Saturday, December 13, 2008

december in history

in 2003 the headline was "WE GOT HIM!"

"Ousted Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein was captured by U.S. forces while hiding in a hole under a farmhouse in Adwar, near his hometown of Tikrit."

in 2000 the 36 day post-2000 election came to an end.

"Republican George W. Bush claimed the presidency 36 days after Election Day."

and al gore gave one of the greatest speeches in presidential history [according to me:)]

it's interesting...a historical what if...would the 2003 event have occurred had the 2000 event gone the way it should have which is gore becoming the 43rd potus?

i remember after gore gave his speech crowds were cheering "gore in 4!" as he left the old executive office building (where he gave the speech). but gore chose not to run...i'm sure had there been no 9/11 (even though it more than likely would've occurred no matter the potus) and iraq war gore could've won just as jackson and cleveland (popular vote winners who returned four years later...tilden did not try again) had done. but once bush became a war time potus it just seemed for sure he'd be a two termer.

another historical what if would be that obama most likely wouldn't have run in 2008 and 2008 would've probably had either an incumbent vp (assuming gore/lieberman made it to the white house in '01 and were reelected in '04) or an incumbent potus (assuming president gore lost this scenario i guess obama could've run in '08 as a democrat)...i know a lot of over thinking, but that's how what if's work :)

Friday, November 7, 2008

The Vice Presidency - The American Prince

Long ago, in a time far away the loser of the U.S. presidential election won something. The Vice Presidency.

Back in the day at the start of our nation's second government under our current Constitution, the person, or man at the time, with the second most number of electoral votes became the vice president. This meant that men of exceptional caliber who sought the presidency, if they lost, would end up in the vice presidency.

In the first and second contests, the Electoral College unanimously elected George Washington president and in both contests John Adams received the second most number of votes. However in our nation's third contest, John Adams ran for president and Thomas Jefferson ran against him. While Adams claimed not to be a part of the Federalist party, Jefferson ran against him as the anti-Federalist. Our nation's first partisan election. The end result was Adams as president and Jefferson as vice president. The first of two times where the president was of one party and the vice president was of another.

Vice President John Adams

By our nation's fourth election which for the only time pitted the incumbent president versus the incumbent vice president, the idea of having same-political party president and vice president was taking hold. Teaming up with politically minded allies was to avoid the results of the 1796 election, however this idea quickly backfired. Jefferson ran to be president with Aaron Burr as his vice president. The two tied in the Electoral College.

The Constitution kicked in and the House of Representatives determined the outcome of the election 36 ballots later with Jefferson the winner of the presidency and Burr his vice president. So as to avoid this confusion as to which candidate was running for which office the 12th Amendment to the Constitution was passed in 1804 before that year's election. It established that the electors would vote separately for both the president and vice president, thus diminishing the office and the caliber of those who sought the office.

Our nation went from vice presidents like Adams and Jefferson to men who never achieved their status or reputation. There were controversial vice presidents like John C. Calhoun, our second vice president to serve two different presidents and the first to resign from office. While Adams and Jefferson may have been of two different political philosophies during the third presidential term starting in 1797, Andrew Jackson certainly dealt with an unruly Vice President Calhoun who preached succession over the right to nullify laws of the federal government.

Vice President John C. Calhoun

Calhoun's successor, Martin Van Buren, would be that last heir apparent vice president to go on to become president until the late 20th century. Van Buren's own vice president, Richard M. Johnson, would become the first and only vice president elected through the senate because of an affair with a slave. Johnson's successor to the vice presidency, John Tyler would go on to establish precedent which would later take the form of the 25th Amendment to the Constitution, that is becoming president of the United States upon the death, removal, or resignation of the office holder.

Men would be nominated and elected to the office of such importance that never compared to that of our first two vice presidents. Some were put in the office to balance the political party's ticket geographically, ideologically, or politically. One was even put in the nomination of vice presidency to shut him up politically, Theodore Roosevelt was the man.

William McKinley and Theodore Roosevelt

No vice president who succeeded to the presidency through the death of the president went on to election in his own right, until Theodore Roosevelt. Roosevelt was put in the vice presidency as a way to control him, but once he ascended to the presidency all that changed. In 1904 he ran for election in his own right and won. So did the other vice presidents turned presidents through death of the 20th century, Coolidge, Truman and Johnson; with Ford, succeeded through a resignation, losing in a very close election.

The importance of the vice presidency was becoming apparent. It obviously wasn't realized until the passage of the 25th Amendment, but the nominees were becoming more than a balancing act. Richard Nixon was the vice president to Dwight Eisenhower and began to take on more responsibilities than his predecessors. His presence was well known by the time he joined the ticket. He rose up fast from representative to senator to vice presidential candidate. The Cold War was in its infancy by the time Nixon made it to Washington in 1953. Fear of war struck the American people and the health and safety of the man with the trigger for the nuclear bomb was of greater importance than ever before. OMG! Russia has a bomb! When Eisenhower suffered a heart attack, Nixon comforted the nation and letting the country and the world know that everything was under control in the United States. Once Eisenhower returned from respite, Nixon continued to be a face of American leadership. The line of succession showed its importance more than ever.

The president following Eisenhower would be the first president assassinated in the United States since 1901, and is also the first president lost under Secret Service protection. John F. Kennedy's death on November 22, 1963, would be the last president assassinated while in office and elevate Vice President Lyndon Johnson to the presidency. JFK's death and a vacancy in the vice presidency during the Cold War would reveal the dire need for the office of the vice president to never be vacant.

On February 10, 1967, the 25th Amendment to the Constitution passed the number of States necessary for approval. It confirmed the Tyler Precedent which John, whom the precedent is named after, established after President William Henry Harrison became the first president to die in office. No longer could there be a vacancy in the second most powerful office in the country. This section would kick into gear rather quickly.

When for the second time in our nation's history, the vice president of the United States resigns, it is also the first time the 25th Amendment begins. Spiro Agnew stepped down for reasons not connected to Watergate, Nixon's problem, on October 10, 1973. By October 12th, Nixon nominates Republican Minority Leader of the House Gerald Ford. After the Senate and then the House voting in the majority, Ford was sworn in as vice president on December 6 of that year. He was the first vice president never to campaign for votes of the American people.

The new second couple on the cover of Time magazine, December 17, 1973.

Then on August 9, 1974, after Richard Nixon became the first president to resign, Ford became the first president never elected to either the vice presidency or presidency. Soon after swearing-in, his top priority was filling the vacancy of his prior office. Nelson Rockefeller became the second man to be appointed vice president.

The importance of the office was becoming apparent. By 1974 Congress finally got the vice president a permanent Washington home with the Naval Observatory. Ford, set on moving in, became president before the family could move in. Rockefeller only used it to entertain, the man's a Rockefeller, he's already got a mansion. Walter Mondale became the first Second Family to live in the Vice President's Residence. Mondale also showed the importance of the vice president as a leader in the Executive Branch.

The Vice President's Residence

Jimmy Carter ran as a Washington outsider, showing he was from anything and everything but Watergate. He was governor of the state of Georgia and he defeated an incumbent president, albeit dealing with the legacy of the Vietnam War and Watergate. Carter needed someone with knowledge of the game, and he chose a well known senator from Minnesota.

The role of the vice president was becoming important as politicians sought, or unsought, the nomination. Candidates who they themselves sought the higher spot on the ticket were being considered as number two. Lyndon Johnson was one in 1960 and George Bush in 1980. Reagan, like JFK, chose a rival for the top spot to fill the other half of the ticket. Bush had a larger foreign policy resume than the western governor. Bush like Nixon, would assume the role of an acting-president. This idea, similar to Nixon in the 1950s when an acting president was needed due to the health of the incumbent president, also become a section of the 25th Amendment. It has only been used twice since George Bush. Richard Cheney would act as president twice when George W. Bush went in for surgery in 2002 and 2007.

