America’s First Female President

August 12, 2015
492px-President_Woodrow_Wilson_portrait_December_2_1912

President Woodrow Wilson-photo Library of Congress

With all the talk of the possiblity of Hillary Clinton becoming the first female President of the United States here’s a look back to 1919. Many historians believe that from 1919 to 1921 the United States had an “Acting President” who was a female. Her name was Edith Wilson. She was the wife of President Woodrow Wilson. Here’s how it happened and the circumstances leading up to it.

Background:
Thomas Woodrow Wilson (December 28, 1896 – February 3, 1924) served as the 28th President of the United States from March 4, 1913 to March 4, 1921. Wilson served during the World War I period. When the war began he declared the U.S. to be neutral keeping them out of the war. Isolationism dominated American politics and society in the early 20th century. Eventually events forced the U.S. to enter the war in April 1917. Wilson focused on diplomacy and financial considerations during the war letting his generals plot strategy and run the day to day operations.

One of his chief accomplishments was endorsing the Nineteenth Amendment to the Constitution. This gave women the right to vote when it was ratified in 1920.

In 1918 near the end of the war he issued his Fourteen Points a proposed framework for peace. After the armistice he went to Europe in 1919. There he signed the Treaty of Versailles. A key part of the treaty was the formation of the League of Nations. This forerunner was an attempt to ensure peace on a go-forward basis.

Edith_Wilson-nBolling=PublicDomain

Edith Wilson-photo Library of Congress

Incapacity:
He returned to the United States and began a nationwide tour to promote ratification of the Treaty of Versailles by Congress. In the end Senate Republicans rejected the Treaty. The U.S. never did ratify and didn’t take part in the League of Nations. Wilson’s power dimished as a result of this defeat.

This tour and the effort to get his proposals endorsed exhausted him. On October 2, 1919 in Pueblo, Colorado he collapsed and never fully recovered. He’d suffered a serious stroke. It paralyzed his left side and left only partial vision in the right eye. This left President Wilson bedridden in the White House effectively incapacitated.

His fitness for the presidency came into serious question. No one, not even his wife, his doctor or personal assistant was willing to start the process of certification of fitness for office as mandated in the Constitution, his “inability to discharge the powers and duties of said office”. Vice President Thomas Marshall was ignored and not even considered to take over until Wilson regained his health.

Wilson`s wife and first lady Edith (nee Bolling) took over many routine duties and details of the Presidency. Edith decided which matters of state were important to bring to the bedridden Wilson. In her biography she wrote,

“I studied every paper sent from the different Secretaries or Senators and tried to digest and present in tabloid form the things that, despite my vigilance, had to go to the President. I, myself, never made a single decision regarding the disposition of public affairs. The only decision that was mine was what was important and what was not, and the very important decision of when to present matters to my husband”.

This sure sounds like she was “acting” as president. Many in Washington began referring to her as “the Presidentress”.

Even though Wilson was secluded in the White House in 1920 due to his stroke he still formulated a strategy for reelection. This attempt at a third term deadlocked the 1920 Democratic Convention. The party ignored his reelection attempt and he withdrew. Eventually the Democrats nominated Governor James Cox of Ohio. The general election was won by Republican candidate Warren Harding and Edith Wilson’s quasi-presidency ended.

Obviously not officially recognized Edith Wilson was “Acting President” from October 1919 until 1921, the end of her husband`s second term. Eventually this complex example formed part of the argument for passage of the 25th Amendment to the Constitution. This amendment clarifies the incapacity issue and provides a clear mechanism for certification of a president`s ability to discharge his duties.

References:
McCallops, James S. Edith Bolling Galt Wilson: The Unintended President, New York: Nova History Publications, 2003

Wilson, Edith Bolling Galt. My Memoir. New York: The Bobbs-Merrill Company, 1939


The Way We Were 1964: Fifty years ago.

May 21, 2014

1964-the-beatles-life-270In this year of 2014 it is now fifty years since some of us lived through 1964. Here are some interesting things about this important year. Most of this information and factual data is from American sources, but at the end you will find some tidbits on Canada. Enjoy and please leave a comment about something you remember from that year.

What it cost:
Average yearly income $5,880
Gallon of gas .25c
Gallon of milk $1.06
Loaf of bread .21c
1st class postage stamp 5c (to mail a letter)
Magazine subscription (51 issues) $5.00
Pair of shoes $9.95
19” TV black & white $139.95

Entertainment:
1st appearance of Beatles on Ed Sullivan Show
Shooting starts for Star Trek pilot on television

Hit singles:
Baby Love – The Supremes
Can’t Buy Me Love – The Beatles
Hard Day’s Night – The Beatles
House of the Rising Sun – The Animals
I Get Around – The Beach Boys
Pretty Woman – Roy Orbison
Rag Doll – The Four Seasons

Movies at the theatre:
Goldfinger – James Bond movie with Sean Connery
Mary Poppins
The Pink Panther – with Peter Sellers
My Fair Lady

Deaths of note:
General Douglas MacArthur – commander of the Pacific operations in WW II.
Jim Reeves – country star (plane crash)
Harpo Marx – comedian – part of the famous Marx Brothers. He was the one who never spoke on screen.
Gracie Allen – comedienne – wife of George Burns – Burns and Allen comedy team
Herbert Hoover – former President of the U.S. – just before Franklin Roosevelt.

