AUGUST   2020


Friday, March 16, 2012


I would call it the worst Presidential inaugural speech in history – and just in part because it was also the longest. By my count it ran to 8,424 words (the first sentence was 98 words long!), and it took darn near two hours to deliver. When 68 year old William Henry Harrison started droning on, at around noon on Saturday March 4, 1841, it was barely 48 degrees, in a cold, cutting rain and wind. His audience of 50,000 were in agony, and he just kept talking. And at the end of the sixth paragraph the new President actually delivered his punch line – he would not run for re-election. From that moment he was a lame duck. He had voluntarily surrendered half of his political power, and he wasn't even half way through his inaugural speech. And he just kept talking! In fact it has been alleged that this speech actually killed the President.
“CALLED from a retirement which I had supposed was to continue for the residue of my life to fill the chief executive office of this great and free nation, I appear before you, fellow-citizens, to take the oaths which the Constitution prescribes as a necessary qualification for the performance of its duties; and in obedience to a custom coeval with our Government and what I believe to be your expectations, I proceed to present to you a summary of the principles which will govern me in the discharge of the duties which I shall be called upon to perform.”
William Henry Harrison Inaugural Address
After that it was all anti-climax. Harrison droned on and on about ancient Rome, and why the ancient Greeks had collapsed. He did not get around to discussing what he hoped to achieve while he was in charge until paragraph 17, just four paragraphs from his closing. This was not the speech most people huddled freezing in the bleachers had been expecting from the man his Democratic opponents had dubbed, “General Mum”, because he'd said almost nothing during the campaign. This was the “Tippecanoe and Tyler too” campaign, the log cabin and hard cider campaign of nothing but empty phrases, when Harrison had kept his mouth shut because the only time he had ever been in a log cabin was when he had visited his mistress Dilsia, in her slave quarters. The overly fecund Virginian had fathered six children with the unfortunate lady, and ten more with his legal wife. Did I mention it was snowing during his interminable speech? And raining? And cold? The second time George Washington took the oath, he disposed of his speech in 135 words, wham-ban, thank you, Ladies and Gentleman. But then Harrison had so much more to say about so much less than Washington did. 
“It was the remark of a Roman consul in an early period of that celebrated Republic that a most striking contrast was observable in the conduct of candidates for offices of power and trust before and after obtaining them, they seldom carrying out in the latter case the pledges and promises made in the former. However much the world may have improved in many respects in the lapse of upward of two thousand years since the remark was made by the virtuous and indignant Roman, I fear that a strict examination of the annals of some of the modern elective governments would develop similar instances of violated confidence.”
William Henry Harrison Inaugural Address
William Henry Harrison achieved a number of firsts as President. He was the first President to actively campaign for the office, and the first President to have received one million votes. All-though he won by only 147,000 popular votes his electoral college victory was a landslide. He was the first (and only) President to have been born in the same county as his Vice President (Charles City County, Virginia). He was also the first President to arrive in Washington via a steam locomotive. And he was the first president (that we know of) to have given away four of his own children (by Dilsia), to avoid being embarrassed by their existence. The unlucky youngsters were sold “down the river” to a planter in Georgia. What a nice guy. You know, if Harrison had not been such a lousy human being, I would be a lot sadder that he was also the first President to die while in office; 30 days, 12 hours and 30 minutes after starting his never ending inaugural address.
“Although the fiat of the people has gone forth proclaiming me the Chief Magistrate of this glorious Union, nothing upon their part remaining to be done, it may be thought that a motive may exist to keep up the delusion under which they may be supposed to have acted in relation to my principles and opinions; and perhaps there may be some in this assembly who have come here either prepared to condemn those I shall now deliver, or, approving them, to doubt the sincerity with which they are now uttered...”
William Henry Harrison Inaugural Address
What was wrong with this man? He had been running for President since November of 1811, when he had won the battle of Tippecanoe. But Democratic President James Madison had not even thanked him for removing the Indian threat to the western border on the eve of war with Britain. Yes, Harrison was a Whig, but it took another quarter of a century before his own party was willing to name him as their nominee. What was wrong with this patrician that so few of his contemporaries, of either party, were willing to trust him with power? About the only friend he had in Washington was Daniel Webster. The two men were close enough (thank God) that Harrison had allowed Webster to cut several minutes out of the never-ending speech – Webster claimed later that he had “killed 17 Roman Counsels” Can you imagine how many useless words Harrison would have used without Daniel Webster?
