Potus Geeks Summer Reruns: Dennis Quaid as Bill Clinton in "The Special Relationship"

(Originally posted on May 9, 2018 as part of a series entitled Movie and TV Presidents.)

The 2010 HBO movie The Special Relationship has Dennis Quaid demonstrating his great range as an actor in his portrayal of President Bill Clinton, portrayed in the movie at a time when the Lewinsky scandal is unfolding. The movie showcases Michael Sheen repeating his portrayal of British Prime Minister Tony Blair for the third time (following The Deal in 2003 and The Queen in 2006), in this dramatization of the relationship between the two world leaders. The film's title comes from the unofficial term, first coined by Winston Churchill in a 1946 speech, describing the political, diplomatic, cultural, economic, military, and historical relations between the United Kingdom and the United States. The title is also presented as a double entendre for Clinton's illicit relationship with intern Monica Lewinsky.


Originally, the film was intended to be about Blair's relationship with George W. Bush as well as Clinton, but the Bush scenes were deleted from later drafts of the script because the writer, Peter Morgan, found the Blair/Clinton dynamic to be more interesting.

Other cast members include Hope Davis as Hillary Clinton, and Helen McCrory as Cherie Blair. The film was broadcast on HBO in the United States and Canada on May 29, 2010, and was broadcast on BBC Two and BBC HD in the United Kingdom on September 18, 2010.


The film is set between 1992 and 2001, from the point that "New Labour" (the British Labour Party) begins taking lessons from Clinton's political advisors, to 1998 and the end of the crisis in Kosovo. It focuses on the international activities of Blair as prime minister and what he learns from his American ally. The film also describes the Lewinsky scandal and it's effect on Clinton politically and on his marriage.

Reviews of the film were generally positive and the film was nominated for five Emmys. (Quaid and Sheen were both nominated in the best lead actor in a movie or miniseries category.)

Following is a YouTube video of the trailer for this film:


Happy Birthday President Clinton

Today is former President Bill Clinton's 76th birthday. He was born with the name William Jefferson Blythe III on August 19, 1946, at Julia Chester Hospital in Hope, Arkansas. His father, William Jefferson Blythe, Jr., was a traveling salesman who died in an automobile accident three months before young Bill was born. His mother, Virginia Dell Cassidy (who died in 1994), traveled to New Orleans to study nursing soon after he was born. She left Bill in Hope with grandparents Eldridge and Edith Cassidy, who owned and ran a small grocery store. At a time when the Southern United States was segregated racially, it is said that the Cassidys sold goods on credit to people of all races.


In 1950, Virginia Cassidy returned from nursing school and married Roger Clinton, Sr., who owned an automobile dealership in Hot Springs, Arkansas with his brother. The family moved to Hot Springs in 1950. Although he assumed use of his stepfather's surname, it was not until the future president turned fifteen that he formally adopted the surname Clinton as a gesture toward his stepfather. Clinton later said that he remembered his stepfather as a gambler and an alcoholic who was regularly abusive to his mother and half-brother, Roger Clinton, Jr., to the point where he intervened multiple times with the threat of violence to protect them.

Clinton attended Georgetown University and earned a Rhodes Scholarship to attend the University of Oxford. In 1975 he married Hillary Rodham Clinton, who later served as United States Secretary of State from 2009 to 2013 and who was a Senator from New York from 2001 to 2009. Both Clintons earned law degrees from Yale Law School, where they met. Clinton served as Attorney-General of Arkansas from 1977 to 1979 and as Governor of Arkansas from 1979 to 1981 and from 1983 to 1992. As Governor, Clinton overhauled the state's education system, and served as Chair of the National Governors Association.

Clinton was elected president in 1992, defeating incumbent George H. W. Bush. At age 46, he was the third-youngest president and the first from the baby boomer generation. Clinton was President for the longest period of peacetime economic expansion in American history. He signed the North American Free Trade Agreement into law. One goal which eluded him was the passage of a national health care reform program. The Republican Party won control of Congress in 1994 for the first time in 40 years, but in 1996 Clinton became the first Democrat since Franklin D. Roosevelt to be elected president twice. His second term saw the passage of welfare reform and the State Children's Health Insurance Program, providing health coverage for millions of children.

In 1998, Clinton was impeached by the House of Representatives on charges of perjury before a grand jury and obstruction of justice during a lawsuit against him, both related to a scandal involving White House (and later Department of Defense) employee Monica Lewinsky. At his trial in the US Senate he was acquitted and completed his term of office. The Congressional Budget Office reported a budget surplus between the years 1998 and 2000, the last three years of Clinton's presidency.

Clinton left office with the highest end-of-office approval rating of any U.S. president since World War II. Since leaving the Presidency in 2001, Bill Clinton has had an active in public life, giving speeches, fundraising, and founding charitable organizations. He has spoken at the last six Democratic National Conventions, dating to 1988. In 2002, Clinton warned that pre-emptive military action against Iraq would have unwelcome consequences.

The William J. Clinton Presidential Center and Park in Little Rock, Arkansas was dedicated in 2004. Clinton released a best-selling autobiography, called "My Life" that same year. In 2007, he released a book called "Giving: How Each of Us Can Change the World", which also became a The New York Times Best Seller. After the 2004 Asian tsunami, the late U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan appointed Clinton to head a relief effort. After Hurricane Katrina, Clinton joined with fellow former President George H. W. Bush to establish the Bush-Clinton Tsunami Fund in January 2005, and the Bush-Clinton Katrina Fund in October of that year. As part of the tsunami effort, these two ex-presidents appeared in a Super Bowl XXXIX pre-game show, and traveled to the affected areas. They also spoke together at the funeral of Boris Yeltsin in 2007.

Clinton created the William J. Clinton Foundation to address issues of global significance. This foundation includes the Clinton Foundation HIV and AIDS Initiative (CHAI), which strives to combat that disease, and has worked with the Australian government toward that end. The Clinton Global Initiative (CGI), begun by the Clinton Foundation in 2005, attempts to address world problems such as global public health, poverty alleviation and religious and ethnic conflict. In 2005, Clinton announced through his foundation an agreement with manufacturers to stop selling sugared drinks in schools. Clinton's foundation joined with the Large Cities Climate Leadership Group in 2006 to improve cooperation among those cities, and he met with foreign leaders to promote this initiative. In 2008, Foundation director Inder Singh announced that deals to reduce the price of anti-malaria drugs by 30 percent in developing nations. Clinton also spoke in favor of California Proposition 87 on alternative energy, which was voted down.

During the 2008 Democratic presidential primary campaign, Clinton vigorously advocated on behalf of his wife, Hillary Clinton. Through speaking engagements and fundraisers, he was able to raise $10 million toward her campaign. On August 27, 2008, Clinton enthusiastically endorsed Barack Obama at the 2008 Democratic National Convention, saying that all his experience as president assured him that Obama was "ready to lead". After Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign was over, Bill Clinton continued to raise funds to help pay off her campaign debt.

