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Read Between the Lines: 3 Degrees of Speeches in the 20th Century

This year is one of many noteworthy anniversaries, and this month passed by with another one in the collection. Specifically, 75 years ago on September 3, 1939, England and France issued their declarations of war against Nazi Germany in retaliation to Hitler rolling steel and thunder into Poland. And for an interesting memorial, The Atlantic published the recording of Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain’s speech on the day.

It’s a powerful piece of audio. As viewers of history, we have a the benefit of hindsight in understanding the devastating implications of Chamberlain’s words, and that they’d result in destruction in pursuit of the greater good on an unimaginable scale. But at the same time, 3/4 of a century after the fact, you’re left with the impression that the British accent can make anything sound like a classy affair, including war. As Chamberlain speaks, a little part of you is anticipating the somber tone to turn into an ad for Earl Grey tea with that voice. At one point in history, the British and Germanic people were tied in bad-food bond through the likes of the House of Hanover, yet here you can listen to the absolute darkness that the relations would eventually reach.

This is why speeches are great. They paint a picture and fill in holes of a time gone by. They let you feel the heat of the moment. Certain one’s such as “I have a dream…” and “The only thing we have to fear…” are almost birthed into us, but here is a look at some of my favorite’s that are about due for some stage time. I offer to you a sampling of the best of times, worst of times, and oddest of times from oratory history.

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The Good - John F. Kennedy’s Inaugural Address

If you’re going to start it off, start it off with a bang. Kennedy is one of the most celebrated orators in this country’s history. His televised Civil Rights address, his "New Frontier" at the 1960 Democratic National Convention, a plea for nuclear disarmament at American University, all classics. Aided by his look, intellect, and finely-honed Mass-hole accent, his speeches gave off an unforgettable character. The man could’ve declared “Maybe I’m born with it, maybe it’s Maybeline,” and scholars would still be dissecting the great hair declaration. No place is this better displayed than at his inauguration.

Some may say this is obvious, but settle down. Kennedy’s election signaled a re-investment in the United States and a new way forward. It is here that Kennedy made his “ask not” declaration - Surely his most memorable, but not the most powerful. No, for me that comes earlier in the speech when he declares "(A)nd to remember that, in the past, those who foolishly sought power by riding the back of the tiger ended up inside." 

Well what the hell does that mean? The first half of the 20th century was torn apart by alliances and bedfellows that erupted into bloody combat, and this was Kennedy’s warning not to repeat the mistakes of the past. As the Cold War struggle between Communist and Capitalist factions threatened to let loose hell once more, and countries throughout Latin America and Indochina were thrust into turmoil and desperately sought hasty stability, this was Kennedy’s call for cool heads. Strangely enough, it would also foreshadow how Kennedy approached certain “shoot first, then shoot some more” advisors who surrounded him that thought the nuclear bomb could be America’s next great pastime.

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The Bad - Richard Nixon’s Farewell Address

14 years after John F. Kennedy would ignite a mid-century hope about the United State’s future, Richard Nixon would be the first president to resign and unleash a new era of cynicism. And fittingly, Nixon would lead us into that future as president Pagliacci.

Tricky Dick undoubtedly understood the significance of his approaching fate, because he would deliver a farewell address that could only have been written by a tortured soul in a secluded Irish cabin. Move over James Joyce, the photos of Archibald Cox are roaring in the fireplace and Nixon is working out his Hallmark material.

The speech starts out well enough with a few folksy jokes and small talk, and then while reminiscing about the White House the mood shifts with the line “this house has a great heart.”  It’s hard for your mind not to project a sad fiddle in the distance, and by the closing, not a dry eye remains. After Nixon quotes Theodore Roosevelt about crowd favorites like death and loss, he recites the lines that truly make this speech great: “(B)ecause only if you have been in the deepest valley can you ever know how magnificent it is to be on the highest mountain” followed by “Always give your best, never get discouraged, never be petty; always remember, others may hate you, but those who hate you don’t win unless you hate them, and then you destroy yourself.”

Note the second quote. Nixon was famous for his paranoia. Ever since his first famous speech that he felt the press railroaded him into giving over his pesky secret campaign fund, he suffered from an acute persecution complex that rivaled biblical tales. Nixon would wage war with the media early in his career, mistaking everything aside from glowing praise as a stab in the back, and take it with him throughout his life. So while his farewell address was very touching, was a surprise that it concluded with a diplomatic warning to not drink the haterade?

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The Ugly - Harry Truman’s Undelivered Radio Address

Imagine the world’s collective history along a parallel universe - D-day was a failure, the Cold War turned hot in a nuclear blast, George Washington was a break-dancing robot named Jazzitron George 3000. It can be wild stuff, but a wormhole to alien events can exist in the drafts of alternate or unused speeches. One particular gem went unused by President Truman on June 12, 1948.

The broadcasted address was a pretty bland diplomatic affair - Post-war Russia was being a major pain, peace on earth, freedom for all - your standard bits. Where the president really shined was in the speech’s original draft, in which Truman let fly his inner gossip queen commandant.

Where the actual broadcast begins with a rather tame swipe at the Soviet Union, the original draft told the tale of how Truman hike his pants up to his chest and gave Vyacheslev Molotov a real what-for in Washington. I may be wrong, but it feels like Harry has a bone to pick. Truman tells a story of how he soured on Russia like he’s chatting at his weekly gin rummy club- “I had the kindliest feeling for Russia and the Russian people and I liked Stalin. But I found after a very patient year that Russian agreements are made to be broken.”

And contrary to the final speeches world peace theme, the original draft constantly bemoaned the downsizing of the U.S. military. First Truman complains about the sinking of perfectly modern warships after WW1, then he chastised the mamby-pamby parents for wanting their children home from the war front, or in his words “mamma and papa and every Congressman wanted every boy discharged at once after Japan folded up.” Finally, after calling for a larger military budget, Truman threatens to break out his whupping stick - “Our friends the Russkies understand only one language - how many divisions you have - actual or potential.” Someone remind me not to step on this guys lawn anytime soon.

President Truman’s cantankerous wariness of the Soviet Union was not unfounded, though, and 2 years later the United States would be fighting an indirect war with the Soviet Union after Stalin backed Kim Il-sung in the Korean War. But still, the original draft gives a great look at Truman’s no-guff attitude at the time.

And for a 21st century bonus:

The Odd - George W. Bush’s White House Menorrah Lighting Ceremony

"I couldn’t imagine somebody like Osama bin Laden understanding the joy of Hanukkah." But really though, he probably just didn’t understand.

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Hello, comrade! Please, please, come in, welcome to Le Patisserie Putin. Tonight for your dining pleasure, we are serving up a full 3 course meal, cobbled together from the finest ingredients allowed to us under the glorious food import bans. For starter, we have the “little green salad” - crafted from scavenged greens that we suspect are edible, accompanied by a side of one sturdy beet. Your main will be the chef’s signature dish - “Wheat” - a delightful fare of boiled buckwheat garnished with dry flakes of buckwheat, all served atop a bed of garlic infused buckwheat. Make sure to save room as for dessert you will feast upon the much raved “Smiling Medvedev,” in which Prime Minister Dimitry Medvedev will read to you a list of foods that you could have eaten 2 weeks ago. Now feast, and remember to let your enjoyment be known - it’s for the cause.

If you haven’t caught on by now, Russia has banned imports of certain foods as a retaliation against those countries who have levied sanctions on the eastern bear. The embargo used against the United States, Canada, the E.U., and Norway won’t leave just Russia’s bourgeoisie weeping over the lack of Iberico ham in their pantry either, as essential ingredients were placed on the chopping block along side worldly treats.

That fact matters, as it keeps with the theme of Russia shelving the punishment collected for it’s “Who? Me?” expedition in Ukraine on the backs of it’s commoners. While the Oligarchs and big wigs take to press releases and Twitter to work on one liners and zingers over having their passports revoked, the less well off Russian citizens endure the slow squeeze of a weaker ruble and higher cost of goods as the economy decelerates due to a combination of falling bombs and heavy sanctions.

The foreign food bans are no exception to this trend. While some may brush it off as no big deal, restaurant owners are not in that category. The dining sector, which according to Bloomberg imports almost 50% of it’s ingredients, are scrambling around Russia searching for lower quality yet higher cost cardboard meat to replace the superb imported produce. But it won’t just be restaurant owners suffering due to slowing business or city dwellers feeling it in the wallet over more expensive groceries who have the most to worry about, no, that would be those in the most far flung regions of Russia (pro tip, Russia is big). The German media outlet Deutsche Welle has noted that, for example, the “weekly price increase” for chicken was 1.4%, yet chicken leg prices on Russia’s lonely Sakhalin Island exploded by a whopping 60%. That is an insane dependence on Purdue chicken - or as we know it in this country “cockroach with a side of poultry.” And unfortunately, even if Russia quits flirting with the likes of Brazil and seals a deal over new food imports, there doesn’t seem to be a real end with the same quality of food without lifting the import bans.

In the past I’ve shown my distaste for baseless historical analogies, because they always end with Hitler filling the shoes of any John Doe and Trader Joes selling wilted kale as a Munich moment, but I believe there is a connection to be made to the past. Russians have a rich history of being left wanting, and that may explain why some are embracing the food bans through acts like proudly displaying pictures of Soviet era recipes on social media.

If you entered this earth at any point before 1990, you probably have even the tiniest recollection of the 10-out-of-10 five star swan dive the collapsing Soviet Union’s economy took in the early 90’s. With no system in order to catch the fallout from the crumbling rationing system, goods became scarce. People would stand in lines just for the chance to see a loaf of bread. A 1991 New York Times article had a dire warning for just how bleak circumstances were for the fading USSR when it wrote "March will bring a drastic worsening of the economic situation in the Soviet Union because the last reserves of food will have been eaten. The cattle will have been slaughtered so there will be no meat." (The article also mentions foreign investors hesitant due impart to violence in Ukraine, for that full repeating history flavor). To understand just how out of hand Russia’s economy had gotten, I direct you to the story of Yarensky, the Russian logging company who had to pay their employees in tampons because there was not enough money flowing in the system to cover the newly private Russian companies expenses. Can Kotex be directly deposited or would they need to be cashed in person?

Why point this out? Well, it could explain why Russia has been willing to be hit with sanction after sanction, and why it’s citizens are willing to reign in their lifestyles drastically in pursuit of it’s countries goals. The Soviet Union crumbled in 1991, which means people were living through the previous paragraphs economic conditions only 23 years ago. According to the CIA world fact book, the median age of Russia is 39 years old. So, that leaves you with a ruling class who has the means to withstand much worse, and a middle to low class that has an experienced earned stiff upper lip when it comes to living without the finer (or even essential) things in life. To both, a world without mozzarella could be worth a world with a stronger Russia.

I’m reaching out to my followers in a plea for help.

My dog Leeloo needs a tumor removed from her chest in a land where everything is grossly overpriced, so my girlfriend made this gofundme. Since I’m only 24, I don’t really have the deep pockets to be tossing DC money around at every turn, so a little help would go a long way. Unfortunately, I don’t have anything that you can dump over your head, but if you really need something then perhaps I can mail you water out of her drinking bowl.

Since I graduated from college my life has never been able to establish permanent roots. I’ve moved to a different state every year, making strong relationships a rare occurrence. My girlfriend and my dog are the only ones who have been by my side through this time, so this is one of life’s endless games that is very hard for me. We’re not asking for much, but whatever amount anyone donates would be greatly appreciated.

You can give at: http://www.gofundme.com/dxrtjg

The Naughty Governors Club

Thanks in part to a disgruntled chef with Bond-like espionage talents and the need to look fly, Bob McDonnell was indicted in January 2014 on 14 counts of fraud. After being accused of stealing from the governor’s mansion, executive chef read more …



I would not be fulfilling my bloggerly duties if I did not post a link to my previously-written “Naughty Governor’s Club” piece. With how fast the modern news cycle is, it seems that new enrollees into the not-so-prestigious club are rolling in daily. In New York, the hounds are sniffing around Andrew Cuomo for his meddling in a corruption investigation. In Virginia, the McDonnell trial of tacky trinkets is in full swing. And of course in Texas, Rick Perry is currently being indicted for abusing his gubernatorial powers.

What I find to be interesting about the Perry case is that there is an almost unanimous consensus that he may be victim to trumped up charges. Usually you have your standard left/right divide, but this time everyone seems to have taken the side of the walking, talking Norman Rockwell painting.

The long of the short is that after Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg was arrested for drunk driving, Perry threatened to veto the funding for her Public Integrity Unit unless she resigned.

Now, there’s the one hand which portrays Rick Perry as taking the initiative to punish one of the state’s public employees who was arrested in her car after trying to go back to the future in search of more whiskey and rye, with a blood alcohol level over three times the Texas limit.

But, there’s the pesky other hand that looks as if Perry is publicly using his authority to strong arm one of the state’s few democratic politicians into quitting her job. Also, it just so happens that the democrat who Perry seems to be strong-arming was investigating him for his generous grants that he was dolling out to campaign donors.

So it seems as if we are left with three Rick Perry’s to choose from: The virtuous, the corrupt, or the master of timing.

The Naughty Governors Club

Thanks in part to a disgruntled chef with Bond-like espionage talents and the need to look fly, Bob McDonnell was indicted in January 2014 on 14 counts of fraud. After being accused of stealing from the governor’s mansion, executive chef read more …

I would not be fulfilling my bloggerly duties if I did not post a link to my previously-written “Naughty Governor’s Club” piece. With how fast the modern news cycle is, it seems that new enrollees into the not-so-prestigious club are rolling in daily. In New York, the hounds are sniffing around Andrew Cuomo for his meddling in a corruption investigation. In Virginia, the McDonnell trial of tacky trinkets is in full swing. And of course in Texas, Rick Perry is currently being indicted for abusing his gubernatorial powers.

What I find to be interesting about the Perry case is that there is an almost unanimous consensus that he may be victim to trumped up charges. Usually you have your standard left/right divide, but this time everyone seems to have taken the side of the walking, talking Norman Rockwell painting.

The long of the short is that after Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg was arrested for drunk driving, Perry threatened to veto the funding for her Public Integrity Unit unless she resigned.

Now, there’s the one hand which portrays Rick Perry as taking the initiative to punish one of the state’s public employees who was arrested in her car after trying to go back to the future in search of more whiskey and rye, with a blood alcohol level over three times the Texas limit.

But, there’s the pesky other hand that looks as if Perry is publicly using his authority to strong arm one of the state’s few democratic politicians into quitting her job. Also, it just so happens that the democrat who Perry seems to be strong-arming was investigating him for his generous grants that he was dolling out to campaign donors.

So it seems as if we are left with three Rick Perry’s to choose from: The virtuous, the corrupt, or the master of timing.

On this, the 40th anniversary of Richard Nixon doing his last unthinkable and resigning as president, everyone should take a moment to read this great article by Jon Marshall in The Atlantic. It’s not so much about Nixon’s abdication, but how he put the first foot forward in closing off the White House from the press, combatting them and cordoning them off like an army of lepers.

I’ve written before briefly about Nixon, and in hindsight it’s really not that surprising that Nixon blazed out in scandal. Despite his humble Quaker roots, Nixon was a poker wunderkindThe man funded part of his first congressional campaign with gambling winnings that he racked up during WW2. Most everyone is aware of the sleazy connotations that gambling can bring, it’s surprising that Nixon wasn’t also selling loose cigarettes and leasing cars out of gas station parking lots while he was at it.

Now, I know not every regular to the game of chance deals in the illicit, but considering that as vice presidential candidate Nixon had to explain why he had been receiving funds from secret donors, I don’t feel guilty in insinuating the lower character. But to his credit, in combatting the allegations, Nixon pulled off one of the greatest slight-of-hands in history. In a televised address that went was basically “Sure I took some money, but now I have this little cute dog, and gosh, who doesn’t like cute little dogs? I’ll tell you who. Commies, that’s who. Well, goodnight.” - Nixon made a whole country forget any smidge of controversy.

By now, everyone has read the warnings - Ebola is staging an unfortunate comeback, and it’s bigger, badder, and more terrifying than ever before. According to CNN, the current Ebola epidemic has infected a terrifyingly large 1,323 and killed roughly 729 (as of writing this), with no sign of cooling any time soon. The situation has become so dire in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea that aid groups such as the Peace Corps have began their withdrawal and Liberia has sealed it’s borders in attempts to isolate the contamination.

But for us, the death and heart-ache is an ocean away. While 3 nations combat the ravaging of their population, we can safely sleep after a day of wrestling over which pastry will usurp the cupcakes dominance. Except that unbeknownst too many, we have our own terror of maladies creeping through our streets.

See, while Africa is being torn apart by a relatively new disease, we are suffering from an acute case of nostalgia. Just as many in the West have developed a flare for the retro, so have our diseases. 90’s kids had Nicktoons, and 1890’s kids had whooping cough. Now, thanks to the free-spirit of the anti-vaccers, diseases that could be caught playing dirty loot strings are on the rebound.

Polio, mumps, scarlet fever, the aforementioned whooping cough, all illnesses that are clawing back from the grave. Let’s take measles, a disease that was declared more-or-less conquered in 2000. Thinkprogress writes that, after being relegated to the history books, 2013 saw the largest cases of measles in the past 17 years. They state that according to the CDC, the outbreaks all cultivated in communities that object to vaccinations, where because of religious stigmatization or a debunked theory that links vaccines to autism, people can contract and act as hosts to diseases from foreign carriers. Now, because of such fears, you could need to call a Pestmeester rather than a doctor when you feel ill.

So should we neatly start folding our unmentionables and packing what we can carry into a briefcase, because Pestilence is pulling up in his Uber cab (horses are so 18th century) to take us on a wild ride? I’m not a doctor, so I have no idea. Surely, these are strange times we are living in, but it’s nothing new for humanity to be haunted by bizarre diseases. One tale unfolds in mid-19th century Washington, DC. After attending the inauguration of James Buchanan at the National Hotel, lodgers of the establishment began succumbing to strange symptoms such as intense diarrhea and vomiting. Politico notes that an estimated 400 were infected, including the president-elect, and roughly 30 died, 3 of which were Congressmen. 

Taking on a name that sounded like a bad marketing campaign, the mystery illness was dubbed National Hotel Disease, and left many scratching their heads. Keep in mind that this was over a century before you could catch the same symptoms from touching a tv remote after a hotel hosted the AVN awards. Some suggested it was an attempt on Buchanan’s life gone awry. It turns out in this case the culprit was not a fear of vaccines or heavy handed assassins, but rather sneaky sewage, when later observers would rule the culprit as an acute case of dysentery.

In the wee hours of September 1, 1983, Korean Air Lines Flight 007 was intercepted and shot down by a Soviet Sukhoi Su-15. The civilian airline was hit with 2 missiles after entering Soviet airspace on it’s route from Alaska to South Korea, finding a fatal resting place in the Sea of Japan. A world away, over skies painted by car dealerships and Bon-Ton store lights, there is a flicker that then flairs across an illuminated sky. It’s the Ronnie signal! Dashing forward from his Californian Ranch - codenamed “The Hippie Basher” - Ronald Reagan darts through the night post haste towards Washington, DC. Minutes after sensing a disturbance in the capitalismic force as soon as KAL 007 hit it’s watery grave, President Reagan summoned Vice President Bush, Secretary of Defense Captain Planet, and the rest of the Teenage Mutant Cabinet Officials to discuss a new clandestine operation. The task - simple - Ronald Reagan would lead a select group of G.I Joes on a shirtless mission into the USSR and exact revenge on Andropov and his minions …Unfortunately, this gold standard of fan fiction is not actually how Reagan handled the downing of KAL 007. And I’m not the first to point out the claims that Republicans made about Reagan’s swiftness in riding the vengeance eagle against Russia are complete bunk, but how else are they going to attack Obama’s approach to handling the MH17 downing? Compare him to Ford, the man who ate a corn husk? I don’t think so, my friend.As I’ve already stated, I’m not the first to point out the hypocrisy here, so I won’t beat a dead horse in making a case that Reagan had to be goaded into acting and finally addressed the downing after 4 days. And frankly, I consider arguing about Reagan’s legacy to be a futile task. Despite the books and documentaries and family member’s to argue to the contrary, Reagan’s corpse is constantly fished out of the catacombs and thrown in front of any current discourse. It’s the most predictable ouija board, with the guiding hand of Reagan’s spirit always spelling out “I’m awesome, bro.” But if Republicans really want to hold up an administration that would review the AIDs epidemic as a knee slapping laugh out loud riot, then so be it. I suppose everyone has their quirks.I actually want to play devil’s advocate to the devil’s advocate. Republican’s want to claim that Reagan took life by the balls when the Soviet Union blew KAL 007 out of the sky, that’s fine, because I’ll argue that he didn’t go far enough.First we need to lay out a few key differences between KAL 007 and MH17. To begin, MH17 was leaving Amsterdam en route to Kuala Lumpur and was shot down over a war zone. On the flip side, KAL 007 was an outbound flight from U.S. territory - on it’s way from Alaska to Seoul, and was downed not over a battle field but for unintentionally encroaching into Soviet airspace. This brings us to our second difference. Due to the flight routes, the MH17 crash killed one American, and while that is a tragedy, the destruction of KAL 007 lost a whopping 61 American citizens. Which brings us to the biggest discrepancy between the two, which is that the KAL 007 destruction resulted in the death of sitting U.S. Representative Larry McDonald, who was a passenger on the flight.An elected official killed by a foreign nation - that’s unprecedented. The only instance remotely similar was when Representative Leo Ryan was shot to death in Guyana in 1978, but he was murdered by Jim Jones’ cult followers, and you can’t really retaliate against lunatics aside from carpet bombing households that buy large amounts of tinfoil. So what should Reagan have done? Am I spreading my wing and flying like a war hawk to the scene? Well, no, but surely you could argue that killing a sitting U.S. official might constitute an act of war. Lord knows the United States has had enemies dine on lead buffets for lesser causes. What then, aside from war? Reagan did eventually get around to condemning the Soviet Union and demanding an apology, but whether he spent a press conference calling the USSR monsters or spent the entire speech roundhouse kicking a photo of Yuri Andropov and burping into a microphone, schoolmarming trigger happy nations doesn’t deter them. Many in ‘83 America were upset by Reagan’s lack of action such as reinstating grain embargo’s and ending arms control talks (and of course the white noise that always chatters in the background screaming for bomb dropping). They, whether right or wrong, demanded more from Reagan just as they are from Obama - despite the peachy memories that are being tossed around today.

In the wee hours of September 1, 1983, Korean Air Lines Flight 007 was intercepted and shot down by a Soviet Sukhoi Su-15. The civilian airline was hit with 2 missiles after entering Soviet airspace on it’s route from Alaska to South Korea, finding a fatal resting place in the Sea of Japan.

A world away, over skies painted by car dealerships and Bon-Ton store lights, there is a flicker that then flairs across an illuminated sky. It’s the Ronnie signal! Dashing forward from his Californian Ranch - codenamed “The Hippie Basher” - Ronald Reagan darts through the night post haste towards Washington, DC. Minutes after sensing a disturbance in the capitalismic force as soon as KAL 007 hit it’s watery grave, President Reagan summoned Vice President Bush, Secretary of Defense Captain Planet, and the rest of the Teenage Mutant Cabinet Officials to discuss a new clandestine operation. The task - simple - Ronald Reagan would lead a select group of G.I Joes on a shirtless mission into the USSR and exact revenge on Andropov and his minions …

Unfortunately, this gold standard of fan fiction is not actually how Reagan handled the downing of KAL 007. And I’m not the first to point out the claims that Republicans made about Reagan’s swiftness in riding the vengeance eagle against Russia are complete bunk, but how else are they going to attack Obama’s approach to handling the MH17 downing? Compare him to Ford, the man who ate a corn husk? I don’t think so, my friend.

As I’ve already stated, I’m not the first to point out the hypocrisy here, so I won’t beat a dead horse in making a case that Reagan had to be goaded into acting and finally addressed the downing after 4 days. And frankly, I consider arguing about Reagan’s legacy to be a futile task. Despite the books and documentaries and family member’s to argue to the contrary, Reagan’s corpse is constantly fished out of the catacombs and thrown in front of any current discourse. It’s the most predictable ouija board, with the guiding hand of Reagan’s spirit always spelling out “I’m awesome, bro.” But if Republicans really want to hold up an administration that would review the AIDs epidemic as a knee slapping laugh out loud riot, then so be it. I suppose everyone has their quirks.

I actually want to play devil’s advocate to the devil’s advocate. Republican’s want to claim that Reagan took life by the balls when the Soviet Union blew KAL 007 out of the sky, that’s fine, because I’ll argue that he didn’t go far enough.

First we need to lay out a few key differences between KAL 007 and MH17. To begin, MH17 was leaving Amsterdam en route to Kuala Lumpur and was shot down over a war zone. On the flip side, KAL 007 was an outbound flight from U.S. territory - on it’s way from Alaska to Seoul, and was downed not over a battle field but for unintentionally encroaching into Soviet airspace. This brings us to our second difference. Due to the flight routes, the MH17 crash killed one American, and while that is a tragedy, the destruction of KAL 007 lost a whopping 61 American citizens. Which brings us to the biggest discrepancy between the two, which is that the KAL 007 destruction resulted in the death of sitting U.S. Representative Larry McDonald, who was a passenger on the flight.

An elected official killed by a foreign nation - that’s unprecedented. The only instance remotely similar was when Representative Leo Ryan was shot to death in Guyana in 1978, but he was murdered by Jim Jones’ cult followers, and you can’t really retaliate against lunatics aside from carpet bombing households that buy large amounts of tinfoil.

So what should Reagan have done? Am I spreading my wing and flying like a war hawk to the scene? Well, no, but surely you could argue that killing a sitting U.S. official might constitute an act of war. Lord knows the United States has had enemies dine on lead buffets for lesser causes. What then, aside from war? Reagan did eventually get around to condemning the Soviet Union and demanding an apology, but whether he spent a press conference calling the USSR monsters or spent the entire speech roundhouse kicking a photo of Yuri Andropov and burping into a microphone, schoolmarming trigger happy nations doesn’t deter them. Many in ‘83 America were upset by Reagan’s lack of action such as reinstating grain embargo’s and ending arms control talks (and of course the white noise that always chatters in the background screaming for bomb dropping). They, whether right or wrong, demanded more from Reagan just as they are from Obama - despite the peachy memories that are being tossed around today.

I think it’s time to put the nails in the coffin when it comes to the worthless art of public polling. They’re connsistently wrong, and can only act as a barometer of public opinion so much as the knowledge of those responding to the polls allows. Sure, they make great clickbait and troll feed, but what good is that to the greater discourse? We’ve all seen the headlines - “3 out of 4 think Hirohito was one swell chap.” “Majority considers Obamacare is too big for its britches, thinks Affordable Care Act is someone they’d like to have a beer with.” Well 100% of me’s think polls need to go.When Quinnipiac University rolled out their recent poll which found that Americans believe that Barack Obama is the worst president since World War 2, my eyes got tendinitis at how hard I rolled them at the results. Right off the bat this poll is flawed because it relies on Americans understanding of American history, which solidly rests in the “meh” to “huh?” range. And yes, it shows in this poll. It was basically paint by numbers results, with all of the top scoring commanders-in-chiefs being the most well known names. The worst polled president was Obama (remember that eyeroll comment?) with 33%, George W. Bush in second place with 28%, and Richard Nixon at a distant third with 13%. Conversely, in the best president since WW2 poll, Reagan came in first (more screentime for the eyeroll) with 35%, and sitting in the bleachers in a far second was Bill Clinton with 18% and John F. Kennedy in third with 15%. The lesser known wallflower presidents barely registered, Jimmy Carter cracked the highest  with 8% in the worst president category, followed by Dwight Eisenhower with 5% in the best category. So expected. I say we do a mulligan and administer this poll as a pie eating contest. Each pie tin can have a president’s face taped to the bottom and each eaten pie is one percent, with every uneaten pie resulting in the participants death … ok maybe not the last part. The results will be more fun and less biased.Honestly though, how can you have a worst president since WW2 poll and not have Richard Nixon take (or steal) the crown unanimously. Yes, yes, I know Obama replaced Clinton’s FEMA death camps with death panels and is replacing all of our youngsters with odd sounding tan children, but here on planet earth, Nixon was the only president to abdicate his duties because of how corrupt he was. Resumé highlights like Watergate and the Saturday Night Massacre left Nixon with the choices of being impeached or voluntarily hitting the bricks. But either way, he was gone.If you are one of Americas true patriots that waves the flag by day and wears the flag by night, you may feel that Nixon’s ouster was just the result of a witch hunt conducted by daisy sniffing protests music fans who had a vendetta against Nixon and his silent majority. That’s ok, because just a look at the superficial barebones can show that Obama is not even in the same stratosphere when it comes to throwing shade on Tricky Dick’s level. President Obama inherited 2 ground force wars and subsequently drew them down, Nixon was bogged down in Vietnam and expanded the war across the border after developing a taste for Cambodian. Speaking of Cambodia, Nixon secretly dumped roughly 110,000 tons of explosives on Cambodian targets that were populated by around 5,000 civilians. Nice try, Obama drone war, but your collateral damage has been raised by collateral slaughter. Then of course there is the economy, and the Nixon economy sent it’s contestants home with gas lines, food shortages, and inflation. And lest we forget President Obama’s latest scarlet letter(s) for the NSA’s overzealous spying activities. Here’s a fun fact - the NSA gets their authority to act from the FISA court, which is a product of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978, which was introduced in response to Nixon’s woodshed whipping of his presidential powers. Congrats, you just played your first game of Six Degrees of Nixon. Where scratching the surface here, but Nixon seems to have set the precedent for presidents to really do whatever the hell they want.Personally though, I find this poll, this whole subject, to be a fools errand. Whether I was blessed with a next-level naivety or utilitarian (yet dashing) nature, but I don’t believe in the concept of a “worst president.” To me, all presidents have some sort of purpose, and until someone’s policies have us boiling car tires for food, no president has been textbook terrible. Despite my tarring and feathering of Richard Nixon a paragraph above, he wasn’t a complete atrocious mess. The man did great work for the Native American population and the environment. Other “bad” presidents such as George W. Bush or Gerald Ford may have boiled their tenure’s down to the goal of preserving the country after truly trying events.So what good is a poll like this? We’re already in a climate where people who get their news from a spoonful of alphabet soup want President Obama impeached because they think he’s satan, and surely this will give them ever more reason to froth at the mouth. But there’s the flaw in opinion polling - you can ask the experts and get something useful, or you can ask everyone who still has a landline telephone in 2014 and gauge them like they’re the consensus for the nation.

I think it’s time to put the nails in the coffin when it comes to the worthless art of public polling. They’re connsistently wrong, and can only act as a barometer of public opinion so much as the knowledge of those responding to the polls allows. Sure, they make great clickbait and troll feed, but what good is that to the greater discourse? We’ve all seen the headlines - “3 out of 4 think Hirohito was one swell chap.” “Majority considers Obamacare is too big for its britches, thinks Affordable Care Act is someone they’d like to have a beer with.” Well 100% of me’s think polls need to go.

When Quinnipiac University rolled out their recent poll which found that Americans believe that Barack Obama is the worst president since World War 2, my eyes got tendinitis at how hard I rolled them at the results. Right off the bat this poll is flawed because it relies on Americans understanding of American history, which solidly rests in the “meh” to “huh?” range. And yes, it shows in this poll. It was basically paint by numbers results, with all of the top scoring commanders-in-chiefs being the most well known names.

The worst polled president was Obama (remember that eyeroll comment?) with 33%, George W. Bush in second place with 28%, and Richard Nixon at a distant third with 13%. Conversely, in the best president since WW2 poll, Reagan came in first (more screentime for the eyeroll) with 35%, and sitting in the bleachers in a far second was Bill Clinton with 18% and John F. Kennedy in third with 15%. The lesser known wallflower presidents barely registered, Jimmy Carter cracked the highest  with 8% in the worst president category, followed by Dwight Eisenhower with 5% in the best category. So expected. I say we do a mulligan and administer this poll as a pie eating contest. Each pie tin can have a president’s face taped to the bottom and each eaten pie is one percent, with every uneaten pie resulting in the participants death … ok maybe not the last part. The results will be more fun and less biased.

Honestly though, how can you have a worst president since WW2 poll and not have Richard Nixon take (or steal) the crown unanimously. Yes, yes, I know Obama replaced Clinton’s FEMA death camps with death panels and is replacing all of our youngsters with odd sounding tan children, but here on planet earth, Nixon was the only president to abdicate his duties because of how corrupt he was. Resumé highlights like Watergate and the Saturday Night Massacre left Nixon with the choices of being impeached or voluntarily hitting the bricks. But either way, he was gone.

If you are one of Americas true patriots that waves the flag by day and wears the flag by night, you may feel that Nixon’s ouster was just the result of a witch hunt conducted by daisy sniffing protests music fans who had a vendetta against Nixon and his silent majority. That’s ok, because just a look at the superficial barebones can show that Obama is not even in the same stratosphere when it comes to throwing shade on Tricky Dick’s level.

President Obama inherited 2 ground force wars and subsequently drew them down, Nixon was bogged down in Vietnam and expanded the war across the border after developing a taste for Cambodian. Speaking of Cambodia, Nixon secretly dumped roughly 110,000 tons of explosives on Cambodian targets that were populated by around 5,000 civilians. Nice try, Obama drone war, but your collateral damage has been raised by collateral slaughter. Then of course there is the economy, and the Nixon economy sent it’s contestants home with gas lines, food shortages, and inflation. And lest we forget President Obama’s latest scarlet letter(s) for the NSA’s overzealous spying activities. Here’s a fun fact - the NSA gets their authority to act from the FISA court, which is a product of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978, which was introduced in response to Nixon’s woodshed whipping of his presidential powers. Congrats, you just played your first game of Six Degrees of Nixon. Where scratching the surface here, but Nixon seems to have set the precedent for presidents to really do whatever the hell they want.

Personally though, I find this poll, this whole subject, to be a fools errand. Whether I was blessed with a next-level naivety or utilitarian (yet dashing) nature, but I don’t believe in the concept of a “worst president.” To me, all presidents have some sort of purpose, and until someone’s policies have us boiling car tires for food, no president has been textbook terrible. Despite my tarring and feathering of Richard Nixon a paragraph above, he wasn’t a complete atrocious mess. The man did great work for the Native American population and the environment. Other “bad” presidents such as George W. Bush or Gerald Ford may have boiled their tenure’s down to the goal of preserving the country after truly trying events.

So what good is a poll like this? We’re already in a climate where people who get their news from a spoonful of alphabet soup want President Obama impeached because they think he’s satan, and surely this will give them ever more reason to froth at the mouth. But there’s the flaw in opinion polling - you can ask the experts and get something useful, or you can ask everyone who still has a landline telephone in 2014 and gauge them like they’re the consensus for the nation.

Ah yes, impeachment. The defense of the nation from a tyrant run amuck. When a commander-in-chief’s ethical tumble starts flying three sheets to the wind, Congress can attempt to send the rascally leader packing to the breadline. No more D.C. quinoa salads and overpriced cupcakes for the ne’er-do-well miscreant, now it’s American cheese and shame.
At least, that’s what it’s supposed to be. Largely in this reality though, impeachment is a joke. No longer a stopgap to halt potential despots, but more an idle threat that’s screamed out on Sunday morning talk shows to get the early-bird crowds hearts kicking. Imagine when your mom would threaten you with no tv for a week, except in this case it’s “That’s it mister, you’re getting impeached if you don’t do this impossible nebulous task.”
All the power to ya if there are politicians that you disagree with, but you can’t just say someone should be impeached because they lobbied for legislation that you don’t care for (as was learned with Bill Clinton). And yes, we could argue back and forth based on the news outlets that we read and try to convince each other why President Obama’s scandals are or aren’t worth the deposit that has been invested into them. But, I’m not going to do that because I am not mother Mitchell and I can’t tell you what to think. What I will do though, is run down various “impeachable” offenses “committed” by the 44th president and contrast them to similar activities by non-impeached presidents. Come now, let’s have some fun:
 "Impeachable Offense" - Benghazi
Let’s just go ahead and get this whipped mule out of the way, shall we? For those of you who have managed to navigate the past few years blissfully unaware of this witch hunt, let me first stress how much I envy you, and then let me offer a brief rundown. On September 11, 2012, militants stormed the U.S. embassy in the coastal Libyan city of Benghazi, killing 2. The main controversy in this scenario is whether the Obama Administration failed to react appropriately to the embassy attack, possibly covering up details after the fact. Was the attack sparked by a Youtube video? Was Susan Rice instructed to lie by the administration? These questions and many more have caught the ire of those meddling kids and their dang dog too in Congress.
Who got away with it?
This one is honestly surprising to me. I understand that an ambassador died, and this is not meant to sound cold, but is that not a risk we run when operating in hostile territory? Attacks on U.S. embassies seem to be as old as time. Like destroying inanimate objects when a sports team loses, attacking embassies is a popular way a large portion of the world chooses to show their distaste. The first embassy attack, which happened to be a bombing, took place in 1958 in Ankara, Turkey. In 1968, the Vietcong raided the embassy in Saigon as part of the Tet Offensive, taking the lives of a handful. To be more contemporary, while George W. Bush spent 8 years trying to catch snowflakes with his tongue, there were 13 embassy attacks with nary a question asked about why there seem to be so many screams and bangs coming from consulate hotlines. Perhaps the most infamous (up until now, at least) embassy attack was the 1979 siege in Iran. In the early morning of November 4, hundreds of Iranian students raided the U.S. embassy in Tehran under the revolutionary support of Ayatollah Khomeini, taking 66 Americans hostage yet resulting in zero Jimmy Carter’s impeached.
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"Impeachable Offense" – Secret Drone War
Often referred to as the President’s secret drone war - codenamed “Operation Worst Kept Secret on Planet Earth” - is the name critics have piled upon the administration’s usage of lethal unmanned areal vehicles to dispose of enemies overseas. It’s the presumed overreach that have the outspoken up in arms (and perhaps rightfully so). The ability to rain death from above from a world away allows whoever yields the power as president to redefine the rules of war while answering to no one. Want a side order of death in Somalia to go with your entrée of war in Afghanistan? No need to declare war a second time, just put a predator drone on the tab. Accompanying this are the controversial topics of being able to kill U.S. citizens overseas and the moral pitfall of the collateral damage that now comes hand in glove whenever drones are up for debate.
Who got away with it?
Can you even call yourself a president without a couple of controversial wartime activities under your belt? If you don’t have one, then chances are you were just daydreaming at your desk and never actually ran for office at all. Absolutely everyone can point you towards the Bush Administration’s usage of torture, and pretty much every other war activity they conducted, but that’s so obvious. Secret wars and moral vacuums litter U.S. history. Bush Senior had Operation Just Cause and Clinton had his Balkan shellings, to name a couple. A slightly older-yet-still-modern standout came in the package of Operation Menu. In 1969, after mounting aggravation from North Vietnamese forces plucking at our hind-quarters from their safe havens in Cambodia, President Nixon issued direct orders to turn the country into an ashtray – without consulting congress. Through six whimsically named operations codenamed Breakfast, Lunch, Snack, Dinner, Supper, and Dessert, U.S. B-52’s dropped over 108,000 tons of explosives on Cambodia, with the public back home being none the wiser.
"Impeachable Offense" – Fast and Furious
Let’s for a moment forget that the precursor to this program was started under the Bush Administration. Hindsight in Washington is nothing but a mythical beast that shuffles barefoot through K Street alleyways, and so for the sake of this argument we must occupy the mindset in which President Obama created this world and promptly destroyed it. Fast and Furious (similar to the previous administrations Wide Receiver) employed a tactic known as “gun walking” – selling guns into the system in hopes of tracking them to your target and arresting them (in this case the targets were Mexican cartel leaders). Unfortunately, nothing is ever as easy as it seems on the chalkboard, and the ATF encountered many damning issues such as the released weapons having been found at crime scenes.
Who got away with it?
 Much like the secret wars above, every president has been caught with their pants down (often after being sold the ill-fitting pants by their staff) when it comes to clandestine activity. Eisenhower ran pest control on foreign leaders who were showing too much of a red hue through Operations Ajax and Pbsuccess, Kennedy made the mafia a offer they couldn’t refuse to bring down Castro through Operation Mongoose, Nixon had everything he touched, Reagan sold arms to terrorists to fund revolutionaries in the Iran Contra scandal … you get the picture.
Now you may be saying “Mitchell, that’s all fine and dandy, but President Obama is under fire for a lot more than you listed,” and indeed he is. But, don’t think that the few examples I listed for other presidents were their only trip ups either. Take Eisenhower for instance – commonly regarded as a historically uneventful vanilla bean, Ike presided over multiple CIA staged coup d etat’s, Vietnam’s fall to communism, planning of the Bay of Pigs, a drawn out conclusion to the Korean War, and the loss of a U-2 spy plane and it’s pilot to the Soviet Union. Boy, grampappy must’ve been asleep at the wheel. But of course he wasn’t asleep, he was presiding in a reality of an incredibly hard job where every action will have a consequence.
Leaders can’t be gotten rid of every time the road gets bumpy. Countries like Thailand and Egypt have tried to run a country this way, and their government’s are as stable as a keg of dynamite in a house fire. A key to democracy is expressing your distaste with an official every election. If you don’t get your way and the leader comes back for round two, tough – them’s the breaks, kids. That’s our government, a ride through the highs and the lows, but barring extreme outliers like Dirty Dick Nixon, you can rest assured that it’s probably never as bad as you think it is.

Ah yes, impeachment. The defense of the nation from a tyrant run amuck. When a commander-in-chief’s ethical tumble starts flying three sheets to the wind, Congress can attempt to send the rascally leader packing to the breadline. No more D.C. quinoa salads and overpriced cupcakes for the ne’er-do-well miscreant, now it’s American cheese and shame.

At least, that’s what it’s supposed to be. Largely in this reality though, impeachment is a joke. No longer a stopgap to halt potential despots, but more an idle threat that’s screamed out on Sunday morning talk shows to get the early-bird crowds hearts kicking. Imagine when your mom would threaten you with no tv for a week, except in this case it’s “That’s it mister, you’re getting impeached if you don’t do this impossible nebulous task.”

All the power to ya if there are politicians that you disagree with, but you can’t just say someone should be impeached because they lobbied for legislation that you don’t care for (as was learned with Bill Clinton). And yes, we could argue back and forth based on the news outlets that we read and try to convince each other why President Obama’s scandals are or aren’t worth the deposit that has been invested into them. But, I’m not going to do that because I am not mother Mitchell and I can’t tell you what to think. What I will do though, is run down various “impeachable” offenses “committed” by the 44th president and contrast them to similar activities by non-impeached presidents. Come now, let’s have some fun:

 "Impeachable Offense" - Benghazi

Let’s just go ahead and get this whipped mule out of the way, shall we? For those of you who have managed to navigate the past few years blissfully unaware of this witch hunt, let me first stress how much I envy you, and then let me offer a brief rundown. On September 11, 2012, militants stormed the U.S. embassy in the coastal Libyan city of Benghazi, killing 2. The main controversy in this scenario is whether the Obama Administration failed to react appropriately to the embassy attack, possibly covering up details after the fact. Was the attack sparked by a Youtube video? Was Susan Rice instructed to lie by the administration? These questions and many more have caught the ire of those meddling kids and their dang dog too in Congress.

Who got away with it?

This one is honestly surprising to me. I understand that an ambassador died, and this is not meant to sound cold, but is that not a risk we run when operating in hostile territory? Attacks on U.S. embassies seem to be as old as time. Like destroying inanimate objects when a sports team loses, attacking embassies is a popular way a large portion of the world chooses to show their distaste. The first embassy attack, which happened to be a bombing, took place in 1958 in Ankara, Turkey. In 1968, the Vietcong raided the embassy in Saigon as part of the Tet Offensive, taking the lives of a handful. To be more contemporary, while George W. Bush spent 8 years trying to catch snowflakes with his tongue, there were 13 embassy attacks with nary a question asked about why there seem to be so many screams and bangs coming from consulate hotlines. Perhaps the most infamous (up until now, at least) embassy attack was the 1979 siege in Iran. In the early morning of November 4, hundreds of Iranian students raided the U.S. embassy in Tehran under the revolutionary support of Ayatollah Khomeini, taking 66 Americans hostage yet resulting in zero Jimmy Carter’s impeached.

 

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