“... In other words, there are certain rights possessed by each individual American citizen which in his compact with the others he has never surrendered. Some of them, indeed, he is unable to surrender, being, in the language of our system, unalienable. The boasted privilege of a Roman citizen was to him a shield only against a petty provincial ruler, whilst the proud democrat of Athens would console himself under a sentence of death for a supposed violation of the national faith—which no one understood and which at times was the subject of the mockery of all—or the banishment from his home, his family, and his country with or without an alleged cause, that it was the act not of a single tyrant or hated aristocracy, but of his assembled countrymen....”
William Henry Harrison Inaugural Address.
He waited to take the oath until he had almost finished his speech. But as soon as he had been sworn in by Chief Justice Taney , he quashed his audiences' frigid hopes by starting to talk again, for two more rambling protracted paragraphs. It seems that William Henry Harrison, saw the anti-climax as his milieu.. Still, he felt fine after his speech. He even stayed around for the entire inaugural parade - the first President to watch the parade as opposed to marching in it. And this was the first inaugural parade with floats, little fake log cabins pulled by horses, sort of mobile homes. That night he attended all three of the inaugural balls – the official one, the Tippecanoe ball, and... and the other one. On Monday morning (March 6th) Harrison felt good enough to meet with his Secretary of the Treasury, Thomas Ewing to discuss the current national financial crises, which he had not mentioned in his endless speech. He mentioned everything else, just not that the banking system had collapsed. But, he seemed perfectly healthy, even after all that, which proves that this loquacious aristocrat was perfectly healthy until he fell under the care of a doctor.
I proceed to state in as summary a manner as I can my opinion of the sources of the evils which have been so extensively complained of and the correctives which may be applied. Some of the former are unquestionably to be found in the defects of the Constitution; others, in my judgment, are attributable to a misconstruction of some of its provisions...”
William Henry Harrison Inaugural Address
His fatal mistake was that on March 27 (three weeks after the endless speech)  he told Dr. Thomas Miller he felt “mildly fatigued and under the weather.” Dr Miller was dean of the George Washington Medical School, and he diagnosed the President as suffering from “bilious pleurisy”. Dr. Miller felt obliged to do something. So he slapped a mustard plaster on Harrison's stomach, and gave him a mild laxative. The next morning, Harrison felt worse. So Dr. Miller bled the President, until his pulse weakened. Then he subjected the 68 year old to another plaster of laudanum, which caused the old man to fall asleep. While he was sleeping, Miller called in another doctor, and over the next few days these two gave the President opium, camphor, brandy, wine whey, and some petroleum. Oddly, after these treatments President Harrison felt so bad he was now certain he was dying. The doctors agreed, so they bled him some more. Anyone who inquired was told the President was “feeling better”, right up until Harrison died, thirty minutes into April 4th, 1841, one week after falling into the hands of two of the most respected doctors in the nation. So it wasn't the endless speech that killed the old man after all, it was modern medicine. 
“Fellow-citizens, being fully invested with that high office to which the partiality of my countrymen has called me, I now take an affectionate leave of you. You will bear with you to your homes the remembrance of the pledge I have this day given to discharge all the high duties of my exalted station according to the best of my ability, and I shall enter upon their performance with entire confidence in the support of a just and generous people.”
William Henry Harrison Inaugural Address
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Thursday, March 15, 2012


I greet you on this dawning of my own personal annual political holiday, The Ides of March – my commemoration of that day 2,055 years ago when the aristocrats in the Roman Senate imposed terminal term limits on Julius Caesar. And each year some deserving political hack has earned my “Knife-in-the-Back” plaque for outstanding professional ineptitude and moral arrogance over the preceding 12 months. But before announcing this years political putz par excellence, allow me to place our honoree in context alongside of previous years' recipients.
