Ronald L. Feinman Ronald L. Feinman blog brought to you by History News Network. Fri, 23 Oct 2020 12:03:17 +0000 Fri, 23 Oct 2020 12:03:17 +0000 Zend_Feed_Writer 2 ( Introducing Ronald L. Feinman's Blog and Archiving His Past Articles


Ronald L. Feinman has contributed over 100 articles to the History News Network since 2016. His articles will now appear on this blog as individual entries. 


Ronald L. Feinman received his Ph.D. from the City University of New York Graduate School in 1975. His dissertation advisor was Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. Dr. Feinman is the author of “Twilight of Progressivism: The Western Republican Senators and the New Deal” (Johns Hopkins University Press, 1981) and “Assassinations, Threats, and the American Presidency: From Andrew Jackson to Barack Obama” (Rowman Littlefield Publishers, 2015, Paperback Edition 2017). In addition to this blog, Dr. Feinman has blogged at since 2008 and is a political and historical Commentator on Radio Station WWGH, 107.1 FM, Marion, Ohio. Dr. Feinman has spent nearly a half century as Professor of American History, Government and Politics and is still teaching a US Presidency class at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, Florida every Fall and Spring term.


Here are his previous articles for the History News Network, in alphabetical order. 


12 Months of Horror—1/12/18 (


19 Presidents in a Row Promoted Social and Environmental Programs to Benefit Ordinary Americans, And then Came Donald Trump--5/20/18 (


6 Presidents Who Never Lost An Election--4/30/19 (


A Trump Win Might Wreck the Republican Party—1/17/16 (


After 13,000 Days in Retirement, It’s Time To Reassess Jimmy Carter’s Presidency--12/25/16 (


An Accident of History Gave Us Anthony Kennedy –7/1/18 (


An Account of Presidents Demonstrating Moral Courage on Major Issues Includes These 14 Leaders-2/25/18 (


Another Difference between Democrats and Republicans Is How They Pick Their Veeps – 5/29/16 (


Another Remarkable Thing About the 2020 Presidential Election is that 4 of the Potential Candidates Would Be Over 80 in Office- 9/23/18 (


A Voting History of American Jews From 1916 to Today—8/27/19 (


Barack Obama: Politics and Presidential Rankings --2/16/19 (


Between Hillary and Bernie: Who’s the Real Progressive?-- 2/6/16 (http://historynewsnetowrk/org/article/161928)


Can Trump Work Out a Deal or Two With the Democratic Leaders of Congress?-1/1/17 (


Can We Count on the GOP to End the Trump Presidency?-8/6/17 (


Could Donald Trump Carry the Electoral College and Become President?-5/1/16 (;/162647)


Could Gary Johnson’s Candidacy Cause a Constitutional Crisis in November?-7/31/16 (http://historynewsnetwork/article/163503)


Democrats Are About to Set a Historical Record as the First Political Party to Win Six Out of Seven Popular Vote Victories for the White House-9/11/16 (


Do Donald Trump And Barry Goldwater Have Much in Common?- 8/7/16 (


Does the GOP Have a Moral Obligation to Nominate Trump just Because He’s the Front Runner? -4/3/16 (


Donald Trump Has Created a Constitutional Crisis on the 42nd Anniversary of Richard Nixon’s Resignation – 8/10/16 (


Donald Trump Has to Stop Dropping Hints of Violence Against Hillary Clinton – 9/21/16 (


Donald Trump is Making Richard Nixon Look Good by Comparison -5/24/17 (


Donald Trump is No Richard Nixon – 11/18/18 (


Donald Trump is No Ronald Reagan – 8/14/16 (


Donald Trump is On His Way to Second or Third Shortest Presidency in American History -2/15/17 (


Donald Trump is Worse Than George Wallace - 9/17/17 (


Donald Trump Was the Oldest Elected President in 2016. Are We Ready to Elect the Youngest President in 2020? -9/2/18 (


Donald Trump’s Not the First President to Put Relatives on the Public Payroll, but no Family Matches His in Possible Improper Behavior -12/10/17  (


Donald Trump’s Selling the White House to Corporate America -12/9/16 (


Donald Trump’s Suggestion that He Might Not Accept the Victory of His Opponent is Ghastly -10/2/16 (


Get Ready for California to Dominate Presidential Politics in 2020 -10/28/18 (http://historynewsnetwork/org/article/170292)


Have We Entered a New Era of Political Assassination in America? -10/25/18 (


Hillary Clinton Confessed to Having Both Public and Private Positions? That’s Not Shocking and It Shouldn’t Bother You -10/9/16 (


History Will Clash with History in the 2020 Election -3/17/19 (


How Common is it for Former Presidents to Remain Active in Public Life? -11/23/16 (


How Conservatives Could Steal the Election -5/10/16 (


How Does Trump Compare with the Worse Egotists We’ve Elected to the Presidency? -6/12/16 (


How Likely is it that the Democrats Will Take Back Congress? -2/6/18 (


How Many Contested Conventions Have There Been? -4/28/16 (


If you’re a New Yorker 2016 Is Your Year -4/17/16 (


Is Donald Trump the Most Dangerous Presidential Candidate in American History? -4/24/16 (


Is Donald Trump’s War on Obama Unprecedented? -6/25/17 (


Is Trump Too Old to Be President? -6/11/17 (


It’s Possible Donald Trump Could Win a Smaller Percentage of the Popular Vote than Any Other Major Presidential Candidate -10/8/16 (


Jared Kushner”s Not the First In-Law to Take a High-Profile Spot in an Administration -- 5/28/17 (


Jeff Sessions’s Troubling Legacy—8/20/19 (


Just 43 Republicans Joining with Democrats Could End Donald Trump’s Presidency -8/20/17 (


Mike Pence is No Gerald Ford -5/13/18 (


Netanyahu Finally Has the President He Wants. History Suggests There Will Still Be Problems -5/21/17 (


No Matter Who’s Elected President November 8, They Aren’t Likely to Win a Majority of the Vote -10/23/16 (


No Way Will Either Trump or Sanders Be Elected President -2/12/16 (


Now Bloomberg’s Thinking About Running? -1/24/16 (


Obama Hasn’t Spoken Out Against Trump Yet, But Will He? -3/19/17 (


One Has to Wonder after Hurricane Maria How Trump Would Treat Hawaii and Guam -10/22/17 (


One of These 4 Western Governors Could Be the Next Democratic President -12/2/18 (


One Thing the Democrats Don’t Need to Worry About -5/15/16 (


Our Sad Record When Presidents Get Sick – 9/13/16 (http://historynewsnetwork/org/article/163842)


Religion Could Decide the Election of 2016 -9/18/16 (


Should We Be Worried About Trump’s Brain? -11/26/17 (


Six Times the Failure of a Political Nomination Changes American History- 2/3/19 (


So the Supreme Court is Above Politics? -7/15/16 (


So  You Are Considering Voting for a 3rdParty Candidate for President? -10/30/16 (


So You Think Trump’s Victory Was an Outlier Because the Election Was so Close? -2/16/17 (


The 2 Constitutional Crises We Narrowly Averted in 1948 and 1969 -10/15/16 (


The 2020 Election and Presidential Age -7/2/19 (


The 2020 Election Presents a Unique Opportunity to Elect a “New Generation of Leadership” -7/9/19 (


The Constant Threat of Mass Shootings Requires Increased Protection for Presidential Contenders -8/6/19 (


The Constitutional Crisis We’d Face If Donald Trump Actually Became President -9/4/16 (


The Election of 1940 and the Might-have-Been that Makes One Shudder -3/1/16 (


The Electoral College System Gone Mad -12/16/16 (


The End of the Trump Presidency Now Looms -4/22/18 (


The Expansion of Presidential Power Since 1973 -5/26/19 (


The GOP is Dying -6/5/16 (


The GOP is Fast Undoing the Good Deeds of Richard Nixon -4/30/17 (


The GOP President Historians Say They Like More and More -6/10/18 (


The GOP Wasn’t Always the Party of Right-wingers -12/15/18 (


The Last Serious, Qualified Third-Party Candidate for President Was…? -3/5/17 (


The Long History of Unjust and Lawless Attorneys General -7/28/19 (


The Loss of Republican Principle -5/9/19 (


The Red Scare: From the Palmer Raids to Joseph McCarthy to Donald Trump -4/2/19 (


The Republican Party’s Weird 52 Year Curse -3/4/16 (http://historynewsnetwork/org/article/162187)


The Reputations of Presidents Keep Changing -5/5/16 (


The Senate’s Incomplete Hall of Fame -9/9/18 (


The Two Vice Presidents Who Got Along Best with Their Presidents -2/7/17 (


There’s an Ominous Parallel with the Fight Over the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau -11/26/17 (


These 10 People Might Run for President in 2020 and None Have Government Experience -10/7/18 (


These 11 People Came Close to Being President of the United States -3/22/16(http://historynewsnetwork.org161656)


These 15 GOP Senators From the Past Could Show Mitch McConnell and His Colleague How to Do the Job -9/15/18 (


These 9 Justices Failed to Vote the Way Their Party Expected -10/14/18 (


These Two Midwestern Democrats Could Be Serious Contenders for the Presidency in 2020 -12/9/18 (


These Two Presidents Also Had Bad Starts -7/30/17 (http://historynewsnetwork/org/article/166533)


They Ran For President Before. Will They Run Again in 2020? -9/30/18 (


Three Presidents-Elect We almost Lost: Abraham Lincoln, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and John F. Kennedy -11/13/16 (


Three Unexpected Deaths That Shaped Presidential History -3/10/19 (


Trump Faced Long Odds Winning the White House, but...-1/29/17 (


Trump’s Got No Mandate -12/15/16 (


Trump’s Not the First GOP President with Weak Ties to the Party -8/27/17 (


Trump’s Racking Up the Worst Record on the Environment Since Reagan -10/28/17 (


We Judge Presidents in part by Who Precedes and Follows Them -4/21/19 (


What 2020 Presidential Hopefuls Can Learn From Carter, Clinton, and Obama’s Foreign Policy -2/24/19 (


What Are the Chances that a Member of the House of Representatives Will Be Our Next President? -11/11/18 (


What do Nixon, Reagan and Trump Have in Common? -10/1/17 (


What is it About September that Makes It Disastrous Month For Presidents and Presidential Candidates? -8/27/16 (


What Studying the Presidents Teaches: Even Winners Can Lose -11/10/16 (


What We Learn When We Compare Obama’s Two Victories with This One Election from the Past -9/25/16 (


What Would Other Presidents Have Thought Of Donald Trump? -11/4/18 (


What’s With All of These People Who Attack the White House? -1/10/16 (


Who Else is Trump Like? -4/23/17 (


Who in Their Right Mind Would Wish to be Donald Trump’s Vice Presidential Running Mate? -7/3/16 (


Who Will Win? -11/4/16 (


Why 2019 Marks the Beginning of the Next Cycle of American History -6/4/19 (


Why President Donald Trump Could Be as Bad as Nixon – Or Worse -7/10/16 (


Why the Democrats Are Likely to Become the Majority Party for Decades to Come -7/24/16 (


Why the Midwest is the Key to the Future of American Politics -10/21/18 (


Why This Historian is Worried for His Country -1/12/16 (


Why We Need a Crash Course in the 25th Amendment -1/22/17 (


Why We Need to Be Worried About Mexico -1/15/17 (


Will 2020 Be “The Year of the Mayor” in Presidential Politics? -11/25/18 (


Will Beto O’Rourke Follow the Path of Barack Obama, Abraham Lincoln, Jimmy Carter, and George H. W. Bush to the Presidency? -1/20/19 (


Will the GOP Crown Paul Ryan as Its Presidential Nominee? -4/9/16 (


Yesterday Was the 100th Anniversary of Theodore Roosevelt’s Death. Here’s How His Legacy Still Shapes the United States Today -1/7/19 (


You Think History’s Predictable? Consider This -3/12/17 (






























Fri, 23 Oct 2020 12:03:17 +0000 0
The History of Impeachment and Why Democrats Need to Act Now Ronald L. Feinman is the author of “Assassinations, Threats, and the American Presidency: From Andrew Jackson to Barack Obama” (Rowman Littlefield Publishers, 2015).  A paperback edition is now available.



Two American presidents have been impeached: Andrew Johnson in 1868 and Bill Clinton in 1998-1999. Richard Nixon resigned in order to avoid formal impeachment. All three instances produced extreme political division and controversy.  All three occurred with a divided government—the President was from a different party than the Congressional majority.


Andrew Johnson became president after Abraham Lincoln’s assassination in 1865. Lincoln, a Republican, asked the Democratic Johnson to be his running mate in 1864 due to concerns that Lincoln might face a tough reelection campaign against former General George McClellan. Lincoln hoped Johnson would help him gain the support of loyal Democrats who appreciated Johnson’s strong support of the Union.


However, Johnson did not agree with much of Lincoln’s agenda and Republicans in Congress strongly turned against him. The inability of Johnson to work with and get along with the party that had elected him Vice President was made worse by his horrible temper, refusal to compromise, and tendency to use foul language.  No one would defend his prickly personality and racist tendencies in retrospect.


Johnson was impeached and brought to trial for breaking the Tenure of Office Act of 1867, which was designed to prevent the President from dismissing cabinet officers without approval of the Senate. Johnson fired Secretary of War Edwin Stanton, a major critic and collaborator with Radical Republicans, who wished Johnson to be removed. The law was eventually declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in Myers V US in 1926, 59 years after the enactment of the law. 


Ultimately, Johnson avoided removal from office by just one vote. Ten Republicans joined with nine Democrats and voted to keep Johnson in office. The final vote was 35-19, one vote short of the two-thirds majority needed to approve removal. Johnson had not abused power or obstructed justice, and the impeachment case was flimsy. While his personality and viewpoints were obnoxious to many, there was no real justification for his impeachment.


Richard Nixon was facing impeachment in 1974 from the opposition Democratic Party in Congress due to strong evidence of abuse of power, obstruction of justice,  contempt of Congress, refusal to cooperate with the impeachment investigation relating to the Watergate Scandal, and other illegal acts discovered in the process of the investigation by the House Judiciary Committee.  


Ultimately, the Nixon impeachment was based on bipartisan support of that committee, with seven Republicans joining the Democrats in backing three articles of impeachment against Richard Nixon. The Supreme Court also stepped in via the case of US V Richard Nixon, ordering that Nixon must hand over the Watergate tapes demanded by the House Judiciary Committee.  


Additionally, bipartisan support for Richard Nixon’s removal from office was made clear by a visit of Republican leaders of Congress to the White House, including Senate Minority Leader Hugh Scott of Pennsylvania, Senator Barry Goldwater of Arizona, and House Minority Leader John Rhodes of Arizona, informing Nixon that he had lost the support of the Republicans in the US Senate, and would be unlikely to gain more than fifteen votes of the 34 needed to survive an impeachment vote to remove him.  


With the strong case against Nixon, and the bipartisan move against him staying in office growing rapidly, Nixon realized it was time to leave the Oval Office, and avoid a further constitutional crisis.


Bill Clinton faced impeachment in 1998-1999 from the opposition Republican Party in Congress. Republicans were determined to remove him based on his perjury before a grand jury in the Jones V. Clinton 1997 Supreme Court case regarding Clinton’s extramarital sexual relationships, and the need for the President to testify before a grand jury.


Clinton was impeached on the last day of the 105th Congress in December 1998 and the trial was held by the new 106th Congress in January and February 1999. This violated the rule that an impeachment and trial must be conducted in the same Congress. The trial was part of the policy of Newt Gingrich and other Republicans to do what they could to undermine the Bill Clinton Presidency and plan for the upcoming Presidential and Congressional Election of 2000.  


Ultimately, the Senate voted to determine if Clinton would be removed from office on two counts. On the first count, lying under oath, the Senate voted 55-45, but this was less than the two-thirds majority necessary to remove the president. On the second count, obstruction of justice, the Senate voted 50-50 to remove Clinton, again short of the two-thirds majority required. Ten Republicans joined the Democrats on the first charge and five Republicans on the second count. Although some Republicans attempted to hold a vote on another impeachment article on a separate obstruction of justice charge, this failed miserably and was not considered by the Senate.  


The case against Bill Clinton was more similar to the political vendetta of the Republican Party against Andrew Johnson 130 years earlier than Richard Nixon’s offenses.  No one then or since would defend Clinton’s private behavior in the Oval Office or his lying under oath, but it was clearly an unpopular move by Republicans to impeach Clinton, and the President remained popular in public opinion polls at that time.


So, what do these past examples tell us about a potential impeachment of Donald Trump? It is extremely unlikely that Trump would be removed from office because the Senate is Republican-controlled. It is still essential, however, that Democrats push impeachment to make a political point. Just as the Republicans in 1999 pursued impeachment without consideration of how they might appear in public opinion, the Democrats should not worry about public opinion or political ramifications because Trump’s actions require accountability. If Democrats don’t take action, history will record that the Democratic Party refused to see the long term danger of Trump, and it will set a bad precedent for the future. 


As I’ve written before, the case against Donald Trump is overwhelming. Donald Trump obstructed justice to prevent a thorough investigation into Russian involvement in the 2016 Presidential campaign. His son and others in the Trump campaign engaged in collusion with a foreign nation determined to undermine the candidacy of the opposition nominee, Hillary Clinton. Trump has also violated the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution, by making profits daily on his various hotel properties and other business ventures, as recent reporting has made even more clear.   

He has abused the Pardon power by promising or hinting at pardons for those who break the law and enforce his illegal and unethical actions.  He has engaged in conduct that grossly endangers the peace and security of the United States in foreign policy.  He has advocated violence and undermined equal protection under the law. He has undermined freedom of the press, a threat against American democracy, and has pressured the Department of Justice to investigate and prosecute political adversaries. 


Finally, Trump has shown contempt of Congress by refusing to cooperate with their investigation of his administration, a charge that was one of the three brought against Richard Nixon before he decided to resign ahead of a certain impeachment by the House of Representatives and conviction by the US Senate. 


Democrats need to act before the upcoming presidential election consumes even more political energy. It is time for the Democrats to move ahead on what needs to be done:  the impeachment on high crimes and misdemeanors of the 45th President.


For more on impeachment, click on the links below: 

What To Know About the History of Impeachment

George Orwell and Why the Time to Stop Trump is Now

What Should Historians Do About the Mueller Report?

Fri, 23 Oct 2020 12:03:17 +0000 0
The Demise of the Republican Party Ronald L. Feinman is the author of “Assassinations, Threats, and the American Presidency: From Andrew Jackson to Barack Obama” (Rowman Littlefield Publishers, 2015).  A paperback edition is now available.


The Republican Party was founded in 1854 to oppose the expansion of slavery. It has survived in philosophy and leadership over the past 165 years but now it has reached its demise under Donald Trump. While the Republican Party might still exist in name, it has lost all principle, all purpose, and all reason to exist under its present name.


The new revelations about Trump pressuring the Ukraine President to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son for corruption now have put the Republican Party on  warning.  With the movement in the House of Representatives toward impeachment, will any Republicans speak up and condemn what Trump has most recently done, or will they, effectively, go down in disgrace with a President who has never really shown respect for the party and its history?


Today’s Republicans have totally repudiated its great Presidential leaders, including Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Dwight D. Eisenhower and Ronald Reagan. All four of these outstanding Republican Presidents would certainly be shocked and dismayed by the Presidency of Donald Trump.  But it has also repudiated Congressional giants, including William Seward, Charles Sumner, Robert La Follette, Sr, George Norris, Robert Taft, Arthur Vandenberg, Everett Dirksen, Jacob Javits, Barry Goldwater, Clifford Case, Mark Hatfield, Charles Mathias, Charles Percy, and a multitude of other luminaries.  It has also ignored the principles and convictions of gubernatorial giants, including Thomas Dewey, Earl Warren, Nelson Rockefeller, George Romney, William Scranton, and many others.


Under Abraham Lincoln and during Reconstruction, the Republican Party was the party of ending slavery and promoting racial equality. It was the party of responsible government regulation of capitalism in the public interest underthe administration of Theodore Roosevelt.  Under Theodore Roosevelt and even Richard Nixon, the Republican party encouraged responsible environmental and consumer legislation to protect the American people.  It was the party of a strong military and promoted national security during the Cold War under Dwight D. Eisenhower and Richard Nixon.  It was the party of responsible international alliances and treaties in the years since the Second World War under all Republican Presidents from Eisenhower to George W. Bush.    


The Republican Party was far from perfect and at times it contradicted these principles. It encouraged monopoly capitalism in the Gilded Age, the 1920s, and has once again since Ronald Reagan. It has ignored and sometimes encouraged racism and nativism. Richard Nixon employed the “Southern Strategy” and the Watergate tapes recordings demonstrated his anti Semitism and racism. Ronald Reagan allowed the “Religious Right’ to have an undue influence in the 1980s. The Republican Party today pushes to end the enforcement of the Voting Rights Act, promotes mass incarceration and tough mandatory minimums, and continues the injustice it has done to racial minorities and the poor.  Massive evidence of government corruption under Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan previously undermined Republican credibility with the Watergate and Iran-Contra scandals, respectively.  Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush engineered massive tax cuts, harming the middle class and the poor, and created a new Gilded Age similar to the late 19th century.


But the party always had healthy internal debates: progressive and conservative Republicans clashed in the early 20th century Progressive Era and the New Deal era; liberal and conservative Republicans in the post World War II period from 1945-1980; and moderate and conservative Republicans in the age of Ronald Reagan and the Bushes.  If Republican Presidents did not always offer great leadership, members of Congress and state governors often weighed in on policy.  Whenever the Republican Party seemed to have lost its way, challenges came from Republican members of Congress and governors that kept the party viable and respectable. Few felt that the party leaders in Congress and in the states were willing to give up their independence to any President and the party leadership.


But now, that has all changed.  All of the principles of the Republican Party have been destroyed in the age of Donald Trump. The Republican leadership in Congress and the states has simply given up any concept of disagreement or resistance, and have accepted Donald Trump as an authoritarian leader with no limits on his executive power.  This is true of racial and ethnic discrimination; of overlooking massive violations of civil liberties; of abuse of immigrant children and their families escaping from poverty, violence, and bloodshed in Central America; and of giving over total control of the economy to major corporations without any government regulation.  There is no resistance to policies that totally abandon  environmental and consumer regulation and fail to protect national security from the threats of foreign nations with authoritarian leaders who flatter our President like Russia, China, North Korea, and Saudi Arabia. The Republican party now supports undermining international alliances and treaties, alienating such close friends as the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Canada, Japan, South Korea, Australia, and India.  Additionally, the total abuse of any standard of ethics and morality, including the President’s own scandalous private life is ignored and often denied as reality by the leaders and office holders of his own party.


Months ago Special Counsel Robert Mueller testified before the House Judiciary Committee and House Intelligence Committee and emphasized that Russia interfered in the Presidential Election of 2016; that Donald Trump and his campaign welcomed Russian intervention; and that Donald Trump obstructed justice in the investigation of the campaign.  Still the GOP leadership has no issue publicly with Donald Trump. No matter how outrageous his statements, the extent of his lies, or the harm he brings domestically or internationally, almost no Republican defies Trump. Even Trump’s move to oppose free trade, a long held view of the party, moves ahead without much protest. In fact, it seems as if the Republican leadership and office holders are terrified of our President. Even after the El Paso, Dayton, and Odessa-Midland Massacres, there is mostly silence from Republicans.


Donald Trump has promoted so many policies of abuse and corruption, including undermining the contributions of past Republican Presidents, and yet House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, and nearly all Republican office holders defend him, or stay silent.  Only a few Republicans not in office anymore have spoken up and challenged Trump. 


The Republican Party is dead as we knew it, and the question is this: will anyone in that party finally lead a decisive challenge to the abuse of power going on, which threatens the nation and the world at large, or will a new political party emerge, as the Republicans did in the crisis of the 1850s, when they replaced the Whig Party?


American democracy and constitutional government is at stake right now every day!

