Tag: American Presidents

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Three of our last four Presidents were born in the summer of 1946. They were born to parents on the leading edge of the switch in national priorities from producing war materiel to producing babies. In fact, the Trumps were ahead of the other two couples, giving birth to their future president in June of […]

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‘Destiny of the Republic’ by Candice Millard

 

On July 2, 1881, James A. Garfield was shot by Charles Guiteau in the Baltimore and Potomac Railway Station in Washington, D.C. Unlike the bullet wounds suffered by Abraham Lincoln, a mere 16 years earlier, these wounds were not fatal. The first shot passed through Garfield’s right arm before embedding itself harmlessly in the wall. The second shot entered his back four inches from his spinal column, traveled downward ten inches, then came to rest behind his pancreas. What became immediately apparent upon his autopsy was that Garfield’s death, two months later on September 19, was the direct result of the medical care he received.

The first half of the book is a twin biography of Garfield and Guiteau. The assassination takes place at roughly the midway point in the narrative. Born into abject poverty in Ohio in 1831, Garfield’s father died when he was only two years old. His mother and older brother recognized his intelligence and aptitude as a student and made provisions for him to continue his education, rather than go to work when he came of age. During his first year of college, Garfield made money as a janitor and working with a local carpenter. In his second year of college, he was named an associate professor and taught six classes in addition to his own studies. At just 26, he was named president of the university. What followed was a rise to Civil War general, congressman, and state senator before finally being named the Republican Party’s compromise candidate on the 36th ballot at the 1880 convention.

The second half of the book goes into excruciating detail of the medical care and ignorance and egotism of the doctors who treated Garfield over the two months after his shooting. They dismissed the ideas of antisepsis pioneered by Dr. Joseph Lister, whose practices at his own hospital greatly reduced deaths caused by post-surgical infections. Garfield’s wounds and treatments are told graphically and may make some readers squeamish.

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Happy President’s Day! I thought I would take this opportunity to share a little project that I’ve been working on. I have always enjoyed reading and I have always enjoyed history, but politics was never really my thing. The political polarization of our current era gave me a much greater appreciation and it led me […]

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Morality and Efficacy in Leadership

 

Peter Robinson issued a writing challenge in Romney on Trump:

To what extent is Mitt Romney correct? [Romney asserted: “To a great degree, a presidency shapes the public character of the nation.”]

I found myself turning back to questions of personal versus political morality or virtue. That brought back contrasts between Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. On that pairing, I recalled a national talk show host claiming, in 2006, that personally morally upright men did not have what it took to do what good leaders must. This was a superficial riff on The Prince. My response at the time, spring of 2006, still seems fairly on point [clarifications in brackets]:

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One of the things I like about traveling around the country is exploring each state’s contributions to American culture. I visit the museums and national parks and only eat at local places. Ask me where my favorite lunch spot is and I’ll tell you it’s in a gas station in Kansas City. I’m working through […]

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It is without question, a hot political season. Lots of sweating and hand wringing in Washington, and between opposing parties. Tension permeates the air with protests at campaign speeches and it’s only March. Welcome to America 2016. We’ve witnessed new movements among minorities, sit-ins at colleges, changes in politics, gender identity, religion, the environment, healthcare, a refugee […]

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What Are the Best Books on American Presidents? — Nick Baldock

 

It is a long-term ambition of mine to read a full-length biography of every dead American president, and I confidently assume that the good folk at Ricochet can help me with some recommendations.

I do not want a definitely ‘conservative’ or right-wing selection, please; I want, as far as possible, a decently scholarly and balanced series of historical-biographies. Conservative correction of hagiography – as, I suspect, with JFK – I understand may be necessary.