Note 2008 November 5. Barack Obama has been elected President of the United States. I predict that he will be the next Crisis President of the US. So I have created another row in my table and put Barack Obama below Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
Earlier this year (2004), I started a series in my blog Beyond Opinion about how the Presidents of the United States of America form patterns in its history. I originally got the idea when someone told me that President George W. Bush resembles Herbert Hoover. I then thought he resembles James Buchanan as well, as being the president that preceded a major crisis in this country. This reminds me of the Turnings of Strauss and Howe, which consist of the First Turning, or High; the Second Turning, or Awakening; the Third Turning, or Unraveling, and the Fourth Turning, the Crisis. Right now we are somewhere on the border between the Third and Fourth Turnings. It seems to me that if the turnings go in a regular fashion, that so might the Presidents of our country. Further, one may line up the sequences, or saecula, of history, one above the other and the result would then resemble the Periodic Table of the chemical elements, so that I use one and two-letter abbreviations for the Presidents, as for the elements. Such a table would look like this:
The following table explains the Presidential types more clearly, but the table then has to be transposed to fit on a web page:
|Number||Type||Turning||Early||Great Power||Millennial||21st Century|
|0||Crisis||4||George Washington||Abraham Lincoln||Franklin Roosevelt||Barack Obama|
|1||Outspoken||1||John Adams||Andrew Johnson||Harry Truman|
|2||National Hero||1||Thomas Jefferson||Ulysses Grant||Dwight Eisenhower|
|3||Golden Age||1||James Madison
|Rutherford Hayes||John F. Kennedy|
|4||Gap||2||John Quincy Adams||Lyndon Johnson|
|5||Expansive||2||Andrew Jackson||Richard Nixon|
|6||Supportive||2||Martin Van Buren||William McKinley||Jimmy Carter|
|7||Regressive||2||John Tyler||William Howard Taft||Gerald Ford|
|8||Optimistic||3||James Knox Polk||Woodrow Wilson||Ronald Reagan|
|9||Held-back||3||Millard Fillmore||Calvin Coolidge||George HW Bush|
|10||Popular||3||Franklin Pierce||Warren Harding||William Jefferson Clinton|
|11||Nero/Hamlet||3||James Buchanan||Herbert Hoover||George W Bush|
What follows below are the blogs that I wrote in 2004 in Beyond Opinion, in order of the Presidential type. I note in these blogs that the system isn't perfect, and it seems that many of the columns or families of Presidents have an odd entry in them. For example, Jefferson in the National Heroes column was an Ideas Hero, not a War Hero; George W. Bush is an active Nero/Hamlet, instead of a passive one, and there seemed to have been no corruption or scandal per se in Franklin Pierce's government.
One of the things that comes out of this table is that the next entry to be filled is the Fourth Crisis President, and the first three are noted by historians as among the best in our history. They were that way because they handled a major crisis of some type. So will the next President, who will have to face a myriad of crises stemming from the overgrowth of our species, as first depicted in the Club of Rome's report on the Price of Progress, with the first possibly being Peak Oil.
Periodic Presidents 0: The Crisis Presidents
I have saved the best for last [in the blogs, but these come
first in this web page]. The Presidents who have served our country during
its biggest crises are the best Presidents that we have had. All of the historians
and pundits put these four Presidents over all the others in their ranking
systems. Yet in many ways, George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Franklin D.
Roosevelt, and Barack Obama were ordinary people or Presidents who happened
to take office during a crisis. The crisis drove them to do great things for
America and its people. They were as fallible as the other Presidents. George
Washington supposedly lied about the cherry tree. Lincoln chose his generals
poorly. Franklin Roosevelt had at least one extramarital affair. Barack Obama's
minister said "God Damn America" in a sermon. But we remember them
for, and put some of them on our currency for, their handling of the crises,
something that Strauss and Howe call the Fourth Turning. When a crisis comes,
the people follow their leader in helping them get out of it. There can be
only one Fourth Turning president, unless something like death occurs, because
people don't like to change horses midstream. This is why Franklin Roosevelt
served four consecutive terms. Lincoln served only one term because the Civil
War was brutal, but short. The American Revolution crisis created the US Presidency,
so there was no time for more than one President then. Will the 22nd Amendment
be repealed for Barack Obama?