Fri, 23 Oct 2020 12:03:17 +0000 0
The Challenge of the Democratic Primary Ronald L. Feinman is the author of “Assassinations, Threats, and the American Presidency:  From Andrew Jackson to Barack Obama” (Rowman Littlefield Publishers, 2015). A paperback edition is now available.


The Democratic Party has a major challenge ahead of the 2020 general election. They need to find a Presidential nominee who can defeat Donald Trump by overcoming his strong base  and the likelihood of Russian interference, which he has explicitly stated he would welcome.  Their objective is further complicated  by the efforts of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) to constrain accessible voting for all Americans. 


Many Democrats wonder which candidate would be the most electable.  Would a white man in his late 70s,  such as Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont or former Vice President Joe Biden, be electable? Would a younger candidate--such as Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, Senator Kamala Harris of California, Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey, former Housing and Urban Development Secretary and San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro, or South Bend Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg—appeal more to the average American voter?


The latter five would each make history if they were elected president. They would be, respectively, the first white woman, the first mixed race woman, the second African American man, the first Latino man, and the first gay man elected to the presidency.  Some Democrats worry that such a “first” would face great  prejudice and discrimination, especially against  Donald Trump and his solid political base.  Trump’s faithful followers are comprised of folks who are seemingly opposed to the concepts of a woman, a person of color, or a gay person being the next occupant of the Oval Office.


What about Elizabeth Warren, the Senator from Massachusetts, who would be the third oldest potential nominee within the Democratic Party? If elected, Warren would be older than Donald Trump was in 2017 upon her inauguration. A woman who has sparked some controversy with her political platform and cultural heritage, Warren poses a unique challenge in gaining the Democratic nomination and election victory in the present American political climate.


Many would think that fresh and younger nominees such as Klobuchar, Harris, Booker, Castro or Buttigieg could be the better alternatives. But would they be able to overcome the barriers to election, or would one of the older white men (Sanders or Biden) have a better chance of besting Donald Trump in the 2020 election? This is not a minor matter, as for many Americans, the idea of Donald Trump having a second term would be insufferable and a threat to the stability and integrity of the Constitution and Bill of Rights.


To be clear, there is no room for error in this matter.  Trying to determine a tenable strategy for 2020 is a crucial project that requires creativity and decisiveness. This weighs heavy on the minds of many who see Trump as a threat to the survival of the nation and in what is considered as the greatest Constitutional crisis since the Civil War.

Fri, 23 Oct 2020 12:03:17 +0000 0
Should We Care About Presidential Age? Ronald L. Feinman is the author of “Assassinations, Threats, and the American Presidency: From Andrew Jackson to Barack Obama” (Rowman Littlefield Publishers, 2015).  A paperback edition is now available.


In 2020, America may decide to elect the oldest first term President in its history. Three Democratic candidates will be older than Donald Trump was on Inauguration Day in 2017 and Ronald Reagan was on Inauguration Day in 1981.


As I’ve written before, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont will be 79 years and 4 months old by Inauguration Day in 2021 and former Vice President Joe Biden will be 78 years and two months old.  Sanders would be older for his first term than Donald Trump would be at the end of a second term, and Joe Biden would be just three months younger at the beginning of his first term than Trump would be at the end of a second.


Age seems even more important after Sanders suffered a heart attack earlier this month. Sanders also had stents put in his heart. In his debate performances and campaign trail appearances, Biden has also showed signs of aging. His mental acuity has seemed off at times and his ideas seem to hearken back to the past rather than the future.

Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts would be 71 years and 5 months at inauguration, making her the third potential President who would be older than Donald Trump was in January 2017 by a full year. Warren would be in her late 70s by the end of a second term in the Oval Office. 


Historically, few world leaders have served in their 80s. Most famously, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill was 81 years old when he left office in 1955 and he suffered two strokes before he resigned. West German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer was 87 when he left office in 1963.  Only Adenauer was older than Sanders or Biden would be at the end of a second term in the Presidency in January 2029.


Of course, there have been Kings and Emperors who were in office beyond the age of 80.  Queen Elizabeth of Great Britain is 93.  Japanese Emperor Akihito was 85 when he retired earlier this year. Several Popes have reached their 80s in office, including Pope John Paul II who died at age 84; Pope Benedict XVI, who retired at age 85; and the present Pope Francis is 82. But none of these leaders have or had the stress level and burdens of office of an American President.  


Ronald Reagan seemed to be declining mentally in his second term.  Many believe Trump has mental issues that may be related to age. One has to be concerned that Bernie Sanders or Joe Biden reaching their 80s early in their first term might be dangerous in theory for the nation. Since Warren would be in her mid-70s at the end of the first term, one has to be similarly concerned.


So the issue of age cannot be ignored and it is clear that if Bernie Sanders, Joe Biden, or Elizabeth Warren are nominated and elected President in 2020, it is essential to have a much younger, more vibrant and energetic Vice Presidential running mate ready to take the helm in any emergency situation that might arise.

Fri, 23 Oct 2020 12:03:17 +0000 0
Jimmy Carter's Presidency Contrasts Sharply with Trump's Ronald L. Feinman is the author of “Assassinations, Threats, and the American Presidency: From Andrew Jackson to Barack Obama” (Rowman Littlefield Publishers, 2015).  A paperback edition is now available.



October 2019 has been a good month for the Carter family. On October 1, former President Jimmy Carter celebrated his 95th birthday and has lived longer than any other previous president. On October 17th, Carter and Rosalynn Carter surpassed George H. W. Bush and Barbara Bush and now hold the record for the longest Presidential marriage (73 years and counting). His Vice President, Walter Mondale, will turn 92 in January 2020, making Carter and Mondale the longest surviving Presidential-Vice Presidential team in American history.


This month was also another milestone: Donald Trump reached his 1000th day in office on the same day that the Carters celebrated the longest Presidential marriage. As we celebrate president Carter’s legacy this month, it’s valuable to compare the 39th and 45th Presidents.


Carter was elected with a majority of the popular vote, while Trump lost the popular vote by 2.85 million, the worst popular vote loss for a winning President in American history.


Carter has the longest marriage in Presidential history. Trump has been married three times and divorced twice. Trump has a record of extramarital affairs, while the worst statement that can be made about Carter’s marriage was his awkward statement in an interview with Playboy in 1976. He said he had “lust in his heart”.


Carter’s devout faith was a cornerstone of his presidency and his humanitarianism in the years following his presidency. Carter regularly leads services at his Baptist Church in Plains, Georgia.


Meanwhile, Trump’s pandering to the religious right is well-documented and he claimed in an interview with CNN on July 18, 2015 that he has no need to pray or confess his sins since he believes he has never sinned. Trump’s charitable work through the Trump Foundation is under investigation for misuse of funds. 


Carter won the Nobel Peace Prize for diplomacy, promotion of peace, and human rights advocacy.Trump has alienated our allies, undermined American diplomacy, and has ignored human rights concerns as he creates allies out of dictators. 


Carter had strong relations with Latin America. He negotiated the Panama Canal Treaty which restored control of the Canal to Panama in 2000.  He also promoted human rights and held Chile, El Salvador, and Nicaragua accountable for their violations of such rights by suspending military and economic aid.  Meanwhile, Trump has insulted people from Latin America (particularly those from Mexico and Central America), and received condemnation from their leaders. He embraced the rightwing government of Brazil.


Carter achieved a major breakthrough in the Middle East with the Camp David Accords between Israel and Egypt. On the other hand, Trump’s close association with Saudi Prince Mohammed bin Salman and his curtailment of American participation in the Iran Nuclear Agreement destabilized the region. Now,Trump has now abandoned the Kurds in Syria leading to immediate bloodshed.  


Carter diplomatically recognized the People’s Republic of China and worked to strengthen trade between the two nations.Trump’s trade war with China has led to ever-increasing tariffs that harm economic and diplomatic ties.


According to environmental experts, Carter was the third best president for the environment, behind only Theodore Roosevelt and Richard Nixon. In a 2012 survey reported in the NY Times, experts ranked Carter as the best one-term President for the environment, praising his development and use of alternative energy sources, including wind and solar. Carter tried to move away from oil, coal, and natural gas.


Meanwhile, Trump has the worst record on the environment in American history, surpassing Ronald Reagan. Trump has encouraged the oil, coal, and natural gas industries and describes global warming as a “hoax.” 


Carter promoted the creation of the Health and Human Services Department, Education Department, and the Energy Department, while Trump has undermined all three Cabinet agencies and their missions.


Jimmy and Rosalyn Carter have built housing for the poor through Habitat For Humanity for the past 25 years. Trump is a real estate developer who built resorts and hotels for the rich and powerful. 


Finally, Carter has become more respected and honored as time has passed, while each year brings more details of Donald Trump’s corruption and lack of moral character. 


Carter will always be considered a better president by historians and political scientists. By the American public, Carter will always be considered a better man. 

Fri, 23 Oct 2020 12:03:17 +0000 0
What If Mike Pence is the 2020 Republican Presidential Nominee? Ronald L. Feinman is the author of “Assassinations, Threats, and the American Presidency: From Andrew Jackson to Barack Obama” (Rowman Littlefield Publishers, 2015).  A paperback edition is now available.


Could the House vote to impeach Donald Trump by the end of the year? The tumult over the Ukraine telephone conversation between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky led Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi to launch a formal impeachment inquiry. The impending impeachment trial will take place after Thanksgiving, if not later. While it seems unlikely at this point, if Trump was removed from office or if he resigned, Vice President Mike Pence would become president with less than a year remaining in the present Presidential term. 


The latest in any Presidential term that a President has left office was in 1963. After John F. Kennedy was assassinated on November 22, Lyndon B. Johnson became President with slightly less than a year until Election Day 1964 and approximately one year and two months left in JFK’s term. 


As the 1964 presidential election approached, LBJ’s only challenger for the Democratic Party nomination was Alabama Governor George Wallace. Wallace was a nationally known, controversial figure, after he opposed the admission of two African American students to the University of Alabama in June 1963.  Wallace was unable to put a dent into Johnson’s primary campaign, however.


The only other potential obstacle to LBJ’s presidential campaign was Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy who was still in the cabinet until the summer of 1964. RFK wished to be Johnson’s Vice Presidential running mate, but Johnson had “bad blood” with RFK from the beginning of the JFK Presidency. LBJ did not want RFK to have any influence in his full term bid, and so he chose Minnesota Senator Hubert Humphrey as his running mate instead.  In the election, Johnson received an all-time high of 61.1 percent of the vote and 486 electoral votes. He defeated Senator Barry Goldwater from Arizona by winning 44 of 50 states.


After Warren G. Harding died on August 2, 1923, his successor became president with the second least amount of time left in a presidential term. Calvin Coolidge became president with about nineteen months left until the next inauguration, and about fifteen months to Election Day 1924. 


Coolidge faced the opposition of progressive California Senator Hiram Johnson, who competed in a number of primaries, but only won in South Dakota. Progressive Wisconsin Senator Robert La Follette, Sr. ran a vigorous third party campaign as the revived Progressive Party nominee, winning his home state, and 16.6 percent of the total national vote. Ultimately, Coolidge easily defeated his two opponents, La Follette, and Democratic Presidential nominee John W. Davis by winning 54 percent of the vote.


If Trump is removed from office, Mike Pence would likely become president with the least amount of time left in the previous president’s term. To understand Pence’s potential chances in 2020, President Gerald Ford’s experience succeeding Richard Nixon after he resigned in August 1974 might be more relevant. Nixon resigned after the Supreme Court ordered him to hand over the Watergate tapes in the case of US v Richard Nixon.  While Ford became president with nearly two and half years left in Nixon’s term, a full year more than Calvin Coolidge had after Warren G. Harding’s death and 15 and a  half months more than Lyndon B. Johnson had after John F. Kennedy’s death, the effect on the Republican Party and Gerald Ford was extremely detrimental due to the Watergate Scandal and Ford’s decision to pardon Richard Nixon a month into his Presidency and two months before the midterm election of 1974.  


This contributed to the Democratic Party gaining 49 seats in the House of Representatives securing a two-thirds majority in the 94th Congress. The Democrats also gained four members in the US Senate, to a total of 60 seats, making the political situation for Gerald Ford very tough for the remaining two years of the term. The Nixon pardon and the bad economy undermined Ford, and led to his defeat for a full term in the Oval Office in 1976.


It is seemingly a long shot that Trump will be removed from office, as only Senator Mitt Romney has hinted he would support such an action, and 20 or more Republicans would need to vote for removal in the US Senate. But there clearly are others who might vote to convict, making for a majority of the Senate advocating Trump’s removal, and as more evidence comes out, and discontent grows with Trump’s Syrian policy and his insults and character assassination of everyone imaginable, it is not beyond the realm of possibility to create an untenable situation that could make conservatives in the Republican Party prefer a person closer to their hearts and views, Vice President Mike Pence.


Therefore, it’s worth considering what might happen if Pence became president and tried to run for a full term as President while defending his connections to an ousted Trump. 


Would anyone in the Republican Party challenge President Pence in primaries or caucuses, if few were arranged already, or deadlines had passed for registration to participate in such primaries or caucuses?  Would a John Kasich, Jon Huntsman, Mitt Romney or others who formerly contended for the Presidency enter the race?


Would anyone attempt to make the nomination a convention struggle in August 2020 at the Republican National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina, something that has not occurred in decades?


And how would this affect the Democratic Presidential nomination battle which would be in full throttle, especially in February and March 2020 when a majority of the scheduled primaries and caucuses will take place?


Would this scenario favor an establishment candidate, such as Joe Biden; or a more leftist candidate, such as Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren; or a fresh face from the moderate wing, such as Pete Buttigieg, Kamala Harris, Amy Klobuchar, or Cory Booker? Or would it lead to others to announce their candidacy, such as Hillary Clinton or Michael Bloomberg?


Could a third party or independent candidate further complicate the political field, such as Independent Justin Amash running as a Libertarian? 


This is all uncharted territory, and creates the possibility of total chaos in an election year, potentially greater than in 1968.


So we could be on the way to an election year like no other since the Civil War, the Great Depression, and the tumult around the Vietnam War, and no one can possibly predict who will be inaugurated President on January 20, 2021.

Fri, 23 Oct 2020 12:03:17 +0000 0
The Massive Influence of Northern California Democratic Leaders in American Politics Ronald L. Feinman is the author of “Assassinations, Threats, and the American Presidency: From Andrew Jackson to Barack Obama” (Rowman Littlefield Publishers, 2015)  A paperback edition is now available.


Northern California Democrats have played a major role in American politics in recent decades, and have reached a peak in the time of President Donald Trump.


Past Democrats from Northern California, particularly around San Francisco, included Governor Eugene (Pat) Brown (1959-1967), and Senator Barbara Boxer (1993-2017), who also served in the House of Representatives (1983-1993). 


Additionally, Pat Brown’s son, Jerry Brown, served as Governor when he was young (1975-1983) and again three decades later (2011-2019), along with being Oakland Mayor (1999-2007) and California Attorney General (2007-2011). Jerry Brown also sought the Presidency three times, in 1976, 1980, and 1992.


Supreme Court Associate Justice Stephen Breyer has been a major liberal influence in his 25 years on the high Court since confirmation in 1994, by appointment of President Bill Clinton.


Presently, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi is in her second round as the highest ranking woman in American government history. Pelosi has served in Congress since 1987 and was previously the Speaker of the House from 2007-2011. Pelosi is setting the standard on how to control her Democratic majority and also deal with the danger and threat presented by President Donald Trump as the impeachment inquiry that she so craftily developed moves forward.


Two San Francisco based members of the House of Representatives have also played a major role in present impeachment efforts. Congressman Eric Swalwell (2013-present) serves on the House Select Committee on Intelligence and the House Judiciary Committee, both key posts involved in the impeachment effort, and briefly sought the Presidency.Congresswoman Jackie Speier (2008- present) is also on the House Select Committee on Intelligence in the present impeachment investigation.


Further, former San Francisco Mayor Dianne Feinstein (1978-1988) has served in the US Senate since 1992 and is Ranking Member of the Senate Judiciary Committee. She chaired the Senate Intelligence Committee when the Democrats had control before 2015.


The other California Senator, Kamala Harris, came to the Senate in 2017 after serving as California Attorney General from 2011-2017, and District Attorney of San Francisco from 2004-2011.  She recently ended her candidacy for the Democratic Presidential nomination in 2020.


Additionally, Governor Gavin Newsom, who took office in 2019, was previously Lieutenant Governor under Governor Jerry Brown (2011-2019), and also served as San Francisco Mayor from 2004-2011.


It is rare for one city and one area of any state to have as great of an impact on American life as San Francisco and Northern California have had. The impact of these political leaders will still be significant in the 2020s.

Fri, 23 Oct 2020 12:03:17 +0000 0
Trump Is the Most Corrupt President in History Ronald L. Feinman is the author of “Assassinations, Threats, and the American Presidency: From Andrew Jackson to Barack Obama” (Rowman Littlefield Publishers, August 2015). A paperback edition is now available.


As President Donald Trump was impeached Wednesday, December 18th, journalists and historians are reexamining the history of presidential corruption. After carefully reviewing this history, I believe Trump’s presidency is the most corrupt in American history. 


Before I get to that conclusion, it’s important to review the presidential scandals that precede Trump. One might argue that every presidency has some episodes and personnel that might be considered corrupt, but seven presidencies particularly stand out for their scandals.  For this analysis, I am not including  accusations of sexual liaisons as they did not affect government policies and enforcement. Thus,  the dalliances of Warren G. Harding, Franklin D. Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, and Bill Clinton are not considered in this discussion of Presidential corruption. One Democrat and six Republicans make up this unfortunate list: Democrat Andrew Jackson and Republicans Ulysses S. Grant, Warren G. Harding, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush, and Donald Trump.  


Andrew Jackson infamously introduced the concept of the “spoils system” to American government. Jackson believed the mantra “to the victor belongs the spoils” and nearly 40 percent of all government employees were replaced by party loyalists. Many of these new appointees had minimal or nonexistent credentials for their jobs.  


Martin Van Buren, a “Kitchen Cabinet” advisor who served as Secretary of State and Vice President under Jackson, created  the Albany Regency political machine in New York and pushed Jackson to give jobs to political allies. Newspaper editors who favored Jackson were granted special favors and malfeasance of political appointees in handling government funds was common.  Jackson ushered in a fifty year period of widespread cynicism about the commitment of government workers to conduct the public business in an ethical manner.


The worst excesses of the Jacksonian spoils system occurred during Ulysses S. Grant’s presidency. Scandals emerged in the Navy, Justice, War, Treasury, Interior, and Post Office Departments, as well as the New York Customs House. Grant was very naïve about people’s motivations, and allowed himself to be manipulated by military associates and people who flattered him in order to gain access to lucrative financial deals at a time of great transformation and development of the industrial economy. Grant was never proven to be directly involved with the scandals, but his association with some people of questionable character, and his acceptance of personal gifts, undermined his reputation and presidential legacy.  


The 12  scandals under Grant led to four cabinet members and first term Vice President Schuyler Colfax’s removal from office. This corruption is often labeled as the Credit Mobilier scandal, but it actually began before Grant was in office and continued through his administration.  The Black Friday, Gold Panic, New York Custom House Ring, and Whiskey Ring scandals also occurred during Grant’s presidency and reveal the endemic and disgraceful level of corruption. The Liberal Republican Movement of 1872 was a reaction against the Grant Administration scandals, and ultimately led to the civil service reform movement promoted by the Mugwump faction in the party led by Carl Schurz, Charles Francis Adams, Jr., Mark Twain, E. L. Godkin, and Thomas Nast, among others.


With the establishment of the Civil Service Commission in 1883 by the Pendleton Act under President Chester Alan Arthur, corruption did not plague the presidency again until Warren G. Harding in the early 1920s. Like Grant, Harding was naïve about the intentions of the “Ohio Gang,” Ohio politicians he appointed to high political office. The Ohio Gang’s Teapot Dome scandal embroiled Secretary of the Interior Albert Fall, and Secretary of the Navy Edwin Denby, Attorney General Harry Daugherty, and Bureau of Veterans Affairs head Charles Forbes in scandal.  Investigations of these corrupt officials were in full swing when Harding suddenly died on August 2, 1923, just 2 years and 5 months into his term. Harding was aware of the moral and ethical collapse of his administration and was depressed about that reality. 


50 years later, Richard Nixon came into office with distrust of the news media and a desire to get revenge on his “enemies” in government and journalism. For Nixon, fighting his enemies meant using every tactic, including wiretapping, break-ins, bribes, and encouraging the Internal Revenue Service to  audit his opponents. Nixon was so brazen he even had tape recordings of everything occurring in the Oval Office, including discussion of illegal activities.  


What ultimately brought Nixon to resign was the burgeoning Watergate Scandal, the attempt by Nixon operatives to bug the headquarters of the Democratic National Committee to find out their tactics and strategies for the 1972 Presidential campaign. The Washington Post sent Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein to investigate the unsuccessful break in on June 17, 1972.  With the help of Deep Throat, Deputy Head of the FBI Mark Felt, the reporting helped spur a Congressional investigation in 1973 and 1974, leading to an impeachment inquiry. After the Supreme Court decided in US. V. Nixon that the President must hand over the Watergate Tapes to the Special Prosecutor and to Congress, Nixon soon resigned on August 9, 1974. A total of 76 government officials were charged with crimes in the Watergate Scandal, and 55 were convicted, and 15 served prison sentences. Nixon avoided prosecution when he was pardoned by his successor, Gerald Ford, on September 8, 1974.


When Ronald Reagan came into the Presidency, he revived the role of corporate influence and malfeasance reaching into the cabinet and other government agencies, including the Departments of Defense, Justice, Housing and Urban Development, and Interior, as well as the Environmental Protection Agency and the Central Intelligence Agency.  Reagan appointees--including Attorney General Edwin Meese, Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger, National Security Advisers Robert McFarlane and John Poindexter, HUD Secretary Samuel Pierce, Secretary of the Interior James Watt, White House Press Secretary Lynn Nofziger, Deputy Chief of Staff Michael Deaver, EPA head Anne Gorsuch Burford, CIA Head William Casey, and Oliver North--were engrossed in multiple scandals involving money and law breaking.  Many of those involved in scandal were indicted (26), convicted (16), and sentenced (8). Several of the indicted officials were given clemency by incoming President George H. W. Bush, who denied any personal involvement or knowledge of the scandals.


Although the Reagan Administration surpassed the Nixon presidency in the number of well-known figures who were embroiled in corruption, Reagan left office with strong public approval. His personality and public image helped him survive in office.  


Under President George W. Bush, there was great controversy that developed over the roles of Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, Advisor Karl Rove, White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card, Cheney Chief of Staff Lewis Libby, and other government agencies and individuals involved in the planning and execution of the Iraq War, Afghanistan War, reaction to Hurricane Katrina, and the economic meltdown that led to the Great Recession of 2008-2009. Bush administration officials received 16 indictments, 16 convictions, and 8 prison sentences.  


This led to Bush’s rapid drop in public opinion ratings and Bush was the most unpopular President since Richard Nixon when he left office.  Bush hurt his party and undermined any possibility of 2008 Republican Presidential candidate Senator John McCain winning the election.


Now, in the time that Donald Trump has been in office, and as Donald Trump faces an impeachment trial in the US Senate, the level of corruption and scandal is the greatest since Nixon and Reagan.  Just to recap: National Security Adviser Michael Flynn was forced to resign over contacts with Russian government officials and his lobbying activities during the Presidential campaign. Attorney General Jeff Sessions had to recuse himself from any investigations of Russian hacking during the Presidential campaign of 2016.  We have seen convictions not only of Michael Flynn, but also of Michael Cohen, Rick Gates, Paul Manafort, George Papadopoulos, Roger Stone, and many more are likely to come. 


 Many other cabinet members have come under fire for incompetence or conflicts of interest, including Rick Perry, Betsy DeVos, Mick Mulvaney, Wilbur Ross, William Barr, Mike Pompeo, and past appointees Ryan Zinke and Scott Pruitt. Trump, himself, has broken the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution, which prevents any President from making profits on his personal business ventures while in office. While all politicians can be accused of lying and deceit at some point in their careers, Donald Trump has set a record that has caused many observers to contend that he is the “Liar in Chief” as he has lied more than 15,000 times in less than three years, as recorded by the Washington Post.  