The other section of the 25th Amendment, involuntary withdrawal, has yet to be used. Although it came close in the 1997 film Air Force One, it hasn't happened in the real world.

With the exception of James Danforth Quayle and the nomination of Sarah Palin, the seriousness of the office has been taken into consideration when seeking a candidate for the second spot. The nation's 45th vice president in 1993 showed an increase in importance and responsibility for the nation's number two. It certainly increased beyond any expectations when the 46th VPOTUS, Cheney, succeeded Al Gore in 2001.

Aside from the increase in power from Gore to Cheney, there was another difference between the two vice presidents. Since the days of Nixon the incumbent vice president was seeking the top of the ticket when it was his time. Hubert Humphrey tried it in 1968 and just like Nixon in 1960 and John C. Breckinridge in 1860, they all lost. Incumbent Vice President Bush won the top job, the first sitting VP since Martin Van Buren in 1936, and the last. Gore tried to do what Bush did and run for president. While Gore received more popular votes than George W. Bush, he did not win the Electoral College which determine the winner.

Gore had that desire to run for president. Prior to being nominated for the vice presidency in 1992, he made a run for the Democratic nomination in 1988. He lost. But a youthful man and vice president he was. He had the ambition, desire, and opportunity to run for the nomination in 2000, just as Bush in 1988, Humphrey in 1968, and Nixon in 1960. However the idea of the VP thinking about his own political future rather than the vision of the president reeked of possible situations no different than the Adams/Jefferson administration of 1797. People with different agendas. A divided government within the Executive Branch.

Cheney's selection of himself as George W. Bush's vice president put a new light on the role of the vice president. This man was not looking for anything in his political future. The vice president would help, or simply, run the show. Cheney did not want to be president and was not planning on running at the end of the administration. His decision created the first time no incumbent POTUS or VPOTUS ran for a party's nomination since 1928. Sure Herbert Hoover was part of the incumbent administration as the Secretary of Commerce, but far from the elected posts of president and vice president in 1928.

Whether or not the person seeking the nomination or becomes vice president, they remind the public they never want the job. When they get the vice presidency and then succeed to higher office, they were put there because we the American people believe that they will make a good steward of our country. Since it has taken us so long to realize the importance of the vice presidency, perhaps it is time to reevaluate the way we nominate him or her. Should the people have say or should the people allow one individual near dictatorial powers of appointing his or her choice? In 2008, half of the Democrats and independents, as well as Republicans, did not have their voice heard on the national ticket. Instead the number two spot went to someone who received a fraction of the primary and caucus votes. No matter what, Joe Biden, has the political resume to be a leader, and is a fine selection in this era of presidential-candidate's-appointing vice presidents. The Republicans allowed one man to select a woman with no real credentials for the job but whose only selection was because she was a woman. The conventions are only there to approve the anointment of the possible president, which is what the vice president truly is.

Maybe it's time for the second place person in the primary season become the vice presidential nominee, or allow for separate balloting of the presidential and vice presidential candidates. Maybe even friends running as a ticket in a primary season, but avoiding all the pitfalls that came of a similar scenario in 1800. The vice presidency always seems to be evolving, just like our great nation.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Presidential History Free Write: Part 1 - The Founding Fathers

In 1789 the electoral college voted twice, George Washington won unanimously their first vote, while John Adams placed second in a landslide. Adams was sworn in as the nation's first vice president in April 1789, and Washington was sworn in on April 30th in New York City. After taking the oath, the president started the first tradition following the oath by adding "so help me God."

Washington once again unanimously won reelection in 1792, as did Adams for the vice presidency. Washington then made another tradition by not seeking a third term as president. The election of 1796 would pit Vice President Adams, politically aligned with the Federalist Party's ideology, against the former secretary of state, Thomas Jefferson, part of the anti-Federalist faction. Adams defeated Jefferson. For the first time the nation had a president of one party and a vice president of another.

The election of 1800 was worse than four years before. It was the first and only time a sitting president ran against a sitting vice president. Not wanting to have the same scenario of 1796 play out again but reversed caused a Constitutional crisis. Jefferson ran for president with Aaron Burr as the vice president for the Democratic-Republican party. While Adams and his vice presidential candidate ran for their respected offices for the Federalists. However the Electoral College did not specify a vote for president and a vote for vice president. The person with a majority of electoral votes becomes president-elect and the person with next highest amount becomes vice president-elect. If there is no majority the top three choices go to the House of Representatives and if there is no majority the top two for the second place position it go to the Senate. Each state has only one vote.

Jefferson and Burr tied in the Electoral College, throwing the election to the House of Representatives. Jefferson was always the intended choice for president and Burr for vice. I believe it took thirty-six ballots to come to the final result of Jefferson for president, placing Burr in second. Burr would go on to shoot former secretary of the treasury, the guy on the ten dollar bill, Alexander Hamilton in a duel made famous in a "got milk?" commercial in the 1990s. Burr after fleeing was rumored to be making deals with the Spanish to become ruler of country west of the United State's new borders thanks to the Louisiana Purchase.

After the election of 1800 the way the Electoral College vote for president and vice president were to change. This change came in the form of the the 12th Amendment passed in 1804 taking effect in that presidential election. The 12th Amendment lowered the status of the vice presidency. Our nation's first two vice presidents under the original system were men vital to the political process that gave birth to our nation, just as Washington's role militarily was a vital part to the birth of our nation. Burr, even though elected under the original system, is really a first in a line of lame vice presidents, the unknown vice presidents. The men placed on the bottom of ticket were usually put there to balance the ticket geographically. I.E. the top guy is from the North, and the bottom guy is from the South.

The 12th Amendment states that the electors must vote once for a presidential candidate and one other vote for a vice presidential candidate. If there is a tie among the presidential candidates, the top three go to the House. If there is a tie among the vice presidential candidates, the top two go to the Senate. Each State has one vote.

Jefferson won the election of 1804 after having made the Louisiana Purchase the previous year. He ran with New Yorker George Clinton, the man who always wanted the vice presidency.

Jefferson's secretary of state, James Madison won the election of 1808. Clinton was reelected to a second, and the first to be elected with another president. Madison faced the War of 1812, our Second Battle for Independence. The British invaded, after Madison asked for a declaration of war when the British weren't respecting American ships. Madison was the last commander-in-chief to truly be that in the battle field. He had the northeastern Federalists as the major opposition to his war with the British. The northeast even threatened succeeding from the Union.

Madison eventually had to abandon the capital city of Washington. Dolley Madison was preparing dinner when she was told to evacuate. She ordered the portrait of George Washington to be taken down and taken with them. She saved other important documents. She escaped before the British arrived. Before they set the presidential mansion on fire, they enjoyed the meal left by the first lady. The Capitol and the Executive Mansion were set on fire, as was the Library of Congress.

The weather turned horrible creating a rain storm that put out the fire at the mansion preserving the limestone shell wall. The mansion would be rebuilt and the Madisons moved back in by 1818. Nicely painted white, the painters left a section of the burn marks from the fire.

The War of 1812 ended with no clear victor, but two weeks after the signing of the treaty, unknown because the communication of the time, General Andrew Jackson successfully defends New Orleans against the British.

Madison won the election of 1812 and passed on the presidency to his secretary of state James Monroe. In 1816, Monroe defeated the last candidate for president by the Federalist Party. Monroe, with the help of his secretary of state John Quincy Adams, in his annual message to Congress, establish what would become known as the Monroe Doctrine. Making sure the Old World kept out of the New World.

Monroe was president during an era of good feelings politically, so in the election of 1820 Monroe ran opposed. Instead of giving him unanimous vote in the Electoral College like George Washington, one elector cast a vote for John Quincy Adams.

Friday, October 24, 2008

The First African-American

John McCain's hero, the 26th president of the United States, Theodore Roosevelt invited the first African-American to the Executive Mansion, aka the White House, for dinner in 1901.

