Category ►►► History
July 31, 2008
Obama: Don't Know Much About History, Biology - or Evidently, U.S. Currency
In my entire lifetime (not that long, for heaven's sake!), I have not seen a presidential candidate who ran a campaign so dirty, so vapid... and so ignorant of the ordinary characteristics of contemporary American culture and middle-school level history as Barack H. Obama is now running.
E.g.: Yesterday, Obama blatantly accused John S. McCain of plotting a racist campaign against him; today, Obama's campaign coyly pretended that wasn't what their fellow meant at all, at all.
But in the process, they made yet another ludicrous mistake, this time about currency, folding money, dollar bills -- one of the most common manufactured items ordinary people encounter every day, unless they are so out of touch with normal life that they have "people" to handle such distasteful things for them.
Here is Obama's original accusation (actually, prediction of a future accusation) with its painfuly obvious implication:
Stumping in an economically challenged battleground state, Obama argued Wednesday that President Bush and McCain will resort to scare tactics to maintain their hold on the White House because they have little else to offer voters. [They haven't done it yet, but I'm sure they're gonna!]
"Nobody thinks that Bush and McCain have a real answer to the challenges we face. So what they're going to try to do is make you scared of me," Obama said. "You know, he's not patriotic enough, he's got a funny name, you know, he doesn't look like all those other presidents on the dollar bills."
Although the McCain camp initially declined to respond to Obama's race baiting, evidently the Obama campaign started getting a little nervous about what its boss had just said, in what was probably yet another junior-moment off the teleprompter. That same day, they got out front, aggressively and pugnaciously saying the cold-blooded prediction of upcoming racism had nothing to do with race:
Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs said the senator was not referring to race.
"What Barack Obama was talking about was that he didn't get here after spending decades in Washington," Gibbs said Thursday. "There is nothing more to this than the fact that he was describing that he was new to the political scene. He was referring to the fact that he didn't come into the race with the history of others. It is not about race."
Ah... so Obama only meant that he didn't "look like all those other presidents on the dollar bills" who got to the White House "after spending decades in Washington." All right, gentle readers, let's all open our wallets and take a look at those bills...
$1 bill -- George Washington: Washington -- our first president, for the benefit of Obama supporters -- was a surveyer and soldier; he first became active in politics in 1758, when he was elected to the Virginia House of Burgesses; but this is not "Washington," or even the equivalent of that day (which would be New York or Philadelphia)... it was more like a state legislature, though Virginia was still a royal colony.
In 1774, Washington was selected to be a Virginia delegate at the First Continental Congress, his first national position. But less than a year later, he was chosen to be Commander in Chief of the Continental Army. The war (that would be the Revolutionary War, for you Democrats) lasted until 1781; Washington retired from the Continental Army in 1783.
In 1787, he was sent by Virginia to the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, at which he was elected president of the convention. Two years later, he was elected the first President of the United States by a unanimous vote of the electoral college.
Total time served in "Washington" (which wasn't yet Washington, obviously) prior to his election: Less than three years, or a year less than Barack H. Obama.
$2 bill -- Thomas Jefferson: Jefferson was a busy fellow, the president whose federal service came closest to meeting the ironic claim of Robert Gibbs that Obama referred only to the "decades in Washington" that " all those other presidents on the dollar bills" boasted before their presidential elections.
Jefferson was chosen as a delegate to the Second Continental Congress (one year), the Congress of the Confederation (one year), served as Secretary of State under George Washington for four years, and served as John Adams' vice president for four years.
Total time served in "Washington" prior to his election: ten years. Still a bit shy of "decades," though.
$5 bill -- Abraham Lincoln: Lincoln ran unsuccessfully for the Illinois General Assembly in 1832; two years later, he was elected to the Illinois House of Representatives. He was elected to the United States House of Representatives in 1846... but he served only a single term, choosing not to stand for reelection after a fiery speech that was not well received.
Lincoln was nominated for the United States Senate in 1858, but he lost the election to Democratic incumbent Stephen Douglas. In 1860, he successfully ran for President of the United States (shortly to become the untied states).
Total time served in Washington prior to his election: A single two-year term in the House.
$10 bill -- Alexander Hamilton: First of all, Hamilton served for less than one year in the Congress of the Confederation (1782-3); he was Secretary of the Treasury for six years, giving him less than seven years in federal service.
But second, as I'm sure Obama and all of his supporters are well aware, Alexander Hamilton was never President of the United States. He was killed in a duel with Aaron Burr in 1804. So I reckon he doesn't count.