In 2009, Clinton travelled to North Korea on behalf of two American journalists imprisoned in North Korea. Euna Lee and Laura Ling had been imprisoned for illegally entering the country from China. After Clinton met with North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, Kim issued a pardon. Since then, Clinton has been assigned a number of other diplomatic missions. He was named United Nations Special Envoy to Haiti in 2009. In response to the 2010 Haiti earthquake, U.S. President Barack Obama announced that Clinton and George W. Bush would coordinate efforts to raise funds for Haiti's recovery. Clinton continues to visit Haiti to witness the inauguration of refugee villages, and to raise funds for victims of the earthquake. At the 2012 Democratic National Convention, Clinton gave a widely praised speech nominating Barack Obama.

In September 2004, Clinton received a quadruple bypass surgery. In March 2005, he underwent surgery for a partially collapsed lung. On February 11, 2010, he was rushed to Columbia Presbyterian Hospital in New York City after complaining of chest pains, and had two coronary stents implanted in his heart. After this experience, Clinton adopted the plant-based whole foods (vegan) diet. Clinton has reportedly begun practicing Buddhist meditation in order to help him relax and complete a healthier lifestyle.

On April 12, 2015, Hillary Clinton formally announced her candidacy for the Democratic Party nomination in 2016. She was formally nominated as the party's presidential candidate on July 26, 2016. If she had been successful in becoming President, Bill Clinton would have added yet another honor to list of accomplishments: first "First Gentleman."

Potus Geeks Summer Reruns: John Adams' Warning

(Originally posted on July 29, 2018 as part of a series entitled Islands of Civility.)

Someone once observed that the reason that John and Abigail Adams had such a strong marriage may have been because they spent so much time apart. The periods of long distance in their relationship had one valuable by-product: It produced some wonderful correspondence.

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John Adams and the former Abigail Smith exchanged over 1,100 letters, commencing during the time of their courtship in 1762 and continuing throughout John's political career, until 1801 when his term as President ended. This body of correspondence is eloquent, interesting, informative, witty and warm. It includes John's descriptions of the Continental Congress, his impressions of Europe while he served in various diplomatic roles, and Abigail's updates about their family, farm, and news of the Revolution's impact on the Boston area.

The first exchange of letters between John Adams and Abigail Smith occurred during their courtship, in a series of sixteen letters exchanged between April 12 and May 9, 1762 while John was in Boston being inoculated against smallpox. John and Abigail got married on October 25, 1764 and during the early 1770s, John wrote to Abigail when his legal work for the circuit court took him away from home. John and Abigail Adams exchanged numerous letters while John served in the Continental Congress from 1774 to 1777. Then the following year (1778) John Adams's first diplomatic assignment in Europe led to a series of transatlantic exchanges of letters between him and his wife until he returned to the United State in the middle of 1779. It was challenging to send mail across the ocean, especially during wartime. When John returned to Europe, they resumed their correspondence during late 1779 until the summer of 1784, when Abigail arrived in London. While they were both in Europe they exchanged a few letters at various times when they were apart between December 1786 and January 1789.

During John Adams's vice presidency and presidency they wrote many letters to each other. John was in Washington while Abigail was at home in Massachusetts. In one famous letter, dated November 2, 1800, from the newly-completed "President's House" (later called the White House), Adams told his wife, "May none but honest and wise Men rule under this roof."

In one of his letters, Adams confided to his wife about the lack of civility that insinuated itself into the debates of the new Congress. Adams wrote to Abigail that he had the "fear that in every assembly, members will obtain influence by noise, not sense". His letter goes on to warn that the dangers of not acting with respect or decency could cause government to eventually come apart. Adams told Abigail that he believed that a deeper respect was required from every rank in government, and not just its leaders, to be more fully effective.

As for Abigail, she proved herself to be a forward thinker, someone ahead of her time. For example, she wrote to her husband about the troubles and concerns she had as an eighteenth-century woman. She was an advocate of married women's property rights, and hoped for more opportunities for women, particularly in the field of education. She wrote that, in her opinion, women should not submit to laws not made in their interest, nor should they be content with the simple role of being companions to their husbands. She told her husband that women should educate themselves and should be recognized for their intellectual capabilities, in order to guide and influence the lives of their children and husbands. In one of her most famous letters, written in March 1776 letter to John and the Continental Congress, she requested that they, "remember the ladies, and be more generous and favorable to them than your ancestors. Do not put such unlimited power into the hands of the Husbands. Remember all Men would be tyrants if they could. If particular care and attention is not paid to the Ladies we are determined to foment a Rebellion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any Laws in which we have no voice, or Representation."

In response, her husband declined Abigail's "extraordinary code of laws". He replied to Abigail: "We have only the name of masters, and rather than give up this, which would completely subject us to the despotism of the petticoat, I hope General Washington and all our brave heroes would fight."

Both John and Abigail Adams believed that slavery was evil and a threat to the American democratic experiment. In a letter written by Abigail to John on March 31, 1776, she said that she doubted most of the Virginians had such "passion for Liberty" as they claimed they did, since they "deprive their fellow Creatures" of freedom.

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Historian Joseph Ellis has described the letters between John and Abigail as having "constituted a treasure trove of unexpected intimacy and candor, more revealing than any other correspondence between a prominent American husband and wife in American history." Although Abigail was self-educated, Ellis has expressed the opinion that she was a better and more colorful letter-writer than her husband, even though he was one of the best correspondents of the age. Ellis calls Abigail one of the most extraordinary women in American history.

It seems that civility was a family trait. When Abigail was living in Philadelphia in 1791, a free black youth came to her house asking to be taught how to write. She placed the boy in a local evening school, over the objections of her neighbors. In response to the complaints of other Philadelphians, Abigail Adams responded that the young man was "a Freeman as much as any of the young Men and merely because his Face is Black, is he to be denied instruction? How is he to be qualified to procure a livelihood? I have not thought it any disgrace to my self to take him into my parlor and teach him both to read and write."

Potus Geeks Summer Reruns: The Political Break-up of Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft

(Divisions not only between political parties, but within political parties are nothing new in US Presidential history. It seems as if there have always been divisions between progressives and centrists, conservatives and moderates, protectionists and free traders, and on other issues. Today's rerun looks at one of the most famous of these, as we repost an entry originally posted on September 23, 2018, describing the famous fractured friendship between Theodore Roosevelt and his protégé and friend William Howard Taft.)

Much has been written about the relationship between Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft, including the 2013 best-seller The Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft and the Golden Age of Journalism by Doris Kearns Goodwin (reviewed here). The two men forged a close friendship, then had a falling out, and then had a reconciliation of sorts in later life. What is especially unique about this relationship is that it is probably the most obvious time in history that a president selected his successor, a decision that Roosevelt later came to regret.


On September 6, 1901, anarchist Leon Czolgosz shot President William McKinley at a reception at the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, New York. McKinley died a few days later and Vice President Theodore Roosevelt returned to Washington from a camping trip to be sworn in as President. Roosevelt became the youngest person ever to hold the office of President. He had previously served as a member of the New York State Assembly, Commissioner of the New York City Police Department, Assistant Secretary of the Navy, a Colonel of the "Rough Riders" in the Spanish‐American War, and Governor of New York.