While the presidency has often been embroiled in scandal, Donald Trump’s impeachment and other methods of corruption stand out in history. 

Fri, 23 Oct 2020 12:03:17 +0000 0
Chief Justice John Roberts' Predecessors: The Supreme Court Chief Justices Who Presided Over Previous Impeachment Trials


As the Senate impeachment trial of Donald Trump looms, many aspects of the trial are still undetermined. Will the parties call witnesses? How long will it last? How seriously will Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell take it? 


One aspect that is determined but often misunderstood is who presides over the trial. As Chief Justice John Roberts, appointed by President George W. Bush in 2005, readies himself for his historic role as the presiding judge over the trial, it is instructive to look back at the experiences of the two prior Chief Justices who presided over the trials of President Andrew Johnson in 1868 and of President Bill Clinton in 1999.


Salmon P. Chase, Chief Justice from 1864-1873, and William Rehnquist, Chief Justice from 1986-2005, both faced great pressures as presiding judge over the highly partisan impeachment trials. Neither one would be considered noncontroversial in his career, but both had the responsibility to uphold the Constitution at times of great turmoil, and both did so, after an early period of controversy around Salmon P. Chase.


Salmon P. Chase’s career reflected the realignment of political parties in the mid nineteenth century. He was a member of the Whig Party in the 1830s, the Liberty Party of the 1840s, the Free Soil Party from 1848-1854, the Republican Party from its founding in 1854 to 1868, and finally, the Democratic Party in the last five years of his life, while still serving as Chief Justice by appointment of Abraham Lincoln.


Chase helped recruit former Democratic President Martin Van Buren to run as the Free Soil Presidential candidate in 1848; helped found the Republican Party on the same principles of antislavery activism; sought the Republican nomination for President in 1860 before Lincoln was selected by the Republican National Convention; and he sought the Presidency on the Democratic Party line in 1868 and the Liberal Republican line in 1872 while still serving as Chief Justice.  He had a varied career as Ohio Senator (1849-1855), Governor (1856-1860), and Secretary of the Treasury under Lincoln (1861-1864).


Chase attempted to establish the concept of unilateral rulings on procedural matters during the early days of the trial of Andrew Johnson, but he was overruled by the Senate majority, controlled by Radical Republicans, and quickly gave up trying to control the trial. He moved toward neutrality and simple presiding as the trial moved forward after early turmoil.


William H. Rehnquist could not have been more different than Salmon P. Chase in his political leanings.  As far “left” as Chase was in his times, Rehnquist was far ‘right”, starting his political career as a legal advisor to Republican Senator Barry Goldwater in his failed campaign for President of the Arizona Senator in 1964.  Rehnquist was appointed Assistant Attorney General of the Office of Legal Counsel in 1969 by President Richard Nixon. 


Nixon nominated him for the Supreme Court in late 1971 and he was confirmed and sworn in the first week of 1972. Rehnquist served nearly 34 yearson the Court and was elevated to Chief Justice in 1986 by President Ronald Reagan. He was regarded as the most conservative member on the Warren Burger Court and was one of the most consistently conservative Justices in modern times. Rehnquist recused himself from participating in the US V. Nixon Case in 1974, where the President was ordered to hand over the Watergate Tapes to the Special Prosecutor Leon Jaworski, leading to Nixon’s resignation on August  9, 1974.


Presiding over the Bill Clinton Impeachment Trial in the Spring of 1999, Rehnquist chose to  limit any attempt to influence the trial that was being promoted by a strong conservative Republican leadership in the House of Representatives, led by Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich and House Judiciary Committee Chairman Henry Hyde.  Despite his strong conservative credentials, Rehnquist managed always to get along well with his Supreme Court colleagues, and there were no controversies about his handling of the Clinton Impeachment Trial. 


He was, despite his right wing credentials and voting record on the Court, seen as fair minded, approachable, and a far more unifying leader of the Court before and after the Clinton Impeachment Trial than Chase was before and after the Andrew Johnson Impeachment Trial.


Now, Chief Justice John Roberts, who clerked for Rehnquist in 1980-1981, is faced with the same challenge of presiding over a highly charged impeachment trial.


Roberts worked in the Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush Administrations in the Justice Department and the Office of White House Counsel, then as Principal Deputy Solicitor General,followed by private law practice before his appointment to the DC Court Of Appeals by George W. Bush in 2003.  In 2005, he was nominated to replace the retiring Associate Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, but before hearings could begin on the nomination, Chief Justice Rehnquist died. Roberts was then nominated to replace Rehnquist. 


Roberts has been very clear in his desire to run a Court that has the respect and regard of the American people, and while he has a strong conservative judicial philosophy in his 14 plus years on the Court, he has also come across as having a willingness to work with the Supreme Court’s liberal bloc, and is seen as the “swing” vote on the Court since Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy retired in 2018.  


He has surprised many liberal commentators with some of his votes, including the preservation of “ObamaCare.” He is seen as comparatively more moderate and conciliatory, and he has been somewhat critical of utterances by President Donald Trump regarding bias of Justices appointed by Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama.


 It is clear that Roberts wants to have a good historical reputation as only the 17th person to head the Supreme Court, and while he will work to avoid controversy in the upcoming Trump Impeachment Trial, he will wish to preserve respect for the Constitution, democracy, and the rule of law, and will be the center of attention in the coming weeks and months.

Fri, 23 Oct 2020 12:03:17 +0000 0
It's 2020. Here's Six Facts About the History of Presidents Running for Reelection. Ronald L. Feinman is the author of “Assassinations. Threats, and the American Presidency: From Andrew Jackson to Barack Obama” (Rowman Littlefield Publishers, August 2015).  A paperback edition is now available.

As the presidential election year of 2020 begins, many news outlets will discuss the history of past presidential elections and attempt to find parallels between the past and present. Here are six interesting facts about past elections.


1. 63% of Sitting Presidents Running for Reelection Won

17 Presidents sought reelection and were rewarded with a second term: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, James Monroe, Andrew Jackson, Abraham Lincoln, Ulysses S. Grant, Grover Cleveland (but non consecutive terms), William McKinley, Woodrow Wilson, Franklin D. Roosevelt (4 terms), Dwight D. Eisenhower, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama.

The following 10 Presidents sought reelection and lost: John Adams, John Quincy Adams, Martin Van Buren, Grover Cleveland (but won the next term), Benjamin Harrison, William Howard Taft, Herbert Hoover, Gerald Ford after finishing Richard Nixon’s second term, Jimmy Carter, and George H. W. Bush

Historically, 17 out of 27—63 percent—of presidents who ran for reelection won. 


2. Five Presidents Couldn’t Seek Reelection Because They Died in Office

What about those who never ran for reelection? Five presidents (William Henry Harrison, Zachary Taylor, James A. Garfield, Warren G. Harding, John F. Kennedy) all died in office in their first term, so were unable to run for reelection.


3. Three Presidents Ran for a Third Term

Since the 22nd Amendment was not ratified until 1951, more presidents than just Franklin D. Roosevelt could have run for a third term. In fact, Ulysses S. Grant attempted a failed comeback in the 1880 Republican convention after four years out of office.  Theodore Roosevelt, after declining to run for a second full term after succeeding the assassinated William McKinley, came back and ran for President with the Progressive (Bull Moose) Party in 1912. Both failed to be President for another term. FDR began a fourth term in 1945, but soon was succeeded by Harry Truman upon his death.


4. Three Presidents Ran for Reelection With a Third Party

In addition to Teddy Roosevelt, two other presidents ran as third-party candidates. Martin Van Buren ran for president with the Free Soil Party in 1848. After losing the Whig nomination in 1852, Millard Fillmore ran for president as the American (Know Nothing) Party’s candidate in 1856. Both campaigns impacted the results. Van Buren harmed fellow Democrat Lewis Cass in New York, helping to elect Zachary Taylor. Fillmore managed only to win the state of Maryland, but won 21.5 percent of the national vote. A shift of a few thousand votes to Fillmore in Louisiana, Tennessee, and Kentucky, however, would have thrown the election into the House of Representatives at a very tumultuous time, and could have led to the defeat of Democrat James Buchanan and the election of John C. Fremont. Fremont would have been the first Republican President, instead of Abraham Lincoln four years later in 1860.


5. Five Presidents Were Unable To Secure Their Party’s Nomination for a Second Term 

Four former vice presidents who became president after the death of their predecessor were denied the opportunity for another term. Such was the case for Presidents John Tyler (1844), Millard Fillmore (1852), Andrew Johnson (1868), and Chester Alan Arthur (1884).  Tyler, Fillmore, Johnson, and Arthur had no public or party support, and all four had alienated party leaders by their policies and utterances. However, Fillmore ran with  a third party line, as outlined above, in 1856. In the case of Arthur, the fact that he was bypassed by the Republican Party in 1884 was a lucky event, as he died twenty and a half months after his term ended.  

Franklin Pierce was simply too unpopular after the Kansas Nebraska Act of 1854 led to the split in the Democratic Party, the destruction of the Whig Party, and the creation of the Republican Party. The party passed on him for nomination for another term in 1856.


6. Five Presidents Chose Not to Run for Reelection

James K. Polk chose not to run for reelection in 1848. Polk made it clear early in his presidency he would not run for reelection. Polk was a very hard working President who hardly ever slept which may have contributed to his health issues that were present throughout his term. He died 105 days after leaving office in 1849, the shortest retirement of any President who completed his time in office.

James Buchanan also decided he would not seek reelection after his tumultuous and divisive term (1857-1861) on the eve of the Civil War. In the 1860 election, the Democratic Party split in half, and Southern Democrats nominated Vice President John C. Breckinridge and the mainstream Democratic Party nominated Illinois Senator Stephen Douglas, who had split with Buchanan during his term of office.

Rutherford B. Hayes, contentiously elected in 1876 after he won the Electoral College but lost the popular vote by a quarter of a million votes, did not seek reelection in 1880. The Republican Party opposed his fight to change the corrupt spoils system, and his wife Lucy Hayes, an anti-liquor feminist, alienated many, so Hayes chose not to run again. 

Calvin Coolidge chose not to run in 1928, likely because of the effects of his younger son’s tragic death on his psyche.  His personality changed from gregarious to “Silent Cal” during the summer of 1924 when his son passed away.  Although he was already nominated for a full term after succeeding Warren G. Harding, Coolidge decided to pass on a second full term nomination..

Lyndon B. Johnson had announced his candidacy for a second full term, but party division over the Vietnam War led to his withdrawal in March 1968. 


Most of those who decided not to run for reelection were in office at very tumultuous times:  party divisions over slavery in the case of Polk and Buchanan, the end of Reconstruction and the growth of widespread political corruption inAmerica in the case of Hayes, and the Vietnam War in the case of Lyndon Johnson.

Now, Donald Trump enters the 2020 Presidential Election as an impeached President. While the odds historically may favor an incumbent’s reelection, only time will tell. 

Fri, 23 Oct 2020 12:03:17 +0000 0
Who Deserves the Credit for a Good Economy? Ronald L. Feinman is the author of “Assassinations, Threats, and the American Presidency: From Andrew Jackson to Barack Obama” (Rowman Littlefield Publishers, 2015).  A paperback edition is now available.

In the State of the Union speech, President Donald Trump emphasized the strength of the American economy and took credit for an economic boom. As this claim will likely dominate Trump’s reelection campaign, it’s valuable to examine the last 50 years of presidential and economic history. 


The long economic expansion of the 1960s under Democrats John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson ended in 1969 during the Nixon Administration, with a nearly year long recession until late 1970, followed by a longer recession under Nixon and Ford from late 1973 to early 1975. It was directly caused by the Arab Oil Embargo, after the Yom Kippur War between Egypt and Israel in October 1973, and caused high inflation as well as rising unemployment.


The short recession of the first half of 1980 under Democrat Jimmy Carter was also related to the second Arab Oil Embargo, which led to high inflation in 1979 and 1980, as in 1974-1975,  with both recessions and inflationary spirals major factors in the electoral defeats of Ford in 1976 and Carter in 1980.  Of course, Ford was also harmed by the pardoning of Richard Nixon and Carter was unpopular for his handling of the Iranian Hostage Crisis and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in the year before his reelection campaign.


In the Reagan Presidency, a more serious recession occurred, leading to the highest unemployment rate since 1939, provoked by the Federal Reserve’s effort to rein in the high inflation that still existed after Carter lost reelection.  Fortunately for Reagan, the recovery that came about in 1983-1984 led to a landslide reelection victory in 1984. 


During the first Bush Presidency, a recession occurred in the last half of 1990 into early 1991, caused by the tough economic restraints of the Federal Reserve and the effects of the Tax Reform Act of 1986 on real estate. This led to a lingering high unemployment rate.  Despite many people’s approval of Bush’s handling of the Gulf War, the troubles in the economy plus the independent candidacy of H. Ross Perot in 1992 influenced Bush’s 1992 loss.


During the administration of George W. Bush, two recessions occurred. The first lasted from March to November 2001 and was caused by the dotcom bubble, accounting scandals at major corporations, and the effects of the September 11 attacks. The economy quickly bounced back and Bush won reelection in 2004. 


However, a much more serious economic downturn called “The Great Recession” took effect from December 2007 to June 2009 and was caused by a major housing bubble. This hurt John McCain’s presidential campaign in 2008 as many people wanted a change in leadership.  This economic collapse was worse than the Ford or Reagan recessions in its long-term effects, and it posed a major challenge for Barack Obama as he entered office with the worst economy of any president since Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1933.


Barack Obama rose to the challenge and presided over the most dramatic drop in unemployment rates in modern economic history. The unemployment rate peaked at 10 percent in the fall of 2009. By the time Obama left office in January 2017, the unemployment rate had fallen to  4.7 percent. The stock market rose by about 250 percent in the Dow Jones Industrial Average from 2009 to 2017.


By comparison, Franklin D. Roosevelt came into office with a 24.9 percent rate of unemployment in 1933. Unemployment dropped every year through 1937 to 14.3 percent, but then rose with a new recession causing the unemployment rate to rise to 19 percent in 1938 and 17.2 percent in 1939. The unemployment rate then went down to 14.6 percent in 1940, 9.9 percent in 1941, and finally, with World War II in full swing, it lowered to 4.7 percent in 1942 and under 2 percent for the remainder of the war years. 


Clearly, Donald Trump has benefited from what is now the longest economic expansion in American history. The unemployment rate has dropped to as low as 3.4 percent. The question that lingers is who deserves the credit? Much of the hard work that created economic recovery came under Obama’s administration, and is simply continuing for now under Trump, which may benefit him in November 2020.

Fri, 23 Oct 2020 12:03:17 +0000 0
What do Donald Trump, Elizabeth Warren, Michael Bloomberg, and Bernie Sanders have in common? Ronald L. Feinman is the author of “Assassinations, Threats, and the American Presidency: From Andrew Jackson to Barack Obama” (Rowman Littlefield Publishers, 2015).  A paperback edition is now available.


What do Donald Trump, Elizabeth Warren, Michael Bloomberg, and Bernie Sanders have in common? All have switched parties at some point during their lives. There are numerous other examples of famous politicians who changed political parties. 


Perhaps the three best known include two who ran as “Progressives" in the early part of the 20th century and set a standard for third-party reform candidates, and a controversial segregationist in 1968, who in many ways foreshadowed Donald Trump’s campaign.


Theodore Roosevelt, former Republican President, ran in 1912 as the Progressive (Bull Moose) Party nominee, and won 27.5 percent of the popular vote, 4.1 million votes, 88 electoral votes, and six states. This was the best all time performance by a third party nominee.


Republican Senator Robert M. LaFollette, Sr. of Wisconsin ran for President in 1924 as the Progressive Party nominee, similar to the Progressive Party of 1912. He won 16.6 percent of the popular vote and the 13 electoral votes from his home state. 4.8 million citizens voted for him, and Franklin D. Roosevelt later gave LaFollette credit as a forerunner of the next decade’s New Deal programs.  

Democratic Governor George C. Wallace of Alabama, a infamous segregationist, ran in 1968 as the American Independent Party nominee, and won 13.5 percent of the popular vote, 9.9 million votes, 46 electoral votes and five states, the second best performance in electoral votes and states behind Theodore Roosevelt.


Beyond these three well known cases, there are 14 others worthy of attention.


Herbert Hoover worked in the Woodrow Wilson administration and was at Versailles with the President in 1919.  He was seen as a potential Democratic Presidential contender in 1920, and was even endorsed by Assistant Secretary of the Navy Franklin D. Roosevelt.  However, he served as Secretary of Commerce under Republican Presidents Warren G. Harding and Calvin Coolidge, before being the Republican Presidential nominee in 1928, serving one term as President, then losing to FDR in 1932.  The old friendship was gone; Hoover became a vehement critic of FDR in both domestic and foreign policy, and was never invited to the White House by his successor during the more than twelve years of Roosevelt’s time in the Oval Office.


When FDR ran for his third term in 1940, he chose Secretary of Agriculture Henry A. Wallace as his Vice President. Wallace was a former Republican, who converted to the Democratic Party when he served in the Roosevelt cabinet. Later, Wallace would run as a third party nominee of the Progressive Party in 1948 against President Harry Truman, but having far less impact than earlier “Progressives”, Theodore Roosevelt and Robert M. LaFollette, Sr., as Wallace gained no electoral votes, and only won 2.4 percent of the popular vote.


Also in 1940, FDR’s Republican opponent was a former Democrat, businessman Wendell Willkie, who was critical of the spending and federal intervention of the New Deal programs, and while he performed better than FDR opponents Herbert Hoover and Alf Landon in previous campaigns in 1932 and 1936, he still was unable to triumph over FDR in his third term bid.


In 1947-1948, when Truman’s public opinion ratings were at a low point, Truman proposed that World War II General and D-Day national hero Dwight D. Eisenhower should consider running for President as a Democrat with Truman as his Vice President. Eisenhower, then a publicly non partisan figure, chose not to take up the unprecedented offer. In 1952, Eisenhower abandoned his political neutrality, ran for president as a Republican, and was Truman’s successor. 


South Carolina Democratic Governor Strom Thurmond opposed Truman in 1948, running as a segregationist candidate with the States Rights Party. Thurmond won four states and 39 electoral votes, at the time the second best third party performance, but later surpassed by George C. Wallace in 1968.  In 1964, Thurmond, then a US Senator, switched to the Republican Party in support of Republican Presidential nominee Barry Goldwater. In the following years, many Southern Democrats switched to the Republican Party.


In 1980, John Anderson of Illinois, the third ranking Republican in the House of Representatives and Chairman of the House Republican Conference,  announced his retirement. He then ran for President as an Independent against Republican nominee Ronald Reagan and Democratic President Jimmy Carter. Anderson won no states, but did win nearly seven percent of the vote, attracting primarily liberal Republicans, some independents, and some disgruntled Democrats including historian Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. and former First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis.  He also was able to have one debate with Ronald Reagan, but President Carter refused to participate in a similar debate with Anderson.


His Republican opponent, Ronald Reagan, was a Democrat while he was an actor in Hollywood. Reagan supported FDR and Truman, but switched to the Republican Party due to the influence of his wife, Nancy Davis, and her father.  He became nationally recognized as a political figure after his speech supporting Barry Goldwater in 1964. 


In 2004, former Vermont Governor Howard Dean seemed the front-runner in the early Democratic Primary season before his fall from grace.  After finishing third in the Iowa Presidential caucuses, he became infamous for a screaming declaration that he would succeed in future primaries and caucuses, ironically leading to his rapid decline. Dean came from a wealthy Republican family and was a Republican as a young man. He switched to the Democratic Party while at Yale University.


Hillary Rodham Clinton was a Republican while in high school in Illinois and during her early years in college. She supported Barry Goldwater in 1964 due to the influence of a high school history teacher, but she converted to the Democratic Party while a student at Wellesley College in Massachusetts. After first serving as First Lady under her husband, Bill Clinton, she served eight years in the US Senate, lost the Presidential nomination in 2008, and then served as Secretary of State, and became the Democratic nominee in 2016, losing the electoral college but winning the national popular vote by 2.85 million votes over Donald Trump.


Donald Trump also switched parties a number of times. He started as a Democrat, switching  in 1987 to the Republican Party, then becoming a member of the Reform Party in 1999, back to the Democratic Party in 2001, and then back to the Republicans in 2009.  Along the way, he contributed to many Democratic and Republican politicians, and flirted with running for President in 1988 and 2000, but was not taken seriously until 2015, when he announced his campaign for President.


Ironically, his Vice President, Mike Pence, started off as a Democrat and voted for Jimmy Carter in 1980. Pence was inspired by fellow Catholic John F. Kennedy. In college, he became an evangelical Christian and a supporter of Ronald Reagan.


The 2020 primary features two Democratic contenders who have notably changed their affiliation. Elizabeth Warren was very conservative and a registered member of the Republican Party from 1991-1996. While teaching law at the University of Pennsylvania Law School as a tenured professor, her colleagues described her as a “die hard” conservative and a believer in laissez faire economics. After 1996, her views changed and she joined the Democratic Party.  

Michael Bloomberg was a lifelong Democrat until he switched registration to the Republican Party to run for New York City Mayor in 2001. Then, he became an Independent in the middle of his second mayoral term, and ran as an Independent for his third term in 2009. He remained an independent until  2018, when he again became a Democrat and announced for his candidacy for President in November 2019. Bloomberg had considered a Presidential run in 2012 and 2016, but passed on both possibilities until finally becoming a major factor in the present 2020 campaign.


And the ultimate Independent, Bernie Sanders, was never a Democrat until he decided to run for President in 2016, having the longest career of any Independent in Congress in both chambers in American history.  Sanders switched back to Independent status in 2017, and again became a Democrat when he decided to run for President again in 2019.  While avoiding party identification throughout his career, except recently, he always caucused with the Democratic Party and voted with the caucus most of the time over his long career in Congress since 1991.


So party loyalties have changed in these notable 14 instances in the past one hundred years, beyond the better known cases of Theodore Roosevelt, Robert M. LaFollette, Sr., and George C. Wallace.


Party changes can reflect the will of individual candidates. Sometimes a person’s world view changes, or they sense a political opportunity by changing parties. In other cases, party switching might indicate, in hindsight, a deeper change in the party system. Though a third party candidate has never won the Presidency, they have influenced outcomes and often pushed ideas into the mainstream of one of the major parties (like with the incorporation of aspects of Progressivism into the New Deal or of Thurmond and Wallace’s racial conservatism to the Republican Party).

Fri, 23 Oct 2020 12:03:17 +0000 0
Eleven Jewish Presidential Contenders Ronald L. Feinman is the author of “Assassinations, Threats, and the American Presidency: From Andrew Jackson to Barack Obama” (Rowman Littlefield Publishers, 2015).  A paperback edition is now available.

The Presidential Election of 2020 has seen the rise of a number of Jewish presidential contenders in the Democratic Party. One of them is still in the race, and might very well be the challenger to President Donald Trump in the fall.

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, dramatically different in their careers and records in office, were until recently both hotly contending for President from different perspectives.

Sanders is the ultimate Independent, having had the longest career in national politics of any such declared politician, in all of American history.  Styling himself as a “Democratic Socialist,” Sanders served 16 years in the House of Representatives from 1991 to 2007, and now is in his 14thyear as a US Senator. He caucuses with the Democrats but has been officially an Independent, except when he was contending for the Democratic Presidential nomination in 2016 and again now in 2020.  Sanders can also claim eight years as Mayor of Burlington, Vermont, from 1981-1989 before his thirty year long Congressional career.  The fact that he is proud of his “Socialist” appellation could be a major problem in attracting Independents and non Trump Republicans, and he is the reason why Michael Bloomberg entered the Presidential race belatedly.