George Washington is known as the father of our country. He led the troops during the Revolution, and after the states found the Articles of Confederation to be unsatisfactory, helped them write the Constitution and served as its first President. The Revolution Crisis finally ended when George Washington exerted his new authority to quell the Whiskey Rebellion.
Abraham Lincoln inherited a nation split in half. He made sure with his actions that the Union which was formed four score and seven years previous would be preserved. He did stumble in a few places. His first general, McClellan, would just play with the Confederates, going up to them but not attacking. After this led to the Confederates charging into Pennsylvania, Lincoln did something about it, resulting in the bloody Battle of Gettysburg. He then proceeded to destroy the South, with Sherman's March to the Sea with its brutal actions to people along the way, and with the effort spent in Virginia trying to defeat Lee's army, although at times he did so poorly that his reelection was in doubt for a while. He finally defeated the Confederates in 1865 April, the most cataclysmic month in American history. A week after the war ended, he was assassinated.
Franklin D. Roosevelt won election on a theme of doing something better for the nation, as he told us that we had nothing to fear but fear itself. He took bold new unheard-of steps to get America out of the Great Depression, including spending way in the hole to get people working again with regular paychecks. This Depression spread around the world, and this did not react well in Europe and Japan. Another world war occurred, and when the Japanese attacked at Pearl Harbor, Roosevelt immediately said we were at war, and that we were going to put an end to Japan's imperialism. And he did so with a war effort that eventually paid off in victory in both fronts, although it pulled the dreaded nuclear-weapon genie out of the bottle.
Barack H. Obama also won election on a theme of doing something better for the nation, as he told us that it is time for change. He will take office on 2009 January 20, and will have to deal with some serious crises, the foremost of which is Peak Oil; oil supplies will be declining during his term. His election was historic in that for the first time, a person of African descent has been elected President. He seems to have the character and charisma to deal with the crises, and to me he resembles both Abraham Lincoln (another Crisis President) and John F. Kennedy (a Golden Age President), and may take his place in history with the other Presidents in this group, starting Row 4, which I call 21st Century.
Periodic Presidents 1: Outspoken Presidents
With this blog I begin a new series on the Presidents of the United States. This was sparked by someone telling me that our present President Bush resembles Hoover. I realized that he did. He was the President before a Crisis Period in our history, something called a Fourth Turning by Strauss and Howe. I then realized that there was quite a bit of similarity, and further I could set up similarities among the Presidents throughout our history, coming up with something that looks like a Periodic Table, as though the Presidents were elements. Certain Presidents, such as Hoover and Bush (43), lie in the same column of the Periodic Table, and so are similar to each other. I shall give my impressions of the Presidents in each of the 12 columns of this Periodic Table, and shall at some time exhibit the table as well. This table is based on the Generational Turnings of Strauss and Howe, so that each of the four Turnings has about 3-4 Presidents associated with it in each of the rows of the table, which Strauss and Howe call saecula. Note that four Presidents don't fall into my table because they did not serve long enough: William Henry Harrison, Zachary Taylor, and James Garfield.
Today I will start with the First Turning, with Column 1 of the table, the Outspoken Presidents. The three Presidents in this column are John Adams, Andrew Johnson, and Harry Truman.
John Adams was the second President of the United States, from 1797-1801. To me his most memorable artifact was the Alien and Sedition Acts, which were eerily similar to our Patriot Act. They sought to limit the rights of foreigners and others in this country. Fortunately they did not go much of anywhere. I have read that John Adams indeed was outspoken, hard to get along with, and obstinate in his views.
Andrew Johnson was the President that followed Lincoln (1865-1869) and had the job of overseeing the Reconstruction in the South after the Civil War. He was a Democrat with Southern leanings, but wanted to follow Lincoln's plans. The Congress at that time was dominated by radical Republicans, and they insisted on their way, which included passing the 12-14th amendments and making the South ratify these before being readmitted to the Union and having Federal troops being withdrawn. This resulted in fights, which Johnson saw fit to fight rather than strike a deal with the Congress. Eventually this led to his being impeached by Congress (for firing Secretary Staunton after Congress forbade him from doing so), and being acquitted by one vote. His obstinacy impeded progress in readmitting the former Confederate states into the Union.