Roosevelt had earned a reputation as a “trustbuster.” During his time as president, 44 antitrust actions were filed against the nation's largest corporations, including the Northern Securities Company (a railway holding company). He was also a fervent environmentalist. Under his administration, millions of acres were set aside as national forest lands. Coal and oil reserves as well as hydroelectric power sites were placed under government control and the national park system was enlarged. His strongest ally in the fight for environmental protection was the head of the U.S. Forest Service, Gifford Pinchot.

After the 1904 election, Roosevelt publicly announced that he would not run for president again, another decision he likely came to regret. William Howard Taft had served as Secretary of War in Roosevelt's cabinet, and had earned Roosevelt's confidence for his handling of a number of issues, and Roosevelt groomed Taft to be his successor. Roosevelt called Taft a "genuine progressive" in 1908, when Roosevelt orchestrated Taft's nomination for the Presidency. Taft easily defeated three-time candidate William Jennings Bryan. But Taft's progressivism differed from Roosevelt's. Taft stressed the rule of law and preferred that judges rather than administrators or politicians make decisions about fairness. Taft was not as good a politician as Roosevelt had been, and he lacked a lot of the skills that made Roosevelt so formidable. When Roosevelt realized that lowering the tariff would risk severe tensions inside the Republican Party, he stopped pursuing the issue. Taft ignored the risks and tackled the tariff boldly. Congress didn't give Taft the tariff deal he had hoped for. Instead, it passed the Payne-Aldrich tariff of 1909, which set tariffs too high for most reformers. Instead of blaming this on the senate or on big business, Taft took credit, calling it the best tariff ever. In doing so, he managed to alienate all sides. While the crisis was building inside the Party, Roosevelt was touring Africa and Europe, to allow Taft to be his own man.

Unlike Roosevelt, Taft never attacked business or businessmen in his rhetoric. Instead he used the law, bringing 90 antitrust suits, including one against the largest corporation, U.S. Steel, for an acquisition that Roosevelt had personally approved. Taft lost the support of antitrust reformers, of big business and of Roosevelt. The left wing of the Republican Party began agitating against Taft. Senator Robert M. La Follette of Wisconsin created the National Progressive Republican League, and planned to replace Taft as President. More trouble came when Taft fired Gifford Pinchot, a leading conservationist and close ally of Roosevelt. Pinchot alleged that Taft's Secretary of Interior Richard Ballinger was in league with big timber interests. Conservationists sided with Pinchot, and Taft alienated yet another vocal constituency.

When Roosevelt returned from Europe, he gave a famous speech at Osawatomie, Kansas, in August 1910, which publicly marked his break with the Taft administration and the conservative Republicans. Taft was upset because Roosevelt attacked the judiciary, an institution that Taft fundamentally believed in. In the 1910 mid-term Congressional elections, Democrats swept to power, and Taft's reelection in 1912 was increasingly in doubt. In 1911, Taft responded with a vigorous stumping tour that allowed him to gain the support of most of the party leaders before Roosevelt could begin his challenge of Taft.

On October 27, 1911, however, Taft's administration filed an antitrust suit against US Steel, which Roosevelt had called a "good trust". Roosevelt saw himself as the only person who could save the Republican party from defeat in the upcoming Presidential election and announced himself as a candidate for the GOP nomination. But Roosevelt had waited too long, and Taft had already won the support of most party leaders in the country. Robert LaFollette's had suffered a nervous breakdown on the campaign trail before Roosevelt's entry, and now most of LaFollette's supporters went over to Roosevelt. Roosevelt stepped up his attack on judges. He carried nine of the states that held preferential primaries, LaFollette took two, and Taft only one. The 1912 primaries represented the first extensive use of the presidential primary, but while the primary elections demonstrated Roosevelt's popularity with the electorate, they were not nearly as important as primaries would become later in the century. Most states still selected convention delegates at state party conventions, or in caucuses. While Roosevelt was popular with the public, most GOP politicians and party leaders supported Taft, and their support proved difficult to counter in states without primaries.

At the Republican Convention in Chicago, Roosevelt, realized he would not win the nomination. He asked his followers to leave the convention hall. They moved to the Auditorium Theatre, and then Roosevelt, along with key allies such as Pinchot and Albert Beveridge created the Progressive Party. It was popularly known as the "Bull Moose Party", which got its name after Roosevelt told reporters, "I'm as fit as a bull moose." At the convention Roosevelt cried out, "We stand at Armageddon and we battle for the Lord."

While Roosevelt was campaigning in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, on October 14, 1912, a saloonkeeper named John Flammang Schrank shot him, but the bullet lodged in his chest after passing through his steel eyeglass case and through a thick (50 page) single-folded copy of the speech he had in his jacket. Roosevelt concluded that since he was not coughing blood, the bullet had not completely penetrated the chest wall to his lung, and so decided to deliver his scheduled speech before going to the hospital. He spoke for 90 minutes. His opening comments to the gathered crowd were, "Ladies and gentlemen, I don't know whether you fully understand that I have just been shot, but it takes more than that to kill a Bull Moose." Afterwards, probes and x-ray showed that the bullet had passed through three inches of tissue and lodged in Roosevelt's chest muscle but did not penetrate the wall of the lung. Doctors decided that it would be more dangerous to attempt to remove the bullet than to leave it in place. Roosevelt carried it with him for the rest of his life.

Because of the bullet wound, Roosevelt was taken off the campaign trail in the final weeks of the race. Taft and Democratic candidate Woodrow Wilson stopped their own campaigns in the week Roosevelt was in the hospital, but they resumed them once he was released. Roosevelt failed to attract enough Republicans in his direction. He did win 4.1 million votes (27%), compared to Taft's 3.5 million (23%). However, Wilson's 6.3 million votes (42%) were enough to garner 435 electoral votes. Roosevelt had 88 electoral votes to Taft's 8 electoral votes. Taft became the only incumbent president to place third in a re-election bid. Wilson was elected President. The split between conservatives and progressives made Wilson's victory inevitable.

According to Doris Kearns Goodwin, the two men reconciled when they happened to meet in a Chicago hotel years later. Roosevelt died in January of 1919 from a blood clot in his lung. Author David Pietrusza, in his excellent 2018 book TR's Last War: Theodore Roosevelt, The Great War and a Journey of Triumph and Tragedy (reviewed here in this community), describes Taft weeping openly at Roosevelt's funeral. Taft went on to be named Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court in 1921. He died on March 8, 1930.

Potus Geeks Summer Reruns: Dwight Eisenhower and the Little Rock Nine

(Originally posted on October 14, 2018 as part of a series entitled Presidents and the Supreme Court.)

On September 4, 1957, a defiant Governor Orval Faubus of Arkansas deployed the Arkansas National Guard to support segregationists school boards to prevent nine African-American students from attending high school. These students were known as the Little Rock Nine and the actions of the segregationist governor led to a confrontation with President Dwight D. Eisenhower on the issue of integration of schools.

The U.S. Supreme Court had issued its historic decision in the case of Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas on May 17, 1954. The decision declared all laws establishing segregated schools to be unconstitutional, and it called for the desegregation of all schools throughout the nation. Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, 347 U.S. 483 (1954) was a landmark United States Supreme Court case. The Court declared state laws establishing separate public schools for black and white students to be unconstitutional. The decision overturned the Plessy v. Ferguson decision of 1896, which allowed state-sponsored segregation, insofar as it applied to public education. Handed down on May 17, 1954, the Warren Court was unanimous (by a vote of 9–0) in its decision which stated that "separate educational facilities are inherently unequal." It found that racial segregation was ruled a violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution. This ruling paved the way for integration and was a major victory of the Civil Rights Movement. Unfortunately, the decision did not spell out any sort of method for ending racial segregation in schools. In a later supplemental ruling in the Court's second decision in Brown II (349 U.S. 294 (1955)) it only ordered states to desegregate "with all deliberate speed".


Following the decision, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) attempted to register black students in previously all-white schools in cities throughout the South. In Little Rock, the Little Rock School Board initially said it would comply with the high court's ruling. Virgil Blossom, the Superintendent of Schools, submitted a plan of gradual integration to the school board on May 24, 1955, which the board unanimously approved. The plan would be implemented during the fall of the 1957 school year, which would begin in September 1957. By 1957, the NAACP had registered nine black students to attend the previously all-white Little Rock Central High, selected on the criteria of excellent grades and attendance. The nine students were Ernest Green. Elizabeth Eckford, Jefferson Thomas, Terrence Roberts, Carlotta Walls LaNier, Minnijean Brown, Gloria Ray Karlmark, Thelma Mothershed, and Melba Pattillo Beals. Ernest Green was the first African American to graduate from Central High School.

When Governor Orval Faubus deployed the Arkansas National Guard to block the students from attending high school, it made national headlines. One of the students, Elizabeth Eckford, would later recall about her experience in trying to attend the school:

"They moved closer and closer ... Somebody started yelling ... I tried to see a friendly face somewhere in the crowd—someone who maybe could help. I looked into the face of an old woman and it seemed a kind face, but when I looked at her again, she spat on me."

On September 9, Little Rock School District issued a statement condemning the governor's deployment of soldiers to the high school and called for a citywide prayer service on September 12. President Dwight Eisenhower attempted to inject reason into the situation and summoned Governor Faubus to meet him. The President warned the governor not to defy the Supreme Court's ruling. But Faubus was swayed more by how backing down would affect his electability and he refused Eisenhower's request.

Woodrow Wilson Mann, the Mayor of Little Rock, asked President Eisenhower to send federal troops to enforce integration and protect the nine students. On September 24, the President ordered the 101st Airborne Division of the United States Army to Little Rock and federalized the entire 10,000 member Arkansas National Guard, taking it out of the hands of Governor Faubus.

By the end of September 1957, the nine were admitted to Little Rock Central High under the protection of the U.S. Army (and later the Arkansas National Guard), but it was not easy for them. They were subjected to physical and verbal abuse from many of the white students. The most serious incident was when Melba Pattillo had acid thrown into her eyes. Minnijean Brown was taunted by members of a group of white, male students in December 1957 in the school cafeteria during lunch. She dropped her lunch—a bowl of chili—onto the boys and was suspended for six days. Two months later, after more confrontation, Brown was suspended for the rest of the school year. She transferred to New Lincoln High School in New York City. White students were only punished when their offense was both egregious and witnessed by an adult.

In 2007, the United States Mint made available a commemorative silver dollar to "recognize and pay tribute to the strength, the determination and the courage displayed by African-American high school students in the fall of 1957." One side of the coin depicts students accompanied by a soldier, with nine stars symbolizing the Little Rock Nine. The other depicts an image of Little Rock Central High School. Proceeds from the coin sales are to be used to improve the National Historic Site. On December 9, 2008, the Little Rock Nine were invited to attend the inauguration of President Barack Obama.

Eisenhower explained his actions in a radio and television address on September 24, 1957. He said:

"Our personal opinions about the decision have no bearing on the matter of enforcement. The responsibility and authority of the Supreme Court to interpret the Constitution are very clear. Local Federal Courts were instructed by the Supreme Court to issue such orders and decrees as might be necessary to achieve admission to public schools without regard to race—and with all deliberate speed.

"During the past several years, many communities in our Southern States have instituted public school plans for gradual progress in the enrollment and attendance of school children of all races in order to bring themselves into compliance with the law of the land. They thus demonstrated to the world that we are a nation in which laws, not men, are supreme.

"I regret to say that this truth—the cornerstone of our liberties—was not observed in this instance.

"It was my hope that this localized situation would be brought under control by city and State authorities. If the use of local police powers had been sufficient, our traditional method of leaving the problems in those hands would have been pursued. But when large gatherings of obstructionists made it impossible for the decrees of the Court to be carried out, both the law and the national interest demanded that the President take action...

"Proper and sensible observance of the law then demanded the respectful obedience which the nation has a right to expect from all its people. This, unfortunately, has not been the case at Little Rock. Certain misguided persons, many of them imported into Little Rock by agitators, have insisted upon defying the law and have sought to bring it into disrepute. The orders of the court have thus been frustrated. The very basis of our individual rights and freedoms rests upon the certainty that the President and the Executive Branch of Government will support and insure the carrying out of the decisions of the Federal Courts, even, when necessary with all the means at the President’s command.

"Unless the President did so, anarchy would result. There would be no security for any except that which each one of us could provide for himself. The interest of the nation in the proper fulfillment of the law’s requirements cannot yield to opposition and demonstrations by some few persons.

"Mob rule cannot be allowed to override the decisions of our courts."

Potus Geeks Summer Reruns: Globalization vs. Protectionism

This was originally posted on November 1, 2018 as part of a series entitled On the President's Desk, dealing with some of the many issues that Presidents have to wrestle with.

Today, some people believe that politics are more polarized than ever and that there is little or no hope of finding bipartisan solutions to the perplexing problems of the day. Other students of history dispute this contention, and turn to the times of John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, Andrew Jackson and John Quincy Adams, or the antebellum years as examples which show that intense partisanship and political bickering are not creatures of recent invention and that partisan strife has been the bedrock of presidential politics since George Washington cursed the creation of political factions. Whether or not this is, to quote Charles Dickens, "the worst of times", it is certainly not the Era of Good Feelings that James Monroe was able to enjoy. This month we will take a closer look at 30 problems that modern presidents from both major parties are required to confront. Many people imagine that there would be an easy fix if only the person from their party was in charge. A closer look at some of these problems discloses that there is no easy answer to a lot of the problems that end up on the President's desk, and that answers aren't necessarily rooted in ideology.

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The first issue this series will consider is globalization. The term means different things to different people, but according to the definition coined by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in 2000, globalization has four aspects: (1) international trade; (2) international capital and investment; (3) migration and movement of people, and (4) the worldwide sharing of knowledge. When most people talk about globalization, they are really talking about its impact on business and economics. Some academics have broken down globalization into three major areas: economic globalization, cultural globalization, and political globalization. For modern-age presidents, the primary concern has been the effect of globalization on their economy.

The 19th century witnessed the birth of globalization. The Industrial Age led to cheaper production of household items, as rapid population growth created sustained demand for commodities. The First and Second Opium Wars opened up China to foreign trade, and the the British conquest of India made the vast populations of these regions a ready market for European exports. The conquest of new parts of the globe by Europeans, especially sub-Saharan Africa, yielded valuable natural resources such as rubber, diamonds and coal, which enriched the treasuries of the colonizing nations and helped fuel trade and investment between the European imperial powers, their colonies, and later with the United States. The invention of the telephone, and other methods of rapid communication and transportation made the world a smaller place.

The 20th century saw a rapid growth in the number of multinational corporations. Natural trade barriers such as transport costs decreased. The latter part of the 20th century saw the signing of multinational trade contracts and agreements, such as the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), and the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). The creation of the European Union (EU) saw the elimination of tariffs between member states. Technological changes lowered transport costs and goods could be transported between continents within hours, instead of weeks or months.

Negotiations known as the Uruguay Round, from 1986 to 1994, led to a treaty creating the World Trade Organization (WTO) to mediate trade disputes. Other bilateral and multilateral trade agreements, including NAFTA, were signed to reduce tariffs and barriers to trade. World exports rose as a percentage of the total gross global product from 8.5% in 1970, to 16.2% in 2001. Then in late 2000s, much of the industrialized world experienced a deep recession.

United States trade policy has varied widely through various historical periods. As a major developed nation, the U.S. has relied heavily on the import of raw materials and the export of finished goods to fuel its economy. The 1920s marked a decade of economic growth in the United States. President Warren Harding signed the Emergency Tariff of 1921 and the Fordney–McCumber Tariff of 1922. Harding's policies reduced taxes and protected U.S. business and agriculture with increased tariffs. Following the Great Depression and World War II, the United Nations Monetary and Financial Conference brought the Bretton Woods currency agreement. The Bretton Woods conference was an agreement by the world's leading nations to create framework for international commerce and finance. It led to the founding of several international institutions including the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (the World Bank), and the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

The US last had a trade surplus in 1975. The balance of trade in the United States has been a concern among economists and business people. Warren Buffett, founder of Berkshire Hathaway has called the U.S. trade deficit "a bigger threat to the domestic economy than either the federal budget deficit or consumer debt. Right now, the rest of the world owns $3 trillion more of us than we own of them." This is an opinion shared by President Donald Trump, but according to Bob Woodward in his recent book Fear: Trump in the White House (reviewed here in this community), his leading economic advisers disagree.

There is not universal agreement on whether or not development of the global economy and free trade are good or bad. In his recent book Right Here Right Now (reviewed here in this community), former Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper points out that the biggest winners have been the developing nations of the world, where poverty has been significantly reduced and the standard of living has increased. But in developed nations such as the United States, it has resulted in a lower standard of living for many lower and middle class workers. In the 2016 Presidential election, Donald Trump won a majority of the popular vote in counties in which the average income declined over the last 10 years due to globalization and free trade. This enabled Trump to win the traditionally blue states (with large blue-collar populations) of Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

President Trump has criticized NAFTA, cancelled negotiations towards the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), imposed tariffs on steel and aluminum, and proposed to significantly increase tariffs on Chinese and Mexican exports to the United States. He has been critical of the World Trade Organization, and has threatened the US withdrawal from the organization unless his proposed tariffs are accepted.

In March 2018, Trump signed an order imposing import tariffs of 25 percent on steel and 10 percent on aluminum, with exemptions for Canada and Mexico. In response, the EU imposed retaliatory tariffs targeting $3.4 billion in U.S. exports. In July, the United States and China imposed tariffs on $34 billion of each other's goods, increasing to $50 billion in August. In September the U.S. introduced a 10% tariff on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods, scheduled to increase to 25% by the end of the year. He has threatened further tariffs on an additional $267 billion if China retaliates. China countered the move with a 10% tariff on $60 billion of U.S. imports, which, when added to the previous round of tariffs, amounts to almost all $110 billion of U.S. imports to China. The policy's purpose is not a complete rejection of the free trade, but rather as incentive for the renegotiation of existing trade deals. It is also predicated on the idea that "free trade" with China is an illusion because of the power imbalance caused by the differences in population, the cheap cost of production of Chinese goods, and the restrictions that China puts on sale of American goods in its country, in comparison with how extensively Chinese products are sold in the United States.

Presidents of this generation cannot ignore the problem of the decline in working-class income in the age of globalization. Until 2016, the political establishment of both major parties called for staying the course, and continued to preach the gospel of free trade. Donald Trump charted a different course, rejecting the status quo in favor of a more protectionist approach. It is one that has met with opposition from a number of establishment economists. The Council on Foreign Relations, a non-profit think tank specializing in foreign relations, has expressed the opinion that the President's proposed steel tariffs could result in the loss of up to 40,000 jobs in the auto manufacturing industry. The CEO of the United States Chamber of Commerce has also expressed concern that the protectionist policies could put 2.6 million American jobs at risk.


A group of 101 "Economists for Trump" disagree with this conclusion. They point to estimated from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) that predict real GDP growth over 3.0% in 2018, which in their opinion is "another bellwether of an improved outlook on economic growth, in part resulting from the President's pro-growth economic policy agenda." They add, "We reject the notion that the economic stagnation realized since the 2007-2009 recession is the best our economy can generate...We believe that the President's economic policy efforts are a strong step in the right direction to restore long-run economic growth and opportunity for all Americans."

Agreement on economic policy is almost never unanimous among economists. It remains to be seen whether restoration of working-class incomes can be achieved by these protectionist policies, or if continuation of the previous administration's policies is the answer. While polarization on this issue prevails, both sides seek the same result to this perplexing problem that sits atop the president's desk.

Potus Geeks Summer Reruns: FDR and the Newport Sailors Sex Scandal

(Originally posted on February 15, 2019, as part of a series entitled Scandals in Presidential History.)

The Newport sex scandal was an incident which occurred in 1919 when the United States Navy decided to investigate illicit sexual behavior on the part of Navy personnel in Newport, Rhode Island. The Navy was looking to catch people in the illicit homosexual activity between Navy personnel and the civilian population. It was the brainchild of the Assistant Secretary of the Navy, a future president named Franklin Delano Roosevelt. But when its methods came to light and a trial attracted national news coverage, it led to a congressional investigation, which ended with Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels and his Assistant Secretary drawing sharp criticism from a Congressional committee.

In early 1919 it came to light that the Army and Navy YMCA and the Newport Art Club had acquired a reputation as a place where members of the local civilian gay population came to made contact with one another and with naval personnel. In February 1919, two sailors, Thomas Brunelle and Chief Machinist's Mate Ervin Arnold were both patients at the Naval Training Station hospital, in Newport. Brunelle told Arnold about the goings on at the Army and Navy YMCA and the Newport Art Club. Newport was a base for some 25,000 servicemen. At the time, sex acts between men were criminal offences, and those who committed such acts were considered to be criminal deviants. The term “homosexual” was not in general use.

These reports concerned Arnold, and he undertook a personal investigation to verify what Brunelle was reporting. Arnold presented his findings to his Navy superiors. His report included details of cross-dressing and of parties involving sexual activity, liquor and cocaine. The report went up the chain of command, where it was brought to the attention of Admiral Spencer S. Wood, commander of the 2nd Naval District. Wood ordered a thorough investigation and created a court of inquiry to review Arnold’s report. On March 19, 1919, the court of inquiry concluded that a thorough investigation was warranted. Assistant Secretary of the Navy Franklin Delano Roosevelt approved the court's recommendation and asked Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer to conduct an investigation of the matter. Secretary Daniels was in Europe at the time so Roosevelt wrote the Justice Department to request an investigation into what he called “conditions of vice and depravity” in Newport.

