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Barack Obama Turns 49 On August 4—Here Are Our Youngest Presidents

(Blogger’s Note–This is a post from late 2007. With President Obama turning 49 tomorrow, I thought it would be a good time to run the post again.)

With much discussion of the relative youth of Senator Barack Obama, who is 46, here is a list of U.S. Presidents who have taken office in their 40’s with their age and year they were sworn in. Also included are the more notable aspects in the careers of our youngest Presidents before reaching the White House and a very brief account of their time in the White House.

(Above–Birthplace of U.S. Grant in Point Pleasant, Ohio)

The links for the Presidents are to the Miller Center of Public Affairs at the University of Virginia. The information on the Presidents is first-rate and well worth taking time to review and study

James Polk, 49, 1845

Polk served  two years in the Tennessee House, two years as Governor of Tennessee and 14 years in the U.S House. For four years Polk was Speaker of the U.S. House.

Polk was an aggressive President in terms of territorial expansion of the United States. He acquired Oregon by treaty and much of Mexico by force in the Mexican-American War. He was not very helpful if you were a slave or a Native American. Some say Polk was too quick to go to war with Mexico.

Franklin Pierce, 48, 1853

Pierce served four years in the New Hampshire House, four years in the U.S. House and five years in the U.S. Senate.

Pierce is considered one of our worst Presidents for his inability to deal effectively with the tensions between the North and South. 65 year old James Buchanan did little better as Pierce’s successor.

Ulysses Grant, 46, 1869

Grant spent 15 years in the army and led the Union army in the Civil War. Grant was also Secretary of War in 1867 and ’68 under Andrew Johnson.

The common view of Grant is that though Grant was not personally corrupt, he led a corrupt administration.

James Garfield, 49, 1881

Garfield spent 17 years in the U.S House from Ohio. He was the chairman of a number of House committees over that time. Garfield saw combat in the Civil War and reached the rank of Major General.

Garfield was shot and killed nine months after becoming President.

Grover Cleveland 47, 1885

Cleveland had been an Assistant District Attorney of Erie County New York, Sheriff of Erie County and Mayor of Buffalo. He was Governor of New York for two years.

Cleveland , in my view, should be known best for his refusal to aid struggling farmers and for his allegiance to Gilded Age politics.

Theodore Roosevelt 42, 1901

The youngest President, Roosevelt had the experience of two years in the New York House, six years on the U.S. Civil Service Commission and two years as Police Commissioner of New York City.  He was also an Assistant Secretary of the Navy under William McKinley, Governor of New York for two years and Vice President for McKinley for just over six months before McKinley was assassinated.

Roosevelt was our first “progressive” President. He expanded the reach of government into health and safety regulation. He also was a major behind-the-scenes player in a revolution in Panama that allowed the United States to acquire the land for the Panama Canal.  Roosevelt was always doped up on his own testosterone so it is hard to know if he ever matured at any point in his life.

John Kennedy 43, 1961

Kennedy served in WW II, was elected to three terms in the U.S. House from Massachusetts and was a member of the U.S. Senate for 8 years.

Kennedy’s Presidency was cut short. he began a number of the liberal reforms that were carried on by Lyndon Johnson.

Bill Clinton 46, 1993

Clinton had been Attorney General of Arkansas for two years and Governor of that state for ten years.

Everybody has their own view of Bill Clinton.

Our youngest Vice President was John Breckinridge of Kentucky. Breckinridge was 36 when sworn-in in 1857 to serve with President Buchanan. After his one term in office, Breckinridge served as a General in the Confederate Army. Before the Vice Presidency, Breckinridge had been an officer in the Mexican-American War and a member of the Kentucky House and the U.S. House.

William Jennings Bryan of Nebraska is the youngest major party nominee for the Presidency. Bryan was 36 when he won the Democratic nomination in 1896. Bryan had served two terms in the U.S. House.

Senator Obama would be 47 on Inauguration Day 2009. He served eight years in the Illinois Senate and by 2009 would have four years in the U.S. Senate.

(Below—Polk’s Tomb in Nashville. Youth is fleeting.)