The winner in 2008 was New York Governor Elliot (Ho-No!) Spritzer, who lost his moral war against corruption on Wall Street when he lost his morals at the Emperor's Club Escort Service web site. In 2009 Illinois Governor Rod (the sleaze) Blagoevich won when he was convicted for plotting his crimes on telephone lines he had alleged were tapped - they were and he will report to the Federal Correctional Institution in Englewood, Colorado – today!  In 2010 Kentucky Senator Jim (Bean-Ball) Bunning was a stand out winner for his petty, mean-spirited filibuster holding up unemployment benefits for tens of thousands of his own constituents, while simultaneously thumbing his nose at his own party. And in 2011 Wisconsin Governor Scott (Union Killer) Walker earned the “Laural and Dagger” award after his atrifical budget crises drove his state into civil war and himself into a recall election battle, without creating any of the promised benefits.
Each of these undistinguished demagogues became famous, if only briefly, by managing to snatch humiliating defeat from the jaws of victory and earning in at least one case actual jail time for their abhorrent behavior. But this year the competition was particularly tough, with the field of candidates ranging from the predictably bizarre (Michelle Bachmann) to the numbingly idiotic (Governor Rick Perry). So morally obtuse did they seem at times that collectively they reminded me of the words of that great depression era humorist Will Rogers, who observed a similar collection of rabble rousers and sycophantic parasites almost a century ago; “The best thing about this group of candidates”, he said, “is that only one of them can win.” And yet, before we had even entered the primary primary season, there was a standout loser, a monumental mega mouth, a kamikaze-minded moral warrior, making him my clear winner.
So allow me to now announce the latest bucolic baby-kisser to be immortalized in my hall of shame – the winner of the Ides of March 2012 Award, that hawker of hate hauteur, the revolting revolutionary, the militant nihilist disseminater of double talk, the egregious ego maniac of the end game, architect of anarchy, the morally mailable munchkin mutineer who refuses to be embarrassed, the Big Giant Head from Dunwoody, Georgia, NEWTON LEROY “NEWT” GINGRICH!
“I discourage a cult of personality.”
Newt Gingrich
When Newt Gingrich went out for Pennsylvania high school football, they had to go to Illinois to find a helmet to  fit his enormous cranium. He has spent the rest of his life living up to that attribute. “The Big Giant Mouth that Roared” has been in Congress representing Georgia since 1974. According to a member of his 1976 re-election campaign, Newt was mating with so many female staffers that “...there were just so many of them and I didn’t think any of it serious.”
“It doesn’t matter what I do. People need to hear what I have to say.”
Newt Gingrich
After two decades as a undistinguished back-bencher, in 1990 Newt co-authored a memo entitled “Language, a Key Mechanism of Control”. He wrote, “I think one of the great problems we have in the Republican Party is that we don't encourage you to be nasty.” In order to “build a much more aggressive, activist party”, he encouraged his fellow Republicans to “speak like Newt”, by referring to Democrats as “radicals” and “traitors”. He called Speaker of the House Tip O'Neil (D-Ma.) a thug. He called the wife of Massachusetts Democratic Governor Micheal Dukakis a drug addict. He announced that “In Washington, D.C. 800 babies are left in dumpsters a year.” (The actual number was four.) He called the incoming Clinton administration “The most disciplined set of (drug) addicts in the world..”
“You have to give the press confrontations.”
Newt Gingrich
The news media loved his style, and in 1994, under his guidance, Republicans won control of the House for the first time in forty years. In January 1995 the hooligan was himself elected Speaker. And from that moment almost nothing Newt touched continued to function. He cut the staffs of all other House members by 1/3, while increasing his own. He eliminated many Congressional committees, and then created 35 new ones. He engineered two complete government shutdowns which began Congress' long decline in public respect and effectiveness.
“I have enormous personal ambition. I want to shift the entire planet.”
Newt Gingrich
Eventually, Speaker Newt's behavior led to 84 charges being filed against him by the Republican controlled House Ethics Committee. Eighty-three charges were dropped, but the House voted 395 to 28 to convict its own Speaker of that last one and fined him $300,000. He redefined the fine as “a negative reimbursement” and promised to deduct it from his income taxes. Even after this humiliation the happy Hun hung on as Speaker until fellow Republican leaders threatened to release details of his ongoing affair with his now third wife, Callista Bisek. In January 1997 Newt stepped down as Speaker and apologized for having weakened "the faith people have in their government.” (Ten more years of 'speaking like Newt' and that charge would be a matter of pride amongst Republican politicians.) Back in 1998, Newt won his own re-election, but the very next day the chief chief of the Republican bacchanal announced he was resigning from congress, because “"I'm not willing to preside over... cannibals.” He had not objected to the feast of bile he had brought to national politics - he just had not planned on being an aperitif.