That African-American was Booker T. Washington.

That dinner caused such a stir TR, the real maverick, caved to the criticism and never invited Washington or any other African-American back to the White House again. The criticism came from those that couldn't accept African-Americans as equals. But we in the 21st century must put ourselves in the shoes of our little than over a hundred years ago counterparts and understand that the Civil War had just ended 36 years prior to that historic dinner. Also the Supreme Court had just ruled five years earlier from that dinner on Plessy v. Ferguson, which established racial segregation or "separate but equal" as law of the land.

It would be almost more than half a century later when Plessy v. Ferguson would be over turned via the landmark case of Brown v. Board of Education. And then a decade after that African-Americans would finally be considered equal with the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and secure their right to vote with the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

How far we have come from the days of slavery, abolitionism, segregation, and civil rights, to see that an African-American male has a true shot at the highest office in the land which once oppressed him. Barack Obama fought for the nomination of one of the two major political parties against a female and won. That scenario is unimaginable in our nation's history, but it occurred just eight years into the 21st century, where one hundred years prior dining with the president was considered blasphemy.

How far we have come from the day when Booker T. Washington dined with President Theodore Roosevelt. We have come a long way. While it would have been amazing to see President Roosevelt stand up to the bigotry of the times, he would be proud to see that an African-American would be seen as an equal in the eyes of his opponent. The equality between the two major political party candidates is seen simply in their candidacy. We have a lot more to over come, but with Obama's candidacy we have shown that we are taking a step forward.

How far we have come is certainly shown not only in Obama's nomination by a national party but by his certain victory as the 44th president of the United States. One hundred and eight years ago a president of the United States invited an African-American to dine in the White House. One hundred and eight years later we see the the certainty...that an African-American will sit at the head of the table in the White House.

How far we have come since the days of Theodore Roosevelt.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Missing Bush

The year I turned 18 was the first time I voted for president of the United States. The year was 1996.

My love of presidential history started years early. I was born when a peanut farmer lived in the White House. As a child of the 1980s, I only knew of Ronald Reagan as the president and thought it natural that the man that was his vice president would go on to become president.

William Jefferson Clinton came into my life as a high school student and I thought he should remain president through my college years.

The 2000 election was the first election that I truly paid close attention to and I cast my vote for the incumbent vice president. And like most Americans I thought he should be the commander-in-chief. The governor of Texas showed he wasn't anything special other than a son of a president. In the end, Vice President Al Gore gave an amazing concession speech on December 13, 2000 ending the race and the post-election race. I remember Bush's acceptance speech, or more specifically where it was delivered and nothing more. But Gore's I remember so much more: "While we yet hold and do not yield our opposing beliefs, there is a higher duty than the one we owe to political party. This is America and we put country before party. We will stand together behind our new president." Why didn't this Gore win? The Gore the country would really come to love was just beginning I guess.

And so our country moved forward. We had a new president. For the second time in our history a son of a president became president. And for the first few months of his presidency I believed history would repeat itself and George W. Bush would be just like that other son of a president, John Quincy Adams, a one term president. Then came September 11, 2001.

By September 12, 2001, I knew that George W. Bush would break history and become a two term president. By breaking history I mean the only one of the father-son combo of presidents and minority presidents, that is to win the Electoral College and lose the popular vote, to go on and win a second term. A national tragedy had occurred and as Gore had told his supporters ten months prior, we had to rally behind our new president. And I did.

Bush amazed me with his address in the National Cathedral on September 14 and then before a joint session of Congress on September 20. He was going after those that attacked us and they would be punished.

Then at the start of 2002, the drum beats of war began and the unified country returned to its election 2000 divisiveness. The war of choice was on and his reelection was still certain. While his poll numbers plummeted from the highs of September 11, 2001 straight down toward the election of 2004, I still knew no one would be able to defeat him.

Bush survived to serve another term. He received 51% of the popular vote, the only president since his father in 1988 to break the 50% barrier. The president had the audacity to claim a mandate. But his second term proved he had no such thing and like other second term presidents his was nothing to brag about. From a failed attempt at revamping social security to mishandling the response to Hurricane Katrina, Bush's second term was not something Americans should be proud of.

What it did provide was fodder for late night comedians. Our troubles of living under another four years of the Bush administration provided many laughs and inspiration for comedy writers.

At the start of 2001 when the Clinton administration came to an end I remember hearing the late night hosts saddened by the loss of material as the Clinton administration left office. They knew they were getting something special in Bush, seeing him on the campaign trail the previous year. Little did they know that the next eight years would provide more material that would out match the eight years of Clinton.

The scare tactics, fear mongering, incompetence, and arrogance will not be missed.

The year I turned 30 was the fourth time I voted for president of the United States. The year was 2008.

We'll see how things turned out.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

The Appointed Vice President

Gerald Ford is not the first appointed vice president.

Okay technically, or constitutionally, he is. The 25th Amendment fixed the ever vacant vice presidency problem which had been going on every now and then since 1841. That's what section 2 of the amendment did: president nominates and a majority of both chambers of Congress confirms.

We know politicians seek the office of vice president even if they won't admit it. James Polk was trying for the vp nomination before he stumbled on to the bigger nomination back in 1844. Those that don't seek the office usually accept the nomination, kind of taking one for the team. Theodore Roosevelt was that way. The extremely popular New York Governor, recent war hero from the Spanish-American War, was banished to the vp slot to keep in check by party leaders. Who would think the vice presidency could put TR in some kind of position of power? Oh, right Mark Hanna.

Presidential candidates eventually took on what party bosses were doing and selected their own vice presidential candidates. John Kennedy offered the vice presidency to Lyndon Johnson after their rivalry for the top nomination in 1960. The Kennedy brothers didn't think LBJ would accept, but he did.

Sure the national conventions have been confirming the vice presidential candidates via delegate votes. In the days of uncertain convention outcomes, it took more than one ballot to find a party's nominee for the bottom of the ticket. And yes when the people go to the ballot boxes in November they are electing a slate of electors to vote for their ticket of choice, each ticket containing a top (president) and a bottom (vice president). Thank you 12th Amendment. The vice president is the only other national office elected by the entire country. But we're usually just thinking of the person running for that other national office when we vote.

The vice presidential candidate historically was someone who balanced the ticket geographically or ideologically. The candidate usually filled out something that was missing on the other end of the ticket. In 1976 Jimmy Carter was the true Washington outsider and Walter Mondale was the exact opposite, perfect match. William Jefferson Clinton of Arkansas broke the mold on balancing geography in 1992 by selecting his home state's neighbor state's son, Al Gore of Tennessee.

We the voter accept the presidential candidate's choice pick as his or her's first real presidential decision pre-election. The presidential candidate believes that the person he or she selects will be able to do the job of president. The presidential candidate fought long and hard for the nomination, to get the people's vote, and the vp candidate is chosen not by the people but by the person who survived a test by the people.

We've accepted this way of selecting the nation's second highest office. And yet nine times in our history has the vice president ascended to the presidency. In 1841 when John Tyler became the first vp to become president upon the death of William Henry Harrion just 30 days into the new administration, the Constitution did not specify the ascendancy. The 25th Amendment's section one clarified all that by saying "In case of the removal of the President from office or of his death or resignation, the Vice President shall become President." It took so long to realize the importance of the office and transition of power.

Perhaps we have accepted the practice of selecting vice presidential candidates for too long. We may have had some good picks like Robert Dole, Walter Mondale, George Bush, Al Gore, and Jack Kemp. We've also had some which we question and did not turn out so good.

In 2008 the tradition of an undemocratically chosen vice presidential candidate continues with the selection of Senator Joe Biden of Delware for the Democrats and Governor Sarah Palin of Alaska for the Republicans.

Barack Obama makes his first presidential decision by selecting a running mate. An African-American male on a presidential ticket is a new thing. The country can handle change but not such a dramatic change as not having a white male somewhere on the ticket. So Obama chooses Biden, over the person who in the Democratic nominating contest received the second most number of votes to the nominee. Almost half of those that voted in the Democratic primary/caucus elections. Very undemocratic.

John McCain makes his first presidential decision after Obama. Ah, it's all politics. Well McCain can't pick another white male for his ticket when he's going up against the history making ticket of Obama/Biden. Breaking one hundred fifty-two years of an all white male ticket, the Republican vice presidential pick is recently elected governor Palin. McCain's attempts at politics (i.e. women's vote, he's a maverick, etc.) instead of selecting someone who is qualified for the presidency shows the seriousness of why the vice presidency needs to be in the hands of the people.

The qualifications of the vice presidency are exactly those of the presidency. The people should have a say in who that potential leader is. Some say the president needs to be able to work with his or her vice president and so the candidate must make the pick. No. The vice president needs to be selected because they are the second best qualified to be president after the presidential candidate.

In 1988, Dan Quayle was not the second best qualified person to be president after George Bush. Quayle was a senator farther right than Bush ideologically and youthful when compared to Bush and the oldest president Ronald Reagan, then the incumbent. Sarah Palin is not the second most qualified within the Republican Party to be president. She's not from Washington. She represents change as a female. That's what mattered to McCain.

The vice presidential candidate should be selected by the voter just as the presidential candidate is. The general election would remain the same, but it's how those people end up on the ticket which should be changed. One way would be for the primary voter to have a ballot labeled "president" and one labeled "vice president," all candidates in the running would be on both ballots and could only be voted for once. The person with the most number of votes for president becomes the candidate for president and the person with the most number of votes for vice president becomes vice president.

Another way can be similar to the process of electing the president and vice president pre-12th Amendment. Before the passage of the 12th Amendment in 1804, the man with a majority of votes became the president and the man with the second most number of votes became vice president. This is why our first two vice presidents are highly qualified men and both went on to be elected president in their own right. After the amendment passed and changed how we voted, the office of the vice president was no longer filled by men of similar caliber to that of John Adams and Thomas Jefferson.

So in a primary, the person who comes in second to the person with the most votes becomes the vice presidential running mate. In 2004 after John Kerry toyed with the idea of a bipartisan ticket with McCain, Kerry selected John Edwards, the man who received the second most number of primary votes. Yes, in 2008 this did not happen. Hillary Clinton was not considered even though she had the second most number of votes to Obama. Worrying about the role of a former president in a new administration was too much to worry about. Yes why would Obama not want one of the smartest men to occupy the White House as the spouse of the vice president? Avoiding that question and the person who received the next most number of votes, Obama went in another direction with his selection in Biden.

We must prevent this undemocratic process from continuing. We need to make sure that the people's voices are heard. We need to prevent daring political moves at the expense of potentially dangerous and inexperienced possible-presidents from coming to power. We need to return the appointed presidency back to men like Gerald Ford.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

McCain/Another White Guy '08

It's McCain/Palin all the way in 2008!

The 2008 election was going to make history from the start. That's from the start of the Democratic contest for the nomination, not the Republican's contest. The Democrats had an African-American male, a Latino, and a woman who was just not any woman, but the former first lady of the United States. When the contest came down to just the African-American male and the woman, it was very clear that history was being made and there was possible more history making to come.

While the Democrats put up five white males alongside the other three, the Grand Old Party totaled ten white males all vying for the top of the ticket.

For the first time in twenty-four the Democratic Party was going to bring some diversity to their national ticket. Once the people had spoken and put Barack Obama, an African-American, at the top of the ticket, some wondered if an unprecedented ticket was to be formed. Instead going the more democratic approach of choosing the person to receive the second most highest number of votes cast, Obama selected a safe choice in a running mate. The ticketed did not need to be balanced ideologically or geographically, but it was balanced with Joe Biden someone that balance outs any of Obama's flaws.

The other national party didn't seem to have the possibility of making some history in this election. Those that ran for the nomination were all white males. McCain could've chosen Mitt Romney or Mike Huckabee, the next two highest vote getters. But he didn't. McCain secured his party's nomination via the primaries and caucuses earlier than Obama. That was February and it wouldn't be until the first week of September when McCain would officially be the Republican nominee. And yet he still waited until the week before to make his selection.

By this point Obama was history in the making and with Biden the Democrats chose to make history one step at a time. McCain's choices of running mates were Romney of Massachusetts, Governor Charlie Crist of Florida, Governor Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota, Secretary and former governor Tom Ridge of Pennsylvania, and Senator Joe Lieberman of Connecticut. His choices were nothing extraordinary for the Republican, save maybe Lieberman. Senator Lieberman would be a historical choice for a number of reasons: the first Jewish vice presidential candidate for the Republican ticket (he was also the first Jewish vice presidential candidate for the Democrats in 2000, which would've made his simply the first Jewish vice presidential candidate in U.S. history), and he would've been a Democrat turned Independent Democrat to run as vice president on the Republican ticket. Not since the election of 1864 had there been such a bipartisan ticket.

But that was not to be. McCain couldn't settle on the white males he was debating over. The Democratic party was about to have for the second time in twenty-four years a ticket with just one white male on it. It looked like McCain's Republican ticket would be no different than GOP tickets of the past.

One name did keep appearing on McCain's short list. The name on that list would eventually be the name added to the ticket and break the Republican party's one hundred fifty-two year streak of an all white male ticket.

Sarah Palin was the choice. She's a governor of a state, just like the other men McCain was considering, once again, except Lieberman. But her resume is somewhat shorter than the others on the short list. There are other qualified and more recognizable Republican woman: Senators Kay Bailey Hutchinson of Texas and Elizabeth Dole of North Carolina, a former candidate for the Republican nomination back in 2000 and wife of the GOP's 1996 nominee; former governor Christine Todd Whitman; business woman Carly Fiorina; and second lady Lynne Cheney. If a first lady can gain experience watch a president, I'm sure the same can be said of the second lady watch her vice president husband execute the duties of his office.

Sarah Palin was the choice. She was the choice because it went with McCain's maverick or outsider approach to politics. Sure the second lady would be an out there choice, but that would be like selecting another GOP woman rumored to be considered by McCain: secretary of state Condoleezza Rice. Rice would've been an historic nomination, but enough of an outsider or change to compete with McCain's opponent idea of change.

Sarah Palin was the choice. Her selection fits with McCain and the options he faced. With Sarah Palin, McCain added much heat and interest into a campaign that without Palin would've been no different the first GOP ticket of John C. Fremont and William L. Dayton.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

7th Anniversay of September 11th

September 11, 2001 remains a tragic day in our nation’s memory, an unnatural disaster caused by cowardly thugs. However this day is not about them. This day we remember the innocent deaths of people who went to work in buildings or aboard planes; of passengers traveling to new destinations; and of the firemen, medics, and police officers. What remains with us is not so much the death and destruction, but the heroism and sacrifices made by those innocent lives in New York City, the Pentagon, and over the skies of Shanksville. That memory remains and makes us so proud to be Americans. That memory remains with us this September 11, 2008.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Expanding to Crisis

Thirteen colonies banded together to become an independent nation from Great Britain in 1776. Northern and southern colonies formed a union of States, united together for independence. Two different societies developed the industrialized north and the rural south, both with a common goal. After their revolution from Great Britain, these United States expanded westward beyond the Appalachian Mountains. Their territory increased and new states were admitted to the Union. These United States coexisted peacefully as northern free states and southern slave states, however the admittance of new states threatened the peace. The expansion of the United States and the addition of new states disrupted the sectional divide between the two regions plunging the nation into civil war.

Aside from the Declaration of Independence, the Northwest Ordinance of 1787 was one of the most important pieces of legislation passed by the Continental Congress. The ordinance established how our nation would expand westward, creating territories that would form new states and be admitted to the Union. The ordinance also banned slavery in the Great Lakes region, which established the regional divide between northern free states above the Ohio River and the southern slave states below the river. This political divide played out in the United States Senate as new states formed, with southern senators fearful that their “peculiar institution” of slavery would be destroyed.

The young nation expanded in the 1790s in both the northern and southern regions always maintaining that equal balance of power. In 1803, President Thomas Jefferson doubled the size of our nation with the Louisiana Purchase. This allowed for the addition of new states to form and join the Union once the vast expanse of land was filled by westward moving Americans. This westward movement created the sectional crisis, as the expansion of slavery into the new territories came into question.

Missouri emerged as a state from the Louisiana Purchase. With the admittance of Missouri into the Union the balance between free and slave states began to tip. To balance the power in the Union, Maine was admitted as a free state. Maine was a non-contiguous part of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. This compromise of admitting one slave state and one free state stabilized the balance of power between the two regions. Another part of the compromise was the prohibition of slavery in the remaining northern territory of the Louisiana Purchase. The Missouri Compromise of 1820 maintained order in the Union, but the nation continued to expand.

The expansion of the nation and the admittance of new states threatened the balance of power. If the north out numbered the south in the senate then the way of life in the southern states might be threatened. The south did not want to lose their right to have slaves and did not believe that the federal government could abolish it. Maintaining an equal number of states in both regions protected them against the threat of the federal government interfering with their “peculiar institution.” The south felt the issue was a states’ rights issue. However slavery would not be the first issue that the southern states felt the federal government was threatening their states’ right.

In 1828 the sectional divide heated up not over slavery, but another states’ right issue. The southern economy, which slavery was a part of, relied on trade with foreign countries. The imposition of a tariff, or a tax, on foreign trade threatened the southern economy. Vice President John C. Calhoun of South Carolina supported the idea of nullification proposed by his home state, which would allow states to null and void legislation passed by the federal government. It was a states’ right to do so. President Andrew Jackson thought nullification to be unconstitutional. Jackson loved the Union and wanted nothing more than to preserve the Union. Jackson threatened South Carolina with military force and believed nullification a treasonous act. In the end the state backed down and the Union was preserved, however the nullification crisis foreshadowed events to come.

By the late 1830s citizens of the United States were venturing westward filling and occupying the land purchased from France. Although one region in particular that was not apart of the Louisiana Purchase drew numerous citizens of the United States and that was Texas. Texas became an independent nation from Mexico in 1836 populated by an overwhelming amount of Americans. Texans fought for their independence and after winning sought annexation by the United States. If the United States were to admit Texas then the balance between free and slave states would be disrupted. Northern states did not want Texas admitted to the Union because they feared it would expand slavery, while the southern states welcomed the state. Just a few days before leaving office in March of 1845, President John Tyler signed the resolution annexing Texas as a state.

While Texas was a hotly debated topic for almost a decade, the issue of admitting it into the Union no longer became an issue by the time James K. Polk assumed the presidency in 1845. Aside from limiting himself to a single term in office, he committed himself to achieving four goals during his administration. Two of the goals were connected to the expansion of the Union, acquiring the Oregon territory from Great Britain as well as California and New Mexico from Mexico. Polk set out to turn the United States into a continental power, establishing a “manifest destiny.”

To achieve the manifest destiny of our nation Polk took us to war. Obtaining Oregon from Great Britain did not require a fight, but obtaining California and New Mexico would not be as simple. The Mexican-U.S. War lasted from 1846 to 1848. The Treaty of Guadeloupe Hidalgo ended the war and expanded the nation all the way to the Pacific Ocean. The new territory gained from the treaty created the question of whether to admit states into the Union as free or slave.

The new territories which emerged from the war brought the balance of power between the two regions to a boil. Once again a compromise was needed. Senator Henry Clay of Kentucky proposed a number of measures which included admitting California as a free state; the territory of New Mexico would be organized without the prohibition of slavery; the slave trade was prohibited in the District of Columbia, while slavery was not abolished; and fugitive slave laws were strengthened. The compromise was opposed by President Zachary Taylor, however he died in 1850 and his successor Millard Fillmore supported it. This Compromise of 1850 tempered the crisis brewing between the north and the south.

While the start of the decade attempted to put the sectional crisis to rest it became just a stepping stone to the impending crisis. In 1852, Harriet Beecher Stowe’s anti-slavery novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin became an important part the abolitionist cause and 19th Century American literature. The novel had an affect on attitudes toward slavery and the slaves themselves. The Missouri Compromise of 1820, which attempted to quench the slavery issue was repealed two years after Stowe’s novel was published.

The Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854 repealed the Missouri Compromise which sought to end the debate on the expansion of slavery. Now through popular sovereignty the settlers of the territories of Kansas and Nebraska were to determine if they were a free state or a slave state. The settlers of Kansas turned to bloodshed as northerners moved in to claim the territory as a free state, while southerners did the same but for pro-slavery reasons. The anti-slavery side eventually triumphed over the pro-slavery side, but once again this event was another foreshadow of things to come but on a larger scale.

As the nation expanded and the expansion of slavery grew with it, a political party emerged in 1854 in opposition to its expansion. The Republican Party formed in 1854 and by the presidential election of 1856 had its first presidential candidate on the ballot. However in the end John Fremont was defeated by Democratic candidate James Buchanan. President Buchanan continued the disorder that was maintained by the previous administration of Franklin Pierce. In 1857 the Supreme Court ruled on the Dred Scott case, stating that a slave was not a citizen and thus had no rights under the Constitution. The ruling intensified northern opposition to the expansion of slavery.

In 1858 an Illinois seat in the United States Senate gained attention as the two competitors for that seat debated for their party’s dominance in the Illinois state legislature, which appointed United State Senators at the time. Democrat Stephen Douglas debated Republican Abraham Lincoln. In the debates Lincoln said “A house divided against itself cannot stand. I believe this government cannot endure permanently half slave and half free.” The house represented the country and its sectional division of free and slave states. The Democrats won the election in Illinois returning Douglas to the United States Senate, while Lincoln gained national attention. The house divide was on the verge of collapsing.

In 1859 John Brown attempted to start a slave rebellion. Brown led an attack on Harper’s Ferry, Virginia. He seized the federal armory and held the citizens hostage. The rebellion was squashed and Brown was hung. Rebellion was in the air, but not from the anti-slavery side.

Lincoln’s prominence in the senatorial debates propelled him to the Republican nomination for president in 1860 defeating party heavy weight William Seward of New York. The election of 1860 pitted Republican Lincoln against, against a fractured Democratic party. The southern pro-slavery Democrats nominated the incumbent Vice President John C. Breckinridge, while the northern Democrats nominated Stephen Douglas. A fourth candidacy came from the Constitutional Union Party, a party comprised of former Whigs and Know-Nothings. The Constitutional Union Party nominated John Bell. With the lowest popular vote percentage of any president ever and with only the electoral votes of the northern states, Abraham Lincoln was elected the 16th President of the United States.

With Lincoln’s election, the south believed the anti-slavery party would abolish their “peculiar institution.” Before the year of 1860 was out the state of South Carolina seceded from the Union, an act deemed unconstitutional by President Buchanan and President-elect Lincoln. However Buchanan felt there was nothing he could do. Lincoln attempted to heal the wounds with his first inaugural address on March 4, 1861. The south ignored Lincoln and on April 12th attacked Fort Sumter in South Carolina. Fort Sumter in Lincoln’s eyes was Union property; the war between the states had begun.

Two different regions, one free and the other slave holding, fought together to overthrow a tyrannical king. These United States expanded their territorial reach over the North American continent. Their expanse disrupted the peaceful sectionalism which existed in revolution. Compromises were made to maintain the peace as the nation grew. However expansion turned these United States into a house divided, long preventing it from becoming a more perfect union as the United States.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

The Second Lady

Johnna Folsom is the first female governor of the great state of California. She is an independent politician, not associated with either the Democratic or Republican parties. The two parties selected their nominees for president of the United States. Johnna Folsom feels that she is the best qualified candidate to be the president of the United States.