Harry S. Truman was President from 1945-1953. Like his predecessors, he was outspoken and communicated his desires frankly. For example, when the Soviet Union threatened to invade Iran, he said that if they did that, we will drop the Bomb on them. They retreated. His strong positions on issues of the time led to his being regarded now as one of our better Presidents, although he did let a bit of scandal creep into his adminstration.
Periodic Presidents 2: National Heroes
The next column in my periodic table of the Presidents is Column 2, National Heroes. In this column go Thomas Jefferson, Ulysses S. Grant, and Dwight Eisenhower. The common property of these Presidents is that they were major operational heroes during the Crisis, and because of their popularity, they were elected presidents. They sort of made good presidents, but their record as President can't compare with their record as National Hero during the Crisis.
Thomas Jefferson differs from the others in that he was an abstract idea hero, rather than a military hero. Thomas Jefferson, in my opinion, is the third greatest person ever to have lived, trailing only Buddha and Copernicus. He penned many of the ideas of the democratic form of government, which was eventually to have an effect on governments everywhere. A majority of the Constitutions of nations on this planet are now based on the US Constitution, which was the result of the application of Thomas Jefferson's ideas. He was one of our better presidents, having bought the Louisiana Purchase from Napoleon and doubled US territory. However, it is his ideas that we will remember him for.
Gen. Ulysses S. Grant was a fine general in the Civil War, eventually defeating the Confederates with its charismatic leader Gen. Robert E. Lee. However, as President, he wasn't so good. He was honest, but allowed unscrupulous things to go on in his government, especially his second term. He is now generally rated as one of the worst of the Presidents because of these scandals. Once again, we remember Grant as a Civil War general rather than as a President.
Gen. Dwight David Eisenhower was the Supreme Commander of Allied Forces in Europe, and as such was responsible for the defeat of the Nazis and the restoration of a war-battered Europe. His careful planning of D-Day turned that invasion into a success that won the war a year later, creating a generation of heroes. This made him so popular that he was elected President in 1952. He was okay as a President, with one major failure: the U-2 crisis, and he forcefully dealt with Khrushchev's rants during the early days of the Cold War. But we will always remember him for what he did during the war rather than as President.
These Presidents had to deal with wars that were echoes of the Crisis. The Plains Indians Wars were an echo of the Civil War, and the Korean War echoed World War II. The War of 1812 came in Madison's term, and I wonder if James Madison should also be included as a National Hero President. However, Madison's hero status was much less than Jefferson's.
Periodic Presidents 3: Golden Age Presidents
And so the Periodic Presidents series continues with the third column: Golden Age Presidents. The Presidents in this category are James Madison, James Monroe, Rutherford B. Hayes, and John F Kennedy. These are the characteristic Presidents of the First Turning of Strauss and Howe. These Presidents presided over an America that for the most part was at peace, where the outlook is optimistic, and which seem to be a utopia or golden age for this country as a whole. Sometimes this age comes with a name: The Era of Good Feelings or Camelot. Here the Periodic Presidents classification system gets a little distorted. Camelot lasted less than three years, but the Era of Good Feelings lasted two whole Presidential terms of two different Presidents: Madison and Monroe, a total of 16 years. One reason for this is that while most Crisis periods last up to 20 years, the Civil War was only four years long. There is some question as to whether Madison was a National Hero president instead, but he does not fit the mold as easily as Jefferson. These are the Presidents:
James Madison was President from 1809-1817. During his term, opposition to the prevalent Democrat-Republicans faded away, and the age, although feeling good with a good deal of societal structure in a new democracy, seemed stale and not moving anywhere. There was the War of 1812, which was a pointless war that resembled the Revolution to some extent. It was not popular with all groups in the society at that time.
James Monroe followed him from 1817-1825. He is most noted for the Monroe Doctrine, America's way of asserting independence for itself and in fact for the entire hemisphere. It stated that there shall be no interference from the Eastern Hemisphere with any country in the Western Hemisphere. The Era of Good Feelings continued during his term, and by his second term, he had only token opposition to being re-elected.
Rutherford B. Hayes (1877-1881) presided over a Golden Age, but a rather sterile one dominated by the acquisition of the buck. He was a man of high integrity, as was his opponent Samuel Tilden, but although Tilden had both popular and electoral majorities, the Republicans found a way through manipulating the Southern states to get Hayes elected. In return, Hayes pulled the troops out of the South, which must have been a relief from these states. It may have been a Golden Age in that peace returned, but along with peace came Jim Crow, something another period of time would have to correct.
