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As my friends and family know, I’m a bookhound. I’m also an unabashed political freak/nerd/addict. I’m no authority but I have watched every presidential election since Eisenhower versus Stevenson. Yes, I was only six in their first dust up in 1952 but I watched the rematch in 1956 alongside my mother, a lifelong Democrat. We commiserated together when Stevenson lost in an even bigger landslide the second time. In a few years, however, Stevenson proved his worth with his famous “I’m prepared to wait for my answer until Hell freezes over” speech at the UN during the Cuban Missile Crisis. How things change. The Soviet Union is gone and our president elect is enjoying a lovefest with Russian President Vladimir Putin. He is also considering withdrawing support from the UN.
The first book I read (at around 10) on the Presidents of the United States was Floyd I. McMurrray’s Pathways of our Presidents. The book, my older brother’s book, was printed in 1939 and the last President covered was Franklin Roosevelt who was still in office when the book was published. In the naivety of youth, I found the book fascinating. Kirkus Review, something I did not read until writing this blog, had a different assessment:
Mr. McMurray is very kind to our presidents, over-generous in praise, with “”colorless”” the strongest term of reproach. The chapters are essays on each president, home environment, education, former offices, death. Undue amount of space given to description of tombs and cemeteries. Content of book would provide good data for an “”obit”” department in a newspaper file record. Possible use for reference, but certainly not a book for everyone’s shelf.
Okay. But, that book is still in my possession (bookhound, remember) and flawed as it is (future Presidents are referred to as “lads” or “boys”, never girls, and the unmentioned assumption is that the norm is white men—actually quite prescient until eight years ago) it enthused me with a passion that I’ve never lost.
You might enjoy this amusing paragraph from the introduction:
The exacting labors of official life seem to rest with greater weight upon the incumbents than on the First Ladies for, as this narrative will reveal, seven wives of former Presidents are now living (1939) while there is but one ex-President alive. The widows, for the most part, reside in property once shared with their illustrious husbands. It is also singular that the number of Vice-Presidents exceeds the presidential list by one. To date, we have had thirty-one different Presidents but thirty-two Vice-Presidents. It must be remembered that one President, namely Grover Cleveland, served at two separate times. However, eleven Presidents have been re-elected while only four Vice-Presidents have “made the grade” a second time.
Such amazing facts will serve you well should you find yourself on a TV Quiz show or a game of jeopardy.
I’m going to engage in a little Presidential history with the aid of my favorite group, the Napkin Artists of the Sea Gull Cellar Bar. But first, the other day to remember this weekend.
During my time at the Sea Gull Restaurant, there were four Presidents: Nixon, Ford, Carter and Reagan. When I took over the reigns in 1973, Nixon was entangled in the Watergate Scandal and resigned the next year. Gerald Ford ascended to the Presidency and picked Nelson Rockefeller as his Vice President. Ford and his VP pick, Bob Dole, lost to Jimmy Carter and Walter Mondale in 1976. It was Carter’s bad luck to be elected during a period when everything went wrong: unemployment, inflation (stagflation), the energy crisis, the hostage crisis to name just a few. It was like walking into quicksand. Ronald Reagan defeated Carter in the 1980 election.
Our President Elect, Donald Trump, campaigned using the same words Ronald Reagan used in his Make America Great Again Speech. The confluence of factors contributing to his surprising victory has been hashed out by the press and scholars in numerous reports since the election. What has received surprisingly little press are a few facts that undermine many of the promises made by the President Elect, promises that will be hard to keep.
Second, while the Republicans have a majority in both houses of Congress, many of Trump’s policies are counter to long standing Republican goals, balancing the budget for example.
Third, even if the President Elect is able to achieve his stated goals, the economic impact may not be what he expects.
Finally, at least at this moment in time the country seems hopelessly divided. How this will play out as we move forward is quite uncertain.
The financial markets have responded favorably thus far although stock prices seem to have stalled recently. One thing investors hate is uncertainty and the level of uncertainty is very high today.
“It’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future.” Yogi Berra
I will go out on a limb and say that I suspect things will not go well for Donald Trump. I base my prediction on a line from a line in Adam Gopnik’s recent New Yorker article, The Music Donald Trump Can’t Hear: “There is no music in this man.” Believe it or not, that is what bothers me the most.