As governor of the great state of California, she truly made it the greatest state in the Union by increasing employment and balancing the budget. She made everyone across the political spectrum happy. She proved she could govern. She proved she could manage the second largest bureaucracy in the United States. She proved she was ready for the biggest job in the county, and the world.

Johnna declared her candidacy after the major parties named their candidates. She was running as an independent, which meant it would be more difficult for her since she would not have the backing of the two big national political organizations. However her independence and her record as governor of California gave her wide appeal in a nation disillusioned by the two political parties of the United States.

Johnna began campaigning as the candidate to govern the United States and the world. She believed that her record as governor of California was proof that she could lead the masses and unite such a diverse population. Her history had shown that she could perform the duties of the chief executive of the nation, since her time as mayor of San Francisco and her time in the United States Senate representing California.

Governor Folsom is ambitious as her two male opponents of the two major political parties, but her success in the past has propelled her to front runner status for the highest job in the land. She is everyone’s favorite to be the next president of the United States.

With the governor’s success as front-runner against her two male opponents, Mayor Kathryn Grayson of Los Angeles enters the race. Mayor Grayson is very charismatic and an elegant speaker. She can lift up the lowest of spirits and fill them with the American dream. Her charm and beauty begin to elevate her to front-runner status.

Johnna realizes that she needs to become more human, like her new female competitor in this now four person race. Her ambition alone won’t get her to the Oval Office. She begins changing her stump speech from her history as a politician to that of a woman who struggled in a male dominated world. This new take on her campaign does not help her against the popular mayor of Los Angeles.

Mayor Grayson’s political history begins to catch up with her. It is soon revealed that while she was a member of the city council, she hired illegal immigrants to work at her home. This tarnishes her image and any chance she had of becoming a viable contender for the presidency. This event also returns Governor Folsom to the leading candidate in the polls against her two male rivals.

Governor Folsom looks to be the next president at this point in the race. Her ambition aside, she continues to present her human side for the remainder of the campaign, something she hasn’t done her political life.

On election night, the first returns show her in a three way tie with her two opponents. As the night goes on it becomes clear that the Democratic candidate is the projected winner. Governor Folsom is able to garner enough electoral and popular votes to place her in second place. Her candidacy divided the Republican vote, giving the election to the Democratic candidate.

During her concession speech, Governor Folsom acknowledges her loss but doesn’t give up on the hope that someone that doesn’t look like the other presidents can eventually grow up to be president.

Friday, April 11, 2008


Based on “Oedipus”

Leonard and Judith were a happy couple living in the farming community of Turlock, California. Although they were not farmers, Leonard owned a fabric store which he inherited from his father. Leonard recently had called Miss Cleo, a psychic who advertises on late night television. The psychic told him that if Leonard had a son, he would grow up and kill him and then marry his mother. Leonard was not afraid because he had no sons, just three girls. However after the conversation with the psychic Judith surprised Leonard with the news that she was pregnant.

Leonard became a little paranoid over the next nine months. He kept assuring himself that it would be another girl since they had three in a row. Judith did not want to know the gender of the baby, so Leonard had to wait until delivery to find out if it was a boy or a girl.

Finally nine months had passed and out came the baby. It was a healthy baby boy. On this joyous day all Leonard could think of was his conversation with the psychic all those months ago. When the two were left alone with their new born son, Leonard sprung the story on his wife. She slapped him and told him he was crazy to list to some pot head psychic.

The new baby boy finally made it home from the hospital, but all Leonard could think about was the future which lied ahead for him. He had to find a way to get rid of his new son. He couldn’t kill him, even if his son were to kill him in the future. He went on Craigslist to search for new parents for his son or a possible kidnapper. Leonard had no luck, so he decided to post an ad for a “fresh baby boy.” Within minutes Leonard received multiple responses. Some were from real perverts and others from couples who seemed real genuine and interested in raising a baby boy. Leonard turned down any gays, lesbians, interracial couples, or Star Trek fans, before settling on a nice old couple from Gustine.

Leonard arranged to deliver his new baby boy to the old couple from Gustine. They seemed real excited and happy to have an opportunity to raise a baby boy. Leonard made it look as if someone broke into their home and kidnapped their baby boy to appease Judith. Life for the two would be difficult as they dealt with the loss of their baby boy.

The old couple from Gustine quickly took their new baby boy and sold him on the black market.

They sold the baby boy to Peter and Mamie, a young couple from Colfax located at the northern end of the American River. Peter and Mamie were unable to have children of their own. So given the opportunity to get one, what with adoptions being such an arduous process, they drove down to Gustine to pick up their new baby boy. The old couple had the newborn wrapped in blankets inside an Oscar Meyer Weiner box. Peter decided to name their new baby boy Oscar because of the box he slept in. The young couple drove home with their new baby boy.

Oscar loved his box so much he continued to sleep in it until one night a growth spurt hit and collapsed the entire box.

The young couple loved their new son Oscar and raised them as if he were their own. Time went on and Oscar knew nothing of his past, believing that Peter and Mamie were his biological parents.

On the night of his eighteenth birthday he and his friends did what any one who just turned eighteen years old would do, they called the psychic hotline. Oscar called Miss Cleo, still airing the same commercial she had aired all those years ago when a man from Turlock called in. The psychic gave Oscar some grim news. Oscar would kill his father and wed his mother. While Oscar fought with his father as any father and son would do on occasion and he did think his mother was extremely hot, he no desire to kill his father or marry his mother. He did think about sex with his mother, but not marriage.

So one night Oscar left Colfax without saying a word to his mother or father. He wanted to escape before any possible crime could occur. He wanted to get as far away as possible from Colfax. Oscar began his journey down Highway Five.

Also traveling on Highway Five, but in the northern direction, was Leonard. He was on his way to San Francisco for a fabric convention. Leonard pulled off to one of the gas stations off of Highway Five to fill up his fabric filled van. The gas station was packed with patrons. One of the customers was Oscar; he did not pull his vehicle all the way up aggravating Leonard. If Oscar had just pulled up Leonard would be able to use the one available pump. Leonard started yelling at the young man as to what an idiot he was for not pulling up. Oscar looked at how far up his car was and then looked back at Leonard. Oscar flipped him off.

Leonard could not take such a gesture. He got out of the van and rushed over to Oscar’s car. Leonard pulled out a knife and slashed the front tire. Oscar was surprised. He took the gas pump and sprayed the van with it dowsing the van with gasoline. Leonard got back in his van and started up the engine not realizing that the spark of the engine would ignite the gasoline. Oscar got in his car and drove over to the tire store next to the gas station to repair his tire.

While he waited for his car to be fixed he watched as the paramedics arrived at the gas station. Leonard’s crisp body was removed from the van. They used one of the surviving pieces of fabric to cover the body. No one saw that Oscar had sprayed Leonard’s van, and the explosion must have looked like a freak accident. Unbeknownst to Oscar, one of the Miss Cleo’s sayings had been fulfilled. With Oscar’s car ready to go, he returned to the road.

A little paranoid, Oscar decided to stay off Highway Five. He eventually ended up in the farming town of Turlock. He checked in at a motel. He stayed the night. The next day he decided to sell his car and buy a new vehicle. He got a great deal on a van and decided to take it. Oscar took the van for a spin around town. He came across the fabric store owned by Leonard.

There was a sign in the window which read “Help Wanted. Owner Recently Deceased.” Oscar decided to take the low key job. He walked into the store and was greeted by an attractive woman named Judith. She was in tears and in need of both consoling and help at the store. He put his arms around Judith to console her. He held her all night as she wept and well into the morning.

