Thirty-Two Tweets For Thirty-Two Presidents


Will Truman

Will Truman is the Editor-in-Chief of Ordinary Times. He is also on Twitter.

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42 Responses

  1. Avatar Dan Scotto says:

    This was really, really good from Jay Cost. I especially liked his treatment of the 1850s, and of course agree with him on Lincoln.Report

  2. Avatar greginak says:

    Yeah pardoning Nixon was important for the nation…….double facepalm.Report

    • Avatar Kolohe says:

      The Kennedys think it was important.Report

      • Avatar greginak says:

        Oh wow my world is rocked. The Kennedy’s thought it wasn’t a corrupt and wrong headed act. I must now perform penance at the high church of St. Kennedy for not believing Ford’s action made presidential corruption easier and more acceptable. That it wasn’t about healing the nation but protecting the feeling of a sub set of conservatives who were pissed there guy was caught. Yes truly the nation was healed by soothing the pain of upset Nixonoids. All those furious people on the left and middle and some on the right just didn’t know how healed they would be by letting Nixon off.Report

  3. Avatar Zac says:

    That was fun. I agree with Greginak re: Nixon, but other than that, that was a nice President’s Day rundown. Thanks for sharing.Report

  4. 1. Washington: Everybody praises him. Rightly so, but nobody has ever run their admin like him (Hamilton basically as prime minister).

    Wasn’t that pretty much the deal Ford offered Reagan for being his VP: Ford COO, Reagin CEO?Report

  5. Avatar Saul Degraw says:

    I am not sure I understand or agree with the Tammany on the Potomac swipe against FDR. He was far from perfect (Japanese Internment! Piss poor on civil rights for blacks!) But he created some of the best things American government has ever done from the Civilian Conservation Corps to Social Security to the FSLA and the Works Progress Administration. I have a soft spot for the W.P.A.

    Though Republicans opposed Social Security in the 1930s and they oppose it today. Some of the greatest politicians in American history got their start as New Deal liberals including LBJ and Hubert Humphrey. He appointed some of the heaviest hitters to the Supreme Court like Black, Jackson, and Douglas.Report

    • Avatar Will Truman says:

      I would take it as a begrudging respect.Report

    • Avatar Dan Scotto says:

      I recommend Cost’s book, *A Republic No More,* for more on the critique. I think Cost has a very negative view of machine politics, and in his book, he does a chapter on the corruption embedded in the New Deal.Report

      • Avatar greginak says:

        You might think WW2 might be part of FDR’s legacy. I understand conservatives are hell bent on demonizing the New Deal, but fricking WW2?Report

        • Avatar Kolohe says:

          That was the point of Ike’s farewell, right? That the war machine built up for Dubya Dubya Too is now a permanent institution.Report

          • Avatar greginak says:

            I think Ike didn’t like the post war/cold war defense machine. Ike seemed to think ww2 was good idea and i think he had something to do with it. But i’m open to hearing how conservatives think ww2 was a bad idea to fight. Go for it.Report

            • Avatar Kolohe says:

              I think Pat Buchannan wrote a book on it.

              It’s not the hardest contranian case to make – let the Nazis beat the Soviets, then fight a cold war with the former instead of the latter.

              Sucks for the Jews, of course, but we never fought WW2 to stop the Holocaust.Report

              • Avatar greginak says:

                Well i’m assuming Patty B was okay with fighting the Japanese but who knows. I doubt this is a contrarian take, but i dont’ think using PB is how i’d want to make an argument. But let the Nazi’s have all of europe and we can sit behind our moat might not work out all that well.Report

          • Avatar Stillwater says:

            But Ike wasn’t blaming MIC on the mistake of fighting WW2.

            Only a libertarianish seduced by the entrancing allure of counterfactuals would do that. 🙂Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq says:

        Having glanced at Cost’s book at Amazon, I can already tell you that the liberal critique is that the ideal conservative republic would do the reverse of what Cost said it would and enshrine special interests above common interests. Before the Progressive Era, with a few exceptions, government was either treated as something way to idealized to be of value to most people or as a way to get rich and give out patronage. Most liberals aren’t that fond of machine politics either but we tend to see it as a natural result of government not having any welfare measures and private charities being run with a clenched fist. People turned to machines like Tammany because they were one of the few sources of relatively easy help available if you fill back on hard times. They only wanted your vote while the Protestant charities needed to vet if you were one of the deserving poor first.

        To liberals, the idealized small-r republic of the Conservative actually ads what liberals see as special interests because it really doesn’t do much for the people, often serves as a source of sinecure or at least available employment for the children of the elite, and gives more aid to powerful business interests than anything else, especially before the direct election of Senators. Liberals see the Progressive Era, New Deal, and Great Society as the first time since Reconstruction attempted to help common interests.Report

      • Avatar Francis says:

        While there were plenty of mistakes in the New Deal, it also likely preserved the political system. People will endure hard times only for so long in the face of a government that appears to be uncaring before they take matters into their own hands.Report

        • Avatar LeeEsq says:

          Unemployment was at 25% and there were a variety of other problems. Even if the New Deal was not economically sound, it could have been socially necessary. Telling people to tighten their belts for the next few years while things work out is not really viable in an urban democracy with over a hundred million people. Sometimes saving the political/social order does require doing things that might not make economic sense from a Free Market or capitalist stand point.Report

        • Avatar Michael Cain says:

          When I was a lad in Iowa, Grandpa Cain would entertain me with Tales of the Depression. I was particularly taken by the ones about the Communists and the Fascists both organizing meetings at the Grange Hall, on alternating weeks, both advocating armed overthrow of the federal government. He said that the Iowa farmers of the day gave them a polite listen.

          He also pointed out that state game wardens pretty much gave up on enforcing the hunting laws (seasons, bag limits) in southern Iowa after a couple of the more officious wardens simply went into the woods and never came out.Report

    • Avatar j r says:

      I am not sure I understand or agree with the Tammany on the Potomac swipe against FDR.

      Everything that you wrote after that sentence shows that you do understand. What FDR did was to legally enshrine and bureaucratize all the essential functions of a big city political machine at the national. If you support that sort of thing, that’s fine, but let’s not pretend it isn’t what it is.Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw says:

        Is there any evidence of FDR as a Boss Tweed type figure who embezzled from the government? Did FDR ever talk about “honest graft?” When people talk about Tammany, they usually mean corruption, bribery,and graft.Report

        • Avatar j r says:

          I am tempted to write something glib about the similarities between corruption and bureaucracy, but I won’t since I think that you are smart enough to grok what my comment really means.Report

  6. Avatar Kolohe says:

    1) He’s shortchanging Jefferson severely – though the two things he’s most known for were the pet projects of the people on the opposite side of the political spectrum from him, and wound up dooming his vision for America.

    2) The business of America is business, but the business of Harding was all kinds of shenanigans, professionally and personally. His death was one of the more fortuitous events of the 20th century and underrated for its impact.Report

    • Avatar LeeEsq says:

      Harding was our first frat boy President. Calvin Coolidge might have had politics that I would disagree with but he was able to actually administrate the country and act Presidential.Report

  7. Avatar KatherineMW says:

    Nice! A good demonstration of how tweets can be effective (forcing someone to condense their ideas down to a concise, focused point) rather than merely inane.

    Agree with the admiration of JQA. The assessment of Jackson is strong but is lacking the word “genocidal”, which seems like a rather substantial matter to overlook. (Descripion of Wilson, on the other hand, is spot-on.)

    Disagree with the assessment of FDR. “Corrupt” is the go-to cricism by conservatives of any successful progressive who they can’t find any other criticisms of. The worst corruption is the running of government by, for, and of the wealthy: i.e., “the business of America is business”.

    Without FDR or someone like him, your only options are Depression or Gilded Age. He enabled the formation of a strong American middle class with basic workers’ rights and social welfare. That’s not to say he didn’t have flaws and do wrong, as Saul has outlined above.Report

    • Avatar j r says:

      Who called FDR corrupt?Report

      • “The Founder of Tammany on the Potomac” implies it, because Tammany is a byword for corruption.Report

        • Avatar j r says:

          “The Founder of Tammany on the Potomac” implies it…

          Maybe, if that is the way you choose to read it. There are other ways.

          For instance, as @leeesq points out above Tammany Hall provided a certain set of public goods and services to a population that would have otherwise been without. A lot of what the New Deal did was to take those functions out of the hands of political machines and invest them in a professional bureaucracy under the auspices of a federal government.

          If you are someone who generally believes in expanding the social welfare functions of government, you likely view this as positive. Conversely, if you are generally suspicious of the expansion of federal bureaucracy, you may view this move from skeptical to outright disastrous. But we can get to a point of honest disagreement about the relative merits of New Deal programs without ever having to call FDR corrupt.

          That is how I read the Tweet, but maybe I’m just hopelessly idealistic.Report

          • Avatar Saul Degraw says:


            You are being too clever by half with the plausible denial. Every student learns of Tammany as a byword for political corruption and the worst excesses of the gilded age.Report

          • Sure, and if someone said that Obama was the American Stalin, you’d agree “Yes, they do both have foreign-sounding names.”Report

          • Avatar LeeEsq says:

            I’m going to side with @saul-degraw and @mike-schilling. When Tammany Hall and Boss Tweed came up in my American history class in a liberal suburb of New York, it was taught as an example for political corruption and all the bad parts of politics of the Gilded Age. I only learned about Tammany Hall and the other political machines providing public goods and social welfare much latter. When you tweet that FDR created Tammany on the Potomac, the implication is that FDR was handing out public goods for votes like Tammany Hall and other political machines were. There is nothing remotely positive about that tweet.Report

          • Avatar j r says:

            @saul-degraw, @mike-schilling and @leeesq

            Yes I am clever, but you’re all still missing the point here.

            Massively expanding the federal bureaucracy to deliver an expanded menu of public services, in essence, involves bringing machine politics out of the ward and professionally enshrining it under the auspices of government. If you view that move favorably, it’s because you think that it manages to keep the good aspects of machine politics (delivering services to constituents) without the bad stuff (the graft and corruption).

            I take Cost’s point to be that when yo do this, yes you get rid of most of the corruption, but you preserve the essential clientelism of machine politics. If you want to take exception with the characterization of the New Deal as clientelist, that’s fine. Maybe Cost is wrong. But trying to dismiss his point as a claim that FDR was corrupt doesn’t do much to prove him wrong.Report

            • Avatar El Muneco says:

              If everyone you sit down to play poker with is potentially a mark, maybe you’re the mark.
              If everyone you meet is an asshole, maybe you’re not as glib as you thought.
              If everyone you discuss politics with is naive, maybe…

              This lesson cost me a lot of self-esteem when I was younger. That still burns enough that I remember it every time I click “Reply”.Report

              • Avatar j r says:

                I immediately thought of three possible responses to this comment, so for sh*ts and giggles I’ll use all three:

                1. Three people, who share a common political point of view, disagree with me about someone else’s partisan characterization of FDR and that somehow equates to “if everyone?”

                2. Who did I call naive?

                3. Is there a substantive critique of something that I said in there?Report

            • Avatar LeeEsq says:

              If Cost wanted to make this point he should have directly said so rather than make a remark about Tammany on the Potomac. Sometimes you do need to sacrifice wit for clarity to make your point.

              People like Cost have an ultra-idealistic opinion on the nature of government and republics that are unsuited for most people. They are the conservative equivalent of goo-goos because they want government to be some high-minded enterprise whose citizens are filled with republican virtue and are all self-reliant yeoman in no need of government assistance besides the bare basics. Its like how the more idealistic progressives think that everything can be like their ideal Nordic social democracy despite evidence towards the contrary. I have no patience with either view.Report