Bloomberg would be easily the wealthiest president in history had he been elected in November, as he is worth an estimated $60 billion or more, having a long career as a self made businessman, philanthropist, and three term Mayor of New York City, arguably the second most difficult political position after the Presidency itself.  A Democrat until he switched parties to the Republicans to win the mayoralty in 2001, he became an Independent in the middle of his second term in 2007. He reverted to Democratic affiliation in 2018 as he mulled running for President to save America, in his terms, from a second Donald Trump term in the White House. His views are seen as moderate centrist, totally different on just about every imaginable issue than Bernie Sanders.

Besides Sanders and Blomberg, 2020 has also seen Colorado Senator Michael Bennet enter the race. Bennet’s mother was Jewish and a Holocaust survivor. Bennet had served in the US Senate since 2009, but gained no traction and has withdrawn. He has acknowledged his Jewish roots, though he was not brought up in an observant household. 

Also, Marianne Williamson, an author, spiritual leader and activist, who has always stayed loyal to her Jewish heritage, entered the race, while not being generally paid much attention, and has now endorsed Sanders’s campaign.  

Additionally, billionaire Tom Steyer, a hedge fund manager, philanthropist, environmentalist, liberal activist, and fundraiser, who first became noticed leading the movement to impeach Donald Trump way ahead of any such action by the Democratic House of Representatives, was contending for President.  He had a Jewish father, who was non practicing, but Steyer was married in a ceremony presided over by a Presbyterian clergyman and a rabbi, and appreciates his Jewish heritage.

The reality that we have had five people of Jewish heritage competing in the Democratic primary for the Presidency in 2020 may reflect American Jews being consistent backers of Democratic party goals and candidates; seventy percent of American Jews do not support Donald Trump and his agenda. And yet Jews are divided over the proper direction for the party, which explains the ongoing battle between Bernie Sanders and Michael Bloomberg, who have widely varying views and approaches to what is achievable or advisable in domestic and foreign policy for the 2020s, as well as the path to defeating Donald Trump.

Earlier in time, Massachusetts Senator and 2004 Democratic Presidential nominee John Kerry also had a Jewish paternal heritage through grandparents, while his Democratic opponent the same year, retired General Wesley Clark, also had a Jewish father who died when he was very young, and he was not informed until many years later of his Jewish heritage.

Other Presidential candidates of Jewish background include Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman, who announced for the 2004 Democratic Presidential nomination, but made little progress, despite having been Al Gore’s Vice Presidential running mate in the Presidential Election of 2000; Pennsylvania Republican Senator Arlen Specter, who tried in 1996 for the Presidency; and Pennsylvania Democratic Governor Milton Shapp, who ran a six month campaign for the 1976 Presidential nomination, but failed to gain any significant support.

Finally, Arizona Republican Senator Barry Goldwater, who was the opponent of President Lyndon B. Johnson in the 1964 Presidential Election, had a Jewish father and Episcopalian mother. He practiced his mother’s faith, but often acknowledged his Jewish roots.

So of the total of eleven Jewish contenders since Goldwater in 1964, only he and Arlen Specter ran as Republicans, and only Goldwater and Kerry actually were the nominees of their parties for the Presidency. Now in 2020, there is a possibility that we will see another Jewish candidate for President on the ballot in November.

Candidates with Jewish heritage have only been actually the nominee of the party in two cases—Goldwater on the Republican side in 1964 and Kerry on the Democratic side in 2004--but both had Jewish ancestry through one parent, and it was not a factor in their candidacies.  One could say that Kerry came closer to victory than Goldwater, who lost in a landslide. 

The element of antisemitism might still rear its ugly head if Sanders actually ends up as the Democratic nominee in 2020.  With white supremacists seemingly a growing threat, we could see a very ugly campaign, which could undermine either Sanders or Bloomberg from winning the Presidency.

Fri, 23 Oct 2020 12:03:17 +0000 0
Donald Trump is no Herbert Hoover Ronald L. Feinman is the author of “Assassinations, Threats, and the American Presidency: From Andrew Jackson to Barack Obama” (Rowman Littlefield Publishers, 2015).  A paperback edition is now available.


This author and historian has previously published articles comparing President Donald Trump to former Presidents Richard Nixon (2017, 2018) and Ronald Reagan (2016), as well as Presidential candidates Barry Goldwater (2016) and George Wallace (2017).  In all five articles, it was made clear that, despite the faults and shortcomings of all four men, they were all superior by comparison to Donald Trump.

The same can now be applied to any comparison of Donald Trump, with the Great Depression President, Herbert Hoover (1929-1933).  Some observers have begun to look at the economic collapse in 1929 and the coming of the Great Depression, at a tumultuous time at the end of March 2020, as our economy and our health care system are in free fall, and sense that Donald Trump is another Herbert Hoover, which, sadly, makes Hoover, already condemned by many in history as a villain, look even worse than he should.

So let us look at the life and career of the 31st President. Born to unfortunate circumstances in a rural community in Iowa, and orphaned by the age of ten, he was taken into a relative’s home in Oregon having learned what unfortunate circumstances many people face through no fault of their own. Hoover went on to Stanford University as a very bright, intelligent and motivated student, and pursued a career in geology and mining engineering. He went on to success over the next two decades, spending much of his work life in Australia, China, and Russia.  By the age of 40 he was a multimillionaire, and dedicated himself to public service.

Hoover became engaged in promoting relief for war-torn Belgium after the German invasion of August 1914 began the Great War. He developed a reputation as a humanitarian, devoting himself to those victims of war who were starving and in need of support.  Based on that involvement, Democratic President Woodrow Wilson asked Hoover to lead the US Food Administration in 1917, ensuring that the food needs of the nation were met in wartime.  Besides the domestic efforts, much food was also provided to the Allies fighting alongside US soldiers in 1917-1918.  When the war ended, Hoover headed the American Relief Administration, providing food aid to central and eastern Europe in the aftermath of the war, including assistance given to the defeated Germans, and even to the Soviet Union, where people faced starvation during the civil war between the Bolshevik government and its opponents. Hoover generally refused to play politics when dealing with starving populations and likely saved millions of lives that way.

Hoover had also served Wilson as an adviser at the Versailles Peace Conference in 1919, and was rumored to be a potential Democratic Presidential candidate in 1920, despite having no elected experience, since his business and social service career had been so impressive. Both parties admired him, and Republican President Warren G. Harding named Hoover Secretary of Commerce, an office he retained for eight years under Calvin Coolidge, who succeeded Harding in the White House in 1923.  Hoover would gain a reputation as one of the most outstanding cabinet officers in American history, shaping Commerce into one of the most influential departments of the decade. 

Hoover helped to develop radio broadcasting, aviation, and the highway system, which encouraged the rapid growth of the automobile and related industries, contributing to great economic growth during the 1920s.  Then, the Mississippi River flood of 1927 brought him more attention as he marshalled relief efforts, while President Coolidge mostly sat on the sidelines. Hoover’s profile already overshadowed Coolidge’s when the latter announced he would not run for President again in 1928.

So Hoover had a substantial record of public service, in addition to his successful business career, when he announced for President in 1928.

Hoover’s misfortune was to inherit economic policies of Coolidge and the Republican Party, which would be totally inadequate to deal with the depression following the stock market crash of October 1929.  Believing in laissez faire economics, Hoover was slow to react to the growing unemployment crisis and bankruptcy of many businesses, generally meeting with businessmen and publicly assuring Americans that “prosperity is around the corner.” This was not the case.  Losing control of the House of Representatives in the midterm elections of 1930 made life much more difficult, and Hoover finally agreed to abandon laissez faire as the 1932 election was on the horizon.  

Hoover implemented a limited federal public works program and led the passage of the Reconstruction Finance Corporation to assist efforts to keep many corporations and businesses in operation, but the effort was much too little and too late.  And the Smoot Hawley Tariff of 1930, which many economists begged the President to veto, only worsened the economic conditions, so Hoover was faced with failure, despite his impressive earlier credentials. The routing of the Bonus Army of World War I veterans in Washington in the summer of 1932, led by General Douglas MacArthur (an overreaction not ordered by Hoover) ultimately doomed the President’s chances for reelection.

Herbert Hoover was dogged for the rest of his life for his failures in the Great Depression, and he would be a lifelong critic of his former friend and successor in the White House, Franklin D. Roosevelt.  Hoover came to be perceived as a bitter old man, but despite this, and his low ranking in Presidential polls of historians and political scientists, it is still totally unfair to compare him to Donald Trump.

Donald Trump did not have a distinguished business career as Hoover had, but instead multiple bankruptcies.

Donald Trump had never done humanitarian work or served in any government agency as Hoover did in several positions, and with brilliance.

Donald Trump did not serve as a cabinet member for any President, while Hoover was a distinguished, and arguably great, cabinet member for eight years.

Donald Trump did not run for President in a dignified manner as Herbert Hoover did, and Hoover never went out of his way to attack his critics in the horrible way Trump has done since his Presidential announcement in June 2015.

Donald Trump never offered to serve for a President for the public good, as Herbert Hoover served President Harry Truman after World War II, heading the Hoover Commission to promote a more efficient federal bureaucracy, after his earlier work with Woodrow Wilson.

Donald Trump never spent any time on charity or assistance in an emergency, while Hoover engaged in a lot of both activities, based on his commitment to his Quaker faith. Instead, Donald Trump has utilized his connections to right wing evangelical Christians to promote only his own advancement and their divisive social agenda.

Donald Trump has constantly demonstrated his massive narcissism and lack of concern for those less fortunate, while Herbert Hoover led a life dedicated to public service; many conservatives have even criticized Hoover as a “progressive” developer of programs that were later kept and expanded by his successor.

Donald Trump has demonstrated his total lack of common decency throughout his life, while Herbert Hoover, despite his failures in the Presidency, was never perceived as personally nasty and mean spirited.

So, in conclusion, Donald Trump is no Herbert Hoover, and Hoover does not deserve to be compared to him in any sense.  The same as saying Donald Trump is no Richard Nixon; no Ronald Reagan; no Barry Goldwater; and no George Wallace.

Fri, 23 Oct 2020 12:03:17 +0000 0
The Election of 2020 is the Most Significant Since 1940 Ronald L. Feinman is the author of “Assassinations, Threats, and the American Presidency: From Andrew Jackson to Barack Obama” (Rowman Littlefield Publishers, 2015). A paperback edition is now available.



Every Presidential election in American history appears at the time to be the most significant election ever to have occurred.

But, in reality, very few elections are truly turning points in American history, moments when the future of the nation is at stake.

When one surveys all 58 Presidential elections from 1789 to 2016, it seems clear that four of those elections were crucial to the survival of the nation and its protection from long term harm.

And now, the Presidential Election of 2020 will, in this author’s and scholar’s estimation, join the other four in an all time list of turning point elections.

So which four elections were the most crucial, and why is 2020 so significant is the topic of this article.

Chronologically, the first election that tested the ability of the nation to survive was the 1860 election, when Abraham Lincoln faced three opponents—Stephen Douglas, John C. Breckinridge, and John Bell—and won the Electoral College with 180 electoral votes, by winning the entire Northern free states except for a divided electoral vote with Douglas in New Jersey.  Lincoln also won 39.8 percent of the national vote, not winning any slave states. He came to office in a divided nation that was on its way to the Civil War, which raged throughout his term, except for the first six weeks and the last six days. The challenge of how to preserve the Union, and how to wage a war in which the South had tremendous advantages on military leadership, made the job of Abraham Lincoln ever more difficult, along with the divisions in his own Republican party on goals and strategies during a war that lasted four years.

The following election, that of Lincoln against his fired General George McClellan, as the Democratic nominee in 1864, was also crucial, as had Lincoln lost, there was no certainty that the Union would have won the war, since McClellan seemed willing to negotiate with the Confederacy,  rather than pursue a war that had reached a turning point toward ultimate victory.  In many ways, McClellan showed the disrespect for the Commander in Chief that General Douglas MacArthur later exhibited toward President Harry Truman during the Korean War in 1951. So McClellan running against Lincoln in 1864 was a crucial moment in a personal way as well as for the nation.  

It led to Lincoln deciding to remove Vice President Hannibal Hamlin as his running mate for reelection, in favor of Andrew Johnson, who sadly came to be seen as a disaster in the White House after the Lincoln Assassination.  Had Lincoln been able to realize that he would win easily over McClellan, he might have retained Vice President Hamlin, and the Reconstruction history of the South might have been different, in a more positive way. As it worked out, Lincoln won all but three states, and a massive Electoral College victory 212-21, and 55 percent of the popular vote.

Once the Civil War was over, while many elections certainly mattered in their outcome, it would be in 1932, in the worst moments of the Great Depression in the administration of Herbert Hoover, that an election would truly take place in a crisis atmosphere on the level of the Civil War.  Franklin D. Roosevelt offered the alternative of the New Deal, as the American capitalistic system was collapsing, and he would win an easy victory with 57.4 percent of the popular vote, an Electoral College victory of 472-59, and 42 of 48 states. Many scholars have asserted that the nation would likely have been in a revolutionary mood had Hoover remained in office, and the economic conditions could have become even worse in such circumstances.

While the New Deal did not solve the issue of the Great Depression, economic conditions did improve, but by 1939, the danger of Fascism and the Second World War presented a new challenge to FDR. The threat of Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, and Imperial Japan helped to promote a strong isolationist movement in the United States, a reaction to the disillusionment of the US engagement in the First World War. So by 1940, the America First Committee, the most powerful pressure group in American history at that time, formed, backed by many prominent people in politics, business, entertainment, and public life.  

As Nazi Germany began the bombing of the United Kingdom after the defeat and occupation of France in June 1940, FDR came to feel that he needed to remain as President. There was no constitutional limitation to prevent a third term, but the idea would cause great division in the nation.  Most of the candidates interested in the nomination for 1940 were promoting isolationism, and lack of concern for the survival of the UK, and that became the major issue.  The nomination of businessman Wendell Willkie as the Republican nominee in 1940 led to the issue of experience vs a newcomer to government, and the nation voted for FDR with 54.7 percent of the popular vote, 38 states to 10, and 449-82 in the Electoral College.  

A year later, the nation was in World War II, as a result of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, and the nation, despite the earlier divisiveness, united, and the Great Depression was finally over. And while Wendell Willkie united in support of FDR and went on missions for him during the next few years, one has to wonder what would have happened had Willkie won, as he died in October 1944, a crucial time after D Day in June 1944 and weeks before the Presidential Election of 1944.  Further, his Vice Presidential running mate, Oregon Senator Charles McNary had died before him in February 1944, and there was no provision before the 25th Amendment was ratified in 1967 for a replacement Vice President.  So FDR’s victory in 1940, was more urgent and significant than likely anyone at the time realized.

Now we are coming to the Presidential Election of 2020, as President Donald Trump, highly controversial and divisive, faces a reelection contest in the midst of the Coronavirus pandemic, the greatest health crisis in American history since the Spanish Flu Pandemic under Woodrow Wilson in 1918-1919. As the First World War was ending, and the Versailles Peace Conference was in process, Wilson suffered for two weeks in Paris from the flu. He recovered, but it possibly affected his behavior and actions.

Trump and his opponent, former Vice President Joe Biden, present the oldest combined age of any pair of Presidential opponents, with Trump 74 and Biden 78 this year. With the nation deeply in an economic collapse that clearly is the worst since the Great Depression 90 years ago, and both men being senior citizens, the group seen as most likely to be victims of the COVID-19 virus, the nation is in crisis.  This reality, along with the alarm felt by tens of millions about the actions, policies, utterances and behavior of Donald Trump in this crisis, and his controversial record, including an impeachment trial and fears of his desire to wield absolute power and defy the Constitution and rule of law, make this election the most dangerous and profound election America has faced in the past 80 years.

So this upcoming election is crucial in so many ways to the survival of American democracy and the preservation of our Constitution and the revival of economic prosperity.

Fri, 23 Oct 2020 12:03:17 +0000 0
The Myth of Vice-Presidential Irrelevancy Ronald L. Feinman is the author of “Assassinations, Threats, and the American Presidency: From Andrew Jackson to Barack Obama” (Rowman Littlefield Publishers, 2015).  A paperback edition is now available.


As former Vice President Joe Biden ponders who should be his Vice Presidential running mate in the 2020 Presidential election, the old myth--that the Vice Presidential choice has no effect on the election that follows or how the new administration governs--has arisen yet again.

But it is a pure myth, as history tells us numerous times.

Examples of Vice Presidents mattering, in a good or detrimental manner, abound, as in the following cases:

William Henry Harrison in 1840 had John Tyler, a Democrat abandoning his party and running as a Whig, as his Vice President. Clearly, the circumstances of Harrison’s death a month into office transformed the Presidency, as Tyler claimed, rightfully, that he was President, despite not having been elected to that office (challenging Henry Clay, who claimed he had no right to that title).  This would become the norm; eight more times a Vice President would assume office knowing that there would be no serious challenge, as Tyler faced, to his legitimacy.

Abraham Lincoln chose in 1864 to drop Hannibal Hamlin, his Vice President in his first term in favor of Andrew Johnson, unknowingly affecting the course of history. Johnson turned out to be a disastrous choice, facing impeachment due to his stubborn refusal to deal with the racial violence in the South after the Civil War. Johnson, whether planned or not, undermined and weakened the Presidency for the rest of the 19th century. He also helped to create the tragedy of racial division which would stain the South for the next century, negating the purpose of Lincoln in his Emancipation Proclamation.

When William McKinley had Garret Hobart as his Vice President in his first term, the two men and their wives got along splendidly, and Hobart actually became very active in pursuing the President’s agenda in Congress.  So when Hobart died tragically in 1899 of heart disease, there was a need to find another Vice Presidential running mate for McKinley’s reelection campaign in 1900.  Theodore Roosevelt ended up, unwillingly, as the running mate, and history tells us the dramatic effect he had upon the nation when he succeeded the assassinated McKinley in September 1901. TR revived the Presidency, and set a model for many future Presidents, which might not have happened if a different person had been chosen to succeed Hobart.

Franklin D. Roosevelt might have faced tougher electoral prospects in 1932 had he not chosen the sitting Speaker of the House, John Nance Garner of Texas, as his Vice Presidential running mate.  Although Garner seems to have been insignificant in office, winning solid Southern support against Herber Hoover, the first Republican to win Southern states since Reconstruction, was a crucial factor in FDR’s electoral success.

FDR also made a fateful choice when he abandoned third term Vice President Henry A. Wallace, due to Southern discontent within the Democratic coalition in 1944. FDR's death gave the nation President Harry Truman only 82 days into Roosevelt's fourth term. Most scholars would argue that the left-leaning Wallace would have been disastrous in the Oval Office as the Cold War with the Soviet Union developed (although there are some historians who would vehemently disagree).

It is a well known fact that John F. Kennedy could not have won the Presidency in 1960 without his choice for Vice President, Senate Majority Leader Lyndon B. Johnson.  Being a Roman Catholic and perceived as a “liberal” from the Northeast, JFK would have been unable to win the White House without the powerful influence of LBJ over the South.

While LBJ won easily over Barry Goldwater for a full term in the White House in 1964, he was a Southern Democrat who many Northerners did not fully trust. Thus, his choice of Minnesota Senator Hubert Humphrey, the leading liberal in Congress, as his Vice Presidential running mate, actually was crucial to his victory and the promotion of the Great Society.  Sadly, he ignored and did not utilize Humphrey properly in the next four years, but Humphrey still played a major role in promoting Johnson's domestic agenda, while being, unfortunately, captive to the President’s Vietnam policies.

When Richard Nixon, in the midst of Watergate, was forced by the 25th Amendment to choose a new Vice President after the resignation of Spiro Agnew in October 1973, his choice of House Minority Leader Gerald Ford of Michigan, was crucial.  Ford had good relations with the majority Democratic party, and there was little contention as to his nomination. And Ford proved to be the right person to follow Nixon, although it took a quarter century for most observers to look back on his time in the Presidency and recognize he was a healing force.

Jimmy Carter, with no background or experience in Washington, DC  (he had not even visited the national capital before becoming a national political figure), was smart to choose Minnesota Senator Walter Mondale, a protégé of Hubert Humphrey, as his Vice Presidential running mate in 1976.  In a close race, Mondale mattered, and proved to be a true partner and close friend of the President, and would go down in history as the most active Vice President, unofficially a “co-President”, and a model for Joe Biden later.

Ronald Reagan was smart in choosing George H. W. Bush as his Vice Presidential running mate in 1980, as Bush represented foreign policy experience and appealed to moderate Republicans alarmed by Reagan’s strong conservatism. Bush proved to be an active and engaged Vice President, whose performance helped him become the first Vice President in 152 years to be directly elected to the Presidency.

Bill Clinton, in selecting Tennessee Senator Al Gore, as his running mate in 1992, followed Carter's example of picking a Washington DC “insider” to assist him in winning, but also governing. Gore also had a direct influence on Clinton regarding environmental issues.  Being a governor of a Southern state required Clinton, as with Carter, to pick someone with solid credentials in national politics.

George W. Bush needed a person with strong foreign policy credentials and DC experience also, and therefore, his choice of Dick Cheney, who had formerly been Secretary of Defense under Bush’s father, made a lot of sense, and may have had an effect on the election results in 2000 in close races,  including in Arkansas and Tennessee, the home states of Bill Clinton and Al Gore.

Barack Obama needed an experienced, knowledgeable Vice Presidential choice in running for President in 2008, and found such a person in Delaware Senator Joe Biden, who had been in the Senate for 36 years, and had been chairman at different times of the Senate Judiciary Committee and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.  The relationship between Obama and Biden was the closest and most active since Carter and Mondale three decades earlier.

Despite the enduring myth, the Vice Presidential nominee has had a major impact on American history in so many cases, and in so many different circumstances.

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Shining Stars and Rogues: Presidential Offspring in American History (Part 1) Ronald L. Feinman is the author of Assassinations, Threats, and the American Presidency: From Andrew Jackson to Barack Obama (Rowman Littlefield Publishers, 2015).  A paperback edition is now available.


Thirty-Three Presidential offspring played an influential role in American life and deserve the term “Shining Star,” or in some cases, “Rogue” for their contributions to public life. 

John Quincy Adams was of course the son of 2nd President John Adams, serving as the 6th President of the United States, having earlier served as ambassador to several European nations, US Senator, and Secretary of State.  After his Presidency, he served for 17 years as a Congressman from 1831-1848, fighting the evil of slavery.

His son Charles Francis Adams served as US Ambassador to Great Britain during the Civil War, helping to prevent British recognition of the Confederate States of America.  He also was the Vice Presidential candidate on the Free Soil Party in the Presidential Election of 1848, continuing the fight of his late father, who died earlier in 1848.  He also built the first Presidential Library in Quincy, Massachusetts in 1870, on the land of the Adams National Historical Park.

Lyon Gardiner Tyler, Sr (son of 10th President John Tyler), was for thirty years the President of the College of William and Mary in Virginia, and published many historical works.  He became controversial as an historian in the 1910s with his regular and constant criticism of Abraham Lincoln (informed by sympathy to the Confederacy), and two of his sons are still alive at this writing in 2020, making them the only surviving grandchildren of any 19th century President.

Robert Todd Lincoln served as Secretary of War for Presidents James A. Garfield and Chester Alan Arthur from 1881-1885, and then was US Ambassador to Great Britain under Benjamin Harrison and Grover Cleveland from 1889-1893.  He was also President of the Pullman Car Company from 1897-1911, and participated in the dedication ceremonies for the Lincoln Memorial in 1922.

Harry Augustus Garfield served as President of Williams College in Massachusetts from 1908 to 1934, and was head of the Federal Fuel Administration under President Woodrow Wilson from 1917-1919.  He also practiced law and taught history and politics at Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, and at Princeton University, where he first met Wilson.

James Rudolph Garfield served as Commissioner of Corporations at the Department of Commerce and Labor from 1903 to 1907 under President Theodore Roosevelt, conducting investigations of the meat packing, petroleum, steel, and railroad industries.  Then, he was Secretary of the Interior under Roosevelt from 1907-1909, gaining a reputation as a leading environmentalist.

Abram Garfield became renowned as a major architect, who practiced in Cleveland, Ohio, and contributed a substantial number of major works on the National Register of Historic Places, specializing in residential architecture, including the Garfield Library in Mentor, Ohio, at the National Historic Site of President Garfield.

