There must be a name for people who love to read so much that they even read the backs of the cereal boxes as they eat their morning bowl of Life or Cocoa Puffs or Wheaties whatever. I am one of these people, and this past weekend I found some great reading material on the back of my box of Giant® brand Corn Flakes.
The box read "Know Your Presidents" and had a bunch of trivia questions about cities named for presidents (i.e. Lincoln, NE, etc.), and a quotations section. Most of the quotations were pretty easy, well known to those who've taken even a junior high history class: "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself" (FDR) and "Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country" (JFK). One of them was familiar because so many people have been referring to it during our long national nightmare of Emperor Chimpy's imperial rule: "Patriotism means to stand by the country. It does not mean to stand by the President." Good one, Teddy!
TR also said, "I will not lie, cheat or steal, nor tolerate those who do." Perhaps he didn't lie, cheat, or steal--but he was one of the first global imperialist presidents, so I don't much trust him as our leader. I'm sure he probably was a good guy, though.
One quotation in the quiz, however, was new to me:
I pray heaven to bestow the best blessings on this house and all that shall hereafter inhabit it. May none but honest and wise men ever rule under this roof.John Adams said this about the White House in 1800, when he and his wife were the first First Couple to move in. The fact that he used the word "men"--we'll gloss over that. Sexism is to be expected of a man in 1800. Let's look instead at the last line:
May none but honest and wise men ever rule under this roof.
My mind reels when I think of these simple but important standards for the people who've served as president. Honest men? Hmm... Lincoln? Eisenhower? I can't really think of anyone else I'd regard as "honest," though I'll admit I'm only thinking of the last few presidents. I admire FDR and JFK, but I believe that neither was truly an honest man; Roosevelt may have known about Pearl Harbor but allegedly chose to let it happen so he'd have a causus belli. JFK's personal life was filled with dishonesty, if tales of his womanizing are true.
I think of the presidents who've served while I've been alive: LBJ, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush, Clinton, Bush. Wow. Not exactly a bunch of Honest Abes--the only one I'd call honest in that bunch is Carter. And you see what it got him.
I guess honesty isn't exactly a presidential characteristic anymore, assuming it ever was.
The second standard Adams prayed for was to have a wise man. Now we're really going to have a short list! I'd call Carter wise, though I don't think he always displayed that wisdom during his term. JFK was a wise man, I think, keeping his head and pulling us back from the brink of nuclear war. He was a man of thought before action. And of course Lincoln--arguably the best president we ever had--was a wise and honest man who kept this nation whole through its greatest crisis up until that time. Could a Nixon have done that? Or even an FDR? (I'd bet on FDR before Nixon, though--who wouldn't?)
But can any of us label any of these other clowns as "wise?" All you history buffs out there--put on your history caps and tell me: have we had any "honest and wise" presidents during your lifetime?
More importantly, is there any chance of ever getting an honest and wise president in the future? Certainly, McCain is nothing close to honest or wise; his changes of position and willingness to do or say whatever it takes to get elected pretty much disqualify him from being anything other than a parasitic lifeform, barely even human.
Obama has a great intellect, and he seems fairly honest--but he's shown once that he will vote against the people and for the big corporations when the chips are down.
Will we ever get a Lincoln or an Eisenhower again? Given the idiots we've elected (or who we've let steal elections), do we even deserve one? Would we know one if we saw him or her?