August 3, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Ulysses Grant And The North’s Victory In The Civil War Must Remain On The $50 Bill

Some folks want to replace Ulysses S. Grant on the $50 bill with Ronald Reagan.

This is wrong.

(Above—$50 bill from 1929.)

General Grant fought for the freedom of the American people. On the other hand, Ronald Reagan worked for evil states rights positions of racial and social injustice.

Why else but to do wrong would have Mr. Reagan have kicked off his 1980 campaign in Philadelphia, Mississippi?

Philadelphia is where the three Civil Right workers–-Schwerner, Chaney, and Goodman-–were killed in 1964.

Mr. Reagan began his campaign in Philadelphia to signal to white Republican Southerners and other racists that the era of Civil Rights was over as far as the White House and the Presidency were concerned.

Mr. Reagan won a temporary victory for injustice with his election in 1980.

Yet good people know that justice is eternal and that wrongdoing cannot prosper forever.

Just 20 years after Mr. Reagan left office, our nation elected a black man named Barack Hussein Obama as our President.

The sacrifices and the outcome Civil War settled the fact that the federal government had dominion over the states, and that the rights of all Americans are the chief concern of our federal government.

Beliefs outside this hard-won conclusion are un-American.

(Below—Civil war dead at Gettysburg as photographed by Matthew Brady.)

April 6, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

I’m A Liberal Okay With Evan Bayh As Vice President

Some on the left object to the idea of Senator Evan Bayh of Indiana being chosen as running mate for Senator Barack Obama. The claim is that Mr. Bayh is a centrist, or within the context of the Democratic Party, on the right.

Here is an account of votes Evan Bayh has made in the Senate

Here is Senator Bayh’s Senate page.

Here is Mr. Bayh’s official Congressional profile.   

Here is a Chicago Tribune profile of Senator Bayh.

I don’t object to Senator Bayh’s possible selection. I want to win the election. If the Obama campaign makes the call for Mr. Bayh, that’s fine by me.  

Senator Bayh has shown the ability to win in Indiana. Indiana, bordering Mr. Obama’s Illinois, is seen as a swing state in 2008 despite a strong Republican history. If Mr. Bayh can help in Indiana, and maybe in next-door Ohio as well, then he is my man.

And I’m not so certain that Mr. Bayh is as to the right as is being suggested. The following is from his profile in the 2008 Almanac Of American Politics—

“… he joined filibusters to stop the constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage, the bill to limit medical malpractice lawsuits and several judicial nominees; he joined almost all other Democrats in rejecting individual retirement accounts in Social Security; he took a harder line stance on trade; he voted not just against Samuel Alito but also against John Roberts.

Mr. Bayh will adjust himself to the needs of the moment and the constituency. That’s what they all do within, much of the time at least, the confines of party ID.

One concern about Senator Bayh as VP is that the Republican Governor of Indiana is currently the favorite to win another term. Mr. Bayh as Vice President would cost Democrats a Senate seat. 

A black man named Barack Obama has a lot of work to do in this country to reassure voters that he is not a Black Panther. If Evan Bayh is the course to follow to accomplish this goal—then okay.  In contrast to a victory for John McCain, the difference between what Mr. Bayh would mean for the country rather than a more liberal Vice President is on the margins.

Here is the U.S. Senate’s Vice President web home. It describes the history of the office and has good profiles of each Vice President. It’s the best resource I have seen on the topic.

Below is Schuyler Colfax of Indiana. Mr. Colfax was Speaker of the U.S. House, and Vice President between 1869 and 1873 under U.S. Grant. Regretably, as the profile I link to details, Mr. Colfax had some ethical issues in his political career. 

August 17, 2008 Posted by | Campaign 2008, Political History, Politics | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

One Year Until Bush Is Gone!—With A Cartoon & Links To Grant And Jefferson

 

 Excellent news—It’s just one year until George W. Bush is out of office. January 20, 2009 is the day.

To mark the relative proximity of the next inauguration, please note the cartoon above from the Ulysses S. Grant Inauguration of 1869. The point of the cartoon is to mock the ornate Grant ceremony in contrast to the alleged republican simplicity of Thomas Jefferson’s Inauguration in 1801.