As the 20th century began, we saw the first controversial “rogue” child of a President, and the first woman to gain public notice.  Alice Lee Roosevelt, born to Theodore Roosevelt’s first wife on Lincoln’s Birthday 1884, and losing her mother two days later, would grow up to be highly popular and controversial at the same time. A beautiful debutante who became a fashion icon and instant public celebrity, Alice went out of her way to be controversial in her utterances and actions, and often was seen as scandalous in her behavior.  She married the future Speaker of the House Nicholas Longworth, but it became later known that her only child, a daughter, was fathered by Idaho Republican Senator William Borah, rather than her husband.  She became a major critic of her cousins, Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, and ridiculed the looks of the future First Lady from a young age onward.  She was strongly conservative Republican in her political views in her later life. She was truly a character, unique in many ways, among children of Presidents, and she died at the advanced age of 96 in 1980.

Theodore Roosevelt Jr, oldest son and first child of his father’s second marriage, carried the burden of his father’s name, a heavy burden at times.  But Ted Jr. served honorably and significantly in both World Wars, including landing at Normandy on D-Day, June 6, 1944, sadly dying of a heart attack a month later.  He also served as Assistant Secretary of the Navy under Presidents Warren G. Harding and Calvin Coolidge for three and a half years from 1921-1924, as well as Governor of Puerto Rico under President Herbert Hoover from 1929-1932, and Governor General of the Philippines during 1932. These posts he resigned when his distant cousin Franklin Roosevelt won the Presidency, and they remained rivals hereafter.

Kermit Roosevelt, the second son of his father, also served in both World Wars, and as a young man had traveled with the former President on his African Safari and Nature Expedition in 1909-1910. He later went on his father’s Scientific Expedition into the Amazon River Basin in Brazil in 1913-1914.  His father almost died on that expedition from malaria, and Kermit also was very sick and became depressed, a condition that would remain with him all of his life. Sadly, he committed suicide by a gun shot to the head while on base in Alaska in 1944.

Ethel Roosevelt Derby, youngest daughter and fourth child of her father, kept a low profile while her father was President, very different from her half-sister, Alice.  She did not like to draw attention to herself.  She served as a nurse in France in World War I, and in the Red Cross in World War II.  She also worked to make Sagamore Hill a National Historic Site, and was one of the first women to serve on the Board of Trustees of the American Museum of Natural History. She was a leader in the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s, just like her first cousin, Eleanor Roosevelt, and she was noted as a “liberal Republican” in her political views.

Archibald Roosevelt, the third son of his father, also served in both World Wars and was wounded in both, including in the Pacific campaign against Japan in World War II in Australia.  He received many honors and awards for his military service.  After World War II, he engaged in many controversial conservative political causes, including joining the right wing John Birch Society, and speaking out against “socialism” on college campuses, including Harvard University.  He also expressed racist statements in public speeches and publications, and referred to the ongoing McCarthyism accusations of a great “international Communist conspiracy”.

Quentin Roosevelt, the youngest son and child of his father, was only 20 when he was killed in air action in France during World War I.  He was a pursuit pilot in the US Army Air Service, killed in aerial combat over France on Bastille Day (July 14, 1918), and is the only child of a President to die in combat.  His father never recovered from his youngest son’s death, and passed away less than six months later on January 6, 1919, at the age of 60. Many wonder whether Quentin would have pursued public office had he lived.

William Howard Taft’s son, Robert Alphonso Taft, became a United States Senator from Ohio, serving from 1939 to 1953, and being a potential Presidential candidate in 1940, 1944, 1948 and 1952.  He gained a reputation as “Mr. Conservative,” seen as the national leader against more liberal East Coast Republicans, who steered the Republican Presidential nomination to Wendell Willkie in 1940, Thomas E. Dewey in 1944 and 1948, and Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1952.  Taft gained a reputation as an opponent of the New Deal, and a noninterventionist before American entrance into World War II, and he sponsored the anti-labor Taft-Hartley Act in 1947.  He also opposed foreign aid, the formation of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, and US involvement in the Korean War under President Harry Truman.  He served a few months as Senate Majority Leader in 1953 before cancer led to his death in July of that year.  A Robert Taft Memorial and Carillon was constructed on Constitution Avenue north of the US Capitol in Washington, DC in 1959.  The US Senate in 1957 honored Taft as one of the five greatest US Senators in its history, with portraits adorning the President’s room off the Senate floor.

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Shining Stars and Rogues: Presidential Offspring in American History (Part 2) Ronald L. Feinman is the author of Assassinations, Threats, and the American Presidency: From Andrew Jackson to Barack Obama (Rowman Littlefield Publishers, 2015).  A paperback edition is now available.

For part 1 of this series, see here


Franklin D. Roosevelt had five surviving children, all of whom were in some way involved with their parents, with the four men all serving the military in World War II, and all controversial in some way or other for their business dealings.  Outside observers thought they took advantage of their political position as sons of the President, and it rings true upon examination.  And all had multiple marriages.

Anna Eleanor Roosevelt, the only daughter and namesake of her mother, lived at the White House in 1944-1945, and kept the secret that her father had resumed his earlier affair with Lucy Mercer Rutherfurd, which caused alienation from her mother after she revealed the truth upon FDR’s death in April 1945. His daughter had accompanied her father to the Yalta Summit meeting with Joseph Stalin and Winston Churchill in February 1945.

James Roosevelt, FDR’s oldest son, served in the House of Representatives from 1955-1965.  Earlier, he had served as Administrative Assistant, Secretary, and White House Coordinator for eighteen government agencies between 1936 and 1938.

Elliott Roosevelt served as Mayor of Miami Beach, Florida from 1965-1967, and wrote books giving intimate details of the life and affairs of his father. He was seen as scandalous, and was accused of and investigated for scandals by Congress, but no action resulted against him.

Franklin D. Roosevelt, Jr., who looked the most like his father, served as a New York Congressman from 1949-1955, and as Chairman of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission under President Lyndon B. Johnson from 1965-1966, as well as earlier serving on the President’s Committee on Civil Rights for President Harry Truman in 1946.

John Aspinwall Roosevelt, the youngest son, veered away from his family’s politics, becoming a Republican, alienating his mother and brother Elliott.  He was the only son who did not seek elective office, but was controversial as the other brothers in his business dealings.

Margaret Truman Daniel, the only child of Harry and Bess Truman, became notable as a concert singer, actress, and journalist, but also wrote historical biographies of her parents and a well received series of murder mysteries centered around government buildings.

John Eisenhower, the only surviving child of Dwight D. Eisenhower, spend his career in the military, and then as Ambassador to Belgium from 1969-1971 under President Richard Nixon.  He also wrote several military histories, and a short biography of President Zachary Taylor.

Caroline Kennedy gained more attention as a Presidential daughter than anyone other than Alice Roosevelt.   Being in the White House from ages 3-6, she was regularly the center of attention, and had to bear the loss of her father, later the loss of her uncle, Robert F. Kennedy, and then the tragic death of her brother, John F. Kennedy, Jr in a small plane accident in July 1999.  Her public contribution was as US Ambassador to Japan under President Barack Obama from 2013-2017.  

Her brother had published a political magazine, George, from 1995 until his death. He was often considered a potential political candidate for the Senate, and maybe, the Presidency. In that regard, he can be compared to Quentin Roosevelt, TR’s son, tragically killed in World War I, but thought of as likely to have a future political career.

Michael Reagan, the adopted son of Ronald Reagan and his first wife, Jane Wyman, became notable as a conservative talk show host on radio, and as a political commentator and author. 

 His half brother, Ron Reagan, Jr, the son of  Reagan’s marriage to Nancy Davis, has been a liberal political commentator and radio talk show host, and they have been in regular conflict over the legacy and record of their father.

George H. W. Bush and his wife Barbara had three children who became notable,  George W. Bush became the 43rdPresident of the United States from 2001-2009, and both parents survived to see him in office throughout both terms, and were the only Presidential couple to do so, as JQ Adams only had his father alive when he was elected, and the elder Adams died in the second year of his son’s one-term presidency. Before his presidency, George W. Bush had served six years as Texas Governor from 1995-2001.

Additionally, Jeb Bush served as Governor of Florida from 1999-2007, and sought the Presidency unsuccessfully in 2016.  Many political observers thought it would have been Jeb, rather than George W., who would have sought the Presidency in 2000, if he had not lost his first race for Florida governor in 1994, the year his brother won the Texas governorship. 

Neil Bush became controversial from his business dealings, personal contacts, and the business of his educational corporation under the “No Child Left Behind” policy promoted by his brother during his years in the White House.

Chelsea Clinton, the only child of her parents, has been involved in the activities of the Clinton Foundation, and is an author of several children’s books.  She also campaigned actively for her mother in her 2008 and 2016 Presidential campaigns.

Jenna Bush Hager, the daughter of George W. Bush, has been a public figure as a news personality, author and journalist, and presently cohosts the Today show on NBC, after being a contributor to the show since 2009.  

Finally, three children of Donald Trump and his first wife Ivana have become highly prominent and controversial. Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump have been responsible for the Trump Organization activities, but also have engaged in constant political disputes, promoted conspiracy theories and false information, and have aroused anger among environmentalists with their publicity surrounding their big game hunting in Africa of endangered species, including elephants and leopards.  Also, Donald Jr. was involved in Trump Tower meetings with agents from Russia, discussing spreading misinformation about Hillary Clinton, his father’s 2016 Presidential opponent.

Ivanka Trump, married to Jared Kushner, is a Presidential advisor to her father, along with her husband. Both are unpaid, but have a great impact on public policy that is seen as controversial due to ethics concerns. Their roles ignore the nepotism law of the US government passed in the mid 1960s, banning White House activities of relatives. She has gained business dealings, particularly trademarks in China, while serving as Senior Advisor in the Oval Office.

So the major “rogues” in some form were Alice Roosevelt and Archibald Roosevelt, both children of Theodore Roosevelt; the sons of Franklin D. Roosevelt; George H. W. Bush’s son Neil Bush; and the three older children of Donald Trump.  And when history is recorded in the future, it may well be that the Trump children will stand out as more “roguish” than the others.

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Presidential Rivalry and Bad Blood in American History (Part 1) Ronald L. Feinman is the author of Assassinations, Threats, and the American Presidency: From Andrew Jackson to Barack Obama (Rowman Littlefield Publishers, 2015).  A paperback edition is now available.



Rivalries, conflict, and “bad blood” between presidents are part of the story of American history, whether in the course of a competitive campaign or after the election has been resolved.

Most of the time, the presidents involved have been direct rivals in the same election, but not always. Sometimes their conflicts and “bad blood” receded over time, but at other times, the presidents go to the grave with strong unresolved emotional conflict.

So how many such cases are part of the history of the American presidency? This scholar finds 12:

John Adams and Thomas Jefferson were rivals in the presidential campaigns of 1796 and 1800, with Adams winning the first time and having Jefferson forced on him as his vice president under the unsettled rules of the Electoral College in this first contested election.  There was plenty of criticism and vicious attacks, and then they faced each other again. In 1800, Jefferson vanquished Adams, embittering Adams such that he left Washington before the inauguration, fearing for the future of the nation.  But after Jefferson retired, the two men reconciled and wrote extensive correspondence back and forth for 17 years from 1809-1826. Their renewed friendship, which had existed before the 1790s, was a remarkable moment of reconciliation.

John Quincy Adams and Andrew Jackson were rivals in the presidential campaigns of 1824 and 1828. Adams, who finished in second place in both popular and electoral votes, was chosen by the House of Representatives over Jackson in 1824. Jackson alleged a “corrupt bargain” between Adams and Henry Clay resulting in the first presidency not won by the national popular vote winner (it would happen another four times).  The bitterness continued in 1828 when Jackson soundly defeated Adams. Like his father, John Quincy Adams did not attend the inauguration, and feared for the future of the nation.  

Adams decided he needed to return to the nation’s capital and keep a watch over a man he considered a demagogue, running for and serving nine terms in the House of Representatives from a Boston seat. He actively engaged in criticism of Jackson’s attacks on the Second National Bank, opposition to abolitionism, and forced removal of five Native American tribes to Oklahoma, over what became known as “The Trail of Tears.”  Even after Jackson left office, the two men continued to be sharp enemies and critics for the rest of their lives.

These types of personal political rivalries between presidents did not occur again until the 20th century, beginning with Theodore Roosevelt and his two successors in the Oval Office, William Howard Taft and Woodrow Wilson.

TR and Taft were great friends. Taft was appointed Secretary of War in the Roosevelt cabinet, and then promoted as TR’s successor in the presidential election of 1908.  But Taft sorely disappointed TR in his handling of the political issues that he faced, including the protective tariff, and even more importantly, TR’s major commitment to the environment and conservation, which Taft didn’t share.  By 1912, TR had decided to challenge his own handpicked successor, coming back to oppose him for the Republican party nomination, and, when that failed, running against him as the Progressive (Bull Moose) Party candidate.  The two men were vicious in their attacks during that campaign, including personal insults unbecoming of two former presidents. Their anger was unleashed, and it was shocking to many observers.  Their old friendship was never rekindled, and only once did they cross paths and shake hands during the six years before TR passed away at the young age of 60 in January 1919.

The TR-Wilson rivalry was also a major conflict. Roosevelt resented both that Wilson claimed to run as a “progressive” in 1912 and that Wilson benefited from the split in the Republican Party to win the White House with only 42 percent of the national vote. When Wilson adopted many ideas of TR’s “New Nationalism” program and added it to his own “New Freedom” agenda in 1915-1916 to gain some Republican and independent support in his reelection campaign of 1916, TR resented it as if Wilson had stolen his ideas, rather than being flattered that he was adopting more progressive reforms beyond those he had run on in 1912.  TR’s anger was greatly increased when Wilson rejected his advice to go to war against Germany after the Lusitania and Sussex incidents in 1915-1916.  Any possibility of cooperation ended when TR visited the White House, anxious to form a regiment to go to war against Germany when Wilson might decide to do so.  Wilson responded  that he had no such intention, and in any case, would not allow TR—then in his late 50s—to seek the national attention he craved by once again leading troops into battle abroad.

The rivalry between Herbert Hoover and Franklin D. Roosevelt followed their original warm friendship during the Wilson years, when Hoover served as the head of the US Food Administration during World War I and FDR was Assistant Secretary of the Navy. FDR was so impressed with Hoover’s humanitarian work that he floated the idea that Hoover, who was nonpartisan at the time, should be considered for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1920. Instead, FDR became the vice presidential nominee, and Hoover went on to be Secretary of Commerce under Republican Presidents Warren G. Harding and Calvin Coolidge, and then the Republican nominee and winner of the presidential election of 1928.  With the Great Depression coming on in late 1929, the contrast between Hoover’s laissez-faire policy, and FDR’s “Little New Deal” policies, pursued as the governor of New York, encouraged FDR to challenge Hoover for the Presidency in 1932. After Roosevelt’s a landslide victory, bad blood boiled to the surface.  Hoover wanted FDR to support Hoover’s policies during the interim between the November election and the March 4 inauguration; FDR wanted Hoover to allow Roosevelt to lead as unemployment mounted.  Hoover refused, and on Inauguration Day kept a sour expression, refusing to communicate with FDR as they traveled by automobile to the inaugural ceremonies.  

Hoover became an unrelenting critic of FDR, labeling him as a “Socialist” or a “Communist.” He opposing not only the New Deal, but also FDR’s foreign policy. Hoover was an outspoken isolationist and major speaker for the powerful America First Committee before the December 7, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor.  The two men never spoke to each other over the 12 years of FDR’s presidency, and Hoover was never invited to the White House at any point until FDR’s death.

Fri, 23 Oct 2020 12:03:17 +0000 0
Presidential Rivalry and Bad Blood in American History (Part 2) Ronald L. Feinman is the author of Assassinations, Threats, and the American Presidency: From Andrew Jackson to Barack Obama (Rowman Littlefield Publishers, 2015).  A paperback edition is now available.


For part 1 of this blog series, read here. 


Harry Truman had two famous feuds with other presidents: his successor Dwight D. Eisenhower and Richard Nixon, who as a Congressman from California accused Truman of being “soft on Communism,” even before the rise of Senator Joseph McCarthy.

Truman and Ike originally got along well. Truman at one point made a stunning proposal to Ike that he run for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1948 with Truman, who had low public opinion ratings, serving as his vice president.  But Ike was then nonpolitical and uninterested, and turned Truman down.  Later, when the Korean War was raging, Ike agreed to run for the Republican nomination in 1952. Even though Truman quickly ended his reelection campaign, the two men were now at loggerheads, as Ike was critical of Truman’s Korean policies.  So the two men did not get along during the Eisenhower Administration, and only met and agreed to reconcile at the 1963 funeral of John F. Kennedy. They were never close again in the six years before Eisenhower passed away in 1969.

The Truman-Nixon hatred was clear in 1948, when Nixon rose to prominence as a member of the House Un-American Activities Committee investigating Alger Hiss. At that time, Truman crudely insulted Nixon, then a freshman Congressman from California, whom he did not personally know.  And when Nixon was vice president under Eisenhower, Truman was a regular critic, most specifically when Nixon ran for president in 1960 against John F. Kennedy.  But when Nixon finally won the Presidency in 1968, he decided to make the first move to heal the bad blood, determining that he would bring the White House piano used by Truman (it was still in the White House as Nixon also played), to be permanently settled in the Truman Presidential Library and Museum in Independence, Missouri.  The scene of Nixon meeting with Truman, then 85 years old, was a nationally televised event, and Truman seemed not very thrilled, but accepted the gift, and it made Nixon look more presidential to overcome the rivalry. But after Nixon was forced out of office in 1974, two years after Truman’s passing, comedians joked that the dirt moved over Truman’s grave in Missouri, as if Truman in heaven was laughing that Nixon had received his “just desserts”!

Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter competed against each other in 1976. Ford was very bitter about his defeat, and considered joining Ronald Reagan as his vice president against Carter in 1980.  Ford was critical of Carter’s record, but in a short time after Carter’s loss to Reagan, the two men and their wives became fast friends, visited each other and their presidential libraries, and held symposiums together. Some considered this rapprochement, the most impressive since that of Adams and Jefferson in the early 19th century.  The two men agreed among themselves that the survivor would give the eulogy at the deceased’s funeral, and Carter did precisely that in December 2006.

Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan also had a major rivalry in 1980. The two men did not get along or interact during the Reagan Presidency. One famous moment displaying their continued rivalry occurred when Reagan ordered the solar panels that Carter has installed on the White House roof removed. But Carter went to the funeral of Egyptian President Anwar El-Sadat in 1981 by Reagan’s invitation, and also attended the opening of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum in 1991 and the funerals of Ronald and Nancy Reagan in 2004 and 2016 respectively. So in a sense, there was a mild reconciliation.

The same situation occurred between George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton during the presidential Election of 1992, and over the next eight years. A reconciliation came during the administration of George W. Bush, whose father and Clinton became close to the point that the senior Bush and his wife Barbara jokingly said Bill Clinton was an adopted son from another mother. Clinton and the elder Bush engaged in Hurricane Katrina relief in 2005, with Clinton offering his sleeping quarters on their shared plane to the older Bush. 

Finally comes the story of Donald Trump’s rivalry with both Bill Clinton and his 2016 opponent Hillary Clinton, and the conflict between Trump and Barack Obama.

It may be hard to imagine, but Trump had invited the Clintons to his wedding to Melania in 2005, and had said good things about both of them, but then turned against both, to run a vicious campaign of insults in 2016.  The Trump attack on both Clintons has continued to this day, as has the totally nasty and bitter Trump attack on Obama beginning with the “Birther” conspiracy that Obama is not an American citizen and was born in Kenya, but continuing incessantly ever since.  

Trump has set out to destroy everything that Barack Obama has accomplished in both domestic and foreign policy during his eight years in the White House. Trump has accused Obama and all of the people in his administration of treason, and no attack by him or his two older sons, Donald Jr. and Eric, on Obama and his wife is beyond the pale.  And now, the baseless accusation that Trump calls “Obamagate” is becoming the newest line of attack in the 2020 presidential campaign against Obama’s vice president, Joe Biden. So anything is possible in the campaign of hatred and division being waged by the 45th president against the 44th president and his vice president. It’s probably no coincidence that this is happening in the midst of the Coronavirus driven collapse of the American economy from the peak of recovery accomplished under Obama after the Great Recession of 2008, arguably the greatest economic recovery in American history (surpassing FDR’s after Herbert Hoover).

While presidential rivalries have happened before, they have reached a new peak with the current president, more vicious and divisive than any other in American history.

Fri, 23 Oct 2020 12:03:17 +0000 0
The Potential for Crisis Between Election Day and Inauguration: Then and Now Ronald L. Feinman is the author of Assassinations, Threats, and the American Presidency: From Andrew Jackson to Barack Obama (Rowman Littlefield Publishers, 2015).  A paperback edition is now available.


The period between Election Day and Inauguration Day is tumultuous, particularly when a new president has been elected. At four times in American history (after elections in 1860, 1876, 1932 and 2000) it has been especially tense with danger and suspense.  This year’s election may initiate a crisis far greater than any the nation has seen. Prior crises were resolved in a peaceful manner (though in ways with lasting consequences), which may not be the case after November 3. 

After Abraham Lincoln won a plurality of only 39.8 percent of the total national vote (he had three opponents and ten southern states did not even list him on the ballot), the nation was in a very tenuous position. Seven states started the process of secession, and had completed the process before Inauguration Day, March 4, 1861.  The outgoing President James Buchanan was reluctant to take any action that might inflame the South and stood by, refusing to enforce federal law or protect federal military property.  Lincoln had no power or authority, and there was great and justifiable concern that he would be in perpetual danger once he left Springfield, Illinois for Washington on a whistle-stop train tour lasting from February 11 to 23.  Lincoln brought a security force including Allan Pinkerton and five of his detectives, including Kate Warne, the first woman Pinkerton, to travel through Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, and finally, Maryland, including the Confederate-friendly city of Baltimore.  

Protecting Lincoln, especially during the final harrowing 24 hours from Harrisburg to Washington by way of Philadelphia and Baltimore, was the most urgent task.  Pinkerton’s agents had reported to him of a “Baltimore Plot,” headed by local barber and Confederate sympathizer Cipriano Ferrandini (called the “Captain’ of the conspiracy). While subsequent researchers have disputed the severity of this threat, Lincoln was nevertheless taken through Baltimore in the middle of the night, avoiding any chance of meeting crowds as he had elsewhere along the route.  Lincoln was safely escorted to the Willard Hotel in Washington on February 23, where he remained under security watch until the inauguration nine days later.  Critics ridiculed Lincoln for being unwilling to appear publicly in the rebel city of Baltimore, but it ensured his safety as he readied to take on the most stressful possible situation of a nation on the brink of civil war.

In 1876, as southern elites and their northern allies demanded an end to Reconstruction, the presidential election was the closest ever in American history. The results in three southern states (South Carolina, Louisiana, and Florida) were contested. White Democrats objected to the presence of Union Army troops in the states, which supported black voters' access to the ballot, and partisans of both sides raised charges of a fixed election.  Democratic nominee Samuel J. Tilden came one Electoral College vote short of a majority (with contested votes excluded, he led 184-165), and had 253,000 popular votes more than Republican nominee Rutherford B. Hayes. With the contested electoral votes in those three Southern states and also one contested elector in Oregon, the country faced a constitutional crisis. This was made worse by the fact the Congress was divided, with a Democratic House of Representatives and a Republican Senate; applying the Constitutional process to resolve the disputed election would be impossible to achieve without conflict.  

The Congress set up an Electoral Commission on January 29, 1877, that allowed a 15 member group of Congressmen, Senators, and Supreme Court Justices to determine, with a deadline of about a month, which candidate should rewarded the disputed 20 electoral votes.  The Electoral Commission had 8 Republicans and seven Democrats, all of whom voted the party line, with no real way to be sure that state vote counts were accurate.  This gave Hayes victory, despite being a quarter of a million votes behind Tilden, with the narrowest possible majority of 185 electoral votes to 184.  There was concern that a renewed civil war might erupt, but it was averted by a political deal, known to history as the Compromise of 1877.  