“I'm not a natural leader. I'm too intellectual; I'm too abstract; I think too much.”
Newt Gingrich
Newt the private citizen did not retreat back to Georgia, but remained in Washington, and over the next decade his “Political Consulting Services” (as opposed to lobbying firms) took in revenues of over $100 million. His “Center for Health Transformation” paid him $2.4 million a year, in addition to the $60,000 he got for each of the eighty speeches he gave each year, and the $1.6 million fee his Gingrich Communications Group received from Home Mortgage mismanager, Freddie Mac (as an historian, according to Newt) . And Newt was a forerunner (along with acolyte Tom Delay) in creating the combinations of tax-exempt non-profit political organizations to support his profit making political “Consulting Services”  which are so common in Washington D.C., today - i.e. The C.H.T., Gingrich Productions and The Gingrich Communications Group. Despite a qualified promise made in November of 2011, Newt has yet to produce even a partual list of clients and amounts donated to any of these organizations.
“The party that has the cliches that ring true, wins”
Newt Gingrich
Since he joined the 2012 campaign trail, the “human Roman candle” has been source material for political pundits, such as Dana Milbank, writing for the Washington Post, on January 30, 2012: “It was approaching 11 p.m. at the Hyatt hotel bar (in Jacksonville, Florida )....and reporters covering Newt Gingrich’s campaign were enjoying a few drinks when...Gingrich...imparted a big scoop. “There’s a new poll coming out,” he announced. “I’m within five points of Romney.”. . .It’s hard to know what the most pitiful part was: That a presidential candidate was whiling away the night at a hotel bar...Or that the pollster who did it used to work for Gingrich?”
"The fact is, we can afford a fairly ignorant presidency now."
Newt Gingrich
After Newt's insurrection in insurrectionist South Carolina, Governor Mitt Romney ambushed him in Florida, where the Captain of Capitalism outspent Newt 5 – 1 ($15 million to $4 million) in negative advertising, and by volume alone beat Newt at his own game – smear and exaggeration. But, as Milbank said, “Gingrich is going down in his own style, leaving fabrications, insults and scorched earth all the way from Miami to Pensacola....President Obama is “increasingly dictatorial” and has a “war against religion.” Romney is a “liberal” and “out of touch with honesty” and he “refused to allow [Catholics] the right of conscience” and “cut off Kosher meals for Jewish Medicaid recipients.” Gingrich, his midsection bumping against the lectern as he delivered his broadsides without notes, promised there would be more earth to burn. He said there shouldn’t be “any doubt” that he will remain in the race after Florida. “The establishment in both parties is terrified,” he boasted Well, at least the Republicans are.”
You can't have a corrupt lobbyist unless you have a corrupt member (of Congress) or a corrupt staff.”
Newt Gingrich
After Florida Richard Cohen, also for the Washington Post, described Newt the ab irato, as “the grandiloquent, bombastic and compulsively dishonest Gingrich” , with an Alfred E. Neuman grin and a “nihilistic campaign for the White House”. And Robert Williams, of the conservative Tax Policy Center, said, “The problem with the that he would go in and throw the bomb, and then maybe there would be pieces that you would pick up afterwards.” Newt Nuked; could it be mere chance that the charter airline he used in Florida was “Moby Dick Airways"? After Florida Newt's great white whale became no longer  President Obama, but more vitally, Mitt Romney. Newt was determined to harpoon him at all costs.
“The idea that a congressman would be tainted by accepting money from private essentially a socialist argument.”
Newt Gingrich
At the Conservative Political Action Conference, the cost became apparent. Politico writer James Hohmann (2/12/12) listed Newt among the losers. “The former Speaker of the House, who won South Carolina just three Saturdays ago...was an after-thought at CPAC...Few carried around his signs or wore his stickers.” And worse news was coming. A mid-February poll by the Atlanta Journal Constitution showed “native son” Newt leading with 57% support in Georgia's primary scheduled for the Republican Super Tuesday, March 6. But when asked to name the Republican candidate Georgia GOP voters thought had the most integrity native son Newt came in third, with only 16%, half of Rick Santorum's 34% and even well behind the hated Mitt Romney's 23%.
