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Already Forgotten

The current Presidential administration continues an aimless… and bewildering foreign policy- it should come as no surprise considering the diluted message the United States has sent the world following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.  The fact that three successive Presidents have failed to show a unified American position in the world is a clear indication of a failure to understand our history.

The Final Founder

The Final Founder

The foundation of American foreign policy was set in 1823… and crafted by John Quincy Adams and James Monroe.  Tucked away in his annual message to Congress was a bold and profound statement about the global interest of the United States- supporting freedom.   Too many politicians and “analysts” dismiss ideology as unrealistic in the geopolitical sphere.  This “nuanced” approach has enfeebled our position in the world- we have lost our way.

john-quincy-adams-signature-1

The Monroe Doctrine is not just about keeping Europeans out of North America… the ideological framework of the proposal is too often overlooked-

that the American continents, by the free and independent condition which they have assumed and maintain, are henceforth not to be considered as subjects for future colonization by any European powers. . . But with the Governments who have declared their independence and maintain it, and whose independence we have, on great consideration and on just principles, acknowledged, we could not view any interposition for the purpose of oppressing them, or controlling in any other manner their destiny, by any European power in any other light than as the manifestation of an unfriendly disposition toward the United States. “

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Withering Glare

Delegates at the Constitutional Convention privately questioned whether George Washington’s attendance would make a difference… his comrades from the Revolutionary War knew it would; that his renowned resolve would provide legitimacy to their undertaking in Philadelphia.  Some doubted Washington’s imposing presence could really move men.

Wanna bet?

Alexander Hamilton, Washington’s adjutant during much of the War… challenged a Pennsylvania delegate, the jovial Gouverneur Morris, to greet the General by grasping him by the shoulder.  The bet was a feast for 12.  Morris boasted to Hamilton that no man could intimidate him, even Washington.

 

At a formal dinner a few nights later… Morris approached Washington and greeted him with a firm grasp of the General’s shoulder,

Withered away

“My Dear General, I am very happy to see you look so well.”

Washington removed Morris’s hand and took a step back… fixing on Morris what was described as an “angry frown” and “steely glance”  that “withered” Morris and forced his retreat.  He later confessed to Hamilton,

“I have won the bet but paid dearly for it, and nothing could induce me to repeat it.”

 

 

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On Free Speech

The current administration continues to assail the press and critics utilizing their free speech rights… The President’s minions disingenuously claim that he is merely “fighting back.

Only those who approve

Trump does not believe in civil discourse…. If he does not agree with something, or it challenges his actions, he feels it is illegitimate and should not exist.  This is tyranny.

Remember

George Washington warned his fellow citizens about the dangers of losing free speech…

“If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.”

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JFK at Antietam

Emerging Civil War

One of the things I love about revisiting a battlefield is to see what jumps out at me this time. Each visit has the opportunity to bring something new if I remain open to it. Such was the case during a recent trip to Antietam.

The museum in the downstairs of the visitor center has some cool stuff on display, but of particular note to me this time was a large photograph of President John F. Kennedy taken during a visit to the park on April 7, 1963. Historian Robert Lagemann is standing with JFK on Burnside’s Bridge. The image itself was cool to see, especially so large, but what really made an impression on me was the quote, reproduced in large letters, that accompanied the photo. 

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Review of “Master of the Senate: The Years of Lyndon Johnson (Vol 3)” by Robert Caro

My Journey Through the Best Presidential Biographies

Master of the Senate: The Years of Lyndon Johnson” is the Pulitzer Prize-winning third volume in Robert Caro’s series covering the life of Lyndon B. Johnson. Caro is a former investigative reporter and the author of another Pulitzer Prize-winning biography: “The Power Broker” reviewing the life of Robert Moses. He is currently working on the fifth (and presumably final) volume in his LBJ series.

Published in 2002, “Master of the Senate” covers Johnson’s life from 1949 through 1960 – the dozen years he spent in the U.S. Senate. With 1,040 pages, this is the longest of the four volumes which have been published to date. And while books in this series are designed to stand on their own (for anyone interested in just one part of LBJ’s life) this volume is most compelling for readers tackling the entire series.

Fans of Caro’s series will quickly recognize…

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Julia Tyler’s Premonition

Presidential History Blog

Julia Gardiner Tyler spent only seven months as First Lady; then she went to live in Virginia.

JGT: The Young Wife

One of the earliest photographs of Julia Gardiner Tyler.

Julia Gardiner (1820-1889) was only 24 when she married sitting President John Tyler, a recent widower.  At 54, Tyler was still considered a fine figure of a man; tall, lean, an excellent horseman, graceful dancer (of mild dances), splendid orator, and a Southern charmer of the first order.

In middle age, President John Tyler was still a fine figure of a man.

The former Miss Gardiner, known to some as “The Rose of Long Island,” came from a wealthy New York family, had been educated at a fine finishing school, and had spent two years in Europe. She was also good looking. The thirty years that separated the “Rose” from the President, along with the seven children Tyler had with…

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Misreading the Same History

Cold Warriors

Cold Warriors

Kennedy wanted to end the Vietnam war.   Conspiracy theorists on both sides point to National Security Memo #263 as the smoking gun in Kennedy’s secret plan to get our troops out of Vietnam; and, also Memo #273 as proof the warmonger Johnson wanted to escalate the war.  Both accounts are demonstrably false.  Memo #263 simply states that Kennedy wanted to follow the recommendations of Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara and General Maxwell Taylor following their visit to South Vietnam(withdrawal was not one of them.)   The second memo was drafted November 21, 1963 and is clearly a Kennedy document approved by Johnson.  In an interview given on the Huntley-Brinkley Report Kennedy reaffirmed our commitment to South Vietnam and his belief in the “domino theory.”  Kennedy did not want to end the war in South Vietnam and Johnson did not personally choose to escalate it. 

 

September 9, 1963: "I think we should stay. We should use our influence in as effective a way as we can, but we should not withdraw."

September 9, 1963: “I think we should stay. We should use our influence in as effective a way as we can, but we should not withdraw.”

Far too many amateurs historians have duped… suspicious  Americans for academic credibility and financial gain.  Oliver Stone lends his tarnished credibility to the misreading of a complicated series of policy decisions.  Stone does not deal in complexities- as a film maker, he prefers stories with heroes, villains, and tidy plots.  For reasons unknown, Stone and his acolytes refuse to accept Jack Kennedy for what he was- a Conservative Democrat committed to the policy of containment as laid down by his Democratic predecessor, Harry Truman.  Vietnam was a national tragedy and a painful scar on our history- trying to make John Kennedy the martyr of it is a fraudulent endeavor.

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