$20 bill -- Andrew Jackson: Another general who became president, Jackson served in the U.S. House of Representatives (from Tennessee) for one year and in the Senate for less than a year. He was again elected senator twenty-four years later, in 1822. He ran for president in the election of 1824, then resigned from the Senate in 1825, following the "corrupt bargain" that brought John Quincy Adams to the White House, despite Jackson having a plurality of the electoral-college vote. Jackson was decisively elected president in 1828.
Total time served in Washington prior to his election: five years, spread across nearly thirty (two at the beginning, three at the end).
$50 bill -- Ulysses S. Grant: General. Civil War. President. He was elected three years after the war ended.
Total time served in Washington prior to his election: Um... that would be zero.
$100 bill -- Benjamin Franklin: I'm really, really, really certain that all those screaming Obama fans, who see him as the next Paris Hilton, are well aware, from their deep knowledge of history, that Benjamin Franklin was also never President of the United States, having inconveniently died in the middle of George Washington's first term. He also never served a day in federal service in the country; his only national office was ambassador to France.
Total time served in "Washington": also zero.
And that exhausts the list of current United States currency in general circulation.
There are some goofy bills only used by banks and suchlike:
- The $500 bill has William McKinley, who spent no time in Washington prior to his election;
- The $1,000 bill has Grover Cleveland, who also served no time in Washington before his presidency -- McKinley and Cleveland were both former governors;
- The $5,000 bill has James Madison, who was Secretary of State under Jefferson for eight years before becoming our fourth president;
- The $10,000 bill has Salmon P. Chase -- who served for 19 years in Washington, but was never president;
- And the $100,000 bill -- yes, there was such a thing -- has Woodrow Wilson... who also went directly to the presidency from a governorship.
Sadly, it appears that Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs is a bit bewitched, bothered, or bewildered about American history (and currency): Not a single United States President on any denomination of our currency served "decades in Washington" prior to his election. Not one! Not on any of the circulating currency; not on any of the bank bills... and not even any of the three non-presidents who grace our currency or bank bills. (The closest non-president is Treasury Secretary Salmon Chase, with his nineteen years.)
I'm afraid that I must reluctantly conclude either that Barack Obama is completely ignorant of American folding money and/or American history... or else that he really did deal a race card off the bottom of the deck, after all.
But there is something to salvage here; there is definitely a sense in which Obama is totally unlike "all those other presidents on the dollar bills."
They all had great accomplishments in their lives prior to running for the presidency. They won wars, or served as governors, or passed significant legislation during their brief tenures in Congress. Even Abraham Lincoln, arguably the president who was closest, among our greats, to being a dark horse, during the 1850s -- and particularly because of his debates with Stephen Douglas during the senatorial election of 1858 -- was considered the foremost and most respected opponent of slavery in the immediate pre-war period, a towering national figure even without having held major elective office.
Barack H. Obama has a couple of speeches under his belt.
So in that sense, indeed yes; he doesn't look much like the presidents on American currency. And indeed yes again... he does have a funny name.
March 22, 2007
New Kid On the Bayou
Warning: This is one of my infamous "too much time on my hands" offerings...
Yesterday, we noted that Bobby Jindal still stands a good chance of being elected governor of Louisiana, even after Gov. Kathleen Babineaux "Blankout" Blanco dropped out, to be replaced (everyone assumes) by the much stronger candidate former Sen. John Breaux.
Suppose Jindal does win this year and serves a full four years. Then suppose he runs for president at the next opportunity... how would the "child prodigy's" age compare to our youngest presidents?
First of all, we must clarify what we mean by the youngest president. There is no question that John F. Kennedy was the youngest person ever elected President of the United States. Kennedy was born on May 29th, 1917 -- the first president born in the twentieth century *. He ran for office and was elected on November 8th, 1960. (The first Tuesday was November 1st; but Congress in 1845 set the date for federal elections to the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November; thus, the election is never held on the 1st.)
John Kennedy was thus 43 years, 5 months, and 10 days old when he was elected. Nobody else even comes within two years of that age.
However, that's not the end of it. There is another way to become president besides following your own election; and indeed, when William McKinley was assassinated, dying on September 14th, 1901, Vice President Theodore "Teddy" Roosevelt became president without being elected.
