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.