This Monday we celebrate President’s Day. There have been great presidents and there have been some bums to be sure. Let’s pause for a few minutes and reflect on the job of being the President of the United States and the men who have occupied that office.
They were Democrats, Republicans, Whigs, Federalists, and Democrat-Republicans. There have been liberals and conservatives and moderates. Some had served in the Congress, others in the Senate, some Governors, and one now with neither experience. They bring their personal stories to the Oval Office and they assume the command of the military and lead one of the three branches of the government.
I have lived under 13 presidents.
My first was Harry Truman who had been a haberdasher from Independence, Missouri and who happened to be the vice president when Franklin Roosevelt drew his last breath. It fell upon Harry Truman to drop not one but two atomic bombs on Japan to end the Second World War. When he assumed office he wasn’t even aware there was an atomic bomb as its development was a very closely guarded secret. Harry was known for his language, his daily walks through Washington, and his attitude that the buck stopped at the desk of the President of the United States.
Dwight Eisenhower was my next one, and it was Ike that got the Interstate Highway System going along with sending in the Federal Marshals to ensure that some young black kids could attend the public school in their neighborhood. He warned us about the Military Industrial Complex.
John F. Kennedy brought vigor to the White House and got the Peace Corps going along with the Apollo project that took us to the moon before the end of the decade. He got the nation embroiled into Vietnam and his administration extended friendly terms to the Civil Rights Movement of Dr. King.
Lyndon Johnson took over after Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas and then won another term. He increased the troop numbers in Vietnam and saw civil rights legislation pass with bipartisan support. Vietnam destroyed his presidency. Violence in the streets became a monthly occurrence in our nation. He created the Great Society which enhanced federal welfare programs to eliminate poverty throughout the country. Fifty years and almost $20 trillion dollars later, there still exists the poverty at almost the same levels Johnson knew.
Nixon opened up trade with Communist China, ended the war in Vietnam, started the EPA and blew the rest. His odd thinking saw any detractors as enemies and created a thinking that distrusted everyone outside of his circle. The Watergate mess led to his downfall. He hadn’t ordered the break-in but had condoned the cover-up. He stated he wasn’t a crook; but he was.
Gerald Ford followed Nixon and after pardoning Nixon and trying to deal with runaway inflation, Ford lost the election having never been elected to that high office. He was a beloved ex-president.
Jimmy Carter followed Ford and proved that he was as inept as they come to running the office. He tried to micro-manage everything and as a result botched most things. The taking of the hostages in Iran marred the last 444 days of his term as president. Nice man, great smile, weird brother, good intentions, lack of ability.
Reagan came into office and fired the air traffic controllers, got the economy going after a rough start and reinforced the military. He worked well with Tip O’Neill in the Senate and got much done.
G.H.W. Bush came in and proved that he wasn’t another Reagan. He floundered and lost reelection to a young governor from Arkansas. Clinton came in and was a spellbinder. He tried to get health care programs developed but couldn’t and he was embroiled in sexual escapades and questionable legal actions. He was impeached but democrats in the Congress did a masterful job of saving Clinton from conviction.
G.W. Bush came in and within months the 9/11 attacks took place. He got us into the wars we are still fighting to try to end the effects of terrorism. He did not watch the spending or the expansion of the size of the federal government.
Obama followed Bush with his promise of hope and change. He had chastised Bush for the increase in the national debt but increased the amount of debt by twice as much as Bush did. Racial relations are worse than when he was elected. While he is personally popular, his policies were not as reflected by the losses of his party in the elections following his first election. Obamacare was his chief piece of legislation and it is about to be dismantled.
Trump. Frankly, I think he has offended everyone at some point.
They all came into office wanting to do a great job for America. They all had successes and they all suffered failures.
Sort of makes you long for the days of dear old Rutherford B. Hayes.