“Where’s James Polk this year?”

We expend more subtlety assessing the performance of our favorite sports teams than the sagacity of our presidents. We’ve got their backs until they’re gone. At the peak of 2020 election madness, I warned readers I’d seig heil Joseph Robinette Biden in public to avoid stepping into the traps set by conservative relatives and friends:Continue reading ““Where’s James Polk this year?””

President’s Day — a complicity of the imagination

Gobsmacked by the seven consecutive weeks of at least one cold front every four or five days, I wondered if yesterday morning’s fetid air accounted for my mood. If I’d bumped into any friends on my 6:30 a.m. walk, I’d have growled if not barked. I was also pissed I’d nothing to read except lastContinue reading “President’s Day — a complicity of the imagination”

A break in the clouds: Inauguration Day 2021

When the president-elect announced his candidacy two years ago, I wrote: He not only voted to authorize the Iraq War, he spent hours on green room sofas in 2006 parsing the nuances of partitioning Iraq into three states as if he were Mark Sykes. Most importantly for our contemporary purposes, Biden presided over a SenateContinue reading “A break in the clouds: Inauguration Day 2021”

Ranking reeking presidents

The latest presidential rankings suggest #metoo and a reckoning with the men’s prejudices affected several reputations, notably Andrew Jackson (out of the top ten and tumbling, thank the lord or Jon Meacham) and Woodrow Wilson’s (same). The late Poppy Bush, stretching his legs and aglow with the knowledge that obituary writers praised him as theContinue reading “Ranking reeking presidents”

Calvin Coolidge as ‘beta test for modern conservatism’

There was a time during the years of the Obama presidency when Amity Shlaes visited book fairs and political talk shows presenting a case for Calvin Coolidge as the most underrated of Oval Office occupiers because he was ruthless, a scrooge, and showed contempt for people who weren’t as lucky as he. Erik Loomis’ AmericanContinue reading “Calvin Coolidge as ‘beta test for modern conservatism’”

Celebrating a dull day

Charles Pierce doesn’t get the point of President’s Day either. If anything, we should be off Constitution Day: I do not feel compelled to respect a president any more or less than I respect somebody I hire to fix my roof or paint my house. Whoever gets elected works for me. As to the office,Continue reading “Celebrating a dull day”

Votes trump hate: living in the Trump era

I wasn’t on the Mall or Pennsylvania Avenue. I was at work in Miami a couple thousand miles away, listening to Chuck Todd and Tom Brokaw in a live stream offer laxatives cut with bipartisanship and national comity. Watching protestors, the former shook his head and said, “I don’t care who you are…you walk intoContinue reading “Votes trump hate: living in the Trump era”

The legacy of Wilsonism

As I posted today and earlier this week, Princeton students protesting the deification of Woodrow Wilson object to his discriminatory policies as president. Resegregating the federal government ended the sinecure on which middle class blacks had depended since the Gilded Age. Keep in mind: the Republican Party had been the dominant political force since 1860,Continue reading “The legacy of Wilsonism”

Jimmy Carter and voting rights

Last week I took a stab at a James Earl Carter obituary. Rick Perlstein, who will presumably finish his trilogy about post-sixties Republicanism with the triumph of Ronald Reagan in 1980, concentrates on Carter’s lifelong interest in voting rights, a subject that his southern colleagues knew much about after Congress’ 1965 act pushed the mostContinue reading “Jimmy Carter and voting rights”

The long decline of Jimmy Carter

To hear Jimmy Carter mentioned in exile Cuban-American circles is to partake of a loathing so visceral that it shocks the conscience. Welcoming thousands of their relatives and friends during the Mariel boat lift fades from the memory. Jimmy Carter was a worse president than Richard Nixon. When pressed, the aggrieved will stammer “the hostages”Continue reading “The long decline of Jimmy Carter”