This agreement ended occupation of the three southern states by the Union Army, allowed for political appointments to be controlled by a Democratic Postmaster General under a Republican President as a concession, and pledged federal subsidies to build a southern transcontinental railroad and encourage industrialization in the South (much of which was not completely fulfilled).  The compromise, considered a “raw deal” by many, kept the peace in the nation, at the price of Republican abandonment of the political and civil rights of African Americans in the South.

The next time the nation was in danger after a presidential election was in the throes of the Great Depression, which reached its lowest depths in the months between the defeat of Herbert Hoover in November, 1932 and the swearing-in of Franklin D. Roosevelt in the last March 4 inauguration (Congress passed the 20th Amendment and quickly ratified it by the end of 1933, designating January 20 as the date of future inaugurations). 

Hoover was bitter over his defeat and refused to cooperate with FDR during the four-month interim, even as unemployment grew from 12 million to 13 million, an all-time high rate of 24.9 percent.  Hoover wanted FDR to take actions that he proposed, while FDR insisted that he should take the lead since he was the President-Elect.  So the nation was faced with paralysis, and even on Inauguration Day, Hoover refused to speak directly to FDR, sitting glumly in a car as the two men made their way from the White House to Capitol Hill for the inaugural ceremony.  Fortunately, FDR gave a rousing address, considered one of the most inspiring of all time, and set the goal of a “New Deal” for the American people.

The last time that the interim between the election and the inauguration of a President created such tension was after the 2000 election between Democrat Al Gore and Republican George W. Bush. Gore won the national popular vote by 544,000 votes, but the disputed results in Florida (where Bush’s brother Jeb was the governor) led to a 36 day legal battle over recounting the vote. Only intervention by the United States Supreme Court stopped the state vote recount and declared that Bush had won Florida’s presidential election by the smallest margin in the state’s history, 537 votes out of about six million votes cast. The final Electoral College vote was 271-266, with one elector who should have voted for Gore having left his ballot blank.   

This December 12 decision of the high court was then implemented on January 7, 2001. Al Gore, the outgoing Vice President, ironically declared his opponent the victor in the election, despite some protests by House Democrats.  The election remains highly controversial even a generation later, but was fortunately resolved peacefully (notwithstanding incidents like the "Brooks Brothers Riot" in which Republican operatives disrupted election officials' work to ensure that a recount would fail to meet a court deadline and be nullified), despite significant bitterness and anger on the Democratic side, among whom many criticized Gore's statesmanlike concession.

Now in 2020, we may face a crisis worse than any of these previous four which, arguably, ended as best they could given the circumstances and personalities involved. No participants encouraged armed rebellion against the ultimate results. The same cannot be predicted for Donald Trump should he lose.  Would Trump accept a defeat, or encourage his minions to provoke violence and bloodshed, or refuse to leave the White House on January 20, 2021? Would Trump also refuse to cooperate with the transition planning and details that would surround the presumable President-Elect Joe Biden?

If the Electoral College margin is close, one can be certain there will be a move to have a recount and consideration of the close votes in whatever states had them.  But would the Supreme Court intervene again as in 2000, which many at the time believed was inappropriate?  Would they be fair and just, or just vote party line Republican, with two of the five Republican appointed Justices being chosen by Trump?  And if the Electoral College majority was wide for Biden, would Trump still claim it was a hoax, and declare the election a farce and null and void? 

At this point, with the growing mental instability displayed daily by Trump, would he consider declaring martial law and suspending the Constitution? What would be the reaction of the military, intelligence agencies, the Cabinet, Republicans in Congress, and the Trump base?  Would the outbreak of civil war be possible, and create an opportunity for white supremacists to have the excuse to go after Jews, African Americans, Latino Americans, Asian Americans, Native Americans and those seen as liberal or progressive, in the midst of what is likely to be a continuing COVID-19 pandemic?   And the possibility that Donald Trump could provoke a war with China or Iran as a means to refuse to give up office is also a horrifying prospect.

Previous succession crises were resolved peacefully (albeit at great cost to some Americans). The nation may not be so fortunate the next time.                  

Fri, 23 Oct 2020 12:03:17 +0000 0
Trump is a Combination of George Wallace, Joseph McCarthy and John C. Calhoun Ronald L. Feinman is the author of “Assassinations, Threats, and the American Presidency: From Andrew Jackson to Barack Obama” (Rowman Littlefield Publishers, 2015).  A paperback edition is now available.



As this year moves on into the summer, just a few torturous months from the presidential election, Donald Trump is demonstrating for everyone to see that he is in the league of disgraceful historical figures including Alabama Democratic Governor George Wallace (1919-1998), Wisconsin Republican Senator Joseph McCarthy (1908-1957), and South Carolina Democratic Senator John C. Calhoun (1782-1850).  The horrifying thing to realize is that Wallace sought the Presidency in 1968 and won five states in the Electoral College and 46 electoral votes, the second most of any third party nominee in history; and that Calhoun was Vice President under two Presidents, John Quincy Adams and Andrew Jackson, and was, therefore, a heartbeat away from the Presidency for nearly eight years.  And there were supporters of Joseph McCarthy who, until his political downfall in 1954 due to his horrid performance in the Army-McCarthy hearings of that year, imagined him as a future candidate.

Now we have Donald Trump, who five years ago announced his presidential candidacy on June 16, 2015, with a vicious racist attack on people of Hispanic ancestry and later justified the white supremacist mobs at Charlottesville in 2017. Further actions and utterances on a multitude of matters have occurred since then, culminating in using force on peaceful demonstrators in Washington DC on June 1, 2020, and now choosing to hold a campaign rally in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, potentially endangering all participants in Tulsa Oklahoma on June 19. The location—Tulsa, Oklahoma—is the site of the worst race riot in American history, and the date—June 19th or “Juneteenth”—celebrates the anniversary of the end of slavery announced by military leaders to the freed slaves of Texas in 1865.  Could the president be any more tone deaf than this?

Trump’s actions and language echo George Wallace at his racist peak in 1968. Wallace’s own daughter a half century later has repudiated what Trump has been doing for the past five years.  The nightmare of Wallace was averted by the fact that he was a third party candidate.  Who would have thought that a mainstream political party would end up supporting such a candidate as their nominee in 2016, or that many of those who repudiated Trump then have now embraced him, and overlooked, or ignored, or justified his horrendous behavior, no matter how outrageous it is?

Another demagogue, Joseph McCarthy, stopped at nothing to divide, promoted instability and chaos, and demonstrated he had  no ethics, morals, or scruples in destroying many lives in his quest to gain power and influence based on lies and deception.  And McCarthy had as his chief aide a vicious opportunist named Roy Cohn, who ended up being an influence on Donald Trump,  promoting his own worst traits on the young, impressionable publicity seeker. Trump has often said how important Roy Cohn was to his life story, and now, Trump has Stephen Miller, a vicious racist, who has become the new Roy Cohn in Trump’s life, out to promote racism and division.  

And we see John C. Calhoun, often called the man who brought us the Civil War, even though he passed away a full decade before the war began.  But Calhoun promoted slavery, states rights, white supremacy, and secession, all of which were embraced by the political and military leaders of the Confederate States of America. The nation has overlooked the fact of their violations of human rights and their treason and commemorated these figures by constructing monuments and statues, and naming ten military bases and innumerable streets, towns, and schools after them. This is now a new issue in the aftermath of the George Floyd murder, and the recognition is growing that such high regard for these historical figures is totally inappropriate. 

But what is Donald Trump’s reaction?  It is to indicate that he opposes any change in the Confederate impact on American history, a century and a half after the war that killed two thirds of a million Americans, slaughtered over the issue of slavery and basic human rights of all people.  One would think that Trump was from a Southern tradition, but he is from New York City, and yet embraces the worst traditions of the Old South.  

In so doing, he has engendered opposition from many military and political leaders, including in the party that he has been hijacking from the traditions of its founders, including Abraham Lincoln, and 19th century Congressional leaders of the Republican Party, formed in opposition to the expansion of slavery, and including many abolitionists amongst them.

So the worst traditions and most despicable political figures of American history are joined together in one man, who has the potential to do further harm in the next few months to the election, and for the two and a half months after the election.  But even more terrifying is what if Trump overcomes all of the polls showing him losing support, and somehow is declared the winner.  What kind of America will we have from 2021-2025 with an emboldened, and much more unaccountable President, who will feel he can say or do anything even more outrageous than he has wrought in the past four years?

Fri, 23 Oct 2020 12:03:17 +0000 0
Four Controversial Presidential Sons-in-Law Ronald L. Feinman is the author of  Assassinations, Threats, and the American Presidency: From Andrew Jackson to Barack Obama (Rowman Littlefield Publishers, 2015).  A paperback edition is now available.

This author has already published on significant Presidential Offspring in American history in a two part series.


Now sons-in-law of presidents have become a subject of discussion due to the controversies that have arisen around the role of President Donald Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, married to his older daughter Ivanka.

Which other sons in law of Presidents have featured prominently in American history? There are arguably three other presidential sons-in-law who deserve attention and focus.  All four, including Kushner, became significant and controversial.

The first case is that of Jefferson Davis, who was married to Sarah Knox, the second daughter of Zachary Taylor, the 12thPresident, before his presidency. Sadly she died after a few months of marriage from either malaria or yellow fever in 1835 at age 21, and Davis was severely ill for a number of months.  Taylor had not approved of the marriage, but later hailed Davis’s military involvement in the Mexican War in 1847.  But Davis was not supportive of any limitation on slavery expansion, and opposed the Compromise of 1850. Ironically, the rumor was that his former father-in-law was ready to veto the compromise bills, and to send troops into the South if any state tried to secede.  But Taylor’s sudden death on July 9, 1850, prevented any open conflict between the former father in law and son in law.  Davis went on to become Secretary of War under President Franklin Pierce from 1853-1857, a US Senator from Mississippi, and then President of the Confederate States of America during the Civil War. Therefore he was and is rightly considered by many to be a traitor to the nation and one of the most reprehensible public figures in American history.

The second case was that of Nicholas Longworth, who married Theodore Roosevelt’s daughter Alice Lee Roosevelt. Longworth was an Ohio state legislator from Cincinnati before being elected to serve in the House of Representatives from 1903 to 1933, with one two-year term out of office from 1913-1915 after losing re-election. He married Alice Roosevelt in a widely publicized White House wedding in 1906.  Despite the family connection, Longworth supported incumbent William Howard Taft when TR challenged him as the Bull Moose Progressive Presidential candidate in 1912. This caused a breach in his marriage, which still survived, but made many think it remained a marriage of convenience, not love, since Alice was always outspoken in public on every topic imaginable.  It would later be revealed that Alice’s one daughter was fathered by Idaho Senator William Borah and not by her husband.

Longworth, in  his long career in the House of Representatives, graduated to being the Republican House Majority Leader in 1923, and was Speaker of the House from 1925-1931. He became as dominant a figure as Joseph Cannon had been earlier in the century, and worked to punish the more progressive elements in the Republican caucus by exercising total control over the House Rules Committee. Longworth even came into conflict at times with President Herbert Hover during the early days of the Great Depression.  Despite his controversial career, a new House office building was named in his honor in 1962. 

The third case was that of William Gibbs McAdoo, who married Woodrow Wilson’s youngest daughter, Eleanor Randolph, at a White House wedding in 1914 (they divorced in 1935).  McAdoo had already been enlisted to help Wilson win election in 1912, and after his wife died that same year, he sought a marriage with Wilson’s daughter.  McAdoo had a business and legal career in Knoxville, Tennessee and New York City and was deeply engaged in transportation projects. He left these enterprises when he became chairman of the Democratic National Committee in 1912, and then joined the Wilson Administration as Secretary of the Treasury.  He was engaged in the setting up of the Federal Reserve Banking System and was credited with preventing a depression in America following the 1914 outbreak of World War I by shutting down the New York Stock  Exchange for four months. His actions ensured that the United States in the future would be a creditor nation, rather than the debtor nation it had been before the war broke out. He also set up the U.S. Railroad Administration once the world war broke out, and held dual responsibility as he remained Secretary of the Treasury, until his resignation at the end of 1918 after the war came to an end.  

A believer in racial segregation from his upbringing in Georgia and Tennessee, McAdoo promoted racial segregation in the Treasury Department, and implemented Jim Crow laws endorsed by his boss and father in law. He ran for President in 1920 and 1924, failing both times to secure the nomination, but caused controversy as the “Southern” candidate against northern urban “progressives”  such as New York Governor Alfred E. Smith (who was a Roman Catholic).  In the 1924 Democratic National Convention, the longest in history at 103 ballots, McAdoo was the Ku Klux Klan endorsed candidate. John W. Davis became the nominee after a record 103 ballots, and went on to lose to Republican President Calvin Coolidge. In both conventions, McAdoo had been the front runner, but party rules required a two-thirds majority. The failed nomination bid ended McAdoo’s Presidential ambitions.  He went on to be elected to the Senate for one term from California from 1933-1938, when he was defeated for renomination.  His generally perceived good looks, energy, and enthusiasm were not enough to sustain him beyond his heyday under his father in law.

Today Jared Kushner, the son in law of President Donald Trump, has become highly controversial in the three and a half years Trump has been President. Some say he is the second most important figure in the Administration to the president himself. Kushner has overruled and outlasted many other officials who have resigned or been fired, and many suggest his impact has been negative. Kushner draws no salary; Lyndon B. Johnson signed a nepotism law, likely inspired by his poor relationship with former Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, which forbids a government salary being paid to anyone related to the President of the United States.  

Despite the implication of nepotism, Kushner has become a central figure, which few would have forecast in 2017. His specific title is Senior Adviser to President Trump, and he has been given responsibility for a myriad of issues, none of which most political commentators believe he has successfully addressed.  He was a real estate developer, investor, and newspaper publisher before he planned the digital, online and social media strategy for his father-in-law in the 2016 presidential campaign, as well as being speech writer and de facto campaign manager during much of that campaign.  A Democrat in earlier years, and then an Independent, he became a Republican in 2018, and is the chief strategist in the 2020 campaign for Trump. 

Kushner has been the center of controversies. He worked with potentially sensitive information without a security clearance, which was not granted until May 2018 under questionable circumstances. He is accused of mixing government with business and creating conflicts of interest, using private email for government business, being involved in arms sales to Saudi Arabia, promoting a Middle East peace plan that favors Israel and has been rejected by the Palestinians as not balanced, and managing Trump’s response to the COVID-19  pandemic. Of the last, Kusher has said it was a great success even as deaths mounted in April and May to more than 100,000.  He also has been seen as the major protector of nativist adviser Stephen Miller and his emphasis on limiting immigration into America.

There have also been accusations of his involvement with Russian agents during the 2016 campaign, conflicts of interest over his real estate dealings, and gaining favored treatment for his wife in obtaining Chinese trademarks.  Additionally, Kushner has been accused of being a slumlord, mistreating tenants in housing projects in Maryland.  His public persona has been very standoffish, and he has rarely spoken before news cameras.  It has been said that anyone working for Trump who angers Kushner will soon be gone, and Trump has indeed had more turnover in his Presidency than anyone in a first term.  

Kushner’s latest reported effort is to reduce the Republican platform to just a few basic ideas at its upcoming convention this summer, attempting to transform permanently the Republican Party image.  But there are many people quietly behind the scenes criticizing Kushner as a force who is undermining his father-in-law, and adding to his own unflattering public image, which he seems not to be concerned about.  All the time, Jared and wife Ivanka are enriching themselves in their personal assets, and some think when Trump leaves office, Kushner might face prosecution.  

So as controversial as Jefferson Davis, Nicholas Longworth, and William Gibbs McAdoo were in public life, only McAdoo was directly involved with his father in law in government during the Presidential term, and his most controversial times were in the 1920s, after Wilson had left office. Jared Kushner’s actions during Trump’s administration seem to be setting up much more news and controversy in the future.

Fri, 23 Oct 2020 12:03:17 +0000 0
The Youngest History-Makers in the U.S. Senate Ronald L. Feinman is the author of Assassinations, Threats, and the American Presidency: From Andrew Jackson to Barack Obama (Rowman Littlefield Publishers, 2015).  A paperback edition is now available.


The US Constitution sets the minimum age to serve in the US Senate at 30 years.  Very few senators have taken office at the minimum age, but a few of them have made history as significant figures.

Two of these senators were selected by state legislatures in the early 19th century, without attention to their precise age, and actually came to the Senate before turning 30, while five others, elected by the voters of their states after passage of the 17th Amendment in 1913, served at the minimum age of 30.

The youngest senator ever to serve was John Henry Eaton of Tennessee, who entered the Senate at age 28 years, 4 months, and 29 days, serving from 1818-1829.  He was a strong supporter of Andrew Jackson, serving with him in the War of 1812, including the Battle of New Orleans, and was a strong critic of John C. Calhoun and his opposition to the protective tariff. When Eaton was named Secretary of War (1829-1831) under Jackson, it led to controversy over the fact that Eaton had married Peggy Timberlake very rapidly after her husband had died. This became a sex scandal, known as the “Petticoat Affair,” which riled Jackson, led to bad blood with Calhoun and his wife, who accused the Eatons of engaging in unseemly behavior, and helped to lead to the Nullification Crisis over the protective tariff in 1832-1833.  It was the first known sex scandal in American presidential history.  Eaton later served as Florida Territorial Governor from 1834-1836, and as US Minister to Spain from 1836-1840.

Henry Clay, arguably the most famous US Senator of all time, served in the Senate from Kentucky for a total of 15 years, over four periods of time: 1806-1807, 1810-1811, 1831-1842, and 1849-1852.  When first in the Senate, he was about four and a half months short of the legal age of 30. He became the youngest Speaker of the House of Representatives when he was six weeks short of age 34, serving in that body from 1811-1821 and from 1823-1825, most of that time as the leader.  He also served as Secretary of State under President John Quincy Adams from 1825-1829, and was a presidential nominee who lost three races, in 1824 to John Quincy Adams, 1832 to Andrew Jackson, and 1844 to James K. Polk, and was considered a serious contender a few other times.  Clay was a leader of a Congressional group known as the War Hawks, which helped to lead America to war in the War of 1812 against Great Britain.  He helped promote the “American System”, a strong federal government, a strong National Bank, a high protective tariff, and federally sponsored internal improvements.

Clay also became known as the “Great Compromiser,” involved in the promotion of the Missouri Compromise of 1820 over the issue of slavery expansion; the Nullification Crisis Compromise which prevented civil war over the protective tariff dispute between President Andrew Jackson and former Vice President John C. Calhoun in 1833; and as one of the negotiators of the Compromise of 1850 (with Daniel Webster and Stephen Douglas), averting civil war once again.  Clay was also one of the founders and promoters of the Whig Party as the opposition to Jacksonian Democracy.  In 1957, the Senate chose Clay as one of the five most significant members in its history, and a poll of scholars in 1982 ranked him in a tie with Wisconsin Progressive Republican Senator Robert LaFollette, Sr. as the most influential senator of all time.

In the modern era of the US Senate, five 30 year old senators were significant in the history of that body, with the first being Robert M. LaFollette, Jr, son of the famous “Fighting Bob”, LaFollette of Wisconsin, who is one of the five most acknowledged senators of all time, and who also ran for President as a Progressive in the Presidential Election of 1924.  Upon his death in June 1925, his son succeeded him by election at age 30 and approximately eight months, and served for the next 21 and a half years (from 1925-1947), until he was defeated in the Republican primary by the infamous Joseph McCarthy.  

“Young Bob” became an acknowledged leader of the progressive wing in the Republican Party, as his father had been, and with his younger brother, Philip LaFollette (who in 1931 became the youngest governor theretofore elected in Wisconsin), formed the Progressive Party of Wisconsin in the 1930s.  LaFollette Jr. supported much of the New Deal, as demonstrated in this author’s book, “Twilight of Progressivism: The Western Republican Senators and the New Deal” (Johns Hopkins University Press, 1981).  But he turned against Franklin D. Roosevelt on foreign policy, and was a leader of the isolationist bloc in Congress.

Rush D. Holt, Sr. of West Virginia was elected to the Senate at age 29 and five months in 1934, and had to wait until June 1935 to take his seat at the minimum required age of 30. He served one term of five and a half years, proclaiming himself a spokesman for the common man and a critic of privately owned utility corporations.  Although beginning as a strong supporter of Franklin D. Roosevelt and the New Deal, he rapidly became a conservative critic, more of a traditional populist liberal, ranked by one scholarly estimate as the third-most conservative Democratic senator between the New Deal and the end of the 20th century. 

 He became much more newsworthy for his strong isolationist stands on American foreign policy in the late 1930s. He was a spokesman for the America First Committee in 1940, after having supported the Neutrality Acts of the mid 1930s, and opposing membership in the League of Nations, the Reciprocal Trade Agreements, Naval Expansion legislation, and the Selective Service Act.  His controversial outspoken rhetoric led to his defeat in the Democratic primary in 1940, when he ended up a poor third in the vote.  He sought election to the Senate again, but his national career was over.  His son, Rush D. Holt, Jr., served in the House of Representatives as a Democrat from New Jersey from 1999-2015.

Senator Russell Long of Louisiana, son of the famous and also infamous “Kingfish”, Governor and Senator Huey Long, served in the Senate from age 30 years and almost 2 months, for a total of 38 years from 1949-1987.  He became the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee for 15 years, and due to his seniority and commitment to the elderly, disabled, the working poor, and the middle class, he came to be regarded with respect by his fellow Senators.  

He had a major role in much of the Great Society legislation under President Lyndon B. Johnson in the 1960s, including Medicare, and had a major impact on all tax legislation for decades.  However, his Achilles heel was his regular opposition to civil rights, including his vote against the Civil Rights Act of 1964, although he modified his opposition in later years.  He was also a major critic of the Earl Warren-led Supreme Court in the wake of the pathbreaking school integration case of Brown v. Board of Education in 1954.  But his influence, despite these perceived negatives, was massive.

Senator Edward M. (Ted) Kennedy of Massachusetts came to the Senate in November 1962, at 30 years and about eight months, serving a total of 47 years and eight and a half months until his death in August 2009, making him the fourth longest serving US Senator in American history.  Part of the Kennedy political dynasty, he was the brother of President John F. Kennedy and Attorney General and Senator Robert F. Kennedy, and he sought the presidency unsuccessfully against Jimmy Carter in 1980.  Long expected to be the heir of his brothers in presidential attainment, he finally gave up the opportunity to pursue the presidency in his last three decades, and instead became respected and admired as the “Lion of the Senate,”  respected by both fellow Democrats and Republicans across the aisle, often working on legislation with such Republican leaders as John McCain of Arizona and Orrin Hatch of Utah.  His major commitment was to health care reform, immigration reform, civil rights, gun regulation, and social justice at home and abroad.  

At times highly controversial, he was also acknowledged as the voice and conscience of American progressivism, and as a strong and effective speaker and debater.  He and his Senate staff authored about 2,500 bills, of which more than 300 were enacted into law, and cosponsored another 550 bills that became law.  Any listing of outstanding US Senators would have him in the top ten of modern times.  His bipartisanship efforts did not stop the opposition from often portraying him as a polarizing figure, but a lot of it was simply political posturing, with a deep level of respect from many who bitterly opposed him in debate on the Senate floor.  His battles against Supreme Court nominees of Republican presidents made him highly controversial, as well as his stands on foreign policy issues, including Vietnam, Afghanistan, Northern Ireland, and Israel.  His strong efforts on the environment and gay and transgender rights issues also made him notable and seen as highly principled.  Few senators have had the impact of Kennedy, and his death left a void in the Senate that proved hard to fill.