Palmer refused to devote resources to such an investigation. Arnold, who had once been a Connecticut state police detective, was placed in charge of the investigation into the matter by Roosevelt. He decided to adopt an investigative strategy of infiltration. He chose a group of investigators based of their youth and looks. Over a period of several weeks, 13 such agents submitted daily reports to Arnold that included candid descriptions of homosexual acts and their participation in them. They investigated the matter quite enthusiastically, without any hesitation about directly participating in the matters they were supposed to be stopping. The undercover agents took their instructions to “catch them in the act” quite literally. The operators would seduce sailors in Newport. They participated in numerous sex acts with these sailors and civilians. Often this was done by accepting oral sex to completion. They recorded their encounters in daily reports. The operators who accepted oral sex received notations in their service records which read “in recognition of their interest and zeal” in pursuing evidence about the case. With Roosevelt’s backing, the Newport investigation expanded to the civilian population.

In April, arrests began. Between April 4, and by April 22, fifteen sailors had been arrested. Each was brought before a military tribunal. There, the men whom they believed to be their former sexual partners provide graphic testimony of their encounters. The tribunals were composed of older naval officers. Once the operatives had presented their evidence before the court, the accused were encouraged to incriminate others. Many did so, in the hopes of leniency. Thomas Brunelle was one of those who incriminated some of his fellow sailors. The three-week military trial ended with the court-martial of 17 sailors, who had been charged with sodomy and with "scandalous conduct." Most were sent to the naval prison at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Maine. Two others were dishonorably discharged and two others were found innocent with no further action.

Evidence from the operators was used to charge an Episcopal minister, the Rev. Samuel Neal Kent. Reverend Kent was acquitted in two trials. News accounts of these trials publicized the Navy’s investigative techniques. At the time the editor of the Providence Journal was a man named John Rathom. Rathom had published numerous scoops during World War I about German spies. In 1918, under pressure from the Justice Department, Rathom had signed a secret “confession” in which he admitted inventing or exaggerating his spy stories. That document was kept hidden from the public, but would later be used to attack Rathom’s reputation in the aftermath of the Newport scandal.

In January 1920, The Journal reported Rev. Kent’s acquittal on federal charges of immoral conduct. An editorial accused Navy Secretary Daniels of using “every bestial and degrading scheme” to gather evidence. Rathom demanded the U.S. Senate Committee on Naval Affairs investigate. He also accused assistant secretary Roosevelt of having knowledge of the gay sex sting. He sent telegrams with the story to papers around the country. The Journal covered Kent's trial proceedings daily, often with a critical comments about the prosecution's case. On January 8, 1920, Kent was found not guilty on all charges. In his charge to the jury in that case, the judge reasoned that since no military or governmental authority could legitimately order sailors to participate in such acts against their will. He said that either the sailors were willing participants, whose complaints were groundless, or they were acting under the compulsion of unlawful commands, on the part of their superiors.

The judge's comments was followed by opposition in Newport's religious community. Within days, a committee of Newport clergymen drafted a lengthy letter to President Woodrow Wilson denouncing the Navy's activities in Newport. They specifically condemned the "deleterious and vicious methods" used, which besides the investigative techniques, including keeping those accused confined for months without trial. Their letter to Wilson was signed by a number of prominent clergymen.

The Providence Journal published the letter, which led to a public relations nightmare for the Navy. It named Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels and Roosevelt as accomplices in the scheme. Roosevelt angrily complained that press coverage like Rathom's would damage the Navy's reputation to the point that parents would not allow their sons to enlist. He sought to draw attention away from the methods employed in the investigation. Rathom and Roosevelt engaged in a war of words by a "tart exchange of telegrams".

As the investigation dragged on, Roosevelt resigned from his position as Assistant Secretary of the Navy in July 1920 when he accepted the Democratic Party's nomination for vice president. He and presidential candidate James M. Cox ran unsuccessfully. Warren G. Harding won a landslide victory and was elected as President that year.

On the eve of the election, Roosevelt filed a $500,000 libel suit against Rathom. He also persuaded the Justice Department to make public Rathom’s 1918 confession about writing false news stories about German spies. In response, Rathom blasted Roosevelt in an editorial as “the possessor of an immature mind, a shallow thinker on subjects too deep for him, an amateur statesman.” FDR’s libel suit never went to trial.

On July 19, 1921, a subcommittee of the Senate Committee on Naval Affairs denounced both Daniels and Roosevelt for the methods used in the Newport investigations. The New York Times reported that most of the details of the affair were "of an unprintable nature". The paper accused Daniels and Roosevelt of knowledge that "enlisted men of the navy were used as participants in immoral practices for the purpose of obtaining evidence."

The Senate committee report declared that using enlisted men in this way "violated the code of the American citizen and ignored the rights of every American boy who enlisted in the navy to fight for his country." The committee report called Roosevelt's behavior "unfortunate and ill-advised, and reprehensible."

At the time it was difficult to discuss the details of the investigation with the frankness that might be used today. The committee language characterizes the "questionable activities" without ever specifying the actions themselves. They refer to a "lack of moral perspective" and invoked the youth of the navy personnel: "Conduct of a character at which seasoned veterans of the service would have shuddered was practically forced upon boys." The report did state that the navy personnel allowed "to be performed upon them immoral acts." The committee wrote that for Daniels and Roosevelt to allow personnel to be placed in a position in which the acts were even liable to occur, was "a deplorable, disgraceful, and most unnatural proceeding."

The criticism was like water off a duck's back for Roosevelt, who rejected the report. He said that the subcommittee's two Republican members had condemned him while the one Democrat issued a minority report. Roosevelt contested many details and interpretations in the committee's report, and then went on the attack. He said, "This business of using the navy as a football of politics has got to stop."

Any damage to Roosevelt's political reputation was soon forgotten. He had a more daunting problem that appeared for a time to kill any political prospects that he might have had. Roosevelt was stricken with a paralytic illness while vacationing in August 1921 at Campobello Island in Canada. Most people wrote off any chances that Roosevelt had for a further political career. He would prove them wrong.

Potus Geeks Summer Reruns: John Adams and the Smallpox Vaccine

This entry was first posted on April 21, 2020 as part of a series entitled Past Pandemics.)

In an earlier entry in this series, the subject of Thomas Jefferson and his experimentation with a vaccine for smallpox was discussed. This disease was prevalent during the early days of the republic, and those in the educated class such as Jefferson and his contemporary John Adams were among those who took it upon themselves to get vaccinated, despite how primitive the process was at the time.

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Vaccination for smallpox was in its infancy and sometimes the cure seemed more painful than the disease. The smallpox vaccine was first introduced in England by Edward Jenner in 1796, who is credited by the World Health Organization with developing the first successful vaccine for the disease. Jenner had observed that milkmaids who previously had caught cowpox did not catch smallpox, and from this, he was able to figure out that that those inoculated with the vaccine he developed were protected against the smallpox virus.

