Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Can Teddy Roosevelt Explain Hilary’s Appointment?

Tomorrow the Senate is expected to vote in Hillary Clinton as the new Secretary of State. I still find it an interesting decision on the part of Pres Obama to bring Clinton into his inner circle after he ran on a campaign of change. How is a Clinton change? I believe the Clintons are the exact opposite of change. I believe the reason Obama chose Clinton can be seen as the same as running Teddy Roosevelt as the VP back in 1904, but more on that later. I think Clinton will make a fine Secretary of State. She is not a person I would want to make upset. I believe she is strong and smart. She will hold her ground and stand up to anyone in her way. My only problem with her is that the Secretary of State, except for the President himself, is the face of our nation to outside nations. She will be the one who sits with foreign leaders and makes deals. With Hillary I still have the same questions that I had when she ran for the presidency, I question her character. There are still so many questions about the Clinton presidency and the many scandals they were involved in. I do not question her patriotism, but she seems to lack character. I know people love her, but to me just does not seem sincere, and is just too calculating and power hungry.

As I said, I see her nomination the same way I see Roosevelt’s in 1904. Going into the Spanish American War, President McKinley was against military action, while the outspoken Asst. Secretary of the Navy (Teddy) was very in favor of it. Then during the war, Roosevelt quit his position and raised a Calvary regiment known as the Rough Riders. The Rough Riders became national heroes after their victory on San Juan Hill (was actually Kettle Hill) and their leader Roosevelt left their army as one of the most popular men in the nation. With the war over and a great success, in 1904 McKinley had to run for reelection. His problem was that popularity had fallen, especially after we preformed so well in the war that he was against. Another problem for the Republican party and McKinley was Roosevelt. McKinley and Roosevelt were both Republicans, but had extremely different views of government. Roosevelt was a progressive and so believed in big government, the kind of government that would pass reforms over all aspects of life. With Roosevelt’s popularity, he had a great deal of power and sway over the American people, so much sway that the conservative Republicans feared him. The party needed a way to use Roosevelt’s influence yet at the same time curb his power. Their perfect solution was to make him the VP. Traditionally in this nation, there is no position with so little power or responsibility as the VP. Teddy took the position and the ticket easily won. As expected, he was miserable during his short tenure as the VP. McKinley's campaign manager said of Teddy on the ticket, "Don't any of you realize there's only one life between that madman and the presidency?" Hanna turned out to be prophetic, when McKinley was assasinated while at the worlds fair and Teddy became the next President. So the party hoped to use Teddy, but in the end he got what he wanted.

This seems to be something like what the Democrats are trying with Hillary. Her popularity is still very high and in a way losing only made her stronger. The Clinton name still holds great pull in many circles. Many wanted Clinton to be the VP, but the VP is much stronger now than when Teddy ran, and it would have been difficult for Obama to have Clinton looking over his shoulder. So they needed to do something with her, why not send her on trips around the world. She can be persuasive, but will also be gone. Her appointment will calm her supporters, but will also make her part of the administration. There is some speculation that if Obama is tanking in four years that Clinton might run against him, but if she is part of the administration than her reputation is wrapped up with his. Lets just hope the Obama camp is more successful in their attempt to reign in a rival than the McKinley camp was.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Mitch Albom's Detroit

Just a quick thought. One of my favorite sports writers is Mitch Albom from the Detroit Free Press. He is someone I look up to, in that I enjoy the way he writes and I actually try to copy this style. He made his name as a sports writer, but he is so much more. He may be more famous now for his non-fiction works, but I like his sports columns because they seem to have a heart. Too few public people today seem to have a heart, their writing is cold. It is easy to find someone sarcastic or clever in their writing, which Albom has, but not enough write with feeling or emotion. I say this because I just read a piece he wrote for SI about his home town of Detroit. It is an excellent example of my respect of Albom and is worth reading. You can get hit here

I still think I feel the way I do about the auto bailouts that I wrote about earlier and agree with Romney, but as with most things, it is good to hear both sides of an argument and to get the perspective of those who it will effect the most. Read this story.

Friday, January 9, 2009

City Review-New York City

Before I continue to write about history, politics, and other topics I want to write one more review, but this time instead of a movie I want to write a review about a place, New York City. Over the weekend I attended a conference of the American Historical Association held in NYC. On a personal note the conference was a disappointment in that the main reason I attended was to interview for teaching jobs, however I did not land even a single interview. There are still many jobs open that did not interview at the AHA, so I am still holding out hope of landing one. On a positive note I did have lots of fun visiting the city. First off it was cold. When I left south Texas it was in the 80s and when I arrived in NYC it was in the 30s with light flurries when I arrived at the hotel. To many this would be a negative, but I miss winter so being able to get my coat out of storage was a treat. Another positive was I got to see a bunch of my old friends that I attended graduate school with. I roomed with Jason and the two of us had great fun staying up late watching football. We said it was like a sleepover; we stayed up all night talking and doing each other’s hair, or would have if I had any. I also hung out with my other Arkansas friends, Julie, Derek, Matt, and Tami and my very good friends from VA Tech, Aaron and Lisa.

We all did plenty of the Tourist things, including hanging out in Time Square. It was very crowded, but kind of what you do when you are in NYC. We visited all the tourists shops like the giant Toys R Us, the M & Ms store, ESPN Zone, Virgin Records, and all the souvenir shops. There were also plenty of street vendors, it was fun to watch them try to sell knock off bags and watches then grab all their blankets full of stuff and take off when the cops came around. My review of Time Square is positive. It is very touristy, cheesy and expensive, but that is what I expected.

Some other spots we visited were the Teddy Roosevelt’s boyhood home. I love Teddy, but unless you just want a picture from the outside it may not be worth going out of your way. We saw several churches that are always worth seeing. The architecture of these cathedral like structures are amazing, and inside they are stunning. We also visited the Empire State Building. I will give that experience a mixed review. You wait in a long long line before you go up, close to two hours. A suggestion for future visitors to NYC is that you can go up to the top of Rockefeller Plaza and see the same view with a very small wait. Yet at the same time I do not regret going. As a historian, visiting the Empire State Building is less about the view at the top as it was seeing this historically important landmark. When it was built it was a marvel of technology and represents the modernity of the 1920s. After all Carry Grant and Deborah Kerr did not meet at the top of the Roc, they met at the Empire State Building.

My favorite spot of the weekend was visiting Ellis Island. For only $12 (very cheap for NYC) you could take a ferry ride to Liberty Island where the Statue of Liberty is and then to Ellis Island. To take a boat past the Statue and land on Ellis Island brought me back in time and gave me the opportunity to experience the view of millions of immigrants and their dream of a better way of life about to come true. Visiting Ellis Island was inspirational and I would recommend it to any visitor. The main building almost had a reverence about it, the same feeling I get when I visit a battlefield or a place like the Vietnam Memorial. When you read the stories of some of the immigrants you understand why. They sacrificed everything they had on a chance of a better life in America. Many families landed on these shores with less than the required $25 (they lied when asked if they had the money and luckily were never checked) they had no possible job possibilities yet (I learned they would be sent back if they already had a job, we were scared of contract workers, people who would be like indentured servants and would drive down wages. So immigrants had to prove they would not be a burden on society, yet could not already have a job lined up). My great grandfather and great grandmother came to America from Germany after WWI. They did not come through Ellis Island, but they would have experienced something similar. This visit brought me closer to them and appreciate what they did.

I cannot go to NYC without seeing a show. On this trip I took my sisters advice and saw the Tony Award winning musical In the Heights. I knew I would like the show, I had seen a few songs, but I was joyfully surprised at how much I enjoyed it. The show was about a neighborhood in Washington Heights (also the subway stop of where my sister lived when she was there) populated by Hispanics from many of the island nations and how in many ways they were being pushed out of their neighborhood. The songs and actors were exceptional and the story touching. One of the story lines dealt with a girl that had made it out and was attending Stanford. But while home she broke the news that she lost her scholarship because it was too hard and she had to work two jobs and could not keep up. It touched me, because I teach at a school full of similar students, first generation Hispanic college students who often have to work long hours. I felt bad for the students who have failed my classes and have told me they were going to lose their scholarships. There are many excellent shows to see when in NYC and this show in not hyped, but if you are visiting consider seeing this show, it is well worth it. One other side note, for a modern Broadway show it is very clean, both in content and language. I would be nervous about taking young kids to many new plays today, but this is one that your kids will enjoy and outside of a very few words the parents can feel good about them watching.

Lastly and most importantly the best part of visiting NYC is the food. As someone who grew up in restaurants and who loves to eat, NYC is a Mecca of different foods. Plus where I live now there is not much of a range of different restaurants. We ate dinner at three different places and I would give each of them an excellent review. All three I should mention were recommendations from sister Tami and her husband Doug; they lived there several years and know all the good spots. I will start with my least favorite (even though I say least, I still would highly recommend it, just the other two were better). We ate at Stardust and had a fun time. This is the most tourist spot of the restaurants and very close to Time Square. It is a basic hamburger joint but what makes it fun is that all the servers sing. Many of the actors on Broadway worked here and it is full of inspiring Broadway stars. This place was more about having fun than the food, which was average, but if you want to have an enjoyable time I would recommend it. On another night I eat at Bombay Express on 9th Street. It is an Indian restaurant. What I love about NYC is all the different types of food. I like Indian and very rarely have a chance to eat it. The menu was quite large, almost too large for someone who does not know what most of it means. Lucky for us I had a great waiter. I told him I like lamb and put myself into his hand and I was not disappointed. My favorite place was Akdeniz ( This is a Mediterranean and Turkish restaurant. I am a big fan of Lebanese food, and this was one of the best spots I have had in that genre. This is close to Time Square but just off it and not touristy so the prices were very reasonable, they have a three-course meal for $20. I got the Lebni for my appetizer, which is a yogurt dip; then salmon Kebabs for my entrée, they were rolled in grape leaves; finally the chef made us some fresh Turkish cookies for dessert, they were excellent. If you visit NYC, I would highly recommend this spot. One other quick note. I should also mention Juniors Bakery next to the Marriott in Times Square, they have some of the best cheesecake I have every had. When in town it is a must.

As a whole the time was very enjoyable. I would have like some interviews and a job, but I still enjoyed my time. I am grateful to reconnect with old friends that I have not seen in some time. I am appreciative of Jason for hanging with me the whole time, for Derek’s great planning, and my sister’s suggestions. I would never want to live there but NCY is a fun place to visit.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

An Unexpected Response

I want to give a response I received from a letter I wrote a month ago and made it a post. Today an envelope was delivered to my office, inside was a picture and a letter which read:

Dear James:
Thank you for your correspondence and your kind words. I appreciate your taking the time to write.
For nearly 8 years, it had been an honor and a joyous experience to be the President of the greatest country on earth. I will sprint to the finish line in the months ahead with confidence in our purpose and trust in the power of the American spirit. As a nation, we will continue to defend freedom’s cause, build a more prosperous future, and make our society more peaceful and hopeful for every individual.

Laura and I send our best wishes. May God bless you, and may God Bless America.


George W. Bush

I know our President is unpopular, but I am going to guess that we may come to miss him. He was a good man and for what ever he did or did not do, he kept us safe. It is too early to know his legacy, but at least in my class, it will be of a man who kept his promises even to the destruction of his reputation and I believe that will be his legacy.