Finally, Senator Joseph Biden of Delaware was elected to the Senate before his 30th birthday in November 1972, not reaching the minimum age until late in that month. Biden took the Senate oath at age 30 and about seven weeks, but at a time of great personal tragedy; his first wife and daughter were killed in a traffic accident a month after his election, and his two sons were severely injured.  He thought of giving up his senate seat, but senior members of the senate convinced him to take the oath and helped him emotionally to overcome the horrible adversity, and still manage to spend a lot of time with his two sons as they recovered from the tragedy.  He would later marry his second wife, Jill, and have a daughter with her, and would go on to have one of the longest periods of service in the US Senate, 36 years from 1973 to 2009. Biden left as the 18th longest serving senator, and he was seen as a strong and effective speaker and debater.

Had Biden remained in the Senate, he might today be approaching the longest service of any senator in history.  But he was called upon by Barack Obama to be the 47th Vice President of the United States from 2009-2017, regarded as one of the two most active, engaged and influential Vice Presidents, along with Walter Mondale, who served Jimmy Carter.  The Obama-Biden team was seen by some supporters as a “bromance” of two unlikely friends, and it was assumed that Biden might run to succeed Obama in 2016, but the tragic death of his older son Beau in 2015 derailed such plans. There was no certainty in any case that Biden would have been able to overcome Hillary Clinton for the nomination.  

But now, in 2020, Joe Biden is the Democratic nominee for President, with a record of accomplishments that is hard to match, including leadership of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for four years and Senate Judiciary Committee for eight years. With such a long record of experience in the Senate, Biden can be criticized for some policy positions and votes and for verbal gaffes, but he stands out as genuine, kind, generous, decent, and as a person of true empathy and concern for others, rare in any politician.  He has had great contacts with foreign government officials, and knows how to work across the aisle, as he often did in the Senate and as Vice President, helping to smooth conflicts with his diplomatic style.  Biden is perceived as a moderate centrist progressive more than others in his party, such as his former 2020 primary opponents, including Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders and Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren. The fact that he is seen as “less progressive” than them seems to have promoted his present standing as far ahead in public opinion polls for the Presidency as of the end of June 2020.  

Whether Joe Biden can go on to become the 46th President of the United States will be decided in the next four months. If it happens, he will become the President who first held national office at a younger age than any other, while also being, ironically, the oldest first term President at age 78 and two months on Inauguration Day 2021.

Fri, 23 Oct 2020 12:03:17 +0000 0
The Three Political Prodigy Governors of the 20th Century Ronald L. Feinman is the author of Assassinations, Threats, and the American Presidency: From Andrew Jackson to Barack Obama (Rowman Littlefield Publishers, 2015).  A paperback edition is now available.



Three 20th century state governors came to office in their early 30s with Presidential ambitions and potential, but two of them faded fast after dramatic early years in public office.  Both Republican Philip LaFollette of Wisconsin (1931-1933, 1935-1939) and Republican Harold Stassen of Minnesota (1939-1943) made a lot of news in their short, meteoric careers as major public figures. The third, Democrat Bill Clinton (1979-1981, 1983-1992), stumbled on his way to a presidential campaign but ended up having a massive impact on the American people in a presidency portrayed in intensely positive and negative terms.  His wife, Hillary Rodham Clinton, became a major figure as First Lady, then as Senator from New York and Secretary of State in the first term of President Barack Obama.

Philip LaFollette was the younger son of “Fighting Bob,” Wisconsin Governor, Senator, and 1924 Progressive Party Presidential nominee Robert M. LaFollette, Sr., who was acknowledged by historians as one of the greatest state governors and US Senators of all time. Philip LaFollette was also the brother of Senator Robert M. LaFollette, Jr., who was one of the major progressive figures in the tradition of his father, and an influential figure during the New Deal of Franklin D. Roosevelt. His significance and that of his brother Philip is described and fully developed in my monograph, Twilight of Progressivism: The Western Republican Senators and the New Deal (Johns Hopkins University Press, 1981).

Philip LaFollette was the youngest governor elected in modern times.  He was about 33 years and 8 months old, and he followed the tradition of Wisconsin progressivism that had been established by his father thirty years earlier.  He was much more outspoken and assertive than his brother, but when their father died in 1925, Philip was only 28, while “Young Bob” had reached the minimum age of 30, so the latter ran for his father’s Senate seat, while Philip was already serving as District Attorney of Dane County (which included Madison, the state capital) from 1925-1927.

Philip LaFollette was, surprisingly, defeated for reelection after his first two year term which ended in 1933, but came back and won the Wisconsin Governorship a second and third time (1935-1939), forming the Wisconsin Progressive Party as his political vehicle, and the LaFollette brothers were at their peak at the height of the New Deal.  But the rivalry between the brothers, the much quieter Bob and the more assertive Phil, led to growing opposition to Franklin D. Roosevelt and the New Deal, and particularly to criticism of any move to abandon the isolationist mentality that gripped much of the nation and the Congress in the late 1930s.  

The threat of Germany and Japan grew to cause a major split between the President and the LaFollette brothers.  Phil decided to form a third party movement, the National Progressive Party of America, and had plans to run for President in 1940, as he assumed FDR would not run for a third term.  But the third party effort failed to get off the ground, and he lost massively to his opponent in the gubernatorial race, 55 to 36 percent in 1938. He never sought political office again, and his involvement with his brother in the America First crusade in 1940-1941 undermined his public reputation.   

Phil LaFollette did serve in World War II under General Douglas MacArthur, however, and promoted the lost candidacy of MacArthur in the Republican Presidential nomination battle in 1948.  His brother would manage to keep his seat in 1940, but would then lose in the Republican primary in 1946 to future Senator Joseph McCarthy, accused not being a true Republican having kept the Progressive tag even after the failed third party movement in 1938.  Phil engaged in private business in later years, wrote his autobiography, and died at age 68 in 1965.  His widow, Isabel, lived on to 1973, and was interviewed by this author in Madison, Wisconsin, while he was doing research on his book on Progressive Republican Senators in the summer of 1970.

Harold Stassen was elected Governor of Minnesota at the youngest age in modern American history, being only 31 years and about 9 months old, when taking office in 1939.  He had been a child prodigy, graduating high school at age 15, and gained his bachelor’s degree at the University of Minnesota at age 20, and that university’s law school degree at age 22.  He was elected District Attorney of Dakota County, part of the Minneapolis-St, Paul metropolitan area, taking office in 1931, while still age 23, and was reelected in 1934.  He became active in state Republican politics, and announced his plans to run for Governor in 1938.

Becoming known as the “Boy Governor”, he became extremely popular during 1939, and some saw him as a potential Presidential candidate, although he was not old enough in 1940. He had high public opinion ratings even from non-Republicans, who saw him as a future nominee.  He gave the keynote address at the Republican National Convention when he was only 33 years old. After being reelected to second and third two-year terms in 1940 and 1942, he resigned early in his third term to report for active duty in the US Navy in the Spring of 1943, and served under Admiral William F. Halsey, Jr. in the Pacific Theatre of World War II. Stassen was awarded the Legion of Merit for his service as Commander in that position.  He was promoted to the rank of Captain in September 1945, and released from active duty in November 1945 after two and a half years of service.

No one looking at Stassen’s meteoric rise would have thought that he would never again hold elective office while pursuing perennial failed presidential campaigns. Over time he became a national joke and embarrassment.  He ran for President nine times---1944, 1948, 1952, 1964, 1968, 1980. 1984, 1988, and 1992.  His only serious effort was in 1948, when he won some early primaries over New York Governor Thomas E. Dewey, the eventual nominee, and participated in a political debate the night before the Oregon Primary, the first such debate in modern times between contending Presidential candidates.  But he was third in delegates in early ballots at the Republican National Convention, and withdrew after the second ballot.  

In 1952, the Minnesota delegation abandoned Stassen and backed Dwight D. Eisenhower, who went on to defeat Ohio Senator Robert Taft for the nomination.  Stassen worked in the Eisenhower administration as Director of the Mutual Security Agency from January to August 1953, and as Director of the US Foreign Operations Administration from August 1953 to March 1955.  He also served as President of the University of Pennsylvania from 1948-1953 before his service for President Eisenhower.

Stassen also ran for Governor of Minnesota in 1982, Governor of Pennsylvania in 1958 and 1966, US Senate in Minnesota in 1978 and 1994, Mayor of Philadelphia in 1959, and US Representative in Minnesota in 1986.  Stassen was always perceived as a liberal Republican, a liberal Baptist who marched with Martin Luther King, Jr. in the March on Washington in August 1963.  He spoke up against an embargo on Cuba, and against the Vietnam War escalation, and participated as a delegate in the founding of the United Nations in 1945. He supported that institution throughout his long life, until passing away at the age of 93 in 2001.   

Bill Clinton, the only “Boy Governor” to become president, was elected Arkansas Governor at age 32, older than Stassen, but younger than Philip LaFollette.  Clinton first ran for public office at age 28, losing by 52-48 to an incumbent Republican Congressman, but then was elected Arkansas Attorney General at age 30 in 1976, and Governor in 1978.  He would lose his Governorship two years later, just as Philip LaFollette did, but came back in 1982 to the position, keeping it for the next ten years and serving a total of three two year and two four year terms, with the last term cut short by his election to the presidency.  

Clinton was a “New Democrat”, more centrist and moderate than Democrats in the 1980s, and he was not originally seen as a serious Presidential contender, particularly after his long winded nomination speech for Michael Dukakis at the Democratic National Convention in 1988, which led to cheers when he finished.  But in a stroke of luck, including better known Democrats choosing not to run, he overcame an early loss in the New Hampshire primary and private scandals, emerged as the Democratic Presidential nominee in 1992, and was elected over President George H. W. Bush and Independent H. Ross Perot, with only 43 percent of the total national vote. Therefore he became our third youngest president at inauguration at age 46 and five months, with only Theodore Roosevelt (42) and John F. Kennedy (43) being younger when taking the oath. 

Clinton would go on to have a very controversial presidency in many respects, and face impeachment during his second term for his private life scandals, but would overcome it and finish his two terms of office with a very high public opinion rating, rare for a president leaving office.  The assessment of his presidency has put him in the top third of all Presidents, most recently being rated number 15 in the C-Span Historians Poll of 2017.  

His wife, Hillary Rodham Clinton, would be equally controversial, going on to lose the Democratic nomination for President in 2008 to Barack Obama, become the nominee of her party in 2016, and lose in the Electoral College to Donald Trump despite a nearly 3 million popular vote victory. The Clintons have been a major part of the American political scene on the national level now for three decades, and assessments of both Bill and Hillary Clinton remain a controversial topic in the new decade of the 2020s.

Fri, 23 Oct 2020 12:03:17 +0000 0
Prepare for Massive Turnover on the Supreme Court in the Next Four Years Ronald L. Feinman is the author of Assassinations, Threats, and the American Presidency: From Andrew Jackson to Barack Obama (Rowman Littlefield Publishers, 2015).  A paperback edition is now available.



The Supreme Court of the United States has tremendous power and impact on all Americans. The future membership of the Court will likely be determined in the next term, and it could be a massive change.

The three youngest of Justices, Elena Kagan (appointed by Barack Obama in 2010), Neil Gorsuch (appointed by Donald Trump in 2017), and Brett Kavanaugh (appointed by Trump in 2018), are 60, 53 and 55, respectively, seem in good health, and are likely to be on the Court for a long time.

Much attention is, of course, paid to the oldest member, Ruth Bader Ginsburg (age 87), who has served on the Court for 27 years since being appointed by Bill Clinton, and has had five bouts with cancer (to date recovering from all and continuing to be able to work).  Democrats have prayed for Ginsburg to stay healthy enough to remain on the Court in the hope that Joe Biden becomes President in 2021.  It is imagined that she will retire next year if Biden is President, but stay on, if she is able to, if Trump is reelected.

But then, there is also Stephen Breyer (age 82), appointed by Bill Clinton, who has been on the Court for 26 years. While he is in good health, it seems likely that he will leave in the next presidential term.  If both Ginsburg and Breyer leave the Court with President Biden in office, it would preserve a 4 Justice liberal bloc that has occasionally drawn an ally from the more conservative side, but if Trump replaces them, then the Court would become much more right wing, with a 7-2 conservative majority.

But this is not the end of the issue of the future Court as, realistically, there might be up to four other Justices departing by 2024.  This would include Clarence Thomas (age 72), appointed by George H. W. Bush, and Samuel Alito (age 70), appointed by George W. Bush, with Thomas on the Court for 29 years, and Alito having served 14 years.  There have been rumors that either or both of them might leave the Court now, so that Donald Trump can replace them, but apparently as the summer moves on toward a regular October opening, it seems not to be happening.  The point is that if either or both left the Court, Trump could replace them with younger, more ideological conservatives, while if Joe Biden were able to replace them, the Court would move substantially to the left.

But then, we also have Sonia Sotomayor (age 66), on the Court for 11 years after appointment by Barack Obama. It has been publicly reported that she has problems with diabetes, which might, in theory, cause her to resign from the Court in the next term.  Sotomayor has been a Type 1 diabetic since age 7, and  had a paramedic team come to her home in January 2018 to deal with an incident of low blood sugar.  If Trump were able in the next Presidential term to replace her, the conservative majority could be as strong as 8-1 by 2024.

And then, finally, we have Chief Justice John Roberts (age 65), who has led the Court for 15 years since appointment by George W. Bush. Roberts is as much of a “swing vote” as there is among the conservative Justices, surprising many with some of his decisions and utterances regarding Donald Trump.  The problem is that Roberts has had health issues involving seizures, in 1993, again in 2007, and most recently in 2020.  In 2007, after two years as Chief Justice, Roberts collapsed while fishing alone on a pier at his summer home in Maine, fortunately not falling into the water and drowning.  In June 2020, he fell and hit his forehead on the sidewalk, receiving sutures and an overnight hospital stay. In this case, a seizure was ruled out as the cause of the fall, but the possibility that Roberts might leave the Court has become a subject of speculation.

So while the future of these six Supreme Court Justices is for the moment just speculation, the odds are good that two or more might leave the Court, and potentially as many as six, which gives either Joe Biden or Donald Trump the ability to transform the ideology of the majority of the Court until mid-century.

So the Presidential Election of 2020 is not just about who might be in the Oval Office, or which party might control the US Senate, but also a potential revision of the Supreme Court’s role in American jurisprudence, and its impact on 330 million Americans.

Fri, 23 Oct 2020 12:03:17 +0000 0
Tumultuous Transitions in the American Presidency Ronald L. Feinman is the author of Assassinations, Threats, and the American Presidency: From Andrew Jackson to Barack Obama (Rowman Littlefield Publishers, 2015).  A paperback edition is now available.



Three months from now America will once again experience the tumult and stress of presidential transitions, if one believes the polls that show former Vice President Joe Biden thwarting President Trump’s attempt to win a second term in the White House.  Trump has already made clear his intention to fight tooth and nail, no holds barred, to win a second term, including legal maneuvers with no limits, plus threats simply not to concede.  This could create a constitutional crisis that would surpass any previous presidential transition.  America has certainly had a lot of experience in difficulties in the change of governments in the last two centuries.  An examination of such tumult and stress is instructional.

When John Adams lost to Thomas Jefferson in 1800 the two men, once friends, and later to be such again, had condemned each other during the campaign in every imaginable manner.  The stress became ever greater when Adams had the opportunity to name John Marshall Chief Justice with only a few weeks left in his term. Jefferson argued that a “lame duck” President should not be able to transform the Court after being defeated.  Marshall, who ironically was a cousin of Jefferson, would go on to serve as the most significant Chief Justice in American history, and also its longest serving Chief Justice. He is often considered to have had the greatest influence on the Court’s entire history through the doctrine of judicial review.  

But this period of transition, which also saw Adams not attend his successor’s inauguration on March 4, 1801, was also complicated by the reality that Vice Presidential nominee Aaron Burr claimed a tie in electoral votes, opening up the possibility of Burr being elected by the House of Representatives. This necessitated a multi-ballot battle in 1801, until Jefferson was selected with the backing of the losing Federalists. Alexander Hamilton lobbied for the election of his ideological rival Jefferson over Burr, whom Hamilton considered a dangerous man with no ethics or principles.  This would, of course, ultimately lead to Burr killing Hamilton in a gun duel in 1804, marking Burr as one of the prime villains in early American history.

John Quincy Adams was elected the 6th president over Andrew Jackson when the 1824 election was decided by the House of Representatives early in 1825, the second and last time that the House was saddled with the need to choose the winner. This led to accusations by Jackson of a stolen election.  Jackson had ended up first in popular and electoral votes, in the first test of popular vote strength in a presidential election, but in a four person race, the election went to the House of Representatives since Jackson had not won the majority of the electoral vote.  It led to a four year campaign by Jackson accusing John Quincy Adams and Henry Clay of a “corrupt bargain” when Clay backed Adams and then was given the highly prized position of Secretary of State.  

So when 1828 came on, the campaign between President JQ Adams and Jackson was especially bitter and nasty, including personal attacks on Jackson’s wife a bigamist, which arguably led to her death during the transition period after Jackson won the election handily.  Adams left Washington without attending the inauguration of his successor, and pledged to come back to fight Jackson, whom he considered a dangerous man.  To the horror of Adams and many other Jackson critics, the new president’s supporters were encouraged to celebrate his inauguration on March 4, 1829, and they proceeded to engage in a drunken brawl, breaking windows and china, and damaging furniture in the White House. Within two years, Adams indeed did come back as a Congressman from Boston, and fought Jackson on many issues. He remains the only former president elected by popular vote to Congress in all of American history until the present.

In 1860, James Buchanan, totally repudiated and not choosing to run again, had to deal with the danger of the oncoming Civil War, as Southern states began to secede from the Union. He refused to take any federal action against Southern states, which were seizing US military forts. The president-elect, Abraham Lincoln, was unable to convince Buchanan to uphold federal law and the Constitution, a reality that would condemn Buchanan forever in American history.  There were regular and constant death threats against Lincoln during the transition, most notably the “Baltimore Plot” that was seen as a real danger and forced Lincoln to travel through the city in the dark of night without notice, on his way to Washington.  The stress level and tumult was very high. Within six weeks of the inauguration, with Lincoln determined to protect US military forts but not start a war, South Carolina chose to attack Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor, South Carolina, on the morning of April 12, 1861, leading to the undeclared Civil War.

After Ulysses S. Grant was elected president in 1868, months after the failed impeachment trial of President Andrew Johnson, the outgoing president was hostile toward Grant, who had backed away from supporting him in the impeachment crisis.  He refused to go to the inauguration of his successor, staying in the White House until the ceremony was completed.

In 1876, in the closest electoral vote election in American history, a controversy over who had won the electoral votes of three southern states (South Carolina, Louisiana, and Florida) dragged on for nearly four months until two days before the inauguration, with fear of a renewed civil war. But a behind the scenes deal known as the Compromise of 1877 arranged for popular vote loser Rutherford B. Hayes to win the precise majority of electoral votes (185-184) needed to be inaugurated over popular vote winner Samuel Tilden.  There had been some consideration of allowing President Grant to stay in office if the crisis had not been settled by Inauguration Day.

The Compromise of 1877 undermined the reputation of Congress and the Supreme Court, with members from both houses and the Court on the Electoral Commission that struck the political deal, with long range implications of the Republican Party abandoning African Americans to the Democratic Party and its southern adherents, creating “Jim Crow” for nearly a century until the modern civil rights movement in the 1950s and 1960s finally led to legal and statutory laws against segregation.

When Herbert Hoover lost reelection to his onetime friend, Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1932, at the worst moments of the Great Depression, the two men could not agree on actions to be taken during the four months until the inauguration in March 1933. And FDR came close to being assassinated in Miami, Florida on February 15, 1933. The mayor of Chicago, Anton Cermak, sitting next to him, was murdered by the perpetrator, Giuseppe Zangara.  When Inauguration Day arrived two and a half weeks later, Herbert Hoover sat glumly in the automobile taking him and the President elect to the Inaugural stand, and refused to talk with FDR.  The bitterness was lasting. Hoover denounced the New Deal regularly, and the two men never had any contact again.

President Harry Truman did not think highly of his successor Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1952, and the transition into January 1953 was not particularly warm.  And yet, they had once collaborated in the early years after World War II. Truman had thought of Eisenhower as a possible successor in 1948, when Truman suggested that he would step down again to the Vice Presidency with Eisenhower leading the ticket, but Eisenhower rejected the offer.  Truman became a major critic of Eisenhower during his Presidency, and only at the funeral of John F. Kennedy in 1963 did the two men reconcile.

Gerald Ford did not think positively about his successor Jimmy Carter after the hard-fought battle between them in 1976, and Ford, while cordial in the transition period, was a sharp critic of Carter during his Presidency.  But then, the two men and their wives became fast friends, and they agreed that when one passed away first, the survivor would give the eulogy at his funeral. Carter did precisely that at Ford’s funeral in December 2006.

The same scenario existed between George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton after Clinton defeated Bush in 1992. Bush held hard feelings and offered strong criticism.  But after Clinton left the presidency, he and Bush became good friends, Bush referred to Clinton as the son “from another mother,” and they collaborated on Hurricane Katrina relief in 2005.

Clinton and his wife Hillary Rodham Clinton were strong critics of George W. Bush during the 2000 Presidential campaign, when Clinton’s Vice President, Al Gore, won the popular vote over Bush, but the uncertainty of Florida’s victor led to a 36 day standoff with legal action by both political parties.  When the Supreme Court intervened, however, Al Gore was statesmanlike. Notably, in his required role as outgoing Vice President, he had to open up 51 envelopes from the states and the District of Columbia during a January joint session of Congress and count the electoral vote. Gore announced his own defeat by 271-266, despite his popular vote lead of 540,000 votes.  

During that transition period, however, a major shouting match occurred between Clinton and Gore in the Oval Office. The issues was Gore’s decision not to utilize Clinton in the campaign, due to the impeachment trial of Clinton over his sex scandal, and Gore’s choice of Clinton critic Senator Joe Lieberman as his running mate. Clinton and Gore were never as close and engaged ever again as they were during their two terms in the White House, but the Clintons over time became friendly with the entire Bush family, despite the political battles.

The George W. Bush-Barack Obama transition was far less controversial, due to the developing crisis of the Great Recession, and the Obamas would become friends of the Bush Family. The two Bush Presidents avoided open criticism of Obama, although the Republican Party certainly had no lack of confrontation and challenge to the 44th President during the eight years of his presidency.

Most recently, Obama tried to cooperate with Donald Trump, who had unleashed constant attacks on Obama during 2015 and 2016, but except for one meeting a couple of days after the election in 2016, the Trump transition team was not out to cooperate with Obama, and Trump has continued to be totally condemnatory of everything Obama represents, and has worked to destroy the Obama legacy in a vicious, uncaring, and totally undiplomatic manner.

It is now clear the gloves are off, symbolically, and Donald Trump will have no limits on tactics to attempt to insure a second term, and will be vicious in every way possible toward former Vice President Joe Biden, linking him to Obama constantly.  There is no desire to accommodate or avoid total confrontation in the transition period, so one can expect a very tumultuous, stressful 78 days from November 3, 2020 to January 20, 2021.  We must be prepared for a greater potential constitutional crisis than we have ever witnessed in all of American history.

Fri, 23 Oct 2020 12:03:17 +0000 0
The "Zero Year" Election Syndrome and 2020 Ronald L. Feinman is the author of Assassinations, Threats, and the American Presidency: From Andrew Jackson to Barack Obama (Rowman Littlefield Publishers, 2015).  A paperback edition is now available.



American Presidential history has been plagued with what many have termed the “Zero Election Year Syndrome”.

This relates to the reality that every twenty years, a presidential election occurs in a zero-numbered year, and it has been a hex on those Presidents who have been elected.

Seven times in a row, between 1840 and 1960, the President elected in a year ending in zero has died in office, as follows:

William Henry Harrison, elected in 1840, died a month into his term, on April 4, 1841, likely of pneumonia, gained from giving the longest inaugural speech in American history on a cold, very rainy day in Washington DC, on March 4, 1841.

Abraham Lincoln, elected in 1860 and reelected in 1864, was tragically assassinated by actor John Wilkes Booth on April 14, 1865, six weeks after his second inauguration.