John F. Kennedy (1961-1963) was one of the most charismatic presidents in history. He presided over an Age of great hope: for human conquest of space, for racial equality, and for numerous other things. He also presided over a crisis that could have resulted in nuclear war, in 1962 over Cuba. He was popular with people and with women, and there are stories about his extramarital doings. His presidency was labeled Camelot, an image which may have been enhanced by his assassination in 1963.
Periodic Presidents 4: Gap Presidents
It took me a while to write this on the next row in the Periodic Table of the Presidents. Notice I now say "row". Normally the chemical table of the elements is presented as a landscape, with the levels being rows, and the groups of similar elements being columns. In my Presidents table, I have it in portrait view, with the groups of similar presidents as rows, and the periods of history as columns. I do this so that it will fit well on a computer screen. If I did it like the chemical elements, it would be either scrunched up too much, or it would spread over the end of the screen on the right.
The Gap Presidents are John Quincy Adams, Chester Arthur, Benjamin Harrison, and Lyndon Johnson. (Garfield did not serve long enough to be included.) Yes, they are out of order, skipping Grover Cleveland. The table does not predict everything - see my next chapter on Expansive Presidents. These presidents are not particularly noteworthy, and they are not among those we remember most often as presidents. They were presidents at or near the beginning of a Second Turning of American history, and so they can act somewhat nonplussed about the social unrest that comes with a Second Turning. Here are my impressions of these presidents.
I don't remember John Quincy Adams very much from history texts, but I do note that he did not win a majority of the electoral votes, and he did not come in first - Andrew Jackson. Since there was no majority, all the candidates went to the House, and then Henry Clay threw his support to Adams, causing Adams to get elected. It was during John Quincy Adams' term that the Era of Good Feelings ended. An opposition party (Whig) developed, and there was quite a bit of bickering among politicians of the day.
Chester Arthur may not have expected to become President. He became such through an assassin's bullet. His administration was adequate, but he did not do much during his term to become memorable, and he was turned down by his own party for the nomination at the end of his term: the Republicans nominated James Blaine. He seemed to have been a party man and cooperated with the party bosses of the day.
Benjamin Harrison is the President coming in between the two terms of Cleveland. He is out of place here, and should have come before Cleveland. He got to the Presidency here because of the quirk in our electoral process called the Electoral College. He worked everything himself instead of delegating. He was opposed to the gold and silver standard, and made the case for gold only. Six states joined the Union during his Presidency, nearly bringing the country to its present appearance. Typical of Gap presidents, he has been described as "cold", "boring" and lacking in the type of leadership the US Presidency requires.
I do remember Lyndon Johnson from my college days. He took over the Presidency when Golden Age President Kennedy was assassinated, and he defeated Republican candidate Barry Goldwater in 1964. His administration was notable for a number of things, including The Great Society, but it is his bogging this country down in the Vietnam War for which he will be remembered.
Periodic Presidents 5: Expansive Presidents
Yesterday I talked about Column 4 of my Periodic Table of the Presidents, the Gap Presidents. I found it difficult to talk about them because they did not have that much in common, but what they had in common is that they filled a gap between the Golden Age Presidents (Column 3) and the next column.
Today I shall talk about Column 5 (no, not the fifth column, as in political!) of the table. These are the Expansive Presidents, and these Presidents did have something in common. They wanted to expand the region of extent of America somehow. They are Andrew Jackson, Grover Cleveland, Theodore Roosevelt, and Richard Nixon. The first thing to notice about these is that they are not in sequence. The Periodic Table does not explain everything about Presidents, any more than the Periodic Table of the Elements explain everything about chemistry. For example, elements 6, 7, 8, and 9; in other words, carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, and fluorine, are a crumbly black substance (or a beautifully clear gem), a somewhat inert gas, a reactive gas, and a highly reactive gas. They form a sequence in order. But look what happens when we combine these with hydrogen. We get methane, ammonia, water, and hydrogen fluoride. Water is really out of place here, a liquid amongst gases. Goes to show that simple tables like these can't explain everything.
