Tag Archives: George Washington

Gen. Lee and Gen. Washington equal? Nope

I received a scolding today from someone I respect very much. We’re connected on social media; he read a blog item I published and then reminded me of something I feel the need to challenge — respectfully, of course.

My blog item mentioned that Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee was a traitor to the United States when he led soldiers into battle against forces fighting to preserve the Union.

My friend then responded by telling me that Gen. George Washington also committed an act of treason by rebelling against England in the 18th century. Gen. Washington led his army against the soldiers fighting for The Crown. Had the colonists lost the American Revolution, he said, they would have been hanged.

This argument comes forward every now and then by those who seek to defend Gen. Lee against those — such as me — who contend that he committed treason by siding with the Confederates in their effort to split the country apart.

I am not going to put words into my friend’s mouth, but surely he doesn’t equate the two acts of rebellion.

Had the revolution failed, we well might be speaking with British accents and paying exorbitant taxes without having any say in how much we should pay.

And if the Confederates had won the Civil War, they would have created a nation that allowed for the continued enslavement of human beings.

There really isn’t a scintilla of moral equivalence, in my eyes at least, between the struggles. The revolution produced a nation built on the concept of freedom and liberty for all; the Declaration of Independence delivers out a long list of grievances that the founders sought to be eliminated. The Civil War erupted because some states wanted the authority to determine whether they could keep human beings in bondage.

I’m not sure what my friend is suggesting. Surely he doesn’t intend to equate one with the other.

I need to stipulate, too, that had the founders failed to create a nation after the revolution, there might have been scant reason for immigrants to travel across the ocean to the Land of Opportunity. My grandparents would have stayed in Greece and Turkey. My parents wouldn’t have met. I wouldn’t have been born.

Many millions of Americans had skin in that revolutionary game.

Therefore, I’m glad the founding fathers rebelled against the king.

Two were nation’s founders; two sought to destroy the nation

Four men have been thrust posthumously into the front of the national debate over the removal of statues.

The president of the United States launched an impromptu press conference this week at Trump Tower. Donald Trump began answering questions about the Charlottesville, Va., riot that left three people dead. White supremacists, neo-Nazis and Ku Klux Klansmen were protesting the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee. Counter protesters clashed with the racist protesters.

It got real ugly real fast.

Then the president weighed in. He said “many sides” were at fault. Then he blamed the hate groups. Then on Tuesday he doubled down on his initial response, saying “both sides” were to blame for the mayhem.

Then his press conference veered into some truly bizarre territory.

I mentioned Gen. Lee already. Trump decided to mention that Confederate Gen. Stonewall Jackson’s statue also is targeted for removal. Then he asked: Should we take down statues of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson? They were slave owners, too, just like Lee and Jackson, he said.

Time out, Mr. President.

If Donald Trump had a clue about history he would realize this:

Yes, Washington and Jefferson enslaved human beings. They were imperfect men. However, they led a revolution that resulted in the creation of the United States of America. Washington commanded our armed forces fighting against the British Empire; Jefferson penned the Declaration of Independence and was a key author of the U.S. Constitution. Those contributions to the founding of the nation does not pardon them for their slave ownership, but it is a mitigating factor that grants them greatness.

As for Gen. Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson, they fought to destroy the Union that Washington and Jefferson helped create. Gen. Lee struggled whether to fight for the Union or to fight for the Confederate States of America. He chose to side with Virginia, which seceded from the Union. Jackson joined him in that terrible, bloody Civil War. Those men were traitors. Moreover, they were responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Americans who died in the bloodiest war this nation has ever fought.

To his everlasting credit, President Lincoln declared during his second inaugural address — just weeks before he would be gunned down at Ford Theater — that the nation should bind the wounds that had torn it apart. “With malice toward none and charity for all,” the president said, signaling that Confederate leaders wouldn’t be prosecuted for their high crimes against the Union.

Donald John Trump doesn’t grasp any of that, as he made abundantly clear when he attached moral equivalence between two of our nation’s founders and two men who sought — and fought — to destroy the nation.

Happy birthday, Father of Our Country

LAREDO, Texas — They love the Father of Our Country way down yonder in this bustling South Texas community.

I consider it an interesting thing to witness.

Why is that? Laredo sits at Ground Zero of the U.S. immigration debate. The president of the United States wants to build a wall separating the United States from Mexico. It will have a direct impact on this city of 236,000 (and counting) residents.

We drove here to get away from the cold weather that continues to plague the Texas Panhandle. We found it — and then some! — in the Rio Grande Valley. They were setting record high temperatures during our stay at Lake Casa Blanca International State Park.

Laredo this past weekend celebrated its 120th annual George Washington’s Birthday Celebration. The city publishes a glossy magazine commemorating the event, which it describes as “one of the biggest celebrations that contributes to Laredo’s history and a must see in South Texas!”

It began in 1898 when the Improved Order of the Red Men sought to bring together various ethnic groups in Laredo. In doing so, they discovered that George Washington himself was a member of the order.

Princess Pocahontas also became part of the celebration to honor her role in saving the mayor, who had been held captive by Indians who had raided city hall.

It’s all a huge deal in Laredo, where one — such as yours truly — might not expect to see such a huge tribute to our nation’s first president and the commander of the colonial forces that fought the British during the American Revolution.

The event began as a two-day celebration. Now it goes on for several days and it fuses all aspects of a diverse and cosmopolitan community, bringing them all together as one.

Is there a lesson to be learned from this?

I believe so.