Both John and Abigail Adams were intimately familiar with smallpox, having seen many family members infected. Abigail made certain to educate her children on the dangers of disease and how to best avoid it. Adams was inoculated before it was a commonly accepted practice. Though techniques were rudimentary at this time, Adams survived the experience, emerging with protective immunity. Even before Jenner's discovery, a procedure known as smallpox variolation was being used and one of its test subjects was future President John Adams. Adams recorded his experience in his autobiography. He described the process as follows (spelling and capitalization are as Adams recorded):

“In the Winter of 1764, the Small Pox prevailing in Boston, I went with my Brother into Town and was inocculated under the Direction of Dr. Nathaniel Perkins and Dr. Joseph Warren. This Distemper was very terrible even by Inocculation at that time. My Physicians dreaded it, and prepared me, by a milk Diet and a Course of Mercurial Preparations, till they reduced me very low before they performed the operation. They continued to feed me with Milk and Mercury through the whole Course of it, and salivated me to such a degree, that every tooth in my head became so loose that I believe I could have pulled them all with my Thumb and finger. By such means they conquered the Small Pox, which I had very lightly, but they rendered me incapable of speaking or eating in my old Age, in short they brought me into the same Situation with my Friend Washington, who attributed his misfortune to cracking of Walnuts in his Youth.”

Another account of the vaccination is contained in a letter that Adams wrote to his wife, in which he makes it seem as if being quarantined was as much fun then as it is now:

"Dr. Perkins demanded my left arm and Dr. Warren my brother's[Peter Boylston Adams]. They took their Launcetts and with their Points divided the skin about a Quarter of an inch and just suffering the blood to appear, buried a thread (infected) about a Quarter of an inch long in the Channell. A little lint was then laid over the scratch and a Piece of Ragg pressed on, and then a Bandage bound over all, and I was bid go where and do what I pleased...Do not conclude from any Thing I have written that I think Inoculation a light matter -- A long and total abstinence from everything in Nature that has any Taste; two long heavy Vomits, one heavy Cathartick, four and twenty Mercurial and Antimonial Pills, and, Three weeks of Close Confinement to an House, are, according to my Estimation, no small matters."

At the time of his inoculation, the practice was still highly controversial and distrusted by most people. In a number of cases, inoculated patients died as a result of the disease. There was still the risk of inoculation patients unintentionally infecting others. In spite of this, Adams shared his progressive beliefs about public health programs such as inoculation with others at that time. In July 1776, Abigail and their four children, Charles, Nabby, Thomas, and John Quincy, were all inoculated.

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Years later, as President, Adams was informed about the discovery of vaccination by Jenner. In 1800, Benjamin Waterhouse, a strong advocate and frequent correspondent of Edward Jenner, wrote to President Adams about the new practice of using cowpox as a preventative for smallpox. Adams must have had other things on his mind at the time because did not respond to that correspondence. Waterhouse decided to look for a more receptive correspondent, that being Vice-president Thomas Jefferson. It was this correspondent that led to Jefferson's experimentation, discussed in an earlier article in this series.

[Note: The article about Jefferson's experimentation with vaccination, referred to in this article, can be found here.]

Potus Geeks Summer Reruns: Henry Clay-Always a Bridesmaid, Never a Bride

(Originally posted on May 9, 2013 as part of a series entitled The Also-Rans.)

Poor Henry Clay. Always a bridesmaid, never a bride. He ran for President in 1824 and again in 1832 and again in 1844. He lost every time. He wanted to run in 1840 and again in 1848, two years when he probably could have won. Instead, his party, the Whigs, decided that if the Democrats had won with a popular general (Andrew Jackson) then they could win with a popular general (choosing William Henry Harrison in 1840 and Zachary Taylor in 1848).

Born on April 12, 1777 in Hanover County, Virgina, Henry Clay was a man who certainly made his mark in American politics. Besides being a presidential candidate, he was also a very skilled lawyer (he once successfully defended Aaron Burr), a politician who represented Kentucky in both the Senate and in the House of Representatives, someone who served three different terms as Speaker of the United States House of Representatives and someone who was also Secretary of State. He was reputed to be a very skilled orator.

As Speaker of the state house in Kentucky, Clay fought a duel with an aristocratic house member named Humphrey Marshall. On January 3, 1809, Clay introduced a resolution to require members to wear homespun suits rather than those made of imported British broadcloth. Marshall was one of two members who voted against the motion. It is said that Clay and Marshall nearly came to blows on the Assembly floor, and Clay challenged Marshall to a duel. The duel took place on January 9 in Shippingport, Kentucky. They each had three turns. Clay grazed Marshall once, just below the chest. Marshall hit Clay once in the thigh.

In 1811 Clay was elected to the US House of Representatives. He was chosen Speaker of the House on the first day of his first session, something never done before or since. During the next fourteen years he was re-elected five times to the House and to the speakership. Clay was a slaveholder and like other Southern Congressmen, Clay brought his enslaved person to Washington, DC to work in his household.

Clay was a dominant figure in Congress through many administrations. As a leading war hawk in 1812, he favored war with Britain and played a significant role in leading the nation to war in the War of 1812. In 1820 he helped negotiate the "Missouri Compromise", an arrangement which brought Maine into the union as a free state and Missouri as a slave state (thus maintaining the balance in the Senate, which had included 11 free and 11 slave states), and which forbade slavery north of 36° 30' (the northern boundary of Arkansas and the latitude line) except in Missouri.


In 1824 he ran for president and lost, finishing fourth behind Andrew Jackson, John Quincy Adams and William Crawford. With no candidate winning a majority of electoral votes, the election was decided by Congress. Clay threw his support to John Quincy Adams, who subsequently appointed Clay to be Secretary of State. Jackson's supporters accused Adams and Clay of concluding a "corrupt bargain."

In 1829 Clay was the defendant in a lawsuit in which his slave Charlotte Dupuy sued Clay for her freedom and that of her two children, based on a promise by an earlier owner. Her legal challenge to slavery preceded the more famous Dred Scott case by 17 years. The "freedom suit" received a fair amount of attention in the press at the time. Dupuy's attorney gained an order from the court for her to remain in DC until the case was settled, and she worked for wages for 18 months for Martin Van Buren, Clay's successor as Secretary of State. The jury ruled against Dupuy, deciding that any agreement with her previous master Condon was not binding on Clay. Because Dupuy refused to return voluntarily to Kentucky, Clay had her arrested. She was imprisoned in Alexandria, Virginia before Clay arranged for her transport to New Orleans, where he placed her with his daughter and son-in-law Martin Duralde.

In 1832 Clay ran for President against Andrew Jackson. Clay lost by a wide margin to his highly popular opponent by a margin of 55% to 37%. He sought the nomination in 1840, but his party opted for former general William Henry Harrison. Clay thought that if he could not be elected president, he could at least yield presidential power. But Harrison refused to defer to Clay and when Harrison died a month into his term, his successor John Tyler also refused to cede power to Clay in what was a precedent setting case about the role of the Vice-President upon the death of a president.