James A. Garfield, elected in 1880, was shot and mortally wounded by Charles J. Guiteau on July 2, 1881, survived much of the time in a coma for the next 79 days, but died on September 19, 1881, after six and a half months in office.

William McKinley, elected in 1896 and reelected in 1900, was shot and mortally wounded by Leon Czolgosz on September 6, 1901 and passed away on September 14, 1901.

Warren G. Harding, elected in 1920, died after two years and five months as President, from a cerebral hemorrhage on August 2, 1923.

Franklin D. Roosevelt, elected four times, in 1932, 1936, 1940, and 1944, died of congestive heart failure on April 12, 1945.

John F. Kennedy, elected in 1960, was assassinated by Lee Harvey Oswald after two years and ten months in office, on November 22, 1963.

So four times of these seven tragedies, the President died by assassination, and the other three times of natural causes.

Add to this that Ronald Reagan, elected in 1980 and 1984, was shot and seriously wounded after ten weeks in office, by potential assassin John Hinckley on March 30, 1981, but with modern medicine and surgical techniques, he survived and finished his two terms of office. There were also two lesser known threats by people who were able to gain access to White House grounds, one in 1984 and one in 1985.

Also, George W. Bush, elected in 2000 and 2004, was subjected to a number of dangerous situations, including on September 11, 2001, when terrorists attacked the World Trade Center in New York City, and the Pentagon in Virginia, and presented a potential threat to Bush as he flew around the nation to avoid a possible air attack on Air Force One.  

As demonstrated in my book, “Assassinations, Threats, and the American Presidency: From Andrew Jackson to Barack Obama: From Andrew Jackson to Barack Obama” (Rowman Littlefield Publishers, 2015), Bush also had potential assassination threats throughout his Presidency, including while visiting in the nation of Georgia in 2005, and also when visiting Iraq in 2008.  Additionally, there were domestic threats, “fence jumpers” at the White House, including one such case in 2001, one in 2005, three in 2006, and one in 2007.

So realistically, every one of nine “Zero election years’ winners of the Presidency faced ultimate death, in the first seven cases, or serious threats that could have led to death in the last two cases. 

Now we face the tenth straight “Zero Election Year” of a President since 1840, and there is serious concern about this so called “Syndrome”.  There are a number of good reasons for this developing feeling.

First, both Donald Trump and Joe Biden are the two oldest Presidents who would take the oath of office, as Trump would be older than Ronald Reagan was in his second term, and Joe Biden would be older on Inauguration Day than Ronald Reagan at the end of his second term, so the odds of a possible tragedy are there, just based on advanced age.

Second, both Trump and Biden are seen as having potential mental limitations, based on their public displays of statements that make people speculate on potential dementia, more so by far for Trump, but also concern about whether Biden will be able to deal with the stresses of the office at his advanced age.

Third, the dangers of the COVID-19 Virus Pandemic make both Trump and Biden susceptible to possibly contracting the disease, and potentially being affected by it, including the possibility of passing away, as so many cases of demise are “senior citizens”.  Both Trump and Biden are tested regularly, but that does not mean in the future that something could go awry.

Fourth, the stresses of the Presidency are greater in a time of economic collapse, and what is being called the Second Great Depression, as well as the rising racial tensions after the murder of George Floyd.  With extremism rising on both the Left and the Right in American politics, the danger of assassination grows, and it could be by anyone who is extremist or just desperate with the crises of the pandemic, as well as economic hard times, and the racial divisions that are very evident in America.  There may be less direct public contact between the President and the public at this point, but still, there is no way to insure that the threat of assassination is moot whenever the President is in a public situation.  

Finally, the fact that it has been 57 years since the last assassination of a President (John F. Kennedy); 46 years since a President left office during a term (Richard Nixon resigning); and 39 years since the last direct eyeball to eyeball assassination threat (Ronald Reagan), one must wonder about the “odds” catching up, and possible fulfillment once again of the “Zero Election Year Syndrome”.  

While the Secret Service constantly updates their technology and methods to protect the President, there is always the danger that a would be assassin or group might be more sophisticated, and be able to threaten the occupant of the White House in ways most people would never imagine possible.

So we must face the concern that the “Zero Election Year Syndrome” could return, and until the President elected in 2020 leaves office alive in 2025 or 2029, we will not be able to relax and say that the “hex” is finally broken.  Looking at history, the possibility of a President Mike Pence or a President Kamala Harris is certainly possible in this next term, but we must hope that possibility does not occur.


Fri, 23 Oct 2020 12:03:17 +0000 0
Since 1960, Democrats Have Had Success when the VP is a Senator and a former Presidential Contender Ronald L. Feinman is the author of Assassinations, Threats, and the American Presidency: From Andrew Jackson to Barack Obama (Rowman Littlefield Publishers, 2015).  A paperback edition is now available.



Since the 1960 election, we have seen five Democratic presidential candidates who went on to win the White House, and each time they chose a running mate who had been a presidential contender.

Also, each Vice President went on to contend as the nominee of the party for President after having served as Vice President, and in each case, they had served in the US Senate.

In 1960, John F. Kennedy had Lyndon B. Johnson as his running mate, who had contended against Kennedy, and Johnson went on to win a full term as President in 1964, after having succeeded the assassinated Kennedy in November 1963.

Lyndon B. Johnson had Hubert Humphrey as his running mate in 1964, with Humphrey having competed in 1960 against both Kennedy and Johnson for the Presidential nomination.

Humphrey went on to be the Democratic Presidential nominee in the 1968 election, but losing to Richard Nixon, and George Wallace winning five states in the Electoral College, as the most serious third party contender since Theodore Roosevelt in 1912.

Jimmy Carter chose Walter Mondale, who had briefly been a candidate for President in the 1976 cycle, as his running mate, and Mondale went on to a very engaged Vice Presidency, and was the Democratic nominee for President in 1984.

Bill Clinton chose former Presidential contender Al Gore, who had been a serious candidate in the 1988 cycle, to be his Vice President in 1992, and Gore went on to serve two terms as very active and involved in many Clinton initiatives.  Gore then was the Democratic Presidential nominee in 2000, won the popular vote by 540,000 votes, but lost the Electoral College to George W. Bush.

Finally, Barack Obama chose Joe Biden, who had contended for President in both 1988 and 2008 as his running mate in 2008, and Biden went on to two very involved and engaged terms and impact on the Obama Presidency.

And now, Joe Biden is the 2020 Presidential nominee, and has chosen Kamala Harris, who contended against him in the 2020 primary campaign as his running mate.

Will history repeat itself for a sixth time in 60 years?  We shall see in November 2020!



Fri, 23 Oct 2020 12:03:17 +0000 0
Vice Presidents Who Have Been Presidential Nominees




Ronald L. Feinman is the author of Assassinations, Threats, and the American Presidency: From Andrew Jackson to Barack Obama (Rowman Littlefield Publishers, 2015).  A paperback edition is now available.


With former Vice President Joe Biden now the Democratic nominee for president, it reminds us of recent decades when a number of Vice Presidents have been presidential contenders, but mostly without much success. 

A total of 12 vice presidents have run for president, but with only 5 of them so far succeeding.

In the early years of the American Republic, we saw three vice presidents succeed the president they served, as follows:

John Adams (1797-1801), succeeded George Washington, but then was defeated for a second term in 1800.

Thomas Jefferson (1801-1809), succeeded John Adams, and served two complete terms of office.

Martin Van Buren (1837-1841) succeeded Andrew Jackson, but then was defeated for a second term in 1840.

Only one other Vice President in the 19th century was a Presidential nominee. John C. Breckinridge served as Vice President under James Buchanan (1857-1861), but ran on a splinter ticket, as the Democratic Party nominated Stephen Douglas for President in 1860.  Breckinridge won more electoral votes than Douglas, Douglas won more popular votes than Breckinridge, and both lost to Abraham Lincoln.

Franklin D. Roosevelt had both of his first two Vice Presidents seek the Presidency, but both failed, with John Nance Garner (1933-1941) serving in the first two Roosevelt terms, and wanting to succeed his boss, but FDR allowed himself to be promoted for a third term, and that killed the chances for Garner, who refused to be Vice President for a third term.

So third term Vice President Henry A. Wallace (1941-1945) served, and then was dropped at the 1944 Democratic National Convention due to pressure from Southern delegates that Wallace with his civil rights views was unacceptable. So Harry Truman was selected to be Vice President for the 4th term, and soon succeeded to the Presidency after only 82 days as Vice President.  Wallace went on to become a critic of Truman, and to compete against him as the Progressive Party nominee in 1948, performing poorly with only about 1.1 million popular votes and no electoral votes, and was forgotten in history.

Richard Nixon (1953-1961) served as Vice President under Dwight D. Eisenhower, and then lost a close race to John F. Kennedy in 1960, but to the surprise of many, despite his California gubernatorial defeat in 1962, came back as the Republican nominee in 1968 against Hubert Humphrey, and won the Presidency (1969-1974),and served part of a second term before being forced out by the Watergate Scandal in 1974.

Hubert Humphrey (1965-1969) served as Vice President under Lyndon B. Johnson in his full term, but lost a close Presidential race in 1968 to Richard Nixon, and was a contender to be the Presidential nominee again in 1972, but failed to accomplish his goal.

Walter Mondale (1977-1981) served as Vice President under Jimmy Carter, lost reelection with Carter, but then was the Democratic Presidential candidate in 1984 against Ronald Reagan, who won a massive second term victory.

George H. W. Bush (1981-1989) served two terms under Ronald Reagan, won the Presidency to succeed his boss in the 1988 election, the first time that had happened since Martin Van Buren in 1836.  However, he failed to win reelection in 1992, losing to Bill Clinton.

Al Gore (1993-2001) served two terms under Bill Clinton, and was the Presidential nominee of his party in 2000, but in a contested election, lost the Electoral College to George W. Bush, due to the decision of the Supreme Court to intervene, and give Florida to Bush by a total of 537 votes statewide, despite Gore’s 540,000 popular vote lead nationally.

Now, Joe Biden, after being Vice President (2009-2017) under Barack Obama, is the Presidential nominee of his party against Donald Trump in the Presidential Election of 2020, with, at this writing, all public opinion polls showing him with a substantial lead, but only voting counts, not polls, so we shall see.

If Biden wins, he will be only the 6th of 12 Vice Presidents who became President by election, with four directly after (Adams, Jefferson, Van Buren, Bush) and two others four (Biden) and eight (Nixon) years later.



Fri, 23 Oct 2020 12:03:17 +0000 0
There Has Never Been a President Like Donald Trump


Ronald L. Feinman is the author of Assassinations, Threats, and the American Presidency: From Andrew Jackson to Barack Obama (Rowman Littlefield Publishers, 2015).  A paperback edition is now available.



There has never been a President similar to Donald Trump.

Even Richard Nixon, Andrew Johnson, and Andrew Jackson, with all of their faults and shortcomings, come nowhere near the reality of Donald Trump.

No President has lied on the level and consistency that Donald Trump has.

No President has had the kind of record of mistreatment and disrespect of women as Donald Trump has.

No President has promoted white supremacy and justified right wing vigilantes as Donald Trump has.

No President has ridiculed and shown no empathy toward disabled people in public as Donald Trump has.

No President has been as openly cruel and heartless toward those less fortunate as Donald Trump has.

No President has openly exploited America with the level of his spending on himself on the public dollar as Donald Trump has.

No President has ever attacked his critics and opponents on the level of viciousness and crudeness as Donald Trump has.

No President has had such an incompetent and corrupt group of Cabinet officers and other top officials as Donald Trump has.

No President has had a First Lady of such ugly prejudices as her husband as Donald Trump has.

No President has had children of such levels of corruption and arrogance as Donald Trump has.

No President has promoted conspiracy theories consistently as Donald Trump has.

No President has been as cruel and malicious but claimed to be “religious” as Donald Trump has.

No President has read so little on a regular basis, or been as ignorant on a score of subjects, including among others, history, science, economics, foreign policies, and spelling, and has no interest in facts, as Donald Trump has.

No President has displayed such a poor level of vocabulary usage as Donald Trump has.

No President has come to the defense of a person who has committed murder as Donald Trump has, whether Mohammed bin Salman or Kyle Rittenhouse.

No President has embraced authoritarian dictatorship, and endorsed their strongman policies as Donald Trump has.

No President has become so enamored with Russian government leaders, as Donald Trump has with Vladimir Putin, a danger to American national security.

No President has set out to destroy all policies and programs from earlier Presidents of both parties as Donald Trump has.

No President has set out to undermine government agencies, including the federal bureaucracy, the foreign policy apparatus, the intelligence agencies, and the basic functioning of government as Donald Trump has.

No President has been as openly harsh and uncooperative, and dismissive of any association with his predecessors as Donald Trump has.

No President has been as mentally and psychologically ill and dangerous as Donald Trump has.

No President has conducted and acted like a demagogue out to divide people on a consistent basis as Donald Trump has.

No President is consistently seen as much of a danger to national security as Donald Trump has been.

No President, if he were to be reelected, would be as much of a threat to the Constitution and rule of law, as Donald Trump would be.


Fri, 23 Oct 2020 12:03:17 +0000 0
This Potential Constitutional Crisis is More Serious than 1860 or 1932 Ronald L. Feinman is the author of Assassinations, Threats, and the American Presidency: From Andrew Jackson to Barack Obama (Rowman Littlefield Publishers, 2015).  A paperback edition is now available.



The United States has faced major constitutional crises before, most notably the Civil War, and the presidential election of 1860 is regarded as the greatest constitutional crisis ever faced by this nation.

There have been other times of crisis at the time of national elections, most notably 1932, at the worst moments of the Great Depression.

Additionally, there were extended time frames until resolution of the presidential elections of 1800, 1824, 1876, and 2000.

But in all six cases, the losing candidates--John C. Breckinridge in 1860, Herbert Hoover in 1932, John Adams in 1800, Andrew Jackson in 1824, Samuel Tilden in 1876, and Al Gore in 2000--were patriotic and conceded, certainly not an easy thing to do.

But today, with fewer than 40 days to the presidential election of 2020, we face a crisis that has never occurred before, the stated refusal of President Donald Trump to concede if he loses the election, and his stated intention to cause legal barriers and delays, and possibly to seek to push friendly state legislatures to select presidential electors. Trump will not guarantee a peaceful transition of power on January 20, 2021. The scenario of Trump and Joe Biden both claiming the Presidency on Inauguration Day, creating the danger of chaos, anarchy, and violence in the nation’s capital and across the nation, endangering the security of Biden and his running mate, Kamala Harris, is alarming beyond measure.

With Trump facing likely prosecution, at the least by New York State, after he leaves the presidency, he has nothing to lose, from his perspective, and will have no qualms about disrupting the nation, and potentially causing civil war in the streets, with all of the firearms that many of his supporters possess.

Trump even hopes that a new Supreme Court appointee to replace Ruth Bader Ginsburg could be the decisive vote, if the election goes to the Court as it did in 2000, and also partially, in 1876.  This would be a time for the Supreme Court to be above politics, and one would hope that Chief Justice John Roberts, and even Trump appointee Neil Gorsuch, who has demonstrated independence on the Court, might be willing to the right thing, and stop the crisis dead in its tracks, something it would be very difficult for Trump to prevent.

It also would be important for many Republicans in Congress, who have so far demonstrated unwillingness to challenge Trump, to be as courageous and principled as Republicans, led by Senator Barry Goldwater of Arizona, Senate Minority Leader Hugh Scott of Pennsylvania, and House Republican leader John Rhodes of Arizona, were in August 1974.  They went to the White House and informed President Richard Nixon that he should resign during the Watergate Scandal, and despite Nixon’s actions, which were leading to impeachment, even he had the dignity and sense of proper behavior to follow through, and end what was becoming a terrifying constitutional crisis in a nonelection year. 

We face a month or more of tension, and the possibility of another 78 days from the election date to the inauguration, and in the midst of the COVID-19 Pandemic, the worst economy in 80 years. Amid so many problems and issues, America needs a break, and the certainty that the election results in 2020 will not undermine the future of 330 million Americans, due to the maniacal behavior of the 45th President.

Fri, 23 Oct 2020 12:03:17 +0000 0
Trump On Way to Worst Percentage Share of Vote by a Republican in a Two-Way Race Since Goldwater Ronald L. Feinman is the author of Assassinations, Threats, and the American Presidency: From Andrew Jackson to Barack Obama (Rowman Littlefield Publishers, 2015).  A paperback edition is now available.



The Republican Party is in free fall by most estimates, a month out from the presidential and congressional Elections of 2020.  

The odds of Democrats gaining seats in the House of Representatives to add to their majority, and to win control of the US Senate, seem very high, based on state and national polls.

Donald Trump’s disastrous display at the Presidential debate in Cleveland, followed by his hospitalization with the COVID 19 virus (which has spread to many others in his orbit), has led to many estimates former Vice President Joe Biden is on the road to a major landslide, as early voting is already taking place in many states.

One must recall that six of the past seven presidential elections the Republicans have lost the national popular vote, with the exception of 2004.  And now, considering that Donald Trump has never had a legitimate poll show him with majority support (it has mostly been in the low 40s), and clearly there are Trump voters in 2016 now abandoning him by every estimate, it is possible Trump will win the lowest percentage of any Republican nominee since Senator Barry Goldwater in 1964.

If one examines the Republican Party history since it was founded in 1854, and first competed for the Presidency in 1856, there have been seven times when the party nominee gained less than 40 percent of the total national vote.

Four of those times the race involved more than two national candidates, as follows:

1856—John C. Fremont in a three way race won second place with 33.1 percent of the vote, with former President Millard Fillmore, running on the American (Know Nothing) Party line winning 21.5 percent of the vote, and Democrat James Buchanan winning the presidency.

1860---Abraham Lincoln won a four-way race with 39.8 percent of the vote, defeating John C. Breckinridge, Stephen A. Douglas and John Bell,  and taking the electoral vote of all Northern states, except for three electoral votes in New Jersey.

1912---William Howard Taft had the worst electoral performance of any incumbent President, ending up third out of four contenders, with 23.2 percent of the popular vote and only 8 electoral votes from Utah and Vermont, with Democrat Woodrow Wilson winning 40 states and 41.8 percent of the popular vote; third party Progressive nominee and former President Theodore Roosevelt winning 27.5 percent of the vote and six states; and Socialist Eugene Debs winning 6 percent of the popular vote, an all time high for any party with the name “Socialist” in its title.

1992---George H. W. Bush had the second-worst defeat of any incumbent president running for reelection, winning only 37.4 percent of the national popular vote and 18 states, with Democrat Bill Clinton winning 43 percent of the national popular vote and 32 states, and H. Ross Perot, who didn’t win any electoral votes, gaining 18.9 percent of the popular vote, the third-best showing for a third-party challenger after Theodore Roosevelt in 1912 and Millard Fillmore in 1856.

The other three times, Republicans lost in two person races, with Herbert Hoover losing to Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1932 with only 39.7 percent of the popular vote and six states, Kansas Governor Alfred Landon losing to FDR in 1936 with only 36.5 percent of the popular vote and two states (Maine and Vermont), and Senator Barry Goldwater of Arizona losing to Lyndon B. Johnson in 1964, winning only 38.5 percent of the popular vote and six states.

There is a real possibility that Donald Trump will end up in the company of Hoover, Landon, and Goldwater by winning less than 40 percent of the national vote in a two-person race.  

And if Trump manages to win just over 40 percent, he will match the achievement of Kansas Senator Bob Dole, who lost a three way race to President Bill Clinton and H. Ross Perot in 1996, winning 40.73 percent of the national popular vote and 19 states, against Clinton’s 49.2 percent of the national popular vote and 31 states, and Perot’s zero states (but 8.4 percent of the popular vote).

In other words, it seems highly likely that Donald Trump will end up among the worst performing Republican Presidential candidates in history, and also the worst performing Presidents defeated for reelection, certainly better than William Howard Taft, but possibly in the same category as George H. W. Bush and Herbert Hoover.

Fri, 23 Oct 2020 12:03:17 +0000 0
Return to the Presidential Succession Act of 1886 (With Some Modification) Ronald L. Feinman is the author of “Assassinations, Threats, and the American Presidency: From Andrew Jackson to Barack Obama” (Rowman Littlefield Publishers, 2015).  A paperback edition is now available.


A major controversy has arisen over the issue of presidential succession in the wake of President Donald Trump’s diagnosis with COVID-19.

There have been three presidential succession laws enacted. The first, in 1792, set up the President Pro Tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives as the first two leaders following the Vice President, and then followed by cabinet officers in order of the creation of the Cabinet positions by Congress.  That law survived the crises that followed the deaths of William Henry Harrison, Zachary Taylor, Abraham Lincoln, and James A. Garfield, without the need to go beyond the Vice President.  

However, during the second abbreviated term of Abraham Lincoln and his successor Andrew Johnson (1865-1869), the nation potentially faced an unprecedented crisis, as two situations developed around Andrew Johnson. John Wilkes Booth plotted to eliminate both Lincoln and Johnson. If conspirator Lewis Powell had not gotten drunk and failed to assassinate Johnson, Connecticut Senator Lafayette Foster, the President Pro Tempore of the Senate,  would have succeeded Lincoln, a point this author points out in his book on presidential assassinations (Assassinations, Threats, and the American Presidency: From Andrew Jackson to Barack Obama, Rowman Littlefield Publishers).  Also, if Andrew Johnson had been successfully removed from office by impeachment, it would have led to then President Pro Tempore of the Senate Benjamin Wade of Ohio becoming President. Wade was a major critic of Johnson and refused to abstain from the vote to convict Johnson.  That fact led a group of seven Republican Senators, who disliked Wade and his lack of ethics, to join with 12 Democrats to save Johnson from conviction and removal from office in 1868.

In 1886, the Congress wisely changed the Succession Law of 1792, and eliminated both the President Pro Tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives from the line of succession. In so doing they took partisan politics out of the issue of who should succeed a President.  So the Cabinet Officers of the President, in order of the creation of the agencies, became the new order of succession, and remained so until 1947, spanning the deaths in office of William McKinley, Warren G. Harding, and Franklin D. Roosevelt.  

However, as reported in this author’s Assassinations book, Theodore Roosevelt faced a mostly unknown threat on September 1, 1903 when Henry Weilbrenner approached Roosevelt's family home at Oyster Bay, New York, attempting to get past the Secret Service detail created after President William McKinley’s assassination in September 1901.  Possessing a firearm, Weilbrenner claimed he wanted to marry the President’s daughter, Alice. Fortunately, Weilbrenner never was able to meet the President late on that evening.  Had an untoward event occurred, however, Secretary of State John Hay, who had been a private secretary to Abraham Lincoln in the White House, would have become President.

After President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s death in 1945, and the succession of Harry Truman to the Oval Office, the Republican Party opposition was able to gain massive control of the 80th Congress in the midterm elections of 1946, and were able to pass the Presidential Succession Act of 1947, again putting the Speaker of the House and President Pro Tempore of the Senate in line of succession after the Vice President, and before the Cabinet Officers. This was a purely partisan political act, with Republicans Joseph Martin and Arthur Vandenberg leading the way.  

In so doing, we have seen in the 74 years from 1947 to 2021 a situation in which the Speaker of the House has been of the party in opposition to the president for a total of 44 of 74 years, 60 percent of the time.  And the opposition party has held the position of President Pro Tempore of the Senate for 34 of the 74 years, nearly half the time.

This is not a tenable position in today's hyper-partisan environment. Therefore, reverting to the Presidential Succession Act of 1886, with updates for the additional Cabinet positions since created makes sense, although the idea of the order of succession being based on when the agency was created needs to be modified to allow the Secretary of Homeland Security, the last position created after September 11, to move up to next in line after the Attorney General and before the Secretary of Interior, due to the national security ramifications, in case of a Presidential vacancy.

Even though Cabinet Officers are not elected, it makes for better continuity that those selected by a President be in line for succession in case we ever have to go beyond the Vice Presidency in case of any unforeseen emergency, and it insures that there is a continuation of the political party chosen by the voters to control power in the Executive branch for that term of office.

Fri, 23 Oct 2020 12:03:17 +0000 0