And neither can my Presidents table. They are out of order. [The table is most chaotic in the Second Turning.] These presidents really resemble each other, and our nation is huge and powerful in part because of them. These Presidents are the characteristic Presidents of a Second Turning. Here are their descriptions:
Andrew Jackson (1829-1837) right away took an activist stand when he became President. He brought in the merit system as opposed to the spoils system, and he expanded our land by ways which I would not approve of now. Sharpknife (as he was known to Native Americans) first supported the Cherokees againsta the Choctaws, then he forced the entire tribe out of Echotaland (parts of Georgia, Tennessee, and North Carolina) into Oklahoma in the "Trail of Tears", causing the death of a large number along the way. He also centralized the government in many ways, doing away with many Era of Good Feelings features.
Grover Cleveland (1885-1889 and 1893-1897) was the only President in our history to serve two non-consecutive terms. He was an exceptionally strong President, favoring huge tariffs on foreign goods to support US industry, especially in the South. The South responded with huge, in some places 80-20%, majorities in his favor in the 1888 Presidential election against Benjamin Harrison, giving him a popular majority. However, he lost several northern states by slim margins, giving Harrison the electoral majority. But he came back against Harrison in 1892 and this time took both the electoral and popular vote, helped by the addition of six new states during Harrison's term. He was the original Veto President, sort of like the Veto Monster (Bill Clinton), hitting 300 bills with his veto.
Theodore Roosevelt (1901-1908) continued in Cleveland's tradition, speaking softly while carrying a big stick. He sought to expand US influence in the world by the threat of intervention whenever troublemakers surfaced in the world. He expanded the role of US President in the world and also expanded US influence as well.
Richard Nixon (1969-1974) started out in the same tradition. He imposed wage and price controls, and dealt with overseas enemies by making everything "perfectly clear". He expanded US influence by opening up Communist China to the world. China was later to become one of the places where the Dot Com boom of the 1990s was led. However, he ruined it all by ordering the bugging of Democratic Headquarters at Watergate, and then lying about it and stopping investigations into it. The resulting scandal forced him to resign in 1974. This negated his otherwise good record in the world, which also included bringing the Vietnam War to a close, albeit too slowly.
Periodic Presidents 6: Supportive Presidents
The next category in my Periodic Presidents is the Supportive Presidents, in column (or row) 6. It's been a while since I have blogged about the Periodic Presidents, and part of this is that it is hard to write about Second Turning presidents - they are hard to classify. The Presidents nearest to the Fourth Turnings are the easiest to classify.
Nevertheless, the supportive presidents, namely Martin Van Buren, William McKinley, and Jimmy Carter, are a letdown from the Presidents that preceded them; Jackson, Cleveland, T. Roosevelt, and Nixon are hard acts to follow. Nevertheless, they supported and carried on the innovations of the preceding Expansive presidents, and kept our nation's ball rolling during a tumultuous time, namely a Second Turning. Further, there is an irregularity, maybe caused by the only Presidential resignation in our history. Normally, Supportive presidents follow Expansive ones, then are followed by Regressive ones, but the reverse occurred in the late 20th Century: Carter followed Ford. Some more details on the Supportive Presidents follow:
Martin Van Buren was one of the few Vice Presidents in our country to become President (George H. W. Bush was another one). He was different from Jackson all right. Davy Crockett once said, "Van Buren is as opposite to General Jackson as dung is from diamond." As is the case with Supportive presidents in general, Van Buren faced a poor economy caused by the Panic of 1837, and he could not do much about it except to allow the Treasury to operate outside private banks. He did settle a couple of nasty disputes with Canada, and he managed to hold the peace between pro and anti-slavery groups.
William McKinley was a product of the Ohio political machine run by Mark Hanna. He won reelection in a race similar to 2004's race, and somewhat reminiscent of The Wizard of Oz. He did not campaign all over the place; he stayed in Ohio and issued edicts, sort of like what the Wizard did. He did not have too bad an economy to deal with, but he did get into a couple of foreign skirmishes, most notably the Spanish-American war, the war in which Spain lost the last remnants of its New World empire. He annexed Hawaii, although that was painful for some Hawaiians. He made America known in the world, causing him to get reelected; unfortunately, a malcontent of Polish origin shot him in Buffalo in 1901 and he died shortly afterward.