If only all American communities could celebrate our founding president’s birthday in such a manner.

Didn’t wait on history to carve TR into stone

One of this year’s Christmas gifts, from my older son Peter, got me thinking about how quickly history is able at times to judge someone’s greatness.

Peter gave me a book, “The Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft and the Golden Age of Journalism.” It’s the historian Doris Kearns Goodwin’s latest tome chronicling the lives of great Americans.

What intrigued me is that of the two men mentioned in the title, one of them is memorialized on Mount Rushmore. Then something occurred to me.

Teddy Roosevelt became president in 1901 after President William McKinley was assassinated. Roosevelt, who was 42, was the youngest man ever to assume the presidency; John F. Kennedy in 1960 became the youngest man, at 43, ever elected to the office. TR was elected in his own right in 1904. He left office in early 1909, turning the presidency over to Taft. Roosevelt then became so let down by Taft’s presidency that he sought the office once more in 1912, running on a progressive platform under the label of the Bull Moose Party.

The result of that campaign produced President Woodrow Wilson.

What does have to do with Mount Rushmore? Well, Gutzon Borglum began carving out the faces on the South Dakota mountainside in 1927, just 15 years after Roosevelt’s last run for public office and only eight years after his death in 1919. The other three men honored on that mountain are George Washington, the father of our country; Thomas Jefferson, the author of the Declaration of Independence and Abraham Lincoln, who fought successfully to preserve the Union during the Civil War. Their greatness was long established by the time Borglum’s crews began blasting away on Mount Rushmore.

TR’s legacy, it could be argued, had yet to be finalized, as he in effect was a contemporary of the sculptor.

My thoughts have turned to whether someone could undertake such an project in that context today. I do not believe we’ve had a president since Roosevelt who’s quite measured up to any of the four men whose faces are carved into the mountain. Some have argued for Franklin Roosevelt, TR’s cousin, while others have said Ronald Reagan deserves to be added to the sculpture.

I prefer to leave the mountain as it stands.

Still, it strikes me that Gutzon Borglam took a gamble when he included Theodore Roosevelt in that pantheon of great Americans.

I’ll look forward to reading one more historian’s take on how he earned his place on the side of that mountain.

Lane closures may block Gov. Christie’s ambition

This story cracks me up and it will make me howl if the worst of it turns out to be true.

Democrats are seeking ways to derail Republican New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s possible presidential ambitions by making hay out of a lane closure on the famed George Washington Bridge. The word is that Christie ordered the lanes closed at peak traffic time ostensibly to perform a traffic study. It’s been alleged, though, that he did it to get back at the Democratic mayor of Fort Lee, N.J., who had refused to endorse Christie’s bid for re-election.

What’s more, no one can determine whether a traffic study ever took place.

http://thehill.com/blogs/ballot-box/presidential-races/193821-dems-seek-to-puncture-christie-with-bridge-controversy

The closures caused tremendous traffic chaos in and around Fort Lee. A couple of Christie appointees to the New York and New Jersey Port Authority have quit. U.S. Senate committee chairs — Democrats, by the way — are looking into the matter as a possible abuse of power.

Democrats’ aim, apparently, to blow a hole in Christie’s reputation as a no-nonsense, straight-talking, bipartisan governor who’s above this kind of alleged political back-stabbing.

Many Democrats apparently don’t believe Christie actually ordered the lane closures, nor do they believe they’ll find evidence of any direct involvement from the governor.

Christie has gotten his back up over media questions about the incident … which of course is no surprise. He’s been known to bristle at constituents’ questions as well.

Perhaps the most amazing aspect of this story is that the 2016 presidential campaign is still two years away but the silly season already has begun.

Just wait until the candidates on both parties start filing their papers to run.

Hold on. This could get really wild.

Presidential term limits need to go

Jonathan Zimmerman, a history professor at New York University, says it well.

Let’s repeal the 22nd Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which limits presidents to two consecutive terms.

He wants to allow presidents to serve as long as the public can stand them.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/end-presidential-term-limits/2013/11/28/50876456-561e-11e3-ba82-16ed03681809_story.html

His Washington Post essay lays out the case quite well. As one who opposes congressional term limits, I understand where Professor Zimmerman is coming from. Term limits already exist, in the form of elections.

Only one president ever has been elected more than twice consecutively: Franklin D. Roosevelt won a third term in 1940. He was elected to a fourth term in 1944, but died shortly after taking the oath in early 1945. His cousin Teddy was the first president to seek a third term. He served two terms consecutively after becoming president in 1901, after President William McKinley was murdered. He was elected in his own right in 1904, then walked away in 1909. He sought the presidency in 1912 as the Bull Moose candidate, but the office went to Woodrow Wilson.

Zimmerman takes note of President Obama’s low poll standing. It’s highly unlikely, at this moment at least, that he would be elected to a third term if he had the chance. Indeed, most presidents burn out after two terms. President Reagan lamented late in his second term that he would have liked the chance to run again. President Clinton said much the same thing near the end of his presidency.

The 22nd Amendment was enacted in 1947 by a Republican-controlled Congress to head off what some feared would be an imperial presidency. They didn’t like that FDR served seemingly forever. But he was the voters’ choice — four elections in a row!

As Zimmerman notes, even the Father of Our Country, George Washington, disliked the idea of term limits. “I can see no propriety in precluding ourselves from the service of any man who, in some great emergency, shall be deemed universally most capable of serving the public,” Washington wrote to Marquis de Lafayette, according to Zimmerman.

Let these people serve until the voters say otherwise.