 " mostly concerns boobs on TV and denying queers pursuit of happiness."
Newt Gingrich
Now, with the outcome of the Mississippi and Alabama primaries it seems that we are left with Zombie Newt the candidate who will not die. Newt Gingrich has been reduced to a characterization of his younger self, a bitter cartoon of the revolutionary as a young man. As he storms into his twilight years, what once seemed impetuous and brazen now appears more a self centered self-obsessed spoiled adult who delivered a major political party into the hands of boobs and idiots, because he wanted a little more attention. He gets little sympathy now that his own offspring are eating him alive. 
“These people...are so consumed by their own power, by a Mussolini-like ego, that their willingness to run over normal human beings and to destroy honest institutions is unending.”
Newt Gingrich
But perhaps the place to end this tale of Newtonian hubris would be with the man whose fate first convinced Newt that the path to glory lay through the destruction and devastation of others,  former Speaker of the House, Democrat Jim Wright, whose fall was engineered in large part by 'Nuclear Newt' in 1989.  Wright described Newt as "an arsonist who torches the building without supposing that the flames could consume his own bedroom.” Its taken over twenty years, but that is where we find our winner, Newt Gingrich,  standing alone in his pajamas and slippers, clutching his remaining matches to his breast, feeling the hungry flames nibbling at his own toes for a change, and wondering who could have ever started this terrible fire. He is the sad sack spoiled sleaze King of venom politics past, prancing and strutting toward his final exit from the national stage, and going out not with a bang but with a whimper, the Winner of the 2012 Ides of March Award - Newt Gingrich. Adios, and good riddance, you pyromaniac.
You can't trust anybody with power.
Newt Gingrich
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Sunday, March 11, 2012


I find it very telling that on March 13, 44 B.C., just two days before the planned assassination of Julius Caesar, the driving force behind the plot, Gaius Cassius Longinus , warned his fellow conspirators that, should Caesar uncover their plans, all of them would have to commit suicide. This was not the advice of a ideological leader. Rather, it indicates conspirators haunted with second thoughts. Simply put, there were too many who knew too much, estimates of members in the plot range up to 40 And to galvanize the plotters and hold them to their purpose, Cassius did not appeal to their patriotism, but to their sense of class. A serf suffers humiliation every day. It is the staff of their lives. But an aristocrat, faced with loss of privilege, prefers death to humiliation. This was the warning Cassius delivered to his nervous conspirators; we succede or we die. It never seems to have occurred to the privileged forty, that victory could also be fatal.
The object of Cassius' hatred, Giaus Julius Caesar, elected Roman dictator for life, intended on leaving Rome on the 18th. But even Caesar, at 56, must have been daunted at the prospect of campaigning in the Parthian desert, which 12 years before had consumed his old patron Crassus. Every year for the last five years opposition by the Senate aristocrats, first in Italy, then Spain, Greece, Egypt, Anatola, North Africa, and Spain again had forced Caesar onto campaign. On this day, the Ides of March, which was until this year, New Years Day, Caesar had intended on staying close to home. The historian Plutarch says he was not feeling well, and everyone agrees his wife was having nightmares Whichever the excuse he used to dissuade his followers, it seems clear he wanted a little down down time. Someone had to get him out of the house, someone close, someone he could not deny.
The obvious choice was Marcus Junius Brutus, the son of Cesar's long time mistress, and so often forgiven by Caesar that it was rumored he must be Caesar's illegitimate son. But Brutus had a new wife at home, Porcia Catonis. They had been married just the year before, in 45 B.C. Porcia was the daughter of the arristrocratic Senator Cato, who hated Cesar so much that when cornered in North Africa in 46 B.C., he had chosen suicide. It must have been her, aided by Crassus, who had stiffened Brutus back, and driven him to murder. But even Brutus was not willing to lure Caesar to his death. So that job fell to his younger brother, Decimus Brutus.
