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11:06 a.m. - February 19, 2007
Happy President's Day!
Here in the States, it’s President’s Day, which is a day that we honor our former leaders of this great nation buy closing schools and government offices so everyone can go buy linens and bed clothes, on sale. (Well, except me. I’m burning the candle at both ends here. No rest for the wicked. No cradle for bed.)

It also means that Katie is out of school again. Let’s run down the past two weeks, shall we?

Week of February 5 – Out two days due to bone-chilling cold that caused a two-hour delay at the city schools, with no AM kindergarten, which means Montessori is also closed.

Week of February 12 – Out four days due to the blizzard. Tuesday and Wednesday, school was totally closed. They had a two-hour delay on Thursday, which meant Montessori was closed, and Friday was a day off anyway for planning.

This week? Out today, and then Thursday and Friday are parent / teacher conferences, so there is no school. So of the 15 days, Katie will have had six days of school.

And today, her cousin Dru is coming over all morning because Hoosier Niece has to work.

Pray for Liz. Please, please, please!

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Well, since it’s President’s Day, I thought I’d write about some of our fine, fine Presidents in the past.

Who are you gonna talk about, Smed? Lincoln, Washington, Roosevelt?

Silly people…the presidents that I like, ya know - the obscure, the mediocre, the rather much unobtrusive leaders for the free world. These are the Presidents who made it possible for the GW “Shrub” to be in the White House this very day.

(Actually, a few of them were pretty effective, if not obscure…)

James Knox Polk (1845-49) – The first dark-horse presidential candidate, Polk had lost his last two elections to be Governor of Tennessee, but the Democrats were stuck without a candidate at their convention, and through the haze of smoke, tobacco juice, and sour mash emerged Polk as their candidate.

He was committed to expansion of the United States, saying it was our “Manifest Destiny” to span the continent. At that time, Mexico had a large swath of the Southwest, and those rascal Brits controlled the Oregon country. (Well, they had a few traders there, anyway).

Polk defeated Henry Clay and took office. He immediately sprung into action, picking a fight with Britain over Oregon, threatening war if they didn’t give us Oregon all the way up to the Alaska border. Well, of course, that was a bluff. I mean, I’m not even sure Canada still wants a lot of that land between Vancouver and Prince Rupert. It’s a pain, because there are just a bunch of ski bums that parachute in and get stuck up there, right?

Anyway, Polk won concessions from Britain and got the Oregon Country as a territory, extending the country from sea to shining sea.

Then, Polk turned his eyes to the Southwest. There were some disputes about the exact borders between Texas and Mexico. So, he did what any president would do. He picked a fight with Mexico and they said, ‘Bring it, Gringo!’

Bad move, Mexico. The US totally kicked your ass and got the California and New Mexico territories. Except for a teeny stretch of land in southern Arizona, the lower 48 was now all in US hands.

Polk wasn’t done yet. He wanted Cuba, and offered up to $100 million dollars. Spain said, ‘Thanks, but no thanks.’ In retrospect, they probably should have taken up the offer.

Besides all of the wars and land grabs, Polk had a pretty uneventful presidency. He avoided the slavery issue totally, letting his successors deal with it, thus setting a precedent for future presidents to ‘pass the buck.’

He said he did not want a second term, and he actually meant it. Exhausted from his hard work, he died soon after he left office, leaving a rich legacy and a smashing song by They Might Be Giants.

Franklin Pierce (1853-57) – Pierce put the “M” in mediocre, and the “O” in over one’s head. He dithered, he dallied and he drank.

Once again, the Democrats were without a clear consensus candidate, but realizing that defeating the Whigs were like shooting fish in a barrel of bourbon, they turned to this former New Hampshire congressman who was out of office for a decade.

They called him a ‘doughface’, which was a northerner with southern sympathies. Well, that may have gotten him elected, but it certainly didn’t help him in office or help the country as a whole.

Though he did face a tragedy as on the way to his inauguration the train derailed and he and his wife watched their son die as he was crushed by the wreckage.

Pierce’s undoing was the odious “Kansas / Nebraska Act”, which tore the country apart and re-opened the question of slavery in the West. Soon, he was hated by the entire nation, and was denied re-nomination by his party. He left office and found his way into a bottle, along the way denouncing the Emancipation Proclamation among other things.

By the way, there are strong indications that his Vice-President, William King, was a homosexual, and his lover may have been James Buchanan, the president right after Pierce. Unfortunately, there was no tmz.com back in the day.

Rutherford B. Hayes (1877-1881) - The first president elected in the face of electoral college fraud (yes, you read it right, I said FIRST!), Hayes had a rather uneventful presidency.

On election night in 1876, Samuel Tilden was one electoral vote short of winning the presidency, while Hayes was 20 votes short. By chance, there were four southern states under dispute with 20 total votes between them. Hmmm….

Now, there was no Tim Russert white board to help us all out, but soon, it became clear that there was some wheeling and dealing going on. All of a sudden, those four states swung toward Hayes, and all of a sudden US troops were removed from the South, ending the Reconstruction and all of a sudden there was a Southerner in the Cabinet.

Hmmmm….

About the only thing notable in Hayes’ presidency after that was that he was a leader in civil service reform which started to put to end the ‘spoils system’, where the politically connected got lucrative jobs that required little or no work. Nowadays, they call them lobbyists. (I kid! Kind of…)

Oh, and his wife forbade alcoholic beverages to be served in the White House. What a buzz kill.

Hayes did not run for re-election, and he took his lemonade and went home to Ohio.

Chester A. Arthur (1881-1885) - Removed from his lucrative post in New York by Hayes, Arthur was nominated as Vice President by the Republicans as part of a deal where James Garfield was nominated as a compromise candidate for the presidency.

Then, when Garfield was shot and killed by a deranged office seeker, Charlie Guiteau (and you’d know that if you listened to your old Johnny Cash songs), Arthur was elevated to the presidency.

Everyone shuddered in fear, as a total political animal was now the president. Think of Karl Rove actually in charge, instead of just manipulating things behind the scenes.

Well, Arthur surprised everyone by going his own way and allowing civil service reform. He basically concentrated on social circles, with his natty attire and those wonderful mutton chop sideburns.

There was some controversy when he wanted to nominate William J. LePetomane, a governor of a western state, as his Vice-President, in honor for his courageousness in naming an African-American as Sheriff of Rock Ridge. However, that plan was dashed when it was found that LePetomane had ties with evil former State’s Attorney Hedy Lamarr (oh, excuse me, that’s Hedley).

Calvin Coolidge (1923-29) - Coolidge was elevated to the Presidency when Warren G. Harding passed away. Harding was a combination of the worst aspects Tom DeLay and Bill Clinton (he had corrupt friends AND couldn’t keep it zipped) so the country turned to Coolidge.

Now, mind you, the country was under Prohibition, yet Harding somehow had whiskey-laden poker parties with his cronies. Coolidge, on the other hand, served ice water in paper cups. Party, down, Cal, party down.

So what happened during the Coolidge presidency? Well, since he didn’t say a word, not much is known. Actually, he was very pro-business and cut government spending to the bone, which caused a short term economic boost that lead to a stock market bubble, and then when the economy crashed and burned Coolidge was safely ensconced in Vermont, silently nodding his head that he didn’t have to deal with the mess that his policies may have caused. His successor was caught with his pants down, and lost to a very popular and charismatic Democrat.

Sounds familiar, eh?


Well, there you go, a brief look at some of the ‘fine’ presidents that this country has elected (in some fashion). I guess the moral of the story is that you get what you deserve, eh?

Happy shopping, everyone!

 

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