Jefferson’s Inauguration is portrayed by the lone man on horseback–Jefferson—in the upper left of the cartoon.  

Ulysses Grant was President from 1869 until 1877.

Thomas Jefferson was President 1801 until 1809.   

Click the links above to Grant and Jefferson and you’ll get the first-rate Presidents pages at the Miller Center of Public Affairs at the University of Virginia.

Thomas Jefferson founded the University of Virgina.    

Ulysses Grant smashed the Confederacy.

Mr. Jefferson’s first inaugural address is a famous speech.

Here is a well-known passage—But every difference of opinion is not a difference of principle. We have called by different names brethren of the same principle. We are all Republicans, we are all Federalists. If there be any among us who would wish to dissolve this Union or to change its republican form, let them stand undisturbed as monuments of the safety with which error of opinion may be tolerated where reason is left free to combat it. I know, indeed, that some honest men fear that a republican government can not be strong, that this Government is not strong enough; but would the honest patriot, in the full tide of successful experiment, abandon a government which has so far kept us free and firm on the theoretic and visionary fear that this Government, the world’s best hope, may by possibility want energy to preserve itself? I trust not. I believe this, on the contrary, the strongest Government on earth. I believe it the only one where every man, at the call of the law, would fly to the standard of the law, and would meet invasions of the public order as his own personal concern. Sometimes it is said that man can not be trusted with the government of himself. Can he, then, be trusted with the government of others? Or have we found angels in the forms of kings to govern him? Let history answer this question.”

Here is the full speech.

To come back to the cartoon, while General Grant may have held the more elaborate swearing-in, he was also born in this quite modest house. It is in Point Pleasant , Ohio which is just up the road from Cincinnati and along the Ohio River. I’ve been lucky enough to visit this home.   

 Below is Monticello where Jefferson lived—

 It is easy to be seen as virtuous when you can act as you have nothing to prove.

January 20, 2008 Posted by | Cincinnati, Political History | , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Republicans Won After Civil War Was Over—Can Modern Republicans Win Without 9/11?

  

I recently read the following in Congressional Quarterly’s Guide To U.S. Elections. It is about the 1868 election of Republican Ulysses Grant over Democrat Horatio Seymour of New York–  

With Grant’s ascension to the presidency in 1869, the Republican Party entered a new era—what the German sociologist Max Weber would have called a shift from “charismatic” to “rational” institutional authority. In other words, the party shifted its devotion from a great moral cause to its own survival as an organization. It had begun as a coalition of activists fervently opposed to the expansion of slavery (many opposed slavery itself) and to the rebellion of Southern states from the Union, The Republicans 1868 victory under Grant was the first not dominated wholly by crisis conditions. 

Reading this got me thinking about Republican success in the elections of 2002 and 2004. Those elections, especially 2002 when Republicans won back the Senate, seemed to be run under the shadow of the events of September 11, 2001.  

In 2006, with 9/11 five years past and the War in Iraq going badly, Democrats made strong gains in both Houses of Congress. The crisis atmosphere from 9/11 was gone and with it , so it appears, was the Republican advantage President Bush gained after the attacks.    

President Grant won reelection in 1872 and Republicans held the electoral upper-hand for much of time until the Great Depression. Republicans had the electoral base to withstand the passing of the crisis.

While it’s early in this campaign season and a national security type issue –either real or contrived by the Bush administration—might help Republicans, the 2006 election, and the early indicators for 2008, suggest that Republicans may struggle for a time without the ability to run on 9/11.

January 16, 2008 Posted by | Books, Campaign 2008, Elections, History, Political History, Politics | , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Youngest Presidents And What They Did Before Reaching The White House

 

With much discussion of the relative youth of Senator Barack Obama, who is 46, here is a list of U.S. Presidents who have taken office in their 40’s with their age and year they were sworn in. Also included are the more notable aspects in the careers of our youngest Presidents before reaching the White House.

The links are to the Miller Center of Public Affairs at the University of Virginia. The information on the Presidents is first-rate and well worth taking time to review and study 

James Polk, 49, 1845

Polk served  two years in the Tennessee House, two years as Governor of Tennessee and 14 years in the U.S House. For four years Polk was Speaker of the U.S. House.