On the morning of March 15, 44 B.C., Decimus was welcomed into Caesar's home, and extended an invitation to a gladitorial display in one of the larger halls at Pompey's theater It was a subject certain to pique Ceasar's interests. Before crossing the Rubicon, Caesar had been checking up on one of his own gladiatorial schools. He agreed to accompany Decimus to the theatre. He had no intention in attending the Senate, which was meeting in the Curia Pompey, part of the same complex.
As the pair entered the complex through a side entrance, crowds pushed toward Caesar, forcing petitions into his hands, comments on government policy and requests for assistance. One of the messages handed to Caesar was from his lieutenant, Mark Anthony, warning of rumors concerning the Senate meeting today. Like the others notes handed to Caesar this morning, it would not be opened until it was too late.
Was there a man in the street warning Caesar to “Beware the Ides of March”? Probably, given the depth of religion in the pagan world, there were people wandering the streets of the largest city outside of China, prophesying doom about every dawn, and in particular about the dawn of an abandoned New Years Day. But Caesar had become Dictator by ignoring such ominous warnings. Today the soothsayer was right. The previous ten thousand mornings he had been wrong.
Once inside the walls of Pompey's Theatre, Caesar and Decimus, made their way along the walks toward the meeting room to inspect the gladiators. But as they passed the Curia they were waylaid by Decimus' older brother, Brutus. He urged Caesar to stop in the Curia,  to allow the Senate to wish him gods' speed on his invasion of Parthia. Exasperated, Caesar acquiesced, and the three men crossed the portico and entered the temporary Senate Chambers.
As he sat down, Caesar could not have missed the electric tension in the room. But what did it mean? Many were avoiding eye contact with him. A few were looking at their feet, or fingering the daggers hidden in their Senatorial robes. But even those Senators who were not in on the plot must have recognized that something was wrong. And when Senator Lucius Tillus Cimber thrust forward a petition asking that Caesar allow his brother to return from exile, Caesar pushed it away, into the hands of an aide. Where upon Tillus grabbed the hem of Caesar's toga, and pulled. Caesar pulled away, demanding, “Be careful, there is no need to use force!” As Caesar turned to a guard to seek assistance, Senator and Tribume Publius Servilius Casca Longus, slashed forward, stabbing Caesar in the neck, just missing his throat.
Caesar grabbed Casca's arm and stabbed him with a pen. Startled, Casca screamed, “Help, brother!” As he tried to stand, Caesar was stabbed again. He now realized the aristocrats had surrounded him, and they all had knives. He tried to run, but fell, and was brutally stabbed over and over as he lay on the floor. The autopsy would reveal 23 wounds. So many knives were slashing that Brutus was stabbed by one of his allies.
Rather than being proud of their act, the aristocrats fled the scene as quickly as they could, escaping back inside the city walls, where Cesar's soldiers were not allowed to carry arms. And the abandoned body of Julius Caesar lay a crumpled heap on the floor of the Curia Pompey, his robes soaking in his blood, for three hours. Finally three slaves worked up the courage to gather his corpse, load it on a litter, and carry him home to his wife. Thousands stood in shock to see the body pass on the street, one arm hanging off the litter, uncovered , bouncing to the steps of nervous slaves.
The site of Caesar's murder did not become a shrine. It became a public toilet. Pompey's theatre remained in use for almost 1,500 years. Eventually the large latrine which had shared a wall with Curia was enlarged, and engulfed the spot on the floor Caesar had bled upon. Finally it was walled off and forgotten. And when the theatre, and the latrine, fell on hard times midway through the fifteen century A.D., the populace turned it into a quarry, scavenging building stones for their homes and shops. Even today, those who come to look upon the space where Giaus Julius Caesar died, will find only an arch, and an ancient concrete wall
Within two years most of the aristocratic assassins were dead. Cassius, Casca, Cimber, Brutus - all died by their own hands. A few of the forty were killed in battle, and a few even fought for their lives in the courts, and won. They were allowed to return to Rome and live in somewhat reduced privilege Caesar's will left his fortune to his nephew Octavian, and eventually the boy overturned the rotten remains of the Republic and disposed of the tawdry trappings of its dead democracy, killed by the aristocrats. Octavian became Augustus, the first Roman Emperor. Retroactively, he made his uncle divine. The deceased Julius Caesar had become the thing the aristocrats said the feared the most, a god.
But the dream of a representatives government, giving the people a voice in their own governance, had been set back by 2,000 years.
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