Jimmy Carter continued some of the policies of the Nixon administration, most notably, his opening up to the world. This president came close to doing the impossible during his administration, namely getting an Arab country (Egypt) and Israel to agree to a peace treaty that has been maintained to the present day. However, he could not do much about a bad economy caused by oil shocks and his attempt to do something about the Iranian hostage crisis led to the failed rescue attempt. This and an economy of high unemployment and high inflation caused him to lose reelection in 1980, ushering in the Third Turning with an Idealistic president, Ronald Reagan. Jimmy Carter got his real fame after the Presidency by his continuing social work in many countries across the globe, helping him earn the Nobel Peace Prize in 2002; he is the only President ever to receive that prestigious prize.
Periodic Presidents 7: Regressive Presidents
The Presidents in column 7 of the Periodic Table are the Regressive Presidents. I call them that because they seem to be overshadowed by immediate past Presidents, and because they seem to regress to an earlier time. They come near the end of a Second Turning and are a sign that society is getting tired of the tumult and that people want to just get on with their lives. They are John Tyler, William Howard Taft, and Gerald Ford, and note that they sometimes come before a Supportive President and sometimes after.
John Tyler became President when William Henry Harrison (who is not one of the Periodic Presidents) died after serving only one month. He was steadfast in his views and therefore made political enemies, helping to defeat him in 1844. He was from the South and had definitely pro-Southern and pro-slavery views. John Adams accused him of being from the Jeffersonian Virginia school. He lived for a time after his Presidency, which did include some foreign achievements, and eventually wound up in the Confederate House of Representatives.
William Howard Taft was somewhat of a letdown after the courageous bellicoseness of Theodore Roosevelt. After Roosevelt's two terms, Taft ran for President at Roosevelt's urging and easily defeated William Jennings Bryan. Congress passed an unpopular law, Taft signed it and so the public blamed him for it. Hence his presidency did not seem to do much, and it ended when Theodore turned against him in 1912 and ran on a third party ticket, ensuring Woodrow Wilson's election.
Gerald Ford was our nation's only non-elected President. He picked up where Nixon left off and carried us back to the early Nixon period, featuring opening up relations with other nations and maintaining the economy, which was bad, the best he could.
Periodic Presidents 8: Optimistic Presidents
NOTE: I now call these the Optimistic Presidents, instead of Idealistic Presidents. although Wilson had many great ideas. These Presidents made Americans feel good about themselves, which is why I call them Optimistic.
With Column 8 of the Periodic Table, we head now into the Third Turning, a feel-good time which also features the decay to some extent of societal institutions. The three Presidents in this column, James Knox Polk, Woodrow Wilson, and Ronald Reagan, are the Archetypal Presidents of a Third Turning, and in general they presented ideas or feelings that helped the individual feel good about himself or society; for this reason, all three were popular with the people, and they also are regarded as some of our better Presidents, except maybe Reagan because of scandals. The decay of society is a negative feature of this time, however, and in fact when an Idealistic President is in the White House, a major crisis for this country is coming in 10-20 years.
James Knox Polk made early Americans feel good because he supported the concept of Manifest Destiny at the time, in which America felt destined to go from Atlantic to Pacific and there is enough resources and land for everyone. Texas became a state during his administration, triggering a one-sided war with Mexico which resulted in even more territory being added to America. Polk negotiated with the British over Oregon and settled for 49 degrees, even though his campaign slogan was "54d 40" or fight!" He took the South's side more often than not, but he tried to walk the increasingly tight rope between North and South.
Woodrow Wilson was a college professor by trade. He became President because of a Republican split between Taft and Theodore Roosevelt. Confronted with a major world war, he strived to keep us out of it. When America was offended enough so that it wanted to go to war, Wilson did what was necessary to send the men over there, win the war, and bring them home. He strove afterwards to achieve a world without war safe for democracy, with ideas such as a League of Nations. However, America voted not to join the league, and Wilson's advice was ignored. It was nice to think about, but it would not work in that world, which was destined to explode twenty years later.
Ronald Reagan opened up his Presidency with the slogan, "Are you better off now than four years ago?" He made Americans feel better off by cutting taxes and by saying this was the Morning of America. Of course it was late afternoon instead, but at least he had people feeling good about the country, and they responded with a huge prosperity that lasted in some form until the dot-com bust of 2000. He recently died, and his burial was in an appropriate place and time, in the West at sunset.
Incidentally, someone else got the same idea as I had… a periodic table of the presidents. This one seems to be more humorous, and there does not seem to be much rhyme or reason to this table. It is interesting that some of the Presidential elements fall in the right place - Franklin Roosevelt (Fr) is in the same place as Francium (Fr) is in the real chemical table. The author of this table has us going off into a rare-earth series - how symbolic. Many resources, including oil, are indeed becoming rare on earth.
Periodic Presidents 9: Laid-Back Presidents
NOTE: I now call these "Held-Back" presidents.
This column is hard to label. This clearly is an interlude series, similar to the Regressive or the Gap Presidents. I chose "laid-back" because it seems that these three Presidents, Milliard Fillmore, Calvin Coolidge, and George H. W. Bush, led the country in a low-key way. These Presidents are in stark contrast to Column 10, the Popular Presidents, when all sorts of things started to happen. In fact, sometimes the laid-back President follows the Popular president, and sometimes preceded him. These Presidents presided over a Third Turning, when people are busy doing their thing while important problems don't get solved. When a Laid-Back President is in office, a major crisis is 5-10 years away. These Presidents could have faced the crisis head-on but it was hard, and more comfortable to let things go by.
Milliard Fillmore succeeded Zachary Taylor when Taylor died in office. Taylor is not in the table because he did not serve long enough. A lot of things happened in his administration, most of them concerning slavery. The Fugitive Slave act was passed, resulting in the Underground Railroad, as large numbers of runaway slaves followed the Drinking Gourd. The compromise of 1850 was reached, which gave a piece of the pie to both pro-slavery and anti-slavery factions. Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote Uncle Tom's Cabin. It was clear that the nation was splitting along pro and anti slavery lines, and Fillmore could have done something about it, even at the risk of civil war. Civil war happened anyway ten years later.
Calvin Coolidge became President when Popular President Harding died. He presided in one of the most boomingly prosperous periods of our history, the Roaring Twenties. The horse was put to pasture as large numbers of people were able to buy automobiles. The stock market kept on going up and up and up with no end in sight, and people risked their fortunes buying on margin to get more and more of the money. He was definitely low-key as he kept a lot of thoughts to himself, and even went into depression once or twice. He kept the economy roaring by cutting taxes several times. Hence he was not addressing the main problem, which was that the entire economic system was fragile and one cataclysmic event could send everything into a tailspin. But he got out of the Presidency before that could happen.
George H. W. Bush followed Reagan, after one of the worst stock market crashes in our history, the one of 1987. The economy had been going full steam, encouraged by Reagan's tax cuts and by the development of computers. He kept things going as they were, and a let down occurred, a recession that eventually cost him reelection. In the meantime he did send 200,000 troops to Kuwait to stop Iraq's Saddam Hussein's takeover of that country in Persian Gulf War I, after carefully building up a multinational coalition. But not even 90% post-war prosperity could prevent the downturn of the economy and the downfall of his Presidency.
Periodic Presidents 10: Popular Presidents
There's something about these Presidents. Franklin Pierce was
attractive to the ladies. Warren G. Harding let his people do what they want,
and they got into peccadilloes and scandals all over the place. And then there's
Bill Clinton with that intern, leading to some dispute over what the definition
of "is" is.
Nevertheless, it is hard for me to place a word on these. I first called them Sexy Presidents, and there was certainly sex involved with Clinton. But it is only sexy looks with Pierce, and although there may have been a bordello in Washington, there was much more to Harding than just sexual things. I thought of "sleaze", and am thinking of the individual who gets his way with people by dealing with them and giving them what they want. Both Harding and Clinton were good at this, and it is a primary reason why both became Presidents. I shall call them Popular Presidents because of this column's way with people.
So how could Presidents get away with these things? Because people are off doing their own thing, and they let civic structures, including the Presidency, fall apart. These are typical Third Turning presidents, especially late Third Turning, where things may be headed towards a turning point. In fact, when a Popular President is in the White House, a crisis is 5-10 years away.