Births of those who would become famous later on. Who knew:
Nicolas Cage – actor
Matt Dillon – actor
Rob Lowe – actor
Sandra Bullock – actor
Keanu Reeves – actor
(remember all these will turn 50 years of age this year)

Notable Factoids or Events:
Cigarette smoking is enjoyed by 60% of population.
U.S. Government reports, “that smoking many be hazardous to one’s health”.
Hasbro introduces the G.I. Joe doll.
Ford Mustang goes on sale ($2368 base price).
U.S begins bombing of North Vietnam which dramatically ramps up the Vietnam War. An LBJ decision.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is published, written by Roald Dahl.
Sony introduces first VCR video recorder.
Computer mouse invented, but not generally available until much later.

Notable Canadian Facts from 1964:
Prime Minister is Lester Pearson (Liberal Party).
Social Insurance Number cards issued for first time to Canadians.
Toronto Maple Leafs win the Stanley Cup (over Detroit Red Wings). Most recent win for Leafs was 1967.
First Tim Horton’s donut shop opens in Hamilton, Ontario. (This is the one I like the best.)


Hillary Clinton and the Super-Delegates

April 23, 2008

Hillary Clinton’s big primary win yesterday in Pennsylvania kept her hopes alive for the Democatic Party nomination. She still trails Barack Obama in pledged delegates, but the gap has been closed. The big question is what impact the so-called “super-delegates” will have on who the final nominee with be. Super-delegates are made up of Democratic Senators, Representatives, party officials, former Presidents, etc. These delegates are not decided or assigned by the primary results. They can vote as they wish. Normally they don’t vote until the convention and there are several hundred of them. (Above: Hillary Clinton after Pennsylvania primary, AP Photo)

Most of all she has demonstrated she can carry the big states like Ohio, New York, Texas, California, Florida, Michigan and Pennsylvania, all of which she won the primaries in.

If the goal of the Democratic Party is to win the general election against the strong Republican candidate John McCann, then they need to consider Hillary’s ability to win those states having the most Electoral College Votes. Remember that winning the popular vote has nothing to do with winning the presidency. The candidate winning the majority of Electoral Votes wins. Here is the breakdown of Electoral Votes up for grabs in the large states in the general election:

California – 55
Florida – 27
Michigan – 17
New York – 20
Ohio – 20
Pennsylvania – 21
Texas – 34
Total = 194

You can see that if a candidate can carry all the large states they would be well on the way to reaching the magic number of 270 Electoral Votes needed to win the presidency. This certainly doesn’t dimish the importance of those states having smaller numbers of Electoral Votes because they would have a major impact in a tight election.

The most populous states have the most Electoral Votes because the number of Electors a state has is equal to the number of Senators and Representatives that states sends to Washington as elected officials. The total number of Electoral Votes is 538. A winning candidate in the general election has to win 270 (one more than half).

By winning the primaries in those states with the most Electoral Votes available in the general election Hillary Clinton hopes to be able to convince the unpledged “super-delegates” to support her. If she can do that, she will win the nomination.


Barack and Hillary: Showdown in Texas and Ohio

February 29, 2008

March 4, this coming Tuesday – will it solve anything in the race for the Democratic nomination? Primaries and caucuses are taking place in Texas and Ohio, key states because there are large numbers of delegates at stake. Neither state is a winner take all election. The allocation of delegates to the candidates will be based on percentage of the vote in the primaries. This means that unless one candidate wins an overwhelming percentage of the votes the total delegate count will still be very close. Right now in the polls, Obama and Clinton are running virtually neck and neck in both states.

Texas has 193 delegates at stake in their primary and Ohio has around 100 so you can see there is a lot at stake here in the race to reach the magic number of 2,025 needed to win the nomination. It appears that this race might have to be decided at the convention it is so close.

Clinton desparately needs a convincing win in either Texas or Ohio or she may face elimination. Obama on the other hand might be able to take an insurmountable lead should he win a large percentage in one or the other. I don’t believe that will happen, but watch closely to see if one or the other can deliver a knockout blow. Democrats need to get this race decided so they can focus on the apparent Republican nominee John McCain, instead of fighting each other.


McCain Ineligible to be President? You be the Judge.

February 28, 2008

aboutmccain_picts_1.jpgThe New York Times published an article February 28, 2008 by Carl Hulse that may throw the proverbial wrench into Republican John McCain’s bid to become President of the United States. (left: photo of Senator McCain campaigning. Taken  from his website.)

McCain was born in the Panama Canal Zone in 1936 to American-born parents. The Canal Zone was a Territory of the United States, not a State or even a Possession. His birthplace was a U.S. military base within the Zone.

The Constitution of the United States states that to be eligible to be President a person must be “natural born”. The exact wording is found in Article II, Section 1 of the Constitution,

“No Person except a natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the Office of President; neither shall any Person be eligible to that Office who shall not have attained to the Age of thirty five Years, and been fourteen Years a Resident within the United States.”