The next day she invited him to stay with her at her house. Instead of offering Oscar the couch or one of the girl’s bedrooms, now off at college. She offered him her bed with her in it. Oscar accepted.

The two kept busy both at the fabric store and in the bedroom. Soon the two were married fulfilling the other prophesy of Miss Cleo. Judith and Oscar lived happily together running the store and sexing it up in the bedroom. But soon sales at the fabric store started to go south, a larger chain store had opened up in town. Oscar did not know what to do. He could not compete with the big chain store. He decided to call Miss Cleo.

Once again he called the psychic and she once again gave the message she gave before. She informed him that it all came true. He could not believe it. He told Judith what the psychic had told him. She collapsed upon the news and died. Oscar was devastated.

He closed down the fabric store and decided to leave the town of Turlock. He never wanted to see rolls of fabric again. He headed north to grow grapes to make wine so he could continuously drown his sorrows. All Oscar had with him, aside from his doom and dreams of wine, was his daughter-half-sister Angela. She was the only joy in his life and remained with him until the day he died a drunken wino.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

my first published piece: "afternoon delight"

here is my first published's for the now non-functioning trajan magazine:

4:20 a time that brings a smile to the faces of many. When in the distant past the time of 3:00, or whenever schools were released, was a time on the clock that many looked forward to, it has since become later in the afternoon. 4:20, to many, comes twice in the day, a.m. and p.m. The numbers also have their own day on the calendar, the 4th month and 20th day. Marijuana has become synonymous with those numbers since 1971. It was then in 1971 at 4:20 p.m. when a small group of smokers at San Rafael High School in California met at a specific location to light up all the while creating an everlasting imprint on the marijuana culture.

Since then smokers around the world have made 4:20 their time to light up. Their light up time is illegal however. Legalization has been denied by the United States government since 1937. However ten states have recently legalized or decriminalized marijuana for medicinal purposes. Proponents of marijuana believe that it should be legalized for both medicinal use as well as recreational use. The governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger, does not believe that marijuana is even a drug. He calls it a leaf, according to an interview with the British edition of GQ. He considered weight-lifting to be a drug, not some leaf. The leaf that heals and brings pleasure to the recreational user is also believed to lead to harder non-leaf drugs.

If we ignore Governor Schwarzenegger’s label of marijuana as simply a leaf and call it a drug, it would then be considered a lower level drug. Marijuana as a lower level drug would then lead the user to a much harder drug. This makes marijuana, along with tobacco and alcohol, gateway drugs. Gateway drugs is more of theory and the belief is that the user starts with the lower forms of drugs and then goes on to the harder drugs of choice like cocaine or heroin.

If the marijuana user chooses to move on to the harder drugs it would be their choice. However that choice would come with some consequences. Marijuana is non-habit forming and no one has ever died from smoking too much marijuana. The drugs beyond the gateway, such as cocaine and heroin are highly addictive and if used too much can be lethal, or at least destructive to the human body.

Hopefully we will see the day when the use of marijuana is decriminalized or it is simply legalized. Marijuana needs to be seen for what it is and not for what it is being portrayed as a harmful and addictive drug which would lead to even worse drugs. It is a healing leaf as well as a non-harmful and non-habit forming recreational leaf, especially when compared to alcohol and tobacco as well as the drugs beyond the gateway. The time may or may not come when marijuana is treated as nothing more than a recreational enjoyment or for medicinal purposes. Until that time comes we will always have 4:20.

Friday, March 21, 2008

The Kentuckian

Jonathan Daniels and his son Andrew ventured from their home in Kentucky two days ago. Andrew brought with him his dog Jackson, named after Jonathan’s favorite president. Jonathan gave Andrew his dog as a birthday gift a year ago. That was around the time Jonathan lost his wife Rachel. After losing his wife Jonathan lost all interest in his life in Kentucky.

The two met at a young age, but waited to get married. Jonathan was an explorer and wanted to explore the Mississippi River. Upon his return from his trek up and down the river, he wed his lady in waiting. The young couple started farming tobacco and made a substantial profit from it.

Jonathan and Rachel wanted to begin a family with their new found fortune and life. They soon had a son which they named Jonathan Junior, but he died soon after birth. The young couple conceived of another child shortly after the horrifying experience and they named him Andrew. Andrew went everywhere his father went, continuously by his side. This made conceiving another child almost impossible.

The success of their tobacco farm soon turned to misfortune. Rachel, un-lady-like as it was at the time, enjoyed smoking the tobacco she and her husband grew. Little did she or Jonathan know that this would be the cause of her death.

Jonathan wanted nothing to do with the home that reminded him so much of the woman he so loved. The explorer in him wanted to get out and away from the place that reminded him of Rachel. Jonathan sold the farm and house. He decided to journey west for a new life and a new start. The two packed light and began their new life.

Days were long. Nights were scary, well scary for the young Daniels. However he had his dog Jackson by his side and his real life hero, his father, to protect him. To pass the time along their journey the two would sing songs and play various games. There were times where the journey became lonesome for both Daniels, even though they had each other.

“Are we there yet?” asked the young Daniels to his father. “Do we even know where we’re going?”

“We’ll know when we get there,” said the father.

“How?” replied the son.

Jonathan remained quiet as the two pressed on. Jackson sniffed bushes and trees causing him to lag behind at times.

“What about California?” asked Andrew.

“You hoping to find gold?” replied the older Daniels.

Andrew just smiled as he over took his father’s lead on the journey.

“Oh, so you’re leading us now,” said Jonathan. “All grown up.”

Andrew started up a hillside with his father and dog in tow.

“You know California is a long way away,” said Jonathan. “There are no trains and we might come across some Indians.”

Andrew paused on the hillside almost contemplating moving forward. Then almost has if hit by a bolt of lightning he looked toward his father. “We’ll find a way.”

Jonathan patted his son on the head and took the lead up the hillside. The two Daniels and Jackson ventured up the hill not knowing what was on the other side. They finally reached the top of the hill over looking a river valley and the westward journey that awaited them. For a moment they were alone, no signs of civilization for miles around them. No signs of life, nothing but the father and son, and their dog. They were explorers on a journey for a new life.

“That’s where we’re headed,” said Jonathan as he pointed out west. “You can’t see it yet, but our new life is out there.”

Andrew looked in amazement at the far off land of wonder which awaited them.

“You think mom would’ve liked this,” asked Andrew.

“You’re mother would have liked this view,” said Jonathan. “But she was a farmer’s daughter not an explorer.”

Andrew found a rock to sit down on, taking a rest from the long trek. Jackson walked over to him for some attention.

“So if she hadn’t died we’d have stayed home?” asked Andrew.

Jonathan looked down at his son. “We had a good life.”

Andrew sensed his father was finished with this topic of conversation. “Will we have a good life again?”

Jonathan touched the top of his son’s head and then bent down to pat Jackson. He then looked out over the journey ahead of them. “Only time will tell son.”

He began down the hillside toward the new life which awaited them. Andrew jumped up off the rock and Jackson quickly followed behind. Down the hill they went as they continued on, unsure of the future in store for the two Daniels and their dog.

“The Kentuckian”
by Thomas Hart Benton

Monday, March 17, 2008

Electing the Vice President

Since the passage of the 12th Amendment in 1804 the vice presidency has become the least sought after office. Prior to 1804 the person who received the second most electoral votes became the vice president. That meant that someone who went after the presidency was really worth the office, just look at the only two men who were elected to the office pre-12th Amendment: John Adams and Thomas Jefferson. (Aaron Burr was elected on a backfired attempt at the first ever president/vice president ticket which is a story unto itself). Up until the 1950s the 12th Amendment made the vice presidency a balancing act to a presidential election, rather than a qualified office holder for the higher office. There were some exceptions between 1804 to the 1950s of great men in the vice presidency, but truly with Richard Nixon the vice presidency became an office to be reckoned with. As the 20th Century came to an end the importance of the vice presidency became ever apparent especially with the passage of the 25th Amendment which finally stated in the Constitution that "the Vice President shall become President" upon death, resignation, or removal from office.