Roosevelt was born on October 27th, 1858; thus, he became president when he was 42 years, 10 months, and 18 days old. Kennedy became president on January 20th, 1961 -- and he had aged 2 months and 12 days to the ripe, old age of 43 years, 7 months, and 22 days. Therefore, while Kennedy was the youngest ever elected, TR beat him into the office by 9 months and 4 days.
(Roosevelt was not actually elected until November 8th, 1904, when he was a doddering ancient of 46 years and 12 days.)
So back to Jindal. He was born on June 10th, 1971. If he were to be elected president in the next election after serving a single term as governor, that would be on November 6th, 2012; and he would assume the office on January 20th, 2013: Jindal would be 41 years, 4 months, and 27 days old when elected and 41 years, 7 months, and 10 days when he assumed the office -- easily beating both Kennedy for youngest ever elected (by more than two years) and Roosevelt for youngest president (by more than a year).
But if Jindal instead serves a second successive term as governor -- which has only happened four times in Louisiana history (though some governors have served several non-sequential terms, such as Earl K. Long) -- then Jindal would leave that office in early 2016. The next presidential election would be November 8th, 2016; if he won, he would have been elected at age 45 years, 4 months, and 29 days.
That would be almost two years older than Kennedy was, but still younger than Teddy Roosevelt, the second-youngest person ever elected president. (Bill Clinton -- born August 19th, 1946 -- was elected on November 3rd, 1992, when he was 46 years, 2 months, and 15 days old.)
Jindal would, in that case, take the silver medal for second-youngest person elected, bumping Roosevelt to third youngest and Clinton out of the medals at 4th. However, because of that whole assassination thing, Jindal would only be the third youngest person (45 years old) to assume the presidency, after both Roosevelt, 42, and Kennedy, 43; Clinton would be fourth in this race as well at 46.
(If Barack Obama were to be elected in 2008, he would be 47 at both election and inauguration, far out of the running.)
In either case, Jindal would be the first former Hindu president and the first Asian.
We needn't wait for 2012; there are records poised to be made in the upcoming (2008) election as well:
- Obama would be the first non-white and the first former Moslem;
- Mitt Romney would be the first Mormon and probably the richest president;
- Hillary Clinton would be the first woman -- making her both first woman and First Lady;
- And Giuliani would be both the first Italian-American and would have the record for the most divorced president.
The first divorcé to win the presidency was Ronald Reagan; James Buchanan was the only bachelor president to remain unmarried throughout his administration, but Grover Cleveland was a bachelor until a year into his first term.
* There is some controversy about the first president born in the nineteenth century: It's either Millard Fillmore, if you count 1800 as 19th century, or Franklin Pierce (1804) if you don't.
September 28, 2006
The New Tora Bora Bazora
I'm listening to Hugh Hewitt, who (after a completely inaudible "interview" with Mark Steyn via bad cellphone) is now broadcasting the Senate blathering of Sen. Patrick "Leaky" Leahy (D-VT, 100%) about the military tribunals bill. And this is what Leahy just said, word for word, near as I can recollect (and it is seared, seared in my memory):
Even though they [the Bush administration] had him [Osama bin Laden] cornered at Tora Bora, they yanked the special forces out of there to send them into Iraq.
Is it just me?
I was evidently misinformed that the Battle of Tora Bora took place sometime in December of 2001. There was not even a resolution on the table to invade Iraq at that time... the resolution was not even introduced into the Senate until October 2nd, 2002; it passed the Senate without amendment on October 11th, and was signed by the president on the 16th. And we did not send troops there until March of 2003.
So in the consensus reality -- rather than in Leahy's own private version of history -- more than two solid years elapsed between the battle of Tora Bora and the call-up of troops for an invasion of Iraq. Whatever caused us not to kill or capture bin Laden in 2001, it certainly had nothing to do with the not-yet-extant invasion of Iraq.
Has this been the Democrats' plan all along, why they took over the government schools: to so damage Americans' knowledge of history that demented demagogues like Pat Leahy can make risible claims like this on the Senate floor and not be laughed out of Congress?
I eagerly await the transcription in the Congressional Record, to see whether he decides to "revise and extend his remarks."
December 29, 2005
The Ten Worst Americans Ever
Over on my old stomping ground of Captain's Quarters, I read that a blog I actually haven't seen before, All things Beautiful, had challenged the blogosphere to come up with a list of the ten worst Americans.
My criteria were that the person had to be from America, that his evil be directed at America or else be peculiarly American, and that the evil be sui generis, not simply a run-of-the-mill mass murder or felony spree.
