last year when he suggested that he may be a “one and done” governor, i.e. not seeking re-election in 2014. He quickly backed off from that—or, at least, his press people did.
Strategically, it would seem odd to think that Romney, with his Michigan roots, would need a Michigan governor as his running mate. But then, Mitt didn’t exactly blow Rick Santorum away in the state’s primary.
But at second glance, a Michigan man might be good for Romney, who is still wounded from his lack of support of the Big Three—surely you remember “Let Detroit Go Bankrupt”?
Snyder, I believe, is a good but ideologically-flawed man who found himself governor of Michigan thanks to a perfect storm. He, too, in a way, is accidental.
If Romney picks Snyder to cavort with him this fall, I would be surprised. But not shocked.
Can anything be shocking these days, politically?
Just ask Jerry Ford, the accidental president. And that was 38 years ago, almost.
I was walking our Jack Russell Terrier when I got the news.
It was a tad past 10:00 on a Sunday night when my cell phone rang.
It was my wife and she blurted the news out.
“BIN LADEN IS DEAD!”
I said one word, almost as loud as hers.
And that’s how I found out that Osama bin Laden had been killed—on May 1, 2011.
I had my portable radio with me, so I immediately turned it on and scanned for some news, some confirmation—even though Mrs. Eno was watching TV coverage as she called me.
For the remainder of the walk—about 20 minutes—I listened on the radio as details of Bin Laden’s erasure started to roll in.
The raid and subsequent killing of the Babe Ruth of terrorists was the kind of news that you remember where you were when you heard it.
So it’s been a year; what has Bin Laden’s death meant in that one year?
Well, now, with 2012 being an election year, you can guess at least part of the answer to that question.
The eradication of Bin Laden is sure to be a political football this summer and fall.
President Obama will, rightly, use the act to his benefit, along with the elimination of other key Al Qaeda operatives since he took the oath in January 2009.
Mitt Romney’s camp will look to diminish Bin Laden’s killing as something that any president would have done, if given the opportunity—i.e., if his intelligence folks were as razor sharp as Obama’s.
Both sides run the risk of using Bin Laden’s death too much.
Too much talking about it might seem like crowing; too much pooh-poohing will look like sour grapes.
Today, across the Internet, there are essays and analyses about the one-year anniversary of Bin Laden’s killing and how it’s affected the world stage.
There was even a piece about how the terrorism leader had been despondent in the weeks leading up to his death, supposedly depressed about Al Qaeda’s direction.
Bin Laden, a sympathetic figure?
But Bin Laden’s dour mood is not unusual for the evil men in world history.
Hitler took his own life. There’s some question as to the fulfillment and true happiness in the lives of other various bad guys not long before their demise.
The realization that the goal of absolute power and “untouchable” status will not be realized, after all, is sometimes too much for these warped men to fathom.
But enough of the dime store psychology.
Osama Bin Laden has been dead one full year. And this is NOT the last time you will hear about it.