Clay ran for president yet again in 1844. This time he thought he would win because the Democrats had nominated a defeated governor named James K. Polk from Tennessee. But Clay lost again, this time in part due to national sentiment in favor of Polk's expansionist campaign. Clay opposed admitting Texas as a state because he believed it would reawaken the slavery issue and provoke Mexico to declare war. Polk took the opposite view, supported by most of the public, especially in the Southern United States. The election was close. New York's 36 electoral votes proved the difference, and went to Polk by a slim 5,000 vote margin.


Clay opposed the Mexican-American War and the "Manifest Destiny" policy of Democrats. His son Henry Clay, Jr. was killed at the Battle of Buena Vista during that war. He once again sought the Whig Party nomination for president in 1848, but lost to Zachary Taylor who was elected president. Clay decided to retire to his Ashland estate in Kentucky. Retired for less than a year, in 1849 he was once again elected to the Senate. During his term, the controversy over the expansion of slavery in new lands had reemerged with the addition of the lands ceded to the United States by Mexico at the conclusion of the Mexican-American War. On January 29, 1850, Clay proposed a series of resolutions, which he considered to reconcile Northern and Southern interests, what would widely be called the Compromise of 1850. Despite Clay's efforts, his proposal failed in a crucial vote on July 31 with the majority of his Whig Party opposed. Clay was physically exhausted as the tuberculosis that would eventually kill him began to take its toll. Clay left the Senate to recuperate in Newport, Rhode Island. Stephen A. Douglas separated the bills and guided them through the Senate.

On June 29, 1852, Henry Clay died of tuberculosis in Washington, D.C., at the age of 75. He freed all of his slaves in his will. In 1957, a Senate Committee selected Clay as one of the five greatest U.S. Senators, along with Daniel Webster, John C. Calhoun, Robert La Follette, and Robert Taft.

Potus Geeks Summer Reruns: Eisenhower Goes to Korea

Originally posted on June 20, 2017 as part of our series entitled Global Presidents.)

In the 1952 presidential election, Republicans sought to end 20 years of the Democrats in the White House. The nation had stuck with Franklin Delano Roosevelt through the Great Depression and then through World War II. In 1948 voters elected Roosevelt's successor, Harry Truman, to his own term in office. By the time the 1952 election approached, America was once again at war, though it was officially called a "policing mission", in Korea. Whether it was a full-blown war or just some kind of military intervention, it wasn't going very well. The Chinese Army had joined in the fight on the side of the communist North Koreans. Truman had fired his military commander, Douglas MacArthur, for insubordination and out of fear that the General might cause a nuclear war. But MacArthur's successor General Matthew Ridgeway did not have an easy fix for Korea.

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This time Americans were not so supportive of their wartime president and Truman could read the political tea leaves just as well as anyone. He decided not to run for re-election in 1952. In his place, the Democrats chose Illinois Governor Adlai Stevenson, a very cerebral and professorial man as their candidate. As his opponent, the Republicans had chosen the very popular General Dwight D. Eisenhower, the Supreme Allied Commander in World War II, the architect of the D-Day invasion and a very formidable candidate.

Eisenhower campaigned by attacking "Korea, Communism, and Corruption", which were spin as failures of the outgoing Truman administration. Specifically, Eisenhower and the Republicans blamed Truman for the military's failure in Korea. Eisenhower was no fan of MacArthur either. He had been MacArthur's aide in 1932 when MacArthur sent the army in to chase the Bonus March protesters out of Washington and privately he wondered why MacArthur hadn't been fired sooner.

On October 24, in the dying days of the campaign, Truman challenged Eisenhower to come up with a better policy as to how to deal with the Korean problem. In response, the next day Eisenhower announced that if he were elected, he would personally go to Korea to get a firsthand view of the situation. In hindsight, he probably didn't need to go that far, and would still have won the election even if he had not promised to do so. But the promise boosted Eisenhower's popularity. On election day, November 4, 1952, Eisenhower easily defeated Stevenson, winning 442 electoral votes and 39 states, compared to 89 electoral votes and 9 states for Stevenson. Eisenhower received 34,075,529 votes (55.2%) and Stevenson received 27,375,090 votes (44.3%).

President-elect Eisenhower fulfilled his campaign pledge. Prior to going, he was not very specific about exactly what he hoped to accomplish there. On November 29, 1952 he left for a three days trip to Korea where he conferred with his old comrades General Mark Clark and General James Van Fleet, as well as South Korean Generals Chung Il-kwon and Baik Seon-yup. The President-elect visited with US troops, even dining on k-rations with the troops. He talked to division and regimental commanders, and he even ate C-rations at the front with G.I.’s from the 15th Infantry, his old regiment. He flew along the battle line, roughly the 38th Parallel, in an artillery observation plane (a small plane the size of a Piper Cub) where he did his own reconnaissance and got a first-hand look at the terrain. Eisenhower noticed that it was rocky, mountainous and very difficult to traverse for an infantry. It was also full of Chinese gun placements and heavily fortified. He later said that it reminded him of Tunisia during World War II, where an untested American Army had received its first defeat. He said, “It was obvious that any frontal attack would present great difficulties.” He added, “Small attacks on small hills would not win this war. We could not stand forever on a static front and continue to accept casualties without any visible result.”

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Eisenhower returned to the United States and was convinced that there was no other option but to make peace. Truce negotiations had been started 18 months earlier, but there had been no ceasefire. Casualties continued to mount. American losses (killed, wounded, and missing) had reached 75,000 in July 1951 when the talks began. They would eventually rise to 150,000, including an additional 12,000 dead, because of American insistence on fighting while the negotiations took place. Eisenhower say this as unconscionable. He said: “We cannot tolerate the continuation of the Korean conflict. The United States will have to break this deadlock.”

Eisenhower instructed General Clark to step up the exchange of prisoners with the North. He presented a "get tough" facade so as not to appear to be negotiating from a position of weakness, but his goal was to end the war as soon as possible. He suggested that he would "unleash" the Nationalist Chinese forces on Taiwan against communist China, something that Truman had refused to do. He hinted at the possibility of using whatever force was necessary (including the use of nuclear weapons) to bring the war to an end unless peace negotiations began to move forward. Eisenhower realized that he Chinese were just as exhausted by more than two years as the Americans were, and that they were likely also open to ending the conflict.

In early April 1953 the Communists signaled they were ready to negotiate an end to the war. Joseph Stalin had recently died and the new Soviet leadership apparently also wanted to see the situation resolved. On April 8, Eisenhower announced his decision to agree to an armistice that would leave a divided Korea. Secretary of State John Foster Dulles and Defense Secretary Charles Wilson were strongly opposed. But Eisenhower rejected their argument. He said “Now either we cut out all this fooling around and make a serious bid for peace. or we forget the whole thing.”

In July 1953, an armistice was reached with the Chinese and the Koreans. It left Korea divided along approximately the same boundary as in 1950. The armistice and boundary remain in effect today, with American soldiers still stationed there to enforce it. The armistice, concluded despite opposition from Secretary Dulles, South Korean President Syngman Rhee, and others inside Eisenhower's party.


Stephen Ambrose, one of Eisenhower's leading biographers, considers this armistice as the greatest achievement of his administration. Having witnessed the ravages of a great war, Eisenhower had the wisdom and the insight to realize that unlimited war in the nuclear age was unthinkable.

Following is a YouTube video of some news footage of Eisenhower's visit.