Franklin Pierce differs somewhat from the others. He was a handsome president, which caused Harry Truman to write, "He's got the best picture in the White House, Franklin Pierce, but being President involves a little bit more than just winning a beauty contest, and he was another one that was a complete fizzle." I don't agree with him. Pierce did make some accomplishments, such as the Kansas-Nebraska act (but he let the battles of Bleeding Kansas proceed), and the Gadsden Purchase, which completed the present familiar outline of the 48 contiguous states. He was a limited-government person, and this led to the country continuing to split along North-South lines, and is not regarded highly by historians.
Warren G. Harding got his way into the White House through his popularity as a Senator. Like Pierce, he was attractive. He sought to run a smooth operation by hiring his friends and cronies into his staff. This soon led to influence peddling and other sorts of unethical behavior, and Harding would host poker games in the White House. He did accomplish a few things, such as ending World War I and speaking out for the black people in the rural South. However, some of his friends got into huge scandals, such as Teapot Dome, and a number of the officials in his government wound up in prison or worse. He died in office, probably of food poisoning but the nature of the death was somewhat mysterious.
Bill Clinton, to me, looked like the best candidate that the Democrats had going in 1992; he spoke well and he had some good plans. But right from the beginning he was bedeviled with rumors about his extramarital involvements. This did not seem to hurt his run for the White House, which was surprising since the same sort of thing derailed Gary Hart in 1987. While President he accomplished many minor accomplishments and faced down the Republicans in the shutdown crisis of 1995. He also attacked Iraq after that country would not allow inspectors to function fully. But he was (Linda?) tripped up by a dalliance in the Oval Office with Monica Lewinsky; not only that, but he lied about it to investigators, leading to his impeachment but not his removal.
Periodic Presidents 11: Nero/Hamlet Presidents
2004 December 4. I now call this series Nero/Hamlet because I see that Dubya Bush is different from Buchanan and Hoover in that he is doing something about the crisis; it is just that he is going about it the wrong way. In an earlier Blog, I noted he was similar to Shakespeare's Hamlet, in that he stabs and kills Polonius when he should be getting rid of the corrupt King. So I now call this column the Nero/Hamlet series.
Nero was one of the most ruthless of Rome's dictators. By calling
Column 11 the Nero Presidents, I am not referring to this property of Nero.
Instead, I refer to his sitting idly by while a major crisis hit his empire.
"Nero fiddled while Rome burned." The common characteristic of the
Nero Presidents is that they would not deal with a crisis that was either
imminent or had occurred. They just simply let things go the best they can,
while the country fell apart. They fiddled while America burned. Our three
Nero Presidents are James Buchanan, Herbert Hoover, and George W. Bush, our
present President. When a Nero President is in the White House, a major crisis
is coming within 5 years; in fact, the crisis could be imminent or it could
have started already; such a crisis hit our nation during the administrations
of Buchanan and Hoover.
James Buchanan was one candidate that the Democrats could agree upon in 1856. Their uniting behind Buchanan prevented Fremont from being elected, an event which could have led directly to civil war. The Dred Scott decision occurred during Buchanan's term. This polarized the two sides, causing Lincoln to say that a nation divided against itself cannot stand. Buchanan did nothing about it, and the split got so bad in 1860 that the Democrats split, causing Lincoln to win and southern states to secede. Seven of them had seceded during Buchanan's term, but he did nothing and at least held some semblance of peace to the end of his term, even though America was breaking in half.
Herbert Hoover was elected in one of the biggest prosperities in our nation's history. However, the financial system could not stand. The stock market crashed in 1929, leading to the Great Depression. Hoover's way of dealing with this was to say that prosperity was around the corner; that a few more months of correction would result in the nation coming back again. But it didn't. Banks failed, people lost their fortunes, and it became clear to people that Hoover did not understand the crisis that the nation had gotten into. He followed the old rules of the past, and a fresh approach was needed, so he lost the 1932 election to Franklin Roosevelt.
George W. Bush is our present President, so we don't have his complete term to study. But nevertheless Bush has shown some Nero qualities. For example, when the towers fell on 9/11, Bush continued to read "The Pet Goat" to children, a scene brought vividly to the movie screen by Michael Moore in Fahrenheit 9/11. It seems that he may be misunderstanding the crisis of the future, which will probably be the running out of cheap oil. Instead of cooperating with other nations on how to deal with the possible oil crisis, he has instead tried to control the remaining oil with his actions. It remains to see what happens in the rest of his term(s).
Last updated 2004 December 5