Most Constitutional experts seem to feel that McCain would win any court challenge, but clearly a challenge could prove messy and the outcome unpredictable. If it was legally challenged before or during the election it could hurt his election chances, and a challenge after his inauguration could prove disastrous for the country. What would happen if he became president, a challenge was mounted and the Supreme Court ruled against him? He would be forced to resign the presidency or be removed from office. What a shocking development that would be.

The crux of the issue relates to the definition of “natural born Citizen” in the Constitution. This would be the clause that the legal interpretation would hinge on. Several things should be in his favor in any challenge,

1) The Panama Canal Zone was a Territory of the United States. Anyone born there would likely be considered “natural born”.

2) He was born on an America military base. Surely this would be considered American soil by the court.

3) He was born to parents who were both “natural born Citizens”, that is they were born in the contiguous fifty United States of America.

If there is no challenge, at the minimum it should be clarified at some future date simply to avoid confusion. Some interesting factoids illustrate confusion that has already occurred. Fortunately, nothing major has occurred to date. However, McCain is a formidable candidate who has a very strong chance of becoming president.

  • Senator Barry Goldwater of Arizona was the Republican nominee for president in the 1964 election. He was born in 1909 in the then Arizona Territory, three years before it became a state.
  • George Romney who was a presidential candidate in 1968 was born in Mexico. Sure seems to me this wouldn’t meet the criteria, but again it wasn’t tested, likely because he didn’t become the nominee of his party.
  • FDR, Jr. who once considered running was born on Campobello Island in Canada was definitely ineligible in my opinion. 
  • President Chester Arthur, whose official birthplace was Vermont, was rumored to be Canadian born. The only official proof of his place of birth is an entry in the Arthur family bible held by the Library of Congress. In fact it is very likely he was not eligible to be president. He was challenged on the issue, but never legally. See my posting in the archives of this blog which delves into that issue.
  • Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger of California has aspirations to be president. He was born in Germany. He has been told he is not eligible, but what about George Romney in 1968. Why was he even eligible to run when he was born in Mexico?

If a challenge is mounted this year against McCain look for a special sitting of the Supreme Court to quickly resolve the issue one way or the other. To have a major controversy develop during this important presidential election would be untenable.

Further Reading:
Constitution of the United States of America, Article II, Section 1

New York Times, February 28, 2008, Carl Hulse
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/02/28/us/politics/28mccain.html


Barack or Hillary? Watch Ohio and Texas

February 20, 2008

It appears that the upcoming primaries in delegate-rich Ohio and Texas could determine the winner of the Democratic nomination for president. If it doesn’t then there is a strong possibility that the nominee will not be decided until the convention to be held August 25 – 28, 2008 in Denver, Colorado.

The delegate standings as of today from CNN Election Central,

Barack Obama
Pledged  –  1,140
Superdelegates – 161
Total – 1,301

Hillary Clinton
Pledged  – 1005
Superdelegates – 234
Total  –  1239

Total needed to win – 2,025

As you can see this is still very much a horse race, but they are entering the home stretch. March 4, 2008 is the date of the Ohio and Texas primaries. The results of these may be the turning point for the candidates. Both are now campaigning hard in those key states. Stay tuned to see who will be running for president against the apparent Republican nominee Senator John McCain.


Who Will Be President of the United States?

February 14, 2008

The Democratic race is still very much in doubt, but momentum seems to be with Barack Obama. The next big test is March 4th with delegates in  two key states Ohio and Texas at stake. These states both have large blocks of delegates. Should either Clinton or Obama win both of these it might decide the race. Here are the delegate standings to date from CNN Election central,

Hillary Clinton: Pledged 977, Superdelegates 234 for Total 1211

Barack Obama: Pledged 1096, Superdelegates 15 for Total 1253

Needed to Win Nomination: 2,025 (Superdelegates votes mean more than regular delegates. They could actually overrule the regular delegates. They are usually senators, congressmen, or other elected officials.) This is an extremely close race. There is a very strong possibility that the nominee will not be selected until the party convention.

For the Republicans it is very different. Senator John McCain is virtually assured of the nomination. It is only a matter of time. Here are the standings from CNN Election central,

John McCain: 801, unpledged 26 for total of 827

Mitt Romney: 286, unpledged 0 for total of 286 (Romney is now out, but has not endorsed any candidate.)

Mike Huckabee: 214, unpledged 3 for total of 217

Ron Paul: 16, unpledged 0 for total of 16

Needed to Win Nomination 1191. The Republicans do not have Superdelegates. Senator McCain’s lead is insurmountable now. He will be the nominee. He only has to select a vice presidential running mate. This will likely not be done until the convention, or until Huckabee and the others officially drop out of the race.

History will be made in Election 2008. One of the following will be historic,

1) John McCain will become the oldest person to ever become president.  McCain would be 73 years of age when inaugurated January 20, 2009 if elected.

2) Barack Obama will become the first African-American president if elected.

3) Hillary Clinton will become the first female president if elected. She would also become the first spouse of a former president to become president.

Someone recently said to me the race was boring. Far from it in my opinion.


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