Polk was an aggressive President in terms of territorial expansion of the United States. He acquired Oregon by treaty and much of Mexico by force in the Mexican-American War. He was not very helpful if you were a slave or a Native American. Some say Polk was too quick to go to war with Mexico.

(The picture above is of Polk’s Tomb in Nashville. Youth is fleeting.)    

Franklin Pierce, 48, 1853

Pierce served four years in the New Hampshire House, four years in the U.S. House and five years in the U.S. Senate.

Pierce is considered one of our worst Presidents for his inability to deal effectively with the tensions between the North and South. 65 year old James Buchanan did little better as Pierce’s successor.

Ulysses Grant, 46, 1869

Grant spent 15 years in the army and led the Union army in the Civil War. Grant was also Secretary of War in 1867 and ’68 under Andrew Johnson.

The common view of Grant is that though Grant was not personally corrupt, he led a corrupt administration.  

James Garfield, 49, 1881

Garfield spent 17 years in the U.S House from Ohio. He was the chairman of a number of House committees over that time. Garfield saw combat in the Civil War and reached the rank of Major General.

Garfield was shot and killed nine months after becoming President.   

Grover Cleveland 47, 1885

Cleveland had been an Assistant District Attorney of Erie County New York, Sheriff of Erie County and Mayor of Buffalo. He was Governor of New York for two years.

Cleveland , in my view, should be known best for his refusal to aid struggling farmers and for his allegiance to Gilded Age politics. 

Theodore Roosevelt 42, 1901

The youngest President, Roosevelt had the experience of two years in the New York House, six years on the U.S. Civil Service Commission and two years as Police Commissioner of New York City.  He was also an Assistant Secretary of the Navy under William McKinley, Governor of New York for two years and Vice President for McKinley for just over six months before McKinley was assassinated.    

Roosevelt was our first “progressive” President. He expanded the reach of government into health and safety regulation. He also was a major behind-the-scenes player in a revolution in Panama that allowed the United States to acquire the land for the Panama Canal.  Roosevelt was always doped up on his own testosterone so it is hard to know if he ever matured at any point in his life.        

John Kennedy 43, 1961

Kennedy served in WW II, was elected to three terms in the U.S. House from Massachusetts and was a member of the U.S. Senate for 8 years. 

Kennedy’s Presidency was cut short. In at least some respects, Kennedy, based on reports in the years since his death of risky relationships with women after reaching the White House, does not seem to ever fully grown up.

Bill Clinton 46, 1993 

Clinton had been Attorney General of Arkansas for two years and Governor of that state for ten years.

Everybody has their own view of Bill Clinton. 

Our youngest Vice President was John Breckinridge of Kentucky. Breckinridge was 36 when sworn-in in 1857 to serve with President Buchanan. After his one term in office, Breckinridge served as a General in the Confederate Army. Before the Vice Presidency, Breckinridge had been an officer in the Mexican-American War and a member of the Kentucky House and the U.S. House.  

William Jennings Bryan of Nebraska is the youngest major party nominee for the Presidency. Bryan was 36 when he won the Democratic nomination in 1896. Bryan had served two terms in the U.S. House.  

Senator Obama would be 47 on Inauguration Day 2009. He served eight years in the Illinois Senate and by 2009 would have four years in the U.S. Senate.  

A few observations—

It’s interesting that six of the eight Presidents who assumed office in their 40’s, were sworn in between 1845 and 1901.

Since 1901, life expectancies have gone way up. A man born in 1900 had a life expectancy of 47. Senator Obama’s 47 is not the 47 of Grover Cleveland in 1889. Milestones in life and other accomplishments now often come later in life.

That said, Mr. Obama might help you when you are down-and-out while President Cleveland did little for people in his day who needed help.   

Bottom line? I don’t think the record shows a great deal of difference between older and younger Presidents. George W. Bush, now 60, is not mature and does not make wise decisions even after seven years as President.         

I don’t view Senator Obama as being either young or inexperienced for the job. Beliefs and ability are what matters. 

December 19, 2007 Posted by | Campaign 2008, History, Political History, Politics | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments