The candidate “has the knack of doing things and doing them noisily, clamorously; while he is in the neighborhood the public can no more look the other way than the small boy can turn his head away from a circus parade followed by a steam calliope.”
Can you guess who was the target of this comment?
I would have guessed Donald Trump, but it was written to describe Theodore Roosevelt, who shared Trump’s flamboyance and strong ego.
The following quote sounds like what Republican congressional leaders were saying about Barack Obama after the 2014 and 2010 congressional elections:
“Our allies and enemies, and [the President] himself, should all understand that [he] has no authority to speak for the American people. His leadership has just been emphatically repudiated by them.”
This could also have been said about other recent presidents of both parties whose congressional allies did poorly in mid-term elections. However, it was directed at Woodrow Wilson in November 1918 when he, as World War I was ending, saw his party decisively lose control of Congress,.
This quote could come from a current political partisan accusing the opposition of stirring up class division:
“It was not a case, as it had been in some earlier elections, of one section of the country against other sections, or of country folk against city-dwellers, or even of the young against the old. It was the closest that America had come to class warfare, as labor was arrayed almost solidly against business, as the poor were pitted against the well-fixed, and as the middle class was split against itself.”
Historian Donald McCoy authored those words to describe what he called an electoral civil war fought in 1936 between President Franklin Roosevelt and his opponents.
To hear an opposing candidate rail against a president’s “wasteful and extravagant spending” would not surprise us, unless we learned it was candidate Franklin Roosevelt attacking President Herbert Hoover in a famous speech at Forbes Field in Pittsburgh in 1931. Roosevelt made a campaign promise to balance the budget. This promise was quickly discarded when he won the election and faced the challenges of the Depression.
When some historians wrote about a president’s dilemma when he faces a Supreme Court with four justices solidly in opposition to his program, they call them the “Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.”
They could have been writing about today’s court and today’s president, but they were describing the opposition to Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal from Justices James C. McReynolds, Pierce Butler, Willis Van Devanter, and George Sutherland. Knowing that these four were going to be against him, Roosevelt knew that he had to win the votes of all five of the remaining justices.
“An energetic and unified executive is not a threat to a free and responsible government” is a statement we might expect from Hillary Clinton or another progressive or liberal candidate. But I was surprised when I learned that it came from former President Hebert Hoover. At the request of President Harry Truman in 1947, Hoover led a commission on the operation of the executive branch of the government.
What about the following?
“Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children.”
It could have come from Bernie Sanders, but these words came from President Dwight Eisenhower.
Thanks to UNC-Chapel Hill Emeritus Professor William Leuchtenburg for these quotes from a preliminary copy of his latest book, “The American President: From Teddy Roosevelt to Bill Clinton,” which Oxford University Press plans to release in December.
D.G. Martin hosts “North Carolina Bookwatch,” which airs Sundays at noon and Thursdays at 5 p.m. on UNC-TV.