Recently it has been said that Senator John McCain should reveal who is on his short list for vice president, since the search for his v.p. is going on behind closed doors. And why not? Go back eight years when then-Governor George W. Bush of Texas selected former Secretary of Defense Richard B. Cheney to head up his vice president selection committee. In the end, Secretary Cheney chose himself as the best candidate for vice president. After eight years of Cheney as vice president, who has become indisputably the most powerful vice president in United States history, the citizens of the United States should have more say as to who their vice president is.

Long ago the presidential nominating conventions lost the right to pick the vice presidential candidate for either party. The presidential candidates have been the ones to choose their respective running mates. Some were once bitter rivals during the primary campaign season and then became a presidential ticket, like Senator John F. Kennedy and Senator Lyndon Johnson in 1960, former Governor Ronald Reagan and former Director of the CIA George Herbert Walker Bush in 1980, and Senator John Kerry and Senator John Edwards in 2004. The time has come for the voters to decide the vice president.

A perfect example is the 2008 Democratic primary race for president. Neither Senator Barack Obama or Senator Hillary Clinton have enough votes to obtain the Democratic nomination. The party is almost split on the decision. It has come to the point where the two need to be on the same ticket to appease supporters of both candidates whether it is Obama/Clinton or Clinton/Obama. Also with the request of McCain to reveal his "short list" of v.p. candidates, it seems ever apparent that electing a vice president instead of having the presidential candidate making his or her first presidential decision pre-presidency is what the electorate wants. During the primary election each state should not only vote for their choice for president but their choice for vice president, on a separate ballot just like in the general election.

This separate ballot primary election will once again return the stature that was taken away by the 12th Amendment and return some electoral glory to the office as well as prevent the long drawn out primary or closed door selection as seen in the 2008 presidential/vice presidential selection.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The Summary of Presidential Impeachment

Impeachment of the President of the United States is the only way to remove a president from office outside of death, resignation, or rejection by the American people in an election. Politicians say they do not want to go down the road of impeachment. Impeachment is part of the checks and balances within the Constitution. In the 219 years under the Constitution, the House of Representatives, the chamber with the power to impeach, has only written articles of impeachment on three different occasions. Of those three instances only two of those three were actually impeached, however they survived the trial in the Senate so they were not removed from office. To impeach a president, the House of Representatives in session determines the meaning of “high crimes and misdemeanors,” part of the definition of impeachment in the Constitution.

Seventy-nine years into the government under the Constitution, the House impeached a president for the first time. Andrew Johnson, from Tennessee, was the only southern senator to remain loyal to the Union after eleven southern states seceded from the Union from 1860-61. His loyalty was repaid with a spot on the bottom of the presidential ticket in the election of 1864. The Union Party of Republican Abraham Lincoln and Democrat Andrew Johnson won the election. Almost a month into Lincoln’s second term, Lincoln was shot by John Wilkes Booth while watching “Our American Cousin” at Ford’s Theater. Lincoln died the next morning elevating the loyal southern Democrat to the highest office in the land.

Vice President Andrew Johnson taking the presidential oath of office on April 15, 1865, after President Abraham Lincoln's death from an assassin's bullet.

President Johnson would continue, to the best of his ability, the plan for Reconstruction of the South as Lincoln had intended. By 1868, the Radical Republicans in the Congress were not happy with the President and his handling of Reconstruction. The legislative branch sought to curb Johnson’s executive power. The first attempt to curb Johnson’s power came in the form of the Tenure of Office Act. The act required the approval of the Senate for the President to fire anyone in a position the Senate gave their consent to. Johnson disagreed with the law and knew its true meaning, an attempt to weaken the executive. Johnson decided to test the new law by firing Secretary of War Edwin Stanton, without the consent of the Congress.

The House wrote up eleven articles of impeachment, eight having to do with Johnson’s violation of the Tenure of Office Act. Johnson knew it was more political than rational. In the Senate, Johnson survived the impeachment by a single vote on three of the articles of impeachment. Since Johnson survived three of the articles, the Senate adjourned without further consideration of the remaining eight articles. In the end, Johnson quietly finished out the remainder of the term as the Congress took control of rebuilding the Union. His impeachment was a blow to presidential power and an increase in legislative authority that would dominate the government for the next twenty years.

The Impeachment Trial of Andrew Johnson in the U.S. Senate from March to May 1868.

The Radical Republicans in the Congress wanted to be in charge of Reconstruction and were not happy with Johnson and his handling of Reconstruction and his leniency toward ex-Confederates. They created a political situation or confrontation via the Tenure of Office Act, seizing on Johnson’s violation of the law as means for removal from office.

It would be 106 years until the House of Representatives would write articles of impeachment for another president, Richard Nixon. What would seem like a “third-rate burglary” would turn into a Constitutional crisis. In 1972, operatives connected to the White House broke into the Democratic National Committee Headquarters at the Watergate hotel. Nixon knew of the break-in and began a cover up which would bring down his presidency.

President Richard Nixon released 1,254 pages of edited transcripts of 20 audio tapes on April 30, 1974, to avoid handing over subpoenaed tapes to the House Judiciary Committee. It did not help.

By the summer of 1974 impeachment of the president was being considered by the House. That summer the “smoking gun,” an audio tape implicating Nixon’s involvement, was discovered. The House Judiciary committee wrote up three articles of impeachment and voted on the articles. The three articles consisted of obstruction of justice, abuse of power, and contempt of Congress. While the Congress of the United States was a Democratic majority, Nixon was advised by leading Republicans in the Senate, headed by Barry Goldwater of Arizona, that he would not survive a trial in the Senate. Republican National Committee Chairman George Herbert Walker Bush suggested the same. Nixon resigned on August 9, 1974, at noon before the articles of impeachment could be voted on by the entire House.

In this instance, the House Judiciary committee used the political solution of impeachment to uphold the Constitution, whereas the House of the late 1860s used impeachment as a weapon in a political fight between an embattled president and Congress. Investigation into another president would begin twenty years after Nixon’s resignation.

Kenneth Starr headed the independent council’s office and began the investigation of potential illegal dealings done by the Clintons, such as the Whitewater land development. In 1998, Monica Lewinsky, a White House intern, gave a false affidavit about her relationship with President William Jefferson Clinton in the case involving Paula Jones. Clinton also lied under oath about his relationship with Lewinsky. This led Starr to begin an investigation into the Lewinsky allegations, stemming from the Jones case. Lewinsky’s stained blue dress became the “smoking gun” in this instance.

The House Judiciary voted on four articles of impeachment, three for lying under oath and one for obstruction of justice. The full House passed two articles of impeachment; both had to do with lying under oath. The president survived the trial in the Senate and completed the remaining years of his second term as popular as ever.

First Lady Hillary Clinton watches as President Bill Clinton addresses his impeachment by the House of Representatives to the press and the nation on December 19, 1998.

Johnson and Clinton were both impeached because of those that ran the House of Representatives did not like the Chief Executive. The House sought to remove from office someone they did not agree with or get along with. The attempt to impeach Nixon was justifiable, an effort to uphold the Constitution, however he resigned before a full House vote of impeachment could take place. Nixon would not have survived a trial in the Senate. The three terms of Congress which made up George W. Bush’s first six years of the presidency did not contemplate impeachment. The Republicans who led the Congress did not see the need to investigate the president. When the Democratic Party took control of the House of Representatives in 2007, an assurance of no impeachment was given in the run up to the 2006 mid-term elections. Comparing the possible impeachable offenses made by Bush and his administration to his impeached or would be impeached predecessors leads to the realization that the sitting members of the House of Representatives do determine what is a “high crime and misdemeanor.”