After several days of cogitation, I came up with my own list. Amazingly, it shares only one name with the list that Captain Ed came up with, which I think mostly came from his readers* : that one name, of course, will be on virtually every such list -- unless the blogger deliberately sets out not to include it. Can you guess it? I'll leave it for last.
* I mean of course that his readers supplied the names, not that his readers were the names!
Here is the list in chronological order, except for the last entry: I'm not ranking them from 1 to 10, I'm only numbering them by date for convenience.
- Chief Opechancanough: Chief of the Pamunkeys tribe, one branch of the Powhatan people. In 1622, Opechancanough was trying to establish his standing in the Powhatan. He had been in Europe for some time and had just returned to the Virginia area, and he was trying to show that he was more Powhatan than European. So he launched a horrible massacre against the Virginia Colony, who until then had been very friendly with the Powhatan. Opechancanough killed at least 400 colonists before finally being driven back at the gates of Jamestown. (The colonists later retaliated by poisoning the drinks at a truce talk, killing 250 Indians.) It was the first definitely known Indian massacre of American English settlers... and it happened before there had been any significant violence the other direction. It set the stage for more than a quarter of a millennium of violence and warfare between the two people... and its only purpose was a political campaign.
- Frederick J. Alfred: He was the Democratic editor of the Staunton Vindicator, a pro-slavery newspaper from 1849. Alfred gets the nod as a stand-in for all the journalists of the day who urged the South to fight to preserve the greatest evil of the nineteenth century: human chattel slavery. Alfred in particular was a rabid fan of the Fugitive Slave Bill, which sought to force every state in the union to acquiesce in slavery, even free states, by forcing every federal agent within to apprehend and remove into slave states any black man, woman, or child, merely on the say-so of some white slaveowner that the person was an escaped slave of his. Alfred and his cohorts pushed America into civil war.
- William Marcy "Boss" Tweed: The epitome of political corruption in all of American history, the "boss" of Tammany Hall; the millions upon millions he and his gang looted from New York City -- as much as an astounding $200,000,000 -- from 1856 through 1871 was exceeded only by Tweed's unbounded arrogance. When a disgruntled gang member spilled the beans to the New York Times about Tweed's staggering corruption, Tweed's only response was "What are you going to do about it?" Eight years later, Boss Tweed died in prison.
- Alger Hiss: The most notorious of all the Soviet spies ushered into the federal government in 1933 by the malign neglect of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. There is no better discussion of Hiss's treachery than Whittiker Chambers' Witness.
- John Dillinger: The very model of the modern American bank robber/folk hero, a brutal thug whose athletic grace while robbing and slaughtering innocents earned him a cult following. There is even a John Dillinger Died For You Society (which may or may not have some connection with the infamous Robert Anton Wilson) still in existence to extol his supposed virtues. When the FBI slew him in 1934, eager fans dipped their handkerchiefs in his blood, as if he were Jesus.
- Private Edward Donald Slovik: The first American military deserter executed since the Civil War -- and the last person ever executed for desertion from the American armed forces. Slovik was a petty crook drafted into World War II; when he made clear his intent (in writing!) to desert in the face of enemy fire, he was tried and convicted at a court martial and sentenced to death. He was executed by firing squad on the last day of January, 1945. Slovik can serve as representative of all those who deserted America during the existential fight against Naziism.
- The Rosenbergs: During World War II, they gave the Soviets the secret of the atomic bomb, thus setting off the Cold War almost single-handedly. 'Nuff said?
- Dr. Jack Kevorkian: Come on, the man is the closest thing we have to a death worshipping Kali cultist! His zeal at talking people into solving all their problems by killing themselves, his infernal killing machine, and his unrepentant pleasure in watching them push the button, or in some cases, pushing it himself, surely earns him a waxwork in the Chamber of Horrors at Madame Tussaud's.
- Rev. Fred Waldron Phelps: Not content with an entire religious philosophy summed up by his website, www.godhatesfags.com, which is also the slogan he and his acolytes chant outside AIDS hospices, the Phelps fanatics have recently taken to invading and disrupting the funerals of American soldiers slain in Iraq and Afghanistan by terrorists, tormenting the widows and fatherless (or motherless) children. I don't know why, and I'm not going to visit his vile website to find out. But surely he is a charter member of this rogue's gallery.
And of course, you have already guessed the number one worst American ever, the man whose very name has become synonymous with betrayal of one's country. A war hero who sold out his country for £20,000 sterling and a commission as a brigadier general. The one, the only....
...10. Benedict Arnold, of course!
November 10, 2005
Mosquitos Trapped in Amber
We already know that the Moslem immigrants in France were not allowed to assimilate into the French society. But it is not so well known that the French children of Moslem immigrants are still ensnared in government housing projects, echoing in France what happened for decades in the United States. They are mosquitos trapped in amber, struggling against the sticky sap that binds them in place.
The projects were built in the 1960's as a part of modern urban planning. At first, poor working-class Frenchmen and immigrants lived side by side. As the French economy improved, job opportunities soon opened up for the native French; but for a variety of reasons, they were not equally open to the immigrants, especially Moslems from North and Central Africa.
A home-buying program of the 1980s allowed most of the native French to move out of the projects; but without jobs, few Moslems qualified. Soon they were left behind; with no jobs, no future, and (most important) no sense of being part of society, many Moslem youths turned to crime, probably for the same reason disaffected and alienated youth do here: impulse, boredom, bad example, and a deep feeling of "apartness."
The police instituted a crackdown in the projects in 1983; that police reaction led to a riot. This is very similar to what is happening today across much of france: rootless young Moslems, alienated from a society they have seen only via interaction with police, riot in response to a crackdown on real crimes.
"There's nothing to do, and frustrations have added up until in the end it has become like a bomb that they carry inside," said Azzouz Camen, 44, at a small snack bar he owns between the neighborhood's apartment blocks and a gleaming new mosque.
Most of us have the impression that the inaction of the spineless French police has greatly contributed to the crime surge in the region. However, the residents see just the opposite, overly aggressive police tactics, as the real cause. Both could be true simultaneously, as France lurches from crackdown to appeasement. From this angle, it's hard to see who is more right.
It really doesn't matter anyway; today's rioters don't care whether their lifelong belief about the crackdown was accurate then or now... they believe it, and it drives their actions. You can't argue someone out of his basic belief system. Especially when, like the French, you don't have any basic beliefs of your own.
The riot of twenty-two years ago was put down very heavy-handedly... and I think it became a part of the mythology of the current rioters as they grew up: they would hear much about the supposed gallantry of the protesters and the (still evident) brutality of the French police, and that would alienate them even more from the society inside of which they live.
Nothing permanent came from that riot in 1983:
[Harlem] Désir emerged as a leader from that unrest and helped organize a march for equal rights that started in the immigrant neighborhoods outside Lyon and ended in Paris.
The press dubbed it the March of the Beurs, using the immigrants' slang word for Arab, and France's left-leaning intelligentsia embraced the cause, seeing in it an echo of the United States' civil rights movement. President François Mitterrand received some of the marchers at Élysée Palace and euphoria swept through the country's children of immigrants. They had stood up and been heard.
However, the government response to the problem turned out to be merely cosmetic with no substance. They repainted projects and assigned a few social workers to "help" youths. But they did nothing to assimilate the immigrants into the general population.
As things grew steadily worse, crime in and from the projects grew. An effort by the last Socialist administration helped improve things a bit by putting police officers on the beat in the neighborhoods and providing money to create jobs for young residents. But both programs ended after Jacques Chirac became president [in 1995].
His tough interior minister, Nicolas Sarkozy, replaced the police on the beat with officers from an anti-crime brigade who cover several towns at a time. Their aggressive tactics have won almost universal scorn in the projects and created an air of hostility that has precipitated the current violence.
Chirac's response to this problem was to keep the immigrants in the projects and lock the door. Assimilation is farthest from his mind. His tactics reminds of a Japanese saying: "put a lid on a smelly pot." All the while Moslem jihadis were recruiting potential terrorists in the projects.
France has been ignoring the probelm for too long. If you cut some segments of the population off from the rest of the society, tragedy is inevitable. They should have known this would happen. This is not to excuse the rioters, just to note that when you light a fuse, you shouldn't wonder that a bomb explodes.
Many people in the world have the wrong impression that the United States suffers from an unusually high rate of racial discrimination. I always tell people from other countries that you hear about our racial problems only because we are willing to face them. We heard nothing about the racial tension growing in Europe, but that does not mean there was none; it only meant they never had guts to face the reality.
If you ignore reality long enough, it will bite you in the face like a swarm of hungry mosquitos bursting free of their amber prisons. Well, Europe, are you ready to face the reality now?
October 13, 2005
Dawn Breaks Over Iraq - Photos
Black Five has incredible photos of operation River Gate.
We previously blogged about the overall Anbar Campaign here.
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