Most Americans have heard the lyrics to the Marine Corps Anthem, “From the halls of Montezuma to the shores of Tripoli,” but most could probably not identify the conflicts that produced such a rousing call to action. Brian Kilmeade and Don Yaeger have filled part of that void with a thrilling new book about the Barbary Wars titled, Thomas Jefferson and the Tripoli Pirates.
Brion McClanahan | All Articles
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Brion McClanahan holds a Ph.D. in American history from the University of South Carolina. He is the author of The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Founding Fathers (Regnery, 2009), The Founding Fathers Guide to the Constitution (Regnery History, 2012), Forgotten Conservatives in American History with Clyde Wilson (Pelican, 2012), as well as the forthcoming Politically Incorrect Guide to Real American Heroes (Regnery, 2012).
Obama unveiled his latest budget proposals Monday to a mix of yawns and frowns and a definite rejection from Congress. Obama threatened the veto more times in his State of the Union speech than any previous president, and the two sides appear far apart on any tangible issues, save Republican buckling on immigration and a lack of conviction to repeal Obamacare. The vote this week on that issue will be largely symbolic. As long as the Republican leadership can go along and get along, they are willing to bide their time leading to 2016.
Radio talk-show host Mark Levin’s new book The Liberty Amendments has introduced many Americans to the idea of an Article V Convention. He is not the first to propose this method, but because of his public profile, Levin has moved the issue to the front-burner for many conservatives. God bless him; better late than never. There are potential problems with an Article V convention, but they could probably be hammered out before one took place.
On September 22, 1776, twenty-one year old patriot Nathan Hale confidently strode to the gallows in New York City. He was charged with espionage, declining both a minister and a Bible in the hours before his execution, yet he faced his impending doom with a manly resolve. Perhaps he recited several lines from Joseph Addison’s "Cato" in the minutes before his death, but legend has it that the young Connecticuter said, “I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country.”
In January 1788, Luther Martin of Maryland wrote, “And it was further argued, even if he [the President] was allowed a negative, it ought not to be of so great extent as that given by the system, since his single voice is to countervail the whole of either branch, and any number less than two-thirds of the other... .”
The historian Richard S. Ellis wrote that the great American hero Daniel Boone was happiest when he had the “privilege of wandering with gun and dog” on the American frontier. “Nothing can be more pleasant to the American boy,” Ellis wrote, “than just such a life as followed by Daniel Boone — wandering for hours through the wilderness, on the look-out for game, building the cheery camp-fire deep in some glen or gorge, quaffing the clear icy water from some stream, or lying flat on the back and looking up through the tree-tops at the patches of blue sky, across which the snowy ships of vapor are continually sailing.”
Since the 1970s, voter participation in the United States has hovered around 55% in presidential elections and around 37% in midterm elections. Historians, political scientists, grassroots organizers, campaign strategists and others have generally attributed this low rate of voter participation to the twentieth-century expansion of voting rights, candidates’ poor campaign strategies and voter apathy.
About a year ago I wrote a piece for The Daily Caller entitled “The Five Most Underrated Presidents” in which I argued that John Tyler is the best president in American history. With the election over, I thought I’d revisit this idea by writing a piece about the most overrated American executives. Most of these men are near the top — typically in the top five — of “historical” American presidential rankings. So, they have to be great, right? Wrong.
In the modern age, the general public expects their news to be “objective” and “unbiased.” We want the “facts” and believe that the talking head, newspaper reporter or cable news correspondent is interested in the same thing. The members of the mainstream media tell us they are unbiased, even when reporters engage in coordinated attacks against political figures they dislike.
Newsweek has proclaimed Barack Obama to be America’s “first gay president.” This, of course, is a play on Bill Clinton’s image as the “first black president” and is not meant literally. But it begs several questions. First, who was the first actually gay president? Second, was Obama’s statement that he personally supports gay marriage in fact “historic,” as liberals have claimed in the days since the president’s “Good Morning America” interview with Robin Roberts? And third, what is the real motivation behind Obama’s move, and should Americans pay any attention to it (this article notwithstanding)?
Presidents’ Day, the holiday Richard Nixon designated to celebrate the pomp and glory of the executive branch, is here again. The holiday is an opportunity to reflect on executive authority, and hence, it would be instructive to remember how the founding generation thought presidential powers would be implemented and interpreted while the Constitution was in the process of being ratified.
In the last week, the left has orchestrated a public assault on the Constitution. This is nothing new, but the offensive is noteworthy because it involved both a Supreme Court justice and the president of the United States. On January 30, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said during a television interview in Egypt that, “I would not look to the United States Constitution if I were drafting a constitution in the year 2012.” Six days later, President Barack Obama told Matt Lauer that, “I have not been able to force Congress to implement every aspect of what I said in 2008 … it turns out that our founders designed a system that makes it more difficult to bring about change than I would like sometimes.” And the following day, New York Times contributor Adam Liptak wrote that, “The Constitution has seen better days. … The United States Constitution is terse and old, and it guarantees relatively few rights.”
Much has been made of the fact that according to the Flesch-Kincaid scale, President Obama’s latest State of the Union address peaked at an eighth-grade reading level. Additionally, according to the article that first reported the story, Obama’s addresses have consistently scored in this range. In the past 70 years, only one address, George H.W. Bush’s 1992 offering, has scored lower than any of Obama’s. This led syndicated talk-show host and founding generation proponent Mike Church to publish a brief article comparing Obama’s address with Thomas Jefferson’s first annual message in 1801. The results — and they are not pretty or surprising — are found here. This brilliant work led me to think about how other presidents before 1934 would score, most importantly those from the founding generation and those considered to be unintelligent buffoons by both their contemporaries and the historical establishment.
I am often asked in interviews if the founding generation would recognize the modern government in Washington, D.C. I always answer yes, they would. They would recognize tyranny, the usurpation of power by the executive branch, the trampling of civil liberties and the endless wars of a government bent on empire. The several states seceded from a government like that in 1776 and they would probably advocate the same course today. Barack Obama has more power than George III ever had. That said, the next question is usually, “Well, what do we do about it and who among the current crop of presidential candidates would best adhere to the founding principles?”
The rise of Ron Paul in the Republican primary season has raised questions about what Americans expect from the executive office. The accepted interpretation of presidential powers and executive effectiveness centers on the “use” of the office. “Active” executives, such as Abraham Lincoln, Franklin Roosevelt, Teddy Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson, are usually considered “great,” while those who did “little” in office round out the list. For example, a 2010 Siena Research Institute survey included both Roosevelts and Lincoln in the top five while Wilson, Dwight Eisenhower and Harry Truman were in the top ten. The bottom dwellers included Andrew Johnson, John Tyler, James Buchanan and Franklin Pierce. Grover Cleveland and Martin Van Buren were also in the bottom half.
During the January 7, 2012 Republican debate in New Hampshire, George Stephanopoulos questioned Mitt Romney on whether he would support a state ban on contraception. Romney responded that he was not going to address a hypothetical situation that no state was considering, but Stephanopoulos doubled down and continued to press him, ultimately to a chorus of boos. In a Daily Caller piece that hit the front page of The Drudge Report the next day, Matthew Boyle blasted Stephanopoulos for his obvious partisanship. It was a stupid, irresponsible question, to be sure, but not because Stephanopoulos is a one-time Bill Clinton political operative acting in a partisan manner or because the question was purely hypothetical; it was stupid because that type of question is outside both the purview of the executive branch and the president’s constitutional authority.
According to this website, Barack Obama has hit the links 91 times since taking the oath of office in 2009. That is a record and he has 13 more rounds scheduled during his current 17-day Hawaiian vacation. Talk show host Joe Pagliarulo spent several minutes discussing Obama’s golf habit the other day while filling in for Sean Hannity, and he is not alone in the almost universal condemnation of Obama’s apparent disregard for the responsibilities of the office of president. Those on the left, like Chris Matthews, think Obama is failing in his primary objective as legislator in chief. Those on the right cite this supposed dereliction of duty as evidence that Obama cannot handle the job, is overwhelmed and overmatched and should step down. They insist a real president, like George W. Bush, who famously stopped golfing to show “solidarity with soldiers serving in Iraq,” would respect the office and show the American people that he is at work for them.
A recent Forbes magazine article by Merrill Matthews titled “Obama Campaigning Like It’s 1936” suggests that the class-warfare/tax-the-rich slogans the Obama campaign has been using the past few weeks are straight from Franklin Roosevelt’s 1936 re-election playbook. If this is the case, and it appears to be, Obama is hoping to catch the same lightning Roosevelt had in his landslide ’36 victory over progressive Republican Alf Landon. Matthews could have also titled his piece “Republicans Partying Like It’s 1948!” Both historical campaigns should serve as a warning for